CONGRATULATIONS to Steve, Jack, and Joe who won their division in the Bonney Lake "Labor of Love" Olympic distance triathalon yesterday!
I believe the main reason we struggle with epidemic sleep disorders is our failure to examine fundamental misconceptions that inform our understanding of and approach to sleep. These misconceptions are rooted in a tendency to define sleep negatively -- that is, in terms of what it's not. Like our conception of health, which is generally understood as the absence of disease, we naively conceive of sleep as the absence of waking. When we are asleep, we are "dead to the world" -- to the waking world. Even scientific and medical definitions of sleep cast it in terms of what it's not. Sleep specialists refer to sleep as "non-REM." It's not dreaming.
Waking has become a synonym for consciousness; and sleep, considered its opposite, unconsciousness. Someone who exhibits limited awareness while awake may be accused of being 'asleep.' Noted sleep specialist, William Dement writes, "It is impossible to have conscious, experiential knowledge of non-dreaming sleep." Because it's unconscious, sleep is believed to lie outside the realm of subjective experience and, therefore, to be devoid of personal meaning. It's reduced to a functional physiological process. Nothing personal.
In fact, the most common presumption we hold about sleep, both scientifically and culturally, is that it functions to provide essential physiological support for waking life. Virtually all the research questions we ask about sleep focus on its role in supporting complex aspects of health and performance. Sleep serves waking life. Who would argue against this obvious truth? But is it the whole truth?