PUMPING IRONY: Awake With Half a Brain

Anyone with half a brain knows they need to get enough sleep.

The last couple of nights I’ve found myself nodding off while reading on the couch — well before 10 p.m. Now that might have something to do with the book I’ve been slogging through (Marshall Berman’s All That Is Solid Melts into Air) or it could mean that I’m not getting enough exercise, but it’s got me thinking that maybe the years are finally catching up to me.

Dolphins Brains

Then I read an article today that explained how dolphins can stay alert and vigilant for up to 15 days at a time without sleep (more specifically, male dolphins up to 5 days; females up to 15 — typical), and I began to wonder whether I shouldn’t take up swimming. I’m a poor swimmer, but I have never fallen asleep while flailing away amid the waves.

But it’s not about the water, according to researchers at the National Marine Mammal Foundation. Dolphins can keep going 24/15 because only half of their brain sleeps at a time.

While this may seem like a novel concept, unique to this remarkable species, I’d argue that most of us wander around most of the time with only half of our brain in gear. And if you’ve been paying any attention to political campaigns this year, you could make a pretty persuasive argument that even that is a charitable estimate. Besides, when it comes to maintaining your vitality over the long haul, your body has to rest every bit as much as your brain.

Which reminds me: It’s getting late. I should be headed to bed.

, an Experience Life deputy editor, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

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