Five Stories About the Way We Sleep

Photo: epSos. de

I am one of those people who needs as much sleep as possible; I can easily sleep for 12 hours; I nap frequently; I rely on lattes and Coke Zero to keep up morale. This week, I thought about sleep a lot. Here are five pieces on different facets of sleep: a short story about sleepwalking, a dispatch from Gaza, a person who can’t help but sleep when he’s stressed, and more.

1. “Broken Sleep.” (Karen Emslie, Aeon, November 2014)

Sometimes I wake up at 5 a.m., awake and ready to get up, but I inevitably scroll through Twitter until I fall asleep again. I always attributed this to a beneficial lull in REM sleep, but this article gave me pause—perhaps it’s symptomatic of “segmented sleep.” Historically, people slept in two chunks of four to five hours, separated by one to three hours of wakefulness. There are many health benefits to segmented sleep, as the author explains, but in our 9-to-5 industrialized society, this kind of sleep schedule doesn’t jibe.

2. “Dating a Somnambulist.” (Kate Folk, Hobart, July 2014)

A woman’s partner brings weirder and weirder things to their bed in his fits of sleepwalking in this magical realist short story.

3. “Atef Abu Saif: The Children Have Barely Slept.” (Atef Abu Saif, Guernica, July 2014)

Palestinian author Saif writes about faith, drones, family and the disturbing quietude of a once-busy apartment building, in a harrowing dispatch from contentious Gaza.

4. “Why Some People Respond to Stress By Falling Asleep.” (Elijah Wolfson, The Atlantic, December 2013)

After a disagreement with his wife, Wolfson finds himself dozing off. Inspired, he talks to scientists, psychologists and laypeople—how does “fight or flight” become “lie down and take a nap?”

5. “What Keeps You Up at Night.” (Betsy Morais, The New Yorker, June 2014)

Insomnia’s naive cousin is “bedtime procrastination,” studied by scientists at Utrecht University. If you can’t help but stream one more episode on Netflix, clean another room or scroll through Tumblr one last time, you may contend with this phenomenon; you’re “failing to go to bed at the intended time, while no external circumstances prevent [you] from doing so.” But there’s hope! There are possible solutions to urge you away from your reluctance to sleep, and the benefits are worth missing a tweet.