Beauty of sleep

We realise the full value of sleep only when we are deprived of this blessing

Published - July 24, 2022 01:57 am IST

Every living being, including trees and plants, sleeps. 

Every living being, including trees and plants, sleeps.  | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sleep is the most wonderful phenomenon in the living world. Every living being, including trees and plants, sleeps. We can see trees and plants sleeping after sunset, folding their leaves. The German forester Peter Wohlleben says in his wonderful book The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate: “Trees need their rest just as much as we do, and sleep deprivation is as detrimental to trees as it is to us.

We realise the full value of sleep only when we are afflicted with sleep deprivation. And the most fascinating definition or description of sleep comes from William Shakespeare. In his play Macbeth, Lady Macbeth advises Macbeth to kill King Duncan to make himself the King. Macbeth is not a born villain as Iago in Othello is; and therefore, immediately after committing the murder, he regrets and says: “Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!/ Macbeth does murder sleep’—the innocent sleep,/ Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care,/ The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,/ Balm of hurt minds, great Nature’s second course,/ Chief nourisher in life’s feast.” (Act 2, Scene 2).

Sleep is beautifully described in Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part II also: “O sleep, O gentle sleep,/ Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,/ That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down,/ And steep my senses in forgetfulness?” (Act 3, Scene 1).

What a wonderful ode to sleep those beautiful lines are! No wonder A.C. Bradley says in his Shakespearean Tragedy that “Shakespeare almost alone among poets seems to create in somewhat the same manner as Nature.”

We enjoy sleep utmost when we are students. In my college days, as is the wont of every student, I used to think of covering all the portions for each exam at the previous night of the exam day. At 4 p.m. of the previous day, I would think that I would earnestly sit and start studying at 8 p.m. and would go out and squander the precious time. At 8 p.m., I would think that it would be better to start after supper. After supper, the moment I opened the textbook or notebook, my eyes would start to droop down. With great effort, I would spend at least two hours in front of the books but even one or two lessons out of 10 or 12 might not be covered! And after 11 p.m., the “sore labour’s bath” wouldn’t allow me to concentrate and I would think that I would wake up at 3 a.m. and cover the remaining portions. Setting the alarm in the old fashioned timepiece, I would fall down on the bed and soon “the death of each day’s life” would take me into the sweet world of forgetfulness where no alarm sound of the timepiece reaches and my father would wake me up at 6 a.m.

Oh! What would be done now? I would just look at the titles of each lesson, go to the examination hall as if I was going to the gallows, extemporise answers to the questions asked and would somehow manage not to fail. I have never enjoyed the “chief nourisher in life’s feast” as I enjoyed it when I have been a student, especially during the examination times, even if sleep still continues to be the “soft nurse” whom I love passionately.

Another wonderful phenomenon connected with sleep is dream. We dream only when we are asleep. There won’t be anybody among humans who hasn’t had dreams in their sleeps. Now it is discovered that even little insects dream. We think that only we the humans do have emotions, dreams, pains joys and ecstasy. But Wohlleben says in the aforementioned book: “We are now discovering that animals share many human emotions. And not just animals, which are closely related to us, but even insects such as fruit flies. Researchers in California have discovered that even these tiny creatures might dream.”

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