Frida Berrigan, in The Huffington Post, on sleep as a "fundamental human right."
In a wonderful book entitled The Symptom and the Subject: The Emergence of the Physical Body in Ancient Greece, Brooke Holmes observes that “We continue to live with and in a body imagined as both an object of scientific knowledge and mastery and an unruly, threatening, inhuman thing.” Sleep offers a key example of bodily unruliness as it overtakes or descends upon the sleeper (or, in Homer, pours over her); it can operate like a species of enchantment, a messenger from a foreign world, revealing the extent to which our bodies are beyond our control. And yet, it is incredibly easy to forget sleep’s fundamental uncanniness, woven as the practice is into our everyday lives.
Leave it to the satirical newspaper The Onion to remind us. An article entitled “Nation Terrified After Millions Lose Consciousness for 8 Whole Hours Last Night” observes: “[N]early every American interviewed relayed a similar story of the incident’s onset, recalling that at some point last night, they began to notice an alarming slowing of their mental faculties and a growing sensation of full-body fatigue. Sources said that as it progressed, the bizarre phenomenon left them struggling to keep their eyes open, even if they were actively watching a television show or reading a book, until eventually their bodies and minds, in their words, simply ‘turned off.’”
And then there are dreams: “[A] sizable percentage of the populace claimed to have been plagued by mysterious visions, with many such individuals recalling strange and sometimes terrifying scenes in vivid detail. … Seattle woman Valerie McComb … appeared visibly shaken as she recounted the details. ‘And then at one point, and this is the most frightening part, my teeth just all fell out. How am I supposed to move on after such a horrific vision? Could it be an omen foretelling the future? Am I supposed to follow its instructions? I don’t know.’”
As much of the work referenced on this website makes plain, sleep in the 21st century is an “object of scientific knowledge and mastery”; The Onion brings home to us its “unruly, threatening” dimensions.