Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep… Or What?

To sleep:   perchance to dream:  ay, there’s the rub *

       Today I have a simple question and I bet that someone reading this knows the answer. But it isn’t me. Or anyone I’ve asked so far, either.

       It’s like this.   When we go to sleep, what part of us is it that “goes to sleep”? Every one I’ve asked, looks at me with unbelieving eyes and replies, “Well, for heaven’s sake, Ethel, it’s your body that sleeps. to get needed rest”.

       But take a short moment and think. Your body does not go to sleep.   The heart goes on beating, day in and day out, sending blood to every tiny part of our body.

       And our lungs remain awake, also. We breath air in and out, in and out, and,  pooling resources with the heart,  feeds every cell of our bodies. And if there is an infection in the lungs, the body coughs until whatever was ‘asleep’ wakens for some medication.

       Our digestive system works like an assembly line, and is so ‘awake’ that it often rouses us to make a short trip to the bathroom.  Yeah, our digestive system doesn’t sleep. No matter what ‘our sleep master’ does, the digestion system goes placidly along its own way, and the food we ate or drank in the evening is so far along its way that by morning we find our stomach is ready for more.

       Our hair grows.  And so do our finger and toe nails.  And one fellow, when he realized that his body did not sleep, amusedly added, that he thinks his body is doubly active and makes him fatter when he sleeps.

       Our muscles are awake, for we unconsciously turn over or reach and scratch an itchy spot. Don’t believe me?   Well, test it out. Wave a feather, or soft tissue or such over the face of some sleeper and see how quickly a hand reaches out to get rid of whatever is tickling their face.

       What part of us sleeps?   When we are under an anesthetic, some doctor monitors our heart beat carefully to make certain that it, the heart, does not “go to sleep”.

       I’ve finally come to one point that makes me wonder if I’m getting close to what, and how,  we go to sleep.

       We all have heard of the people whom doctors call Brain Dead. In other words their five senses are completely  ‘dead’, and their bodies must be fed artificially, given water and cared for by others. But their body goes on living and there is a family in the news now, who is fighting to take their daughter from such a ‘life’.

       And once there was a young woman . . . pregnant . . . . and the fetus continued to live and grow. Again there was a difference of wishes between family and doctors and I’ve never heard the results. Did the child reach birth? Was it normal? Or would people, even doctors know if that child were normal until it reached adulthood and it would be obvious if it did or did not develop in all ways, i.e. mentally as well as emotionally. And then did they ‘let’ the body die???

       So, I wonder. Is there some spot in our brain that ‘puts us to sleep’ but lets the rest of our equipment remain aware, and continue calmly functioning? But if some person gets physically injured in that specific, critical, spot in the brain, injured beyond what’s meant to be, and as a result,  can’t come back???  In other words, do we each night, come near being a brain dead person???

       Yeah, I know I think of odd questions, but tell me if you know. It’s such a simple question.   Sleep. We do it daily, often more than once a day. Does someone know the answer?

       What part of me is it that goes to sleep each night??? And wakens again when that need is filled???

*  Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1

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