In the seventeenth century, the philosopher René Descartes spent a lot of time mulling over the problem of whether he existed or not. “I think therefore I am,” he wrote. So he thought he did exist. At some point, he must have tackled the am-I-awake-or-not question.
Great minds like yours have thought deeply about this question.
In 1650 Blaise Pascal gave up mathematics to contemplate the “greatness and the misery of man.” As he put it, “Most of the evils of life arise from man’s being unable to sit still in a room.” If this is true, it only follows that lying in bed must be a virtue.
Marcel Proust stayed in bed for almost a decade due to real or imagined ailments. His bed became his workplace. You probably had to be ill in bed to read Marcel Proust’s one-and-a-quarter-million-word novel, In Search of Lost Time. But Proust was a genius because he knew how to slow down. He took seventeen pages to describe a man trying to get back to sleep in his bed. Could the problem have been the uncomfortableness of his bed?
The great bed of Ware, mentioned in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, was made to accommodate twelve people. To think about it makes the mind boggle. If you go to Rye House in Broxbourne, England, you can see it today. But imagine getting out of the middle of that bed on a full night. It would be worse than being strapped into the center seat on a crowded and turbulent flight after drinking too many cups of tea.
Of course, getting out of bed can be dangerous no matter what size bed you happen to be in. Augustus Caesar was superstitious about it. In ancient times, it was unlucky to set the left foot on the ground first. Even today, we ascribe grumpiness to getting out of bed on the wrong side.
In ancient Rome, augury and omens were taken seriously. This sort of thing has gone out of fashion. But if you wake up to large black ravens sitting on your bedposts, or you see a plague of frogs out the window, beware. Some days it is better not to get out of bed.
There is evidence to back this up. Scientists tell us that we achieve beneficial mental states between sleep and wakefulness. Sleeping longer can even make you more intelligent.
In William Dement’s book, The Promise of Sleep, he cites a study on students at Harvard. They were encouraged to sleep an extra hour-and-a-half. At first, they objected because of their busy course schedules. But they went along with the program. The result: grades went up. The bad news is that sleep debt lowers IQ points. So staying in bed may lead to a heightened state of functionality and well-being.
If you have an alarm clock, you can’t help but look at the beastly contraption. You make rules for yourself. You’ll stay in bed for just five more minutes. Then, in the spirit of heroic self-discipline, you tell yourself you’ll get up in just one more minute’s time. You count the seconds backwards, five, four, three, two, one.
You know you have the self-discipline to get up very soon, but you might as well stay in bed just a fraction longer.
Notice: Unfortunately, the Institute’s course on gettingoutofbedology is full at this time.