I come across more and more people who claim they can manage perfectly well on three or four hours sleep a night. Some people, it is pointed out, simply need less sleep than others. I’m an eight or nine hour man myself, so am happy to grant this desire for less sleep to those less fortunate than me. But I can’t help noticing the permanent bags under the eyes, the deep wrinkles around eyes and mouths that are normally associated with those in their sixties and seventies, the short fuses, the curious accidents that seem to happen when one is running on adrenaline and chronic lack of sleep. This short-sleep thing seems more prevalent among those who like to exercise some sort of power (however small), feeling perhaps that the extra hours of wakefulness will give them the edge over their rivals.
Actually, I suspect this zombie phenomenon has been assisted magnificently by the Western addiction to caffeine. Since I have not been able to imbibe caffeine or alcohol, I have noticed how prevalent are those takeaway mugs in the hands of people rushing to work in the morning, the various caffeine soft drinks knocked back with impressive speed, the scruffy burnt-finger baristas plying their dubious craft on nearly every street corner, addicts hanging out for what claims to be the best coffee in town. And then, having wound the body up into crisis mode with caffeine, in comes the alcohol in the evenings to wind down – the suppressant to negate the stimulant of earlier, beating away at the heart’s sino-atrial node. Come to think of it, Hitler had a liking for uppers and downers … and look what happened to him.
So what would the West look like if coffee were suddenly banned? A massive sleep-in to catch up, an impossibly irritable population, a revolution? Nah, revolutions need more substance, but I’d love to be the one enacting the ban.