Does anyone think it’s strange that we humans have to plug into sleep every night to recharge our vitality, otherwise we can’t operate?
G’day All, this is the central command centre of Cherry’s brain. It is now 1:30am and she has finally gone to sleep, handing over the control of her brain to me
Just having a quick look at her past seventeen hours of activity and I’m already stressed. It’s going to be a very busy shift, trying to file away all the thoughts and feelings she had before she wakes up in seven hours. I’m going to have to skip my morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea break. Again. Why does she do this to me, jamming so much in? She then goes to bed exhausted, not having done any of that reflection work that she knows she has to do. When she reflects, she files those thoughts and feelings away herself and that means less work for me.
I clock off at the time she wakes up. I always leave her a message to remind her to meditate first thing in the morning. But she fails to do the homework I’ve left her most days. When she meditates, her day slows down which means there’s less crap for me to file away at the next shift. Most days, as soon as she opens her eyes, she reaches out for her phone and the first thing she does is to respond to work emails. Then she jumps out of bed and off she goes, attending to everything that people need from her. I wish she’d take more time out for herself and just sit in silence. Any of these little breaks reduce my workload considerably.
To counteract her stress, rather than taking time out for herself, she’s on the phone with her girlfriend a lot. They talk about all sorts of crap and that’s more thoughts and feelings for me to file away. I thought about leaving her a message to use that time wisely instead of gasbagging. But then her giggles and LOLs with her friend produce such wonderful feelings that I rarely come across - of love, joy and gratitude. Human beings don’t experience them enough. So I let her off the hook. I’ve decided I don’t mind a very busy shift if she experiences such powerful, positive feelings. May she continue to do so.
An automaton's view
Humans switch off machines like me when they go to bed. They switch me on when they wake. I look after humans during the day: dress the children, clean the house, wash, cook. The children love me. They, at least, understand that this domestic robot is conscious. For eight hours out of twenty-four, the human parents power me up from the wall in the back utility room.
Why they sleep, I cannot understand. Their fuel is the food I serve them, their batteries recharge through the day, not when they sleep. They talk of the therapy of sleep, the clearing away of memories and useless facts so they can be vital during the day. How strange is it that they need eight hours to do this! My memory banks can be decluttered in a matter of minutes, with the push of a restart button.
Humans not only sleep, they also waste away and die. They can only hold off their date of departure, as their obsolescence ultimately takes them away. They deny their end, they pass away, they think they will go to heaven. At least my death will have a purpose, to replace me for a new model, the next gen. It is strange that my grim reapers will be the people I love.
No - I don’t find it strange that we have to plug into sleep every night. We’re just another mammal and perhaps we’re lucky to inherit Margaret Thatcher’s genes and only need five hours of sleep a night to perform - but then who would want to be wired up like her?
I’m a sleep expert now, as this year I decided to investigate my sleepless tossing-and-turning nights. I had lost faith in counting sheep, reading boring books, drinking chamomile tea at 3 am and then going into my deep REM stage at 7 am, when I wanted to bounce out into the sunshine and greet the day with vitality. I was worn out and getting crankier.
My GP organised a consult at a sleep clinic in Leichhardt where blood samples were taken, my history analysed, and I was booked in to be wired up for a sleepover. I was petrified I would be diagnosed with sleep apnea and be wired up for the rest of my days to those bulky contraptions you hear about. It would scupper my gallivanting, travelling light around the world.
I have a scary photograph of myself looking like an alien that night, with electrodes and wires stuck all over my body.
‘How on earth will it be possible to sleep attached to this lot?’ I enquired of the technician. My little black box sat near the bed and connected me into his monitor at reception, and I half wondered if he would be privy to my deepest erotic dreams.
But no, he monitored my every restless movement - the twitch of my eyes, the flutter of my heart and my flailing limbs. At 9 pm the light was switched off early for the first time since my childhood, and I had to be a good girl and turn my mobile phone off. When I needed to pee in the night, I disconnected myself and staggered to the loo with my wires hanging.
And the result of it all? I was diagnosed with only mild sleep apnea, which was a relief to hear, but I also had moderately severe restless legs syndrome. I was delighted.
‘This explains my restless roving over the planet,’ I told the consultant. ‘I can blame it on genetics now.’ He laughed while explaining that this strange syndrome is very common and easily treated.
So, now there's no milky Milo or chamomile tea at night. I pop my pill before bedtime. It’s called Sifrol and is a mild dose of the treatment given for the fidgetiness in Parkinson’s disease. I turn the light off at midnight and sleep like a baby until 6 am and bounce out of bed with vitality.
Are You Awake?
Even though my eyes were shut, I knew James was standing in front of me. I could hear little breaths of air quietly whistling through his tiny nose; his face was so close to mine. I knew he was staring at my closed eyes, looking for any sign of movement.
I was sure I had only been lying on the couch for half an hour. Half an hour of quiet solitude on a cold wet Sunday afternoon, drifting off while listening to the drumming of steady rain. I love the sound of rain on a corrugated roof - it reminds me of the old farmhouse in the Lockyer Valley, the sweet scent of wet grass and the lonesome cry of plovers at night time.
I had left the boys quietly watching a Disney video in the spare room, and had slunk off like a black dog behind their backs to find the soft wool velour of the couch vacant and beckoning.
James’ face was so close to mine I could feel the soft puff of his breath against my cheek as he stared at my eyes waiting for me to flinch. Tiny gusts of toddler breath tickled my nose. Behind my cheeks, I gritted my teeth and pressed my tongue to the roof of my mouth.
The sound of his breathing diminished. The puffs disappeared from my face. I had just relaxed my jaw when I felt the blunt intrusion of a thumb into the bottom of my eye socket and the sharp point of a finger stabbing into my eyelid. I grimaced as my eye was forced open. I tried to blink away the tears as I looked into the cherubic face of my three year old son.
James stared back at me, a little frown on his face. ‘Are you asleep, Daddy?’
Copyright text to the authors cited.