Sleep and Death: Are they that Different?

Sleep and death are brothers according to old Greek mythology; the Greek god of Sleep ‘Hypnos’ is the brother of the god of Death ‘Thanatos’. At first thought it may seem absurd to make this sort of connection between death and sleep. How could two separate and extreme states of being be similar? But how could they be that different when they are both born from the same fabric of consciousness of the human brain? As different and far from each other sleep and death may seem, both processes were proven to be more intertwined than we think.

 The similitude between the two processes comes from the fact that sleep is nature’s prophecy of death. When we’re sleeping but not dreaming, where do we go? When we’re asleep we’re still thinking, our brain cells are sending signals to one another, but we don’t seem to be aware of these thoughts there is no awareness of thinking when asleep, and it appears there is no thinking to be aware of when people are dead. During both processes, our vision goes to complete oblivion and utter darkness. The awareness of the non-conscious mind fades, and every part of our conscious mind shuts down. Physically, our bodies are at rest, doing no amount of work. Both sleep and death are considered inevitable parts of being alive; we sleep every night, and will at some point die.

One however, cannot conclude that sleep and death are identical. The main difference that distinguishes both phases is that sleep eventually ends as the conscious mind awakes; cells are still carrying out living processes during sleep. Consciousness can become aware of the activity of the non-conscious mind when asleep, these events are known as dreams. However, when people are dead no part of their brain is active. During sleeping hours, our brains paralyze our bodies, except for small rapid movements of the eyes and twitches of the face. On the other hand, death locks our bodies’ cells from any form of movement.

 Anyone witnessing someone on their deathbed, taking in their last few short breaths, would notice the strange resemblance between coming of death and falling asleep. The peaceful state of complete unconsciousness when our bodies are rendered defenseless.  It is perhaps more clear now why the Greeks have established the connection between the two states; sleep as a long automatic functioning of consciousness, and death as the same but in an immensely greater degree.


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