Sleep and Death – self-referring metaphors

I’ll sleep when I’m dead, and other fallacies of presumption.

To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life; —Hamlet, Act III scene i

Whoever, or whatever Shakespeare may have been, I certainly do appreciate his acrobatic use of language, with such richness as hasn’t been seen outside a French patisserie. The metaphor of sleep as death and death as sleep is long-standing, and was certainly around long before Hamlet soliloquized about it. This same metaphor applies to the Sun (at the Winter Solstice) and the Moon (at the New Moon). At any rate, I wanted to take a look at two articles I found recently on the subjects.


Sleep or Die: How Little or No Sleep Will Affect You

The relationship between enough sleep and health has been known for some time, but the repercussions of not getting enough sleep over the longer term has been left aside for the demands of other obligations. However, how well can someone meet obligations when operating in a depleted state?

I once stayed awake for 72+ hours (I was travelling across Canada by bus, and couldn’t sleep while in the cramped quarters). By the third day, I was hallucinating flocks of birds and animals running across the road. I was having trouble concentrating (some of which is due poor nutrition at the choice of rest stops – the greater part of which were Tim Horton’s). It was an interesting experience, but not one I care to repeat in this lifetime (maybe the next one, particularly if I’m born with shorter legs).

Rats have eventually dropped dead from being denied sleep, however, no person has (as far as we know). People have died as a result of accidents resulting from disrupted sleep (as in shift works). Well documented cases include: the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, the Bhopal Disaster, and the Exxon-Valdez Disaster. Aside from these horrific examples, the lack of consistent sleep will shave years off your life. Check it out:


In What You Lose When You Sign That Donor Card Dick Teresi investigates the process.

But what are you giving up when you check the donor box on your license? Your organs, of course—but much more. You’re also giving up your right to informed consent. Doctors don’t have to tell you or your relatives what they will do to your body during an organ harvest operation because you’ll be dead, with no legal rights.

The most likely donors are victims of head trauma (from, say, a car or motorcycle accident), spontaneous bleeding in the head, or an aneurysm—patients who can be ruled dead based on brain-death criteria. But brain deaths are estimated to be just around 1% of the total. Everyone else dies from failure of the heart, circulation and breathing, which leads the organs to deteriorate quickly.

But what does it mean, to be brain dead? There are legal and medical definitions, however, what do they entail physically? There is some doubt as to whether a BHC (beating-heart cadaver, a brain dead body kept biologically viable with a ventilator) can sense pain or not. Some experts claim no, that physical reactions are merely reflexes, others have doubts. In one particular case, a patient with severe head trauma began breathing again. In some cases, the brain-dead person emits brainwaves. Whether this indicates perception of pain or not is what comes into question, as some organ donors react to the scalpel as would a living person. Why wouldn’t it be investigated more fully?

Organ transplantation—from procurement of organs to transplant to the first year of postoperative care—is a $20 billion per year business. Average recipients are charged $750,000 for a transplant, and at an average 3.3 organs, that is more than $2 million per body. Neither donors nor their families can be paid for organs.

This might explain all those cases of people waking up one kidney short. Some doctors use light anaesthetic as a precaution. When are you dead?

Personally, I don’t have a driver’s license, or an organ donor’s card. For me, I refuse to accept anyone else’s organs (not for religious regions particularly), and I won’t be donating my own. I find the idea ghoulish in no small part. More to the point, I think that there are some things that just kill you, and that’s that. There are medical procedures for which I’m grateful (and likely have prolonged my life thus far), however, using someone else’s organs, despite the amazing medical feat of it, is not among them.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, if you understand that time is cyclical, that all of the cosmos is cyclical, then death is not an end, it’s just a sleep between lifetimes. It is not the end by any stretch. As such, there is less to fear in death, and less desperate need to hang on for dear life. Everything I don’t accomplish in this life, I will in the next, as a nematode, a neutron star, or someone who feeds the pigeons in the park.

282 Days to Dec 21st 2012


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