Sleeping In The Future

Imagine A Future World Without Sleep!

future of sleepSleep is so much part of our lives, that imagining a society where this is no longer needed stretches the imagination to its limits. Yet with drug advances and new technology, a sleep-free world – or at least one where we only need a few hours of super-sleep – is fast becoming a possibility.

For this article I have set aside questions on health, both mental and physical – and focused on the more practical applications. Starting with what would be the effect of all the new-found free time.


Television works as the most popular evening entertainment because we have a few hours each evening to relax and unwind from the day’s work. Now, if instead of 3 hours we had 12 hours each evening – would sitting watching TV still have the same appeal? I think this would be too much for most of us, after the initial burst of catching up with our favorite series and movies!

Similarly for the more occasional social activities. Many of us enjoy bars, nightclubs, restaurants, theaters and sports too – both as participants or as the audience. With our leisure time trebled, would we fill the time with more of the same? Would this be possible or even desirable?

Taking away sleep would mean we would need new recreational activities – perhaps less intensive and more group-based than today’s ‘short burst’ styles of entertainment. There would be room for more creative pursuits, to learn new subjects, to enjoy the company of different people without the need to rush home to get our sleep quota before the next working day.

Economics / Jobs

future of workReducing sleep could have a massive boost to the economy. Not necessarily by having people use all the extra waking hours to work – though many people would choose to do this. Technology to refresh tired workers could be a big boost on its own. What about the effect of having additional hours to spend our money, and the need for the service industry to keep their doors open for longer?

This would mean more service jobs, it would mean 24 hour cities – where even if we did not work longer hours there would be more jobs created to keep things running. Without the need for 8 hours of downtime there would be no real need to match this with the 9-to-5 ‘office hours’ either, bringing relief for rush-hour commuters as the traffic was spread more evenly through the day.

Relationships And Interpersonal Aspects

relationships and sleepWithout sleep we would spending three times the amount of time with our significant others than we currently squeeze in between working and bed-time. This would be a positive for many couples and a negative for just as many others! The extra time putting up with each other’s irritating habits might lead us to be more choosy about our companions to begin with. It might also lead to deliberate time apart, pursing separate friendships and social activities so as to keep the core relationship special. I am sure it would be easy to expand this line of thinking into complex multi-person relationships or even shorter-term contacts. I will leave this part to your imagination for the now!

Whether we like it or not, scientists are working hard to ‘solve’ the problem of sleep. A future where we only need a few hours – or even no sleep at all – is a real possibility. Join our the debate below and let us know what you think the main effects of a sleepless future would be.

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