Sleep Tax

I know I might sound like a super villain, but the human race is rather a nuisance. I mean, we’re marvelous, but we’re pretty high maintenance. Bring us up too high and we pop. Pull us too low and we crumple like a tin of Red Bull in Batman’s angry fist. Bump the thermostat a tad too far in either direction and we burn or freeze. Either way, we hate extremes. And once we’ve found a comfortable piece of earth that won’t render us immediately dead, we still have a long list of demands. We need nourishment regularly, and our digestive systems are so feeble that if we eat the wrong thing we get sick, or die, or get sick and then die. We require constant hydration too, and if our liquids aren’t made up of the correct distribution of hydrogen and oxygen atoms, then we go ballistic.

LEGO Batman
I like to imagine Batman as being always angry and always drinking Red Bull.

From a scientific point of view, I understand why we are so picky about where we choose to manifest life. Like the world’s most annoying step-father, we’re difficult to get along with, but we’re not that bad once you get to know us. That said, there is one aspect of the human race which I find myself completely unable to come to terms with: Our constant need for sleep. What ridiculously stupid genetic mechanism decided that we need to spend approximately one third of our lives being dormant? Aren’t hydration and nourishment enough? Why do we need to switch off at regular intervals as well? I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation behind it, but I have another theory:

Imagine a well-run first-world country, like Finland.* In Finland, you get free health care, excellent schools, flawless public transportation. The streets are well-lit, the law enforcement is ever-vigilant, and criminals are cryogenically frozen. Each citizen has his or her own personal robot butler, and the wifi is free and faster than anywhere else on the planet. It’s a veritable utopia, and the reason for this wonderful lifestyle is that the Finnish government takes 70% off of everyone’s salary in tax.** It’s a hefty tax, but the results are arguably worth it. The Finnish might sacrifice their income, but in return they get unmatched quality of life.

Now imagine a country where my quality of life was directly dependent on the amount of taxes I decided to pay. If I kept all of my money to myself, then I would receive no free healthcare, no free education, shoddy infrastructure, and unfrozen criminals. If I paid 10% of my money in tax, then I would receive 10% off healthcare, 10% off education, and so forth. It’s perhaps not a plausible form of government, but I believe that sleep works that way.

Demolitian Man
To be honest, I often get confused between Finland and Demolition Man (1993)

The way I see it, sleep is the tax that Life takes from us in order for us to experience a fully engaged lucid state. For every 24 hours that we are paid, Life takes approximately eight of those hours as tax, and spends it on the infrastructure that makes for a fully functioning existence. When I pay my eight hours of sleep tax, it means that my senses function at their optimum level, it means I get high levels of energy, and it means that I am adept at learning new things and memorising new information. It enhances my enjoyment of food and music, and my sleep tax goes towards making me more quick-witted. It encourages my hair and nails to grow healthier, it encourages wounds to heal, and it helps my body fight illness. So all in all, the sleep tax I pay has noble ends. But sometimes I don’t want to pay my taxes. Sure, being able to remember things is cool, but I also want to see how many episodes of Game of Thrones I can watch in a day, or spend more time talking to my friends back home. It frustrates me that the sleep tax puts such a limit on my life. It’s like having free health care, but knowing I’ll never be able to afford a holiday to Europe. Sure, that seems greedy, but I can’t bare being restricted. That’s why I’m engaging in a protest against sleep tax. I’m pushing the boundaries of fatigue so that I can enjoy life on my own terms. Understandably, my memory might get shot to heck, and I might start appearing slow-witted to my peers, but there’s so much more I want to do with my time. I’m so behind on the books I want to read. I would also like to do more exercise, and socialise more. Sixteen hours of wakefulness per day isn’t enough time to do all the things that I want to do, so I’m going to embezzle sleep for a while, and see where that gets me.

I don’t imagine it’ll last long. The overall benefits of paying my sleep tax far outweigh the costs. Besides, the human race is far too needy and high maintenance to get by without the comfort of sleep.

Sleeping Dog
On the other hand, some people make sleep look so good.

*I know nothing about Finland.

**I’ve literally just made that up.