The Science of Sleeplessness

One of the themes I’ve been playing with lately in screenplays and ideas for short films is insomnia, the nuances between sleep and sleeplessness. This is a branch off of Trepidation, my 2012 short film, which explored the connection between dreams and fears,  and the connection between association and psychosis. But this idea is something different. This idea is something along the lines of: what if at any given moment you were completely unaware of whether you were awake or asleep. This idea most likely stemmed from a conversation I had a few years ago where we threw out the question of: what if real life is a dream, and our dreams are actually our waking life? It’s a very trippy concept. And thus we trail off into the subjects of sleep paralysis and sleep apnea.

We sleep in ninety minute cycles. And in that sleep, each dream is incredibly brief. A matter of seconds. Longer dreams are tied together by smaller incidents, which, while sleeping, are very connected. Dream theory is incredibly fascinating. Why we do things, how we associate things, things that make sense in a dream that make no sense in real life. It’s happened so often where a person from our waking life enters our dream, but they look nothing like they do in real life. While this could probably be tied to a psychology of desire, lust, attraction, and our deepest wants, I’m not interested in analyzing that. These ideas of sleeplessness are rooted in the repercussions of it. If right now you were told that you were dreaming, would you believe it? There’s a certain unsettling terror connected with not knowing, and that sense of unsettling terror is what I want to find out more about.

Take this scenario into consideration. You’re a student in a classroom, and the teacher tells you to read a passage aloud. You discover that you can’t read and your voice comes out as an inaudible crackle. There are telltale signs of dreaming, and most of them are subtle changes in your state of being. For one, inhuman abilities such as flying or talking with deceased persons as though they were still alive. But then there’s the small differences: the inability to read or speak properly, or that we have extra fingers. It’s the smaller things that can tell us that we’re dreaming. But what if our dreams are so exact, so precise that we don’t notice these things? What if our dreams are as mundane as walking down the street? Are we dreaming or awake, and how do we tell?

So this isn’t just a long-winded rambling on dream theory for the sake of a long-winded rambling on dream theory. Believe it or not, there’s a point to all this. I’m currently writing one of the psychologically scarier things I’ve written—a short film about insomnia and sleep and sleeplessness and all this stuff that I’ve been jabbering about. The screenplay isn’t a search for truth or answers or enlightenment or anything like that. It’s posing questions on awareness of sleep, and that’s everything I have right now. It’s still progressing, still growing. At this point, it’s a big enough idea that it probably can’t be contained in a twenty-minute short film. But of course, am I one to ever take a feature-length idea and put it into a feature-length film? Heavens no. So here we go. WAKELESS.