A World Without Sleep

what if you stopped sleeping

If you’ve ever pulled an all-nighter, you know you’re not yourself the next day. And perhaps you’ve even lamented the need for 8 hours of shut-eye. Imagine that you didn’t have to sleep. No more struggling to wake up in the morning to go to work.

It is no secret that sleeping is a big part of our lives, it’s essential. So essential that we could die if we stopped sleeping for a long amount of time. As ASAP Science explains, we need to sleep.

But, what if there were a cure for sleep? What if there were a drug you could take so you never felt tired? What would you do if you didn’t have to sleep?

Now consider that in the future we might compete with artificial intelligent robots that might replace us. In order to survive will we see humans adopt extreme tactics such as not sleeping?

On this week’s episode of The Big Bang Podcast we imagine a world without sleep.

Some questions we discussed:

  • Can we take sleep out of the equation?
  • What can human beings achieve if we didn’t have to sleep?
  • Do you think your life would be improved or detrimentally affected?
  • How might our life change if we didn’t sleep?
  • What would you decide to do with all of the extra time?
  • If we can take a drug that does the same thing for our brains and bodies as sleeping, is there any reason we shouldn’t?
  • What if the sleep replacement wasn’t a drug, but rather an external device?

What if we didn’t have to sleep? What would you do if you didn’t have to sleep?

Let us know on Twitter @jorgebarba and @adrianpedrin.

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The Big Bang is a weekly podcast. Tune in every Tuesday for more discussions on what’s possible.

Intro audio is by Arturo Arriaga, outro audio is Candyland by Guy J.

  • timekord

    Its an interesting question ….

    I can imagine corporates and driven executive types being very interested in this as sleep is “non productive” … BUT .. please don’t take our dreams away.

    In the future race with robots … human sleep cycles will no doubt be under pressure – we had this in the first machine age where people worked in the mills and mines for 18 hours a day – little sleep … work – sleep – work sleep … nothing much else to life.

    History repeating itself … will life in the 21st century become nasty brutish and short as we race against the machines again?

    • Hello Martin,

      Very true! We’re going back in time.

      I too believe we’ll see people feel the pressure from algorithms and robots and will resort to some extreme and unhealthy tactics like not sleeping. Of course it doesn’t have to be that way but you know how power corrupts.

      How might we change the narrative? Are we too late?



      • timekord

        Hi Jorge,

        I have thoughts that many people will be taking performance enhancing drugs – its already happening with executives and students taking ADHD drugs like Adderall, Concerta, Ritalinand … in the way they apply them as so called “smart Drugs” and stimulants like amphetamine … and cocaine of course.

        I can imagine competitive and peer pressures leading to widespread “cognitive doping” .. where it could become the norm.

        I can imagine a a dystopian novel )or truth be stranger than fiction) where employers expect employees to take these drugs for productivity – pull those long shifts or maintain intensity in competition with cognitive machines. Maybe even worse … genetically engineered human workers or people with machine additions … transformed into economic worker unit cyborgs.

        What can be done … probably very little – it seems to be human nature for a hierarchy to control and manipulate for advantage and power – I’m sure that the rich and powerful will exploit robots & AI in the same way they exploited people … but this time bypassing people.

        What can be done … every movement has a counter movement … life exists everywhere … people will find a way to exist somehow off-gridoff platform – we may see the rise of dark nets, dark economies – of course the rich and powerful (and governments) are not comfortable with off grid activities (and encryption) and are of course trying to shift as much of our life on-grid where it can be examined and surveilled in details.

        Unfortunately most seem not to care these days (unlike the 1960s and 1970s).

        I have a blog post in the pipeline called something like “Walking with eyes wide shut to the robot apocalypse”

        • No doubt about it. In terms of control and taking human nature into account, what happened in the past a good way to know what might happen in the future. The big difference is that today most everyone is connected!

          Cognitive doping sounds like a great podcast topic, let me know when you publish the post and let’s chat to see if we can give it some air time 😉