Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Plight of the Light Sleeper

Legend says that when God created humans, he decided to divide them into two categories. The light sleepers, who would awake even at the sound of a pin falling on the floor, and the heavy sleepers, who would stay asleep even if a cow crashed through their roof. God saw that it was good, and went to sleep after a productive day of work.

Growing up, I have always been happy that I was a light sleepy. Stories about how my friends slept through their alarm, missed important dates and could never get up after a nap made me glad that I do not have those problems. Be it a tiny beep on my phone, a sudden drop in temperature or a change in lighting, I would immediately wake up. Even my dad opening my door silently is enough to get me up from bed.

However, while my light sleep habit may have worked in the small town that I came from, and for my ancestors too while they slept on the savannahs under the stars, it has not been much a blessing since coming to Singapore. Especially when you’re living in a hostel or next to a busy street overlooking a train track. The situation is made worse when your work requires you to be in bed early night and be up before the sun rises. Sometimes a random car horn goes out in the street and you’re suddenly wide awake after spending the last 15 minutes in bed trying to fall asleep. It can get pretty frustrating sometimes.




I have started to envy the heavy sleepers of how they could get hours of uninterrupted sleep without worrying about being woken up in the night by any random noises. Furthermore, they could just fall unto any surfaces and snore away without being bothered by the environment around them. Getting enough rest is no problem for them as their body ensures that they stay asleep for the whole few hours that they are asleep. Such blessing. Getting your sleep cut off halfway when you’re dreaming about something awesome is not pleasant at all, that I can assure you.

To make matters worse, researchers studying sleep pattern in humans also found that heavy sleepers tend to be smarter than light sleepers, judging from their brain activity when they were asleep (source). Just had to rub it in, don’t you scientists. They were basing it on the amount of ‘sleep spindles’, some brain wave thingy, that the brain generates while sleeping. Apparently the more sleep spindles your brain produce when you’re asleep, the busier your brain is and the better it is at blocking out outside sound. Scientists believe that studying the sleep spindles may help light sleeps get better sleep qualities in the future, but I guess for now I could only whine and grumble online.

“But you can keep an ear out for smoke alarms and dangerous stuff,” I hear some of you say. But to be honest, how often do we have this kind of situation anyway? Never, if you’re lucky. Perhaps in the past a tiger would have jumped on us or Japanese warplanes may have rained down bombs on us, but for now the situation where danger pops up seems very unlikely.

“Use ear plugs!” I hear another group say. To be honest, I have considered that as well but when the instructions come with warnings such as, “earplug may become lodged in ear, requiring removal by an Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor” and “improper fitting will reduce effectiveness and could result in hearing loss or injury”, naturally I am a bit cautious. I can’t even get pass the instructions of “remove earplug slowly with twisting motion to gradually break the seal. Rapid removal may damage eardrum.” Using earplugs seemed to be a dangerous business from what I can see.

Unless I build a soundproof room or until the scientists can come up with a better solution, I guess I could just go to sleep and pray to heavens that no sudden noise would jolt me up awake halfway during my sleep. Or I could ask someone to hit me on the head until I become unconscious. 


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