Saturday, March 04, 2006

No Sleep Pill?

One of the fun things about sharing a car is that turning on the radio is always a surprise.

This time the radio was set to the local Christian station. They were taking calls between songs to comment on a pill that made people only need two hours of sleep a night. "Oh, great," I thought, " more Christians saying ignorant things about science."

I don't know when the "pill" was discussed or if the callers only had the question to respond to. Unsurprisingly the callers that I heard uniformly gave some version of "God created us to need sleep. He knew what he was doing and we shouldn't mess with it."

My immediate reaction to the question was, "I can see the obvious military applications." LOL, maybe it's a good thing I don't ahve a cell phone.

In blogging about this I've come upon a problem, though. I can't find any information on this "pill" through google. All I get are hits about needing sleep, none about not needing sleep. I believe I heard something in passing about a week ago, a link somewhere else that I didn't follow because until it got more attention it was probably not actually *real* but some scientist's pipe-dream. If anyone has any information or links please let me know. I sent an e-mail to the radio station asking for information and haven't heard back.

So... what if there *was* a pill that made it possible to be fully rested with only 2 hours of sleep a night. Firstly... you wouldn't have to take it. Or would you? Nancy Kress wrote Beggars in Spain with the premis "what if children could be genetically engineered to not need sleep?" In that world it was expensive and difficult so very few children were born without the need for sleep. Those elite few outproduced and outcompeted ordinary people. But what if it was a pill that anyone could have. If it didn't have significant side effects, how soon would it be before refusal to take it would lose you your job? If soldiers could take it during active combat, how soon before they had to take it all the time? We've all heard of the schedules that doctors doing their residencies endure. Wouldn't this be a boon? Or would the schedules just be pushed farther?

If there were no side effects... who'd *want* to spend time sleeping that could be spent on family activities, or hobbies, or being productive? But what if there were mild side effects? How much pressure would be put on people to conform?

Sometimes people have reasons, or gut feelings, they can't necessarily articulate or articulate well. That doesn't make them wrong. Sometimes, "This idea makes me uncomfortable," is entirely legitimate.


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