Sleeping is at once a necessity and a luxury. Being a restorative, unconscious kind of activity makes the lack of it more newsworthy than the doing of it.
It divides people into two camps: those who need a lot of it and those who don’t approve of it.
People who think they love sleeping are really saying they are monsters without it. They relish it for the reason that they find it exhausting to be ‘on’ for too long.
It is only a good idea to hang out with them if they are at a stage of their lives when they are able to drive in 12 hours every night. If they are about to get stressed or have a baby, run from them like the wind.
People who say they don’t like sleeping are generally boasting about their energy reserves, like a diver telling everyone how little oxygen they use. They feel guilty if they are caught with their eyes closed and lie copiously to cover their tracks if they have accidentally snoozed.
They are liable to be found slumped in a chair with a book on their chest, a foreign-language C.D on repeat and chicken stock burning dry on the stove.
When the two species get married they spend their lives blaming each other for being inconsiderate/lazy until they reach 70 and neither of them ever leave the bedroom unless to fetch a digestive biscuit from the kitchen.
Insomniacs get more sleep than everybody, spending large swathes of time in bed for fear they may miss the 3 minutes they believe they grab randomly. They see nothing suspicious in the large amounts of saliva that have dripped from their gaping, snoring mouths during their 12-hour sleepathon.
Bad sleeping habits can break a new relationship, from snoring, bed hogging and restlessness to sleep-talking, sleep-walking and recurrent nightmares.
No matter how much your date nodded enthusiastically when you talked about your favourite hobby, you might have to kick them out of bed for farting, quite literally.
There are as many different qualities of tiredness as grains of sand on the beach. At one end of the spectrum you feel like a weary cat ready to curl up next to the fire. At the other, you get a strange taste in your mouth and hallucinate about wiping out your family with a pick-axe.
Whether it’s the heavy-headed fogginess of a broken night or the neurotic, unclear thinking that results from workaholicism it is an advantage to be able to describe imaginatively the resulting misery, in order to distinguish it from that of pretenders who are clearly perkier than you:
‘I was so tired last week I lay down under the grapefruit section in Tesco in nothing but my pyjama bottoms’ will impress other Mums and get you more sympathy at an NCT meeting.
New mothers pretend that adrenalin and love for their baby override their desperate lack of shut-eye when actually it’s just the basic biology that their hearts are still beating. If they thought they could find an easy way to turn these off they’d fling the baby out the window immediately.
Like baking, sleeping is a precisely calibrated pursuit, involving the right temperature and correct measures of a pleasant environment and calmness. Mess with them and it all comes undone, at least partly explaining the other-worldly look of shift-workers and cabin crew.
Sustained body-clock tweaking ends at Sleep Aid City, where lives pills, potions, whale music and tapes that take you in elevators down, down, to the bottom of your consciousness. Getting out of bed and finishing a bar of Lindt chocolate is equally ineffective but immeasurably more enjoyable.
There is a point in most people’s lives when they realise their bed could be hotel quality if they went out and spent seven thousand pounds correctly equipping it. They order million thread count sheets, revise scientific tables of duvet tog values and press pillows stuffed with the hair of eskimo boy babies, failing to realise that a large part of the attraction of hotel slumber is to do with the fact that a young maiden whisks the sheets away to be laundered daily.
Should this epiphany persuade them to start ironing their own Extra King-Sized sheets and decorative European pillow covers, try to be their friend until they re-discover the plot.
A dream is your head careering around in a Scooby Doo van with its eyes closed. Of course it’s going to be ‘weird’ and deeply uninteresting to anyone who isn’t living in your brain. It is the embodiment of matter over mind, helpfully unraveling all the laborious work you have done during the day to try to forget painful things.
Many people are staggeringly unversed in the basics of dream symbology and will tell you quite happily in detail the next day how they killed you with a machete, as if it didn’t originate from their own evil brains.
Not being able to get off to sleep and oversleeping bring equal misfortune. The former leads your soul down dark paths via sheep while the latter leads others down it, carrying with it a whiff of impropriety, if not alcohol (and possibly sheep).
Ultimately, a decent night’s sleep is often all that divides the agony from the ecstasy in waking life, yielding one golden rule: if you stop a person from getting it or wake them out of one, it should only be for a very good reason.