Zia Hassan

Two Kinds Of Sleep

There are two kinds of sleep. We can’t meaningfully control which one we get when we fall, but we can tell which one it was when we wake up.

The first kind feels like a recharge. It feels like being tired when we get into bed, and slightly less tired when we wake up. Sometimes, we’re not quite sure how we slept until hours later, when we’re head down at our cubicle. Other times, we make it through the day just fine, even without coffee.

The first kind is the most common. It’s almost invisible. We do it habitually. We enjoy the rituals. It’s only somewhat reliable but it’s what we’ve got.

The second kind is the kind that comes from nights of half-sleep, and it’s especially bad if the sleeper doesn’t really know how poorly they’ve been sleeping.

It’s the kind where your head hits any part of the pillow or bed and you already feel perfectly safe and comfortable. Maybe we get a second to wrap the blanket, maybe we don’t.

This is the type of sleep where it feels as if we climbed into a tiny boat on a port in perfect evening weather, and without any cue from us, the boat starts pulling away from the dock and there’s absolutely nothing we can do but sail into sleep.

The last thought we have before our eyes close is oh oh oh oh oh…. and the first feeling we have upon waking is feeling like our noses are full of salt water.

No time for bedtime stories, alarms, warm baths, chamomile, or soft music. Just an entirely different universe, and one where dreams occur often. This type of sleep is a creative act. This type of sleep is painting on a canvas so furiously that it hurts to be interrupted.

This type of sleep solves our vision problems for a while.

It’s much more rare though and it sneaks up on us during the winter hibernation holidays, when we have a longer runway on which to unfurl, when we remember to nap again.

Like all good things, we can’t get the second kind every time. It would be too much. Like all good things, we do the second kind in moderation.

And so most nights are spent with the first kind of sleep, dreaming about the next time we will experience the second kind.