According to the tracking application, I’ve managed to sleep just about fourteen hours in the last five days1. Insufficient sleep is nothing new for me as I will often forgo rest when I’m feeling particularly creative. More than this, there was a 12-year period in my life when insomnia was a very real issue that would come and go with such frequency that I generally kept two books next to my bed at all times; one to continue reading, and one to start reading after finishing the first. This week’s lack of rest is completely by choice, though, and the familiar consequences of self-imposed sleep deprivation are beginning to manifest.
Split-Second Lapses in Consciousness
The first sign that the body is running on empty is the ever-so-subtle lapses in consciousness. This can happen at any time, but happen generally when I'm sitting down or walking Nozomi in the park. The feeling is always the same, too. I'm doing something, then there's a tingle that runs up my spine, then a split second of darkness followed by some sort of chemical release in the brain that I generally feel when being startled awake. This might be adrenaline or something else, but the sensation is unmistakeable.
These ephemeral naps rarely last more than half a second, and I've yet to fall down as a result of one while walking the puppy. Sometimes I wonder if I actually lost consciousness for a split second or if the chemical rush temporarily interfered with my ability to remember.
Figments of the Imagination
If ghosts were real, the world would be full of them. That said, when I'm struggling to remain conscious, the mind will sometimes create things for me to see that simply do not exist. It could be a mosquito flying above my head. It could be a tall, purple humanoid standing under a tree while Nozomi and I walk past. It could be a predatory animal with its fangs bared and walking in my direction. These things disappear when I try to look directly at them, making them mere figments of an exhausted mind.
One of the things I often wonder by this point is whether the mind is so desperate for sleep that it's dreaming while also being awake. Not in a daydreaming sort of manner, but in a "let's split the hemispheres to survive this test of endurance" sort of way. Can a brain do this? I wonder ….
Unfortunately the most I'll be able to sleep tonight is a paltry 5 hours. However, being a long-weekend in Japan, there will be ample opportunity to enjoy 8 solid hours of unconsciousness on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday nights.
This is for a number of reasons that have already been written about, so won’t rehash any of it here.