How do you know when you’re feeling sleepy?
No, it’s not a rhetorical question; I’m really asking you. Do you really receive some indication that tells your brain you are going to start nodding off in a few seconds?
Well, I don’t. But my wife on the other hand, believes my brain works like this:
Brain (to me): “Dude, you’re tired and bored. And let’s face it – you’re obviously not interested in your work either. (And you can drop the hurt bunny look now too) So go wash your face and get some work done before she catches you nodding off”
That’s what she thinks happens inside my head. I spent years arguing that I really don’t know I’m feeling sleepy until the first iteration of the following algorithm:
- Wake up with a start
- Glance around with a “Who am I? Where am I?” look on my face
- Gather that information
- Realize that I fell asleep
- Go back to what I was doing before I nodded off
- Go to Step 1
That’s just the way I’m wired. But nah, she doesn’t believe me, having once seen me freeze in front of a computer with my head tilted back, my eyes half-closed and my jaw halfway to the floor. Inside a computer lab. Crowded. My hands still on the keyboard. In mid-sentence.
Now I know you are taking her side, but in my defense it just happened once, ok? And it was a really long time ago. You know why you shouldn’t marry someone who has seen you as a student? Negative publicity. It’s really hard to maintain the image of a sophisticated, responsible adult when the other person has always seen you go from BOOK OPEN to EYES CLOSED in 0.6 seconds.
Anyway, this is one thing I still don’t understand. How can you foresee drowsiness BEFORE it hits you? Does it come running at you, howling and flapping arms wildly? Or maybe God forgot to put the alert feature in my brain that starts blaring when it’s running low on fuel.
When I thought back to other such examples from my life, it turned out I always dozed off just the way my algorithm goes. In B-school my neighbor spent an entire year kicking me awake in class. And until the first kick of the day, I swear I thought I was being attentive.
And the same thing happened years before, when I was under my cousin’s stern eye, mentoring me for my Std. XII exams.
(A voice, far off in the distance) “You’re sleeping AGAIN!” (Voice much closer now. Belongs to my cousin who just walked into the room) “Open your eyes and finish that chapter if you want lunch”
Me: “Me? I wasn’t sleeping”
She: “Yes you were”
Me: “How can you be so sure? I had my head down because I was looking at the book and you couldn’t really see my face because of that. Why do you always walk into the room, look at me and simply ASSUME that I’m nodding off? Isn’t it possible that I might be deeply engrossed in this subject and this time I might actually be studying?” (At this point, it’s time for the hurt bunny look)
She: “You know, you’re probably right. I just walked in, saw you sitting like that and simply jumped to conclusions. I shouldn’t have done that. Silly me… didn’t realize you were too engrossed to respond when I waved my hand across your face TWICE before I SCREAMED YOU BACK INTO THE REAL WORLD!”
And then HURT BUNNY became DEAD BUNNY.