Friday, August 19, 2005

Restless sleepers

Monday night's Trampoline Hall was on the theme of Sleep and Sleeplessness -- a topic close to my heart. As a hard-wired night owl and frequent insomniac, I've done so much reading about sleep over the years I could easily have given a lecture myself.

A high-school teacher gave a talk suggesting that as most teenagers are biologically inclined to be night owls, school should start a little later in the morning, and then maybe her first-period students wouldn't fall asleep in class all the time. The second lecture was actually an onstage panel interview: a sleepwalker, an insomniac and a narcoleptic sat onstage and were quizzed about their conditions by a guy with, in Trampoline Hall tradition, no expertise in the area. He took a flippant, teasing attitude to all three interviewees, which started to seem uncomfortably inappropriate as it gradually became clear that while two of the women had conditions which were intensely and chronically irritating and unpleasant, the third had a serious and rather terrifying neurological disorder. He came off as kind of an insensitive dick when talking to her, but she held her own pretty well, I thought. All three interviewees were interesting to hear: The sleepwalker often eats in her sleep, though she never cooks; the insomniac has frequently thought about strangling her peacefully-sleeping significant others in the watches of the night; the narcoleptic must control her emotions in intimate relationships, as strong feelings of happiness or sadness can trigger attacks of cataplexy.

The third speaker talked about insomnia as a kind of demonic possession, which wasn't nearly as interesting as it sounds, unfortunately. I think what I liked best about the evening was the group of people sleeping on mattresses onstage. Yes, those toes in the picture above belonged to one of four people who dozed away up there all evening. Misha woke them up after the last speaker and asked them how they'd slept. There's something inherently funny about watching a bleary-eyed person try to describe their sleeping experience within seconds of waking up. The woman who'd worn an iPod and sleep mask had slept like a log through everything -- music, stage lights, speakers, applause. The others had met with varying degrees of success. Psychogeographer Marlena was one of them, and had slept pretty well; she characterized the experience as "fun."

Misha: How was this sleep more fun than normal sleep?
Marlena: It was, um, tingly.

Soon afterwards, the situation on stage degenerated, inevitably, into a big ol' slumber party pillowfight:
Marlena told me she'd drifted in & out of wakefulness, hearing the voices all around her, and it had reminded her of sleeping in the living room during her parents' parties when she was a little girl, and it made her feel tremendously cozy and safe.


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