I had a conversation with my friend Kaushik a year ago when we were having dinner together. I’ve been in the company of many people who smoke regularly, even though I don’t. He is a regular smoker as well and I asked him what kept him attracted to the bud. I was curious to know about why people find it so hard to quit. What he told me was simple to understand but still very profound.

He told me when someone starts smoking for the first time, they probably won’t like it very much. It happens slowly as they learn how to do it properly. That’s why beginners start coughing because they can’t control when and how to let the smoke in and when to let it out. But when they get hold of it, they start getting a kick out of it. And for most people, that’s the thing that keeps them coming back for more. I’ve seen very few who smoke because they like the smell of a burning cigarette and quite a lot who smoke because they think it’s cool. They are the ones you see in college all the time. But for the rest, it’s the kick they get out of it that matters and that’s the addiction. However, with time, your body gets used to it and then the only way to enjoy it like before is to keep having more. And that goes on and on and when you’ve done it for years, even 3-4 packs a day isn’t enough for you.

I don’t see addiction in the negative sense. I believe we all are addicted to something or else anyway. Be it shopping, movies, food, chocolate, ice-cream, coffee, tea, porno, adrenaline, music, you name it. I am more interested in learning about how we get addicted to something and how to stay in control rather than trying to judge a particular group of people because they are addicted to something that we consider wrong. And if you think about it, people who are addicted to smoking or drinking are the most aware of their addiction. Compare that to a teenager who just had a break up and has a low self-esteem, so starts over-eating and thus, gets fat. Most people don’t know that they can get addicted to a particular food, many particularly high in cholesterol. Any addiction, that way, can be harmful. I have asked a few alcoholics as well about it. My loose definition of an alcoholic is “anyone who drinks almost everyday”. They have shared the same view as mentioned above.

Most people who know me know that I have a lot of trouble waking up once I sleep. So a week ago, I decided one day that I won’t sleep at all, no matter what. And it was already about 3:30 pm when I woke up because I had slept at 6 am that day. That desire to stay awake intensified when a friend, who goes by the same name as me, decided to challenge me that I won’t last even for a day without sleeping. We had a wager and I was determined to stay up. I did stay up for 2 days and 2 nights. And what surprised me at the end of it was how easy it actually was. I normally sleep when I feel like sleeping. I don’t care if it’s 2am or 6am or 1pm when that happens. And I usually find it very difficult to control myself when I am sleepy but this time, things were different.

I realized that there’s a period of about 5-15 minutes, and that’s how my body works, when my brain would give up on me and force me to leave whatever it is that I am doing and just sleep. And if somehow I cross that successfully, staying up by doing whatever it takes, I am good for the next few hours. And to fight those few minutes, I did try drinking coffee once but for the rest of the times, about 7-8 in all, I tried natural ways to stay up. I had an apple once, went outside and looked at the sun twice, kept stretching and walking in between to keep the muscles from relaxing and splashed my face with water a few times. I also made sure I was sitting upright and not leaning comfortably on my chair to keep myself alert and I tried to stay away from my bed even though I use my laptop sitting there often times.

All this has forced me to think if we are all addicted to sleeping, more so, myself. I’ve been wondering if we can do with lesser amounts of sleep every day and still work as much and maintain our energy levels high. When I am tired and my muscles need rest, I sleep in a particular position that support them for sometime before I fall asleep. I normally sleep sideways but when I wake up, I find myself in varying postions every day. What I observed was that I find joy and comfort in those few minutes that I am laying on my bed before I fall asleep completely. But when I am sleeping, I have no consciousness to feel the same. Granted that my body is resting and I will feel fresh when I wake up. But many a times, when I do wake up, I want to go back to sleep “just for a few more minutes”, like many of us, and I do that in the same position as I was in when I slept. My body loves that position and my muscles find comfort that way. And no matter how much I give it that, it wants more. Because after a couple of minutes, I fall asleep again and it wants to feel it consciously. It can never have enough. And I have tried to give it a lot before. I’ve slept for 2 days continuously before to try to give it a lot in hopes that it will leave me alone for a few days. But it did not. That immediately reminded me of what Kaushik said about smoking. That when we get used to it, we need more of it to feel the same that we felt before with less. I firmly believe that we can do more than we generally think we can. And that includes sleeping less. I’ll try different things and post my experiences here. Meanwhile, I’d like to know what you think about it.

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