Sleepy genius of Rip Van Winkle underappreciated

Ryn Gargulinski

What do we all want, need and cannot live without? No, it’s not the $84 fuzzy shearling slippers from the latest Cabelas catalog. It’s our dear friend sleep.

Studies have shown normal adults need at least eight hours of sleep per day. When we say “normal” we mean those who do not aim to conquer the world, usurp the stock market or stay wired on caffeine or PCP. Those folks should probably get 15 to 22 hours of sleep per day, at least after they crash when whatever mission or substance is done spewing through their system.

Studies have also shown the average person sleeps one-third of their life away. That means a 99-year-old man would have slept 33 years by the time he blows out that giant array of birthday candles.

But why does it still not feel like enough?

This time-change stuff makes it even more difficult to stay awake for more than a four-hour period. Since it gets dark roughly around noon, our bodies automatically shut down. If people were meant to stay awake in the dark, my grandma used to say, God would have created us with lanterns on our heads. Actually, my grandmother never said that, but she did give us sage advice on why we should not kiss the cat or sit on cold concrete.

Speaking of cold concrete, even though the sun may have risen, it can be nearly impossible to get out of bed in the morning, mainly because we know a cold hardwood floor icily awaits our feet (this is where the shearling slippers step in).

Contrary to popular belief — or at least the tenet held by 8-year-olds who use any request to delay bedtime as long as possible — sleep is not a boring thing.

What could be more soothing than cocooning ourselves in a heap of fleece with our head propped on a fluffy pillow (unless, of course, you sleep beside someone who steals the covers).

In addition to playing tug o’ war with blankets, sleep offers us a host of enthralling activities.

Like the dream. Dreaming is like getting into a movie for free — without the hassle of high-priced popcorn and soda sludge stuck to our shoes. Dreams also give us insight into our inner yearnings, our hidden hatreds and mysteries such as where the other sock goes when it doesn’t come back from the laundry.

Dreams become even more amusing when we learn we can control them. The best I recall from this category was one that had me flying like a prehistoric bird over canyons and Madison Avenue. In dreams, you cannot die. They are also the only place we can be assured to get away with murder.

Sleepwalking is also fun — as long as we don’t fall down the stairs or wake up naked in the middle of Route 66. Again, our subconscious mind goes to work, acting out our inner desires. Exactly the reason why, when I’d go on my stringent teenage diets, I’d awake with a box of Twinkie wrappers in my bed.

While reviewing our need — and desire — for sleep, we can look to those who mastered the craft.

Rip Van Winkle was a genius. Not only did he figure out how to get out of haircuts for 20 years, he also acquired infamy by merely taking a really long nap.

I’ve tried this myself a couple of times. Inevitably the phone rings, the dogs go nuts or the alarm goes off in the middle of the afternoon for no apparent reason.

Sleeping Beauty was another crafty character. New research has revealed she actually ate the poisoned apple on purpose. And why not? During her slumber she got to avoid dealing with the evil witch and an annoying talking mirror while being awakened by the kiss of a handsome lad. All this after adequate beauty sleep so she looked her best. She may have even stepped out of bed gracefully, clad in a new set of shearling slippers.

Ryn Gargulinski writes for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. Contact her at 505-461-1952 or by e-mail: