Imagine a drug so powerful that if you don’t get it for more than about 2 weeks, you could die. The drug is so potent that it lets you hallucinate and conjure up the most outrageous things you could ever picture. It literally takes you across the border of consciousness as you wave bon voyage and set sail from the cares and worries of this world.
This drug is so enjoyable that you want to do it for 6, 7, or 8 hours nonstop. You crave it every 24 hours, without exception. It is the perfect escape, and other than death, perhaps the only time you are truly free from the cares of this world. Amazingly, this drug has zero side-effects, no hangover, and no “high” from which to come down. Oh, and it is totally free, and available to everyone. Naturally.
Even if you haven’t already guessed it, there is a 100% chance you’ve used it. The wonder-drug we’ve stumbled upon is called Sleep. To be clear, it is not an actual drug per se – but perhaps we can reimagine sleep in the context of escapism. Just as people might drink or use drugs to get a temporary escape from their troubles, sleep provides a natural escape. And while long-term use of other drugs is generally not sustainable, sleep is pretty much the opposite, and with positive results. In fact, not getting sleep is unsustainable over the longer term (just ask anyone who’s pulled an all-nighter).
We can also think of a parallel with movies and entertainers. People love movies because they provide a break from the realities of their daily lives. But when was the last time you sat through a movie for 7 or 8 hours? We all have a free ticket to “Sleep: The Movie” every night, and we never get bored by it. In fact, we want to see it every single night, for 8 hours nonstop. As a side-note, it is also worth remarking that countless celebrities are ardent consumers of illicit drugs – from movies to music to business leaders, there is no shortage of examples. One wonders if these people may be looking for their own form of escape, perhaps similar to what they provide for their fans.
The consequences of drug use are well-known. But let’s look at the consequences of our new wonder-drug, sleep, for a moment. Research has shown that the immune system is fortified during sleep. In fact, one study showed that a lack of sleep causes the immune system to respond immediately, in the same way that it does when subjected to physical stress. Plentiful research has also shown that quality sleep is associated with improved cardiovascular health, and a decreased risk of stroke. When it comes to diabetes and insulin, researchers have demonstrated an undeniable connection to sleep quality and quantity. Quality sleep is also linked to lower chances for depression and anxiety, and better emotional health generally. Researchers now believe that sleep may play a significant role in slowing the growth of cancer cells as well. And the icing on the cake – quality sleep helps us lose weight. Not bad for a list of side-effects, right?
Yet, despite mountains of scientific research on its enormous benefits, data show that people are not getting enough sleep. Clearly, people have not yet gotten the message. So maybe we can reframe sleep, and start to think of it as pleasurable thing, a magical escape. Maybe instead of appealing to logic, we can appeal to emotion, and remind people how good it feels to use this wonder-drug.
Never mind the boring, logical data that show how it rebuilds our immune systems, refreshes our brains, enhances creativity, and repairs our bodies. Think of it this way: sleep is a way to escape the troubles of the world temporarily. It also makes us feel really good. Could it be that sleep is the perfect drug?
About the Author: Sina Nader is co-founder and CEO of SWAN Sleep Solutions, a company dedicated to helping the employees of forward-thinking corporations get better sleep in a medically-validated way. He has over 12 years of experience in the field of sleep diagnostics and treatments, and has been a featured speaker on sleep at multiple Fortune 500 companies. In his spare time, he reads scientific studies and research about sleep… until he falls asleep. And in case you were wondering, he has an AHI of 2.7 and averages about 7.8 hours of sleep per night.