Sleep is a fascinating thing -- you can doze off while behind the wheel of a car that's going 70 mph down the highway, then the very next night find it impossible to get to sleep in your own warm bed. It's basically a roll of the dice.
If you want proof, look no further than the insane events that people have managed to sleep right through. Like ...
It would be a bit of a bummer to sleep through a major historical event, even if it was a disaster. At worst, you want to be able to tell people about that shit at parties later on; at best, you'd like to get a book deal out of it. But that will happen for people like young Douglas Spedden, who slept through the sinking of the Titanic (which you will know as the historical event retroactively based on the hit movie of the same name).
Seen here in this dramatization.
To lessen the apparently enormous burden of being extremely wealthy by birthright and having to raise a single child, Douglas' parents, Frederic and Daisy, brought Douglas' private nurse, Elizabeth Burns, onto the Titanic with them to take care of him during their voyage. Upon feeling the shock of the impact with the iceberg and hearing the sound of the engines grinding, Frederic and Daisy went to find out what had happened. The ship was already tilting by the time they did.
"Quick, stuff some poor people onto the other side!"
Young Douglas had totally slept through the collision, and Burns had to briefly wake him to take him to the lifeboat, at which point he fell asleep again. All she told him was that they were going to "see the stars," and clearly Douglas bought it, because he was snoring away through the night, not waking until morning, and then only to comment, "Look at the beautiful North Pole with no Santa Claus on it!"
The family made it back alive, and many years later, a distant relative discovered a book that had been written for Douglas by his mother that was a recounting of the sinking through the eyes of his stuffed polar bear, imaginatively named Polar, who had been with him throughout the entire ordeal. The book was published in 1994 to much critical and commercial success, probably adding to Douglas' despair that even his damn teddy bear got to see the Titanic sink while he couldn't keep his damned eyes open.
But years of therapy could not make the bear forget what he had seen.
French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was so busy carrying on various wars with every nation he didn't like that his officers believed that he barely slept at all. However, it turns out that Napoleon was a fiend for a good nap -- even as cannons were going off around him, he was renowned for his ability to seemingly sleep at will, regardless of the chaos that surrounded him.
"Should we tell him that his crotch is on fire?"
Keep in mind, battles in those times sometimes raged for several days in a row, even going straight through the night. It was tough titties if you were a soldier who had to fight for 72 hours in a row, but if you were the emperor, you could retire to some quiet place and get your beauty rest. And if you were a batshit insane emperor, you might take a nap right there on the battlefield, with shit exploding around you. As recounted by one of his biographers, Napoleon slept "even during the action, and completely within range of the enemy's balls." We don't even know if that's a euphemism.
It wasn't just something he did once or twice. In fact, if we go back to the Battle of Marengo in 1800, before he even added "emperor" to his title, sources recount how, facing certain defeat, Napoleon rallied his outnumbered, weary, retreating troops, spurred his trusty steed to the front of the ranks and shouted: "Frenchmen! Remember my custom is to sleep upon the field of battle."
"So keep it down!"
This would appear to be the least inspirational rallying cry in history (we take it to mean "How the hell can I get any sleep with all the racket you assholes are making losing the war?"), but the Battle of Marengo wound up being a decisive French victory. His men knew that the guy needed his damned sleep.
Try to imagine what it's like to live through a plane crash. If Hollywood has taught us anything, between the screaming, the flames ripping through the cabin and the flying debris, it's probably the loudest and most terrifying thing a human can experience that doesn't involve some kind of apocalypse. But tell that to the people who were so disinterested in their brush with inconceivable horror that they just slept through it.
"Son of a bitch, my Coke spilled."
Take Terry Pierce of Florida, who fell asleep while commuting in a single-engine plane ... and didn't wake up until he was lying in the woods some distance from the wreckage with his limbs broken and red ants biting at his open wounds, with no memory of anything other than a peaceful sleep.
But when it comes to dozing through trauma, no one can top your average child. Like those of Army Specialist Matthew Jones -- he was piloting a small aircraft cross-country from Washington State to Detroit with his two young daughters on board when his carburetor iced up and he was forced to make a crash landing in the mountains. After he scraped himself out of the pilot's seat, he went to check on his daughters, only to find them peacefully dozing -- they had slept through the whole thing.
Meaning that there was no way he could blame the crash on the kids being too loud.
Another time, a small plane was taking off from the Roche Harbor Air Strip on San Juan Island around midnight when it clipped trees and crashed into the roof of a house, as well as the truck sitting in the driveway. Amazingly, inside the house were six children, the oldest 9 years old and the youngest a mere 15 months, and not a single one of them woke up due to the aircraft exploding into their goddamned roof.
So for anyone with a fear of flying, it really does sound like if you just doze off, even the worst disaster will just sort itself out before you wake up.
Side effects may include invincibility while airborne.
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