Well,me, at the moment, and I’m sure lots of insomniacs across the world. However, I’ve had this idea since I was a teen that technology will eventually make sleep obsolete. As time goes by, the idea becomes more and more feasible, and I’m noticing it wasn’t as original a thought as I had once believed.
Let’s fist talk about what sleep does for your mind and body: Sleep alters our genes and repairs our bodies during our restful states. During our slumber, our body flushes out toxins through our cerebrospinal fluid, which is a clear liquid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It moves through the brain using a series of channels surrounding blood vessels, managed by the glymphatic system (glial cells). Many scientists have also reported that the glymphatic system is responsible for removing a protein (a toxic one) called the beta-amyloid which accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. So, we clearly need sleep or at least to be able to perform these functions on a regular basis. Not to mention, not sleeping impairs reasoning and he storage of memories..which brings us back to the Alzheimer’s issue.
With the knowledge of what we have just read, why would anyone want to skip out on what nature clearly intended us to full advantage of? What are the pros of not sleeping or sleeping less? Everyone has heard the age-old saying, “There aren’t enough hours in the day to do what I need to do.” What do we need to do? Spend more time with family and friends? Do more work-business or housework? Learn more abilities-musical, linguistical, or finally create that time machine you’ve always wanted? Would we find ways to make more money with our time or would we binge-watch episodes of our favorite television show? Maybe we’d read more books and acquire more knowledge?
Now, here is where the science of it all comes into play. Any remedy for sleepiness must target the brain’s prefrontal cortex. There have already been transhumanists developing ways of doing this for some time now. They’ve developed a brain stimulation device (tDCS) which uses sound to enhance a slow-wave sleep, along with drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall (if you’re not familiar with these, they’re typically used on patients with ADD/ADHD). A lot of experts will tell you it will be the better part of a decade before tCDS is used but biohackers are building devices themselves and testing them on friends (and maybe sometimes themselves). In the US, I have not heard of this being marketed. However, I’m told in other countries it may be available by prescription and that it works on 75-80% of patients who try it. I’ve also read that the military (DARPA) may be trying it out to help soldiers who aren’t able to sleep for long periods of time in combat zones. The device they use is a combination of EEG measuring that enhances slow wave sleep and allows less sleep to feel more effective. For example, the soldier sleeps 20 minutes but it feels like 8 hours. The device would transmit heat around the soldiers’ eyes. Which leads me to my next scientific point..
Our internal clock is based on chemical oscillation, a feedback loop on the cellular level which takes 24 hours to complete. It’s overseen by a clump of brain cells that sits behind our eyes in the meeting point of our optic nerves. Hence, the heating of the soldiers’ eyes has made them feel they’ve had a deeper sleep much more quickly. Even if we are shut off from any light source, our body will maintain its internal schedule. It’s called a “free-running” state. Every living multi-celled organism has this same internal clock deeply ingrained into their being based on the rotation of the Earth.
Let’s imagine for a moment what we might do with technology like this in the future.. We may begin to view sleep as a vacation, viewing our dreams as an escape from reality. We may even begin to program and pre-determine what will happen in our dreams. Humanity may develop a shared dream state which could involve lucid dreaming. Imagine the possibilities if this were made real.. Lastly, when I was in about 9th grade in school (many years ago), I did a research paper on the possibility of recording dreams. I may not have been the first, may have been, but certainly wasn’t the last, as I saw that others have now shared this idea as well. We could video our dreams, watch them together as movies, art, or any form of entertainment. Imagine a revolution in the art world as dreams become a real tangible window (or screen) to the soul.
Of course, with any new experimentation, there could be horrible frightening side effects. I’m afraid Doctor Who beat me to what might happen if this went wrong. Here is a link if you are not familiar with the episode: http://www.tv.com/shows/doctor-who-2005/community/post/doctor-who-season-9-episode-9-sleep-no-more-review-144743759771/
Also, a lovely picture of our Mr.Sandman..
As I’ve said before, I’m no scientist so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. I’ll leave you with these questions (for the comments below): Would you choose to stay awake if given the opportunity? Do you think it would help or harm humanity? What would you do with your free time?
Until next time..