Wednesday, June 8, 2011


It's strange that I enjoy sleep so much. The reason I find this odd is because for the majority of it, I am completely unconscious. If I am unconscious, I am not having any experience of what I am doing, and therefore, can't be enjoying it.* So what gives?

My first guess was that it's not sleep per say that I enjoy, but the process of falling asleep. It's nice to lay in a warm, comfy bed, completely relaxed. However, it’s only enjoyable for so long. If I lay there long enough, I get either bored or annoyed that I am still awake. So it doesn’t seem to be the laying down I enjoy.

My second guess was that what I am looking forward to is actually losing consciousness. This sounds better, though, it seems like one could argue, "well, it's not so much that you want to go to sleep (lose consciousness), but the knowledge that if you DON'T go to sleep, you are going to suffer for it in the morning." I imagine that that could be part of what is going on. But even more importantly, I think that as I lay there, tired, I know that the uncomfortable feeling of tiredness I am experiencing will no longer be upon me. I will be unconscious, and not experiencing it anymore. It’s sort of like if I was in extreme pain, I would want to be knocked out, so I wouldn't have to be experiencing the pain anymore. And at least with sleep, when I wake up, I won’t (hopefully) feel so tired. This would also explain why little kids don't like naps. To adults though, naps are a treat! They are a treat, because we know that sleeping is the best way to rid ourselves of a certain discomfort, and will help us feel better. But kids haven't made that association yet, so to them, it just means they have to stop playing.

In conclusion, it's not that I look forward to sleep (and therefore unconsciousness), it's that I am trying to avoid the discomfort of being tired, and the only way to do that is to go to sleep. Sleep eliminates the discomfort of being tired, and allows me to wake up once the discomfort has passed (hopefully). Therefore, it's inaccurate to say I love sleep. Instead, I should say that I don't like being tired, and if I can opt out of experiencing tiredness, I will.

*There are a few philosophers of religion who, contrary to what cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind have to say, think that the mind exists independent of the brain, and consciousness continues to exist once the brain is destroyed. If they are right, and our consciousness isn’t tied to our brains, it seems rather peculiar that our consciousness completely goes away during sleep. If they were correct, I am not sure how this could even be possible. Any ideas?