Sleep is Just Death Being Shy


I was maybe six years old, driving somewhere at night with my dad, and I took a little nap, and I woke up, and he said: “Where did you go?” And I said:
“I… dunno.” And he said:
“Well, what do you reckon sleep is for?” And I said:
“I… dunno.” And he said:
“Sleep’s kinda weird though, huh?” And I said:
“…Eeeh…” And he said:
“Sleep is a lot like dying, really, isn’t it?” And I said: “I’m six FUCKING YEARS OLD!” The Greek god of sleep is called Hypnos. He has a brother called Thanatos, and he’s the god of death. This is gonna be a jolly 10 minutes! Sleep makes no sense. It leaves us completely defenseless for hours on end, and it probably isn’t even for saving energy, either. Compared to just lying around awake, sleep will save you about a hundred calories, or a banana of slightly above average… girth. Humans need about eight hours sleep a night, but our animal friends vary wildly. Koalas prefer 22 hours, bunnies about nine, elephants need just four, and however badly your day is going, I would like to invite you to just enjoy this picture of an elephant calf taking a nap for a moment. There. That’s better, isn’t it? No, me neither. But whatever sleep is for, it’s so essential that nature wired it into almost every half-intelligent organism on the planet. For example, dolphins. If they slept like us, they would drown, because they don’t have gills, and they need oxygen. So they sleep unihemispherically – that is, they float just below the water, and one side of their brain sleeps while the other stays awake, then they swap over. Human death rehearsal – heh, excuse me, I mean, sleep – is a bit more straightforward: teeth, toilet, spot of hysterical crying – and it’s off to the Land of Nod. Stage 1: brainwaves slow down a bit. Stage 2: your pulse will slow down, and you’ll begin producing sleep spindles, which are little bursts of brainwaves that… Well, we don’t know what they do exactly, but they look a bit- they look a bit like that… So… heh… Yeah… Stages 3 and 4 are the deepest levels of sleep. Growth hormone is released, tissue is being repaired, then stage 5: Rapid Eye Movement, or REM stage. Your brain kindly paralyzes your body, mostly; the eyes roll about, the face twitches, brainwaves go mental, and this is where about 80% of dreams occur. Anyway, the funny part about all this, of course, is when we’re not dreaming while asleep – where do we go? It’s just black, it’s just oblivion – every night, over and over. Because sleep is just death being shy. If we got news that an asteroid was approaching, scheduled for arrival, say, 60 years from now, and it was so gigantic it would wipe out our entire civilization, we would probably go fucking nuclear. Riots, war – maybe end the world before the asteroid even arrived. And yet, there IS an asteroid, approaching slowly in the distance, but it only gets one of us at a time, and we practice for it every night. And its name… is Death. With an asteroid, the whole species will be gone in a few days, probably. With death as it stands today, though, maybe we take comfort in the fact that even though we’ll be gone, the world will still carry on without us. But ignoring technology and politics, we do know a bit about the future we’ll all miss out on. And if it cheers you up, we can take a little tour of that future. Just for fun, let’s say sometime in the next few years you become a parent to two children, and that the average human generation cycle is about 30 years. Well, by the 2080s we’re two generations down the line. You are now a grandparent, and six humans have inherited your DNA. If humans have made it to Mars, on November 10th, 2084, the colonists will witness the transit of Earth from Mars – the Earth resembling a black disc, passing across the Sun. 2110, another generation later, and assuming humans have, on average, two children, your children have grandchildren now, and you have 14 descendants. It’s quite possible they attended your funeral. Don’t worry, everyone got smashed in the pub afterwards, and said nice things about your hair. The world population is probably around 11 billion humans, having jumped 4 billion in just a century. The 2140s, another generation. All things being equal, 30 humans now carry your genes. 2200 – another generation – and we’re into the 23rd century. Halley’s Comet has just reached its perihelion; you have 62 descendants. The mid-2200s, now six generations – that’s 126 descendants of yours. Leeloo and Korben Dallas will shortly be initiating a romantic relationship, and by the end of this century, still at two children per generation, you now have 2050 descendants. We can no longer even speculate what culture and technology looks like, so… Year 12,000 AD, 240 generations later. If sex is even still in fashion, you now have at least several million descendants. The star Antares has just gone supernova, probably, and will be visible from the Earth even in daylight. Year 52,000 AD, 1,500 generations of your progeny later, and the Earth’s rotation will have slowed enough, courtesy of the Moon, that we’ll need to add a leap second to preserve timekeeping. Year 100,000 AD, 3,000 generations later. You might recognize the constellations, but they’ll be altered – the handle of the Big Dipper getting a little relaxed at the back, for example. 250,000 AD, 7,500 generations later. Loihi, currently a submarine volcano in 2019, will have risen out of the ocean and become a volcanic island. 2 million AD. The Grand Canyon erodes to surround the Colorado River, if there is, indeed, still a Colorado River left. 50 million AD. Eurasia and Africa collide, forming an entirely new mountain range. 500 to 600 million AD. It’s possible Earth’s continents have fused back into a single supercontinent. A day on Earth has probably gained at least an hour. Our moon is now so distant, solar eclipses never happen again. One billion AD. The Sun is now ten percent more luminous, meaning our oceans have begun to evaporate. Plant life is… unlikely. Four billion AD. The Milky Way, our galaxy, and our neighboring galaxy Andromeda collide, forming Milkomeda. Ten billion AD. The Sun is now 256 times its current size, and has almost certainly swallowed Mercury, Venus, and Earth. One trillion AD. It’s possible the Big Crunch has now begun, the remains of the universe falling back in on herself. Galactic clusters will begin to converge, stars will collide, the resulting explosions illuminating the heavens nearby and distant. Eventually, the black holes of the universe will collide with one another, amassing into a single super-supermassive black hole consuming itself. One quadrillion AD. It’s also possible no Big Crunch will occur, and the universe will continue to expand indefinitely. In this scenario the main points of interest for the next almost infinite period of time will be the decay of nucleons – that’s protons and neutrons – beginning an era in which only black holes exist in the universe, and, assuming a new universe has not begun, the current universe will achieve its final resting energy: uninhabited, uninhabitable, barren – perpetual, limitless dark, with no recourse to the fecundity that once teemed within the boundaries of creation. We all must have gone through that phase as a kid, when it hit us: “Well, people die eventually, and mom and dad are people, and I’m a person, so… OH GOD!” Some of us, including your pompous narrator here, never recovered from that phase. It is simply too much: to live as the only animal that knows its projects and loves and lifetimes are limited, and when the animal is gone, after a while it’ll be as though the animal never was at all. And that is a notion too wide and spiky to fit inside the head. The things we will miss after we’re gone: the parties, the births of humans we would come to love, all the walks, all the hugs, all the plucky steps into the dark our species will take yet. Homo sapiens? Yeah, right – homo nihilus, more like. The only animal conscious of its approaching demise, and conscious of the world’s approaching demise, too. I suspect you, like me, have run into these people in life, who are terribly clever, and yet terribly broken. Because they’ve looked into the abyss and concluded that on a long enough time scale, and in a universe so wide and apparently indifferent, we have no ultimate significance, and the point has dropped out of everything for them. But there IS a middle way between denial – “I’m so fucking important, look at my bank balance”, etc. – and despair – “there’s no point to anything if we all just go off into the dark”, etc. Because the world is just this fantastical as it is horrific, and it’s just as arbitrary to lose hope as it is to find it. If everything was forever, would that really change so much? 80 years or a trillion – beer would still taste just as good, wasps would still be pricks – Fuck you, wasps! – and maybe tomorrow we’ll kill aging, and death, and stay up infinitely past bedtime. But as it stands today, we don’t have the science yet. And so, god-fearing or not, we have to find some way of making peace with the thing. For you it might be religion, or some variant of spirituality – and, fair enough. But I’ll tell you what works for me personally, though. When it’s late, and I can’t sleep, and the abyss starts whispering about how I’m gonna go into the dark one day, I keep in mind that whether I like it or not, I am part of something bigger – an experiment conducted across the entire planet, conducted across all of history – called “us”. Somewhere in the future, we are gone, and someone who loves us is remembering us. Somewhere ahead of that, they are gone, and someone who loves them is remembering them. The interminable rise and fall of generations. How many of us have been and gone down here since we became Homo sapiens? Billions, at the very least. To have stubbed one’s toe, to have heard a new word and looked it up, to have yelled at the GPS as though it’s the GPS’s fault you got lost, to have watched another human blowing their nose or picking their teeth, or something equally disgusting, and quietly thought to oneself, “Oh, fuck – I’ve fallen in love with you, haven’t I…” Just to have BEEN anything – what a weird honor! If sleep is just death being shy, then waking up is atoms being miraculous. The fact that for about 80 years atoms know they’re even atoms at all, courtesy of being humans. Birth, death, the silly bit in between – if none of it has any ultimate significance, if, on a cosmic scale, none of it matters… does that really fucking matter? We won’t last forever, but while we’re here, What a silly decision it would be to waste our day out in the cosmos – that brief period of time when matter woke up, on a world as interesting as this one, with hair as excellent as yours, with all the other talking carbon units around us that we can hang out with, and be fond of, and talk shit to, and keep the abyss well at bay. And if all that wasn’t enough, just in case… In the words of Ursula K. Le Guin, a human who left us just last year: “When I take you to the Valley, you’ll see the blue hills on the left and the blue hills on the right, the rainbow and the vineyards under the rainbow late in the rainy season, and maybe you’ll say, ‘There it is, that’s it!’ But I’ll say, ‘A little farther.’ We’ll go on, I hope, and you’ll see the roofs of the little towns and the hillsides yellow with wild oats, a buzzard soaring and a woman singing by the shadows of a creek in the dry season, and maybe you’ll say, ‘Let’s stop here, this is it!’ But I’ll say, ‘A little farther yet.’ And we’ll go on, and you’ll hear the quail calling on the mountain by the springs of the river, and looking back you’ll see the river running downward through the wild hills behind, below, and you’ll say, ‘Isn’t that the Valley?’ And all I will be able to say is ‘Drink this water of the spring, rest here awhile, we have a long way yet to go, and I can’t go without you.’”

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100 thoughts on “Sleep is Just Death Being Shy”

  1. Lasami Salagne says:

    Ah shit here we die again

  2. _Hesamuヘサム says:

    This video is making me think so long, to the point I literally passed out.

  3. IVMTENSA says:

    I did this as a project in class in the 5 grade scared the shit out of people.

  4. TSeeker says:

    Do you dare to scroll all the channels exurb1a is subscribed to?(btw, was the sentence grammatically correct?)

  5. MarcyyD says:

    This shit hit me deep bro..

  6. Kernel Popcorn says:

    shit man this is deep

  7. s4lty k1d says:

    That title gave me chills and now I don't want to watch the video.

  8. ha det så kult says:

    And I said I'm six FUCKING years old

  9. yuval buda says:

    שינה היא אחד חלקי שישים ממיתה

  10. Ajax says:

    I zoned out for 5 seconds and I'm already lost

  11. ღᗩutumn’s ᗩffirmationsღ says:

    Wow okay, now I’m having an existential crisis. Fun. It was really beautiful at towards the end and now I’m crying. I want this played at my funeral.

  12. Liam Duff Carter says:

    My life has no value then… I never thought negatively of my life and I fully valued seems like I was a fool

  13. Bethany de la Torre says:

    And he said …
    And I said

  14. Wyatt Leach says:

    God is real

  15. Joel Tijerina says:

    Or Elon can put us in Minecraft

  16. Iah Chico says:

    ⚠️ WARNING: Don’t watch this at night.
    Results to insomnia

  17. Olivia Roden says:

    damn, dude.

  18. NoPlanB says:

    Well that's all folks! When does Porky Pig shove his head through the paper?

  19. PewDiePie is da best says:

    this video gave me depression

  20. Kislay Tiwari says:

    You are great at going from a different and much larger topic from some seemingly weird point

  21. CrazyCaptain says:

    You, yes you, are not intelligent enough to define your own purpose.
    You, yes you, cannot come up with ideas that have never existed in any way.

  22. nikkmha says:

    Gosh I’m glad I’m a Christian

  23. Beer Buntenbach says:

    ew, optimism

  24. vvishvvud says:

    Who are you, why was this video recommended to me, and why am I crying now?

  25. zai says:

    well, didn’t see that coming. the sudden shift in tone surprised me, but pleasantly so

  26. DemonEnd says:

    Best video title ever

  27. Gustav Danielsson says:

    you can spot pink guy at 4:12 in the crowd

  28. Alla says:

    didnt expect it to go from sleep to millions of descendents but it was beautiful

  29. kati says:

    so what your saying is… that i should bleach my hair 😳🤚🏽

  30. Blue Zero says:

    Can’t I believe I’ll be dead while all the stuff happens

  31. Lavender Dust says:


  32. Calub_Campbell says:

    I didn’t cry u did it’s u

  33. satyam 1 says:

    Thank you but I'm INDIAN Hindu

  34. Lipi Saha says:

    Will you please stop , I m getting anxiety 😅

  35. zippy reave says:

    Watching this during 2 am does not help

  36. Maria Elena Vasquez Garcia says:


  37. Dan Mqng says:

    there aren't very many youtube videos that I feel change me as a person but its beautiful when I find one.

  38. Mica Aurich says:

    CAUTION This Video Does Not Cure Depression

  39. AnimeBlackGuy _ says:

    that was beautiful man

  40. syd the kid says:

    this made me cry but i’m glad i watched until the end

  41. Steve Sauder says:

    As always, a beautiful contemplation on mortality, from exurb1a!

  42. OneCup says:

    when we all fall asleep where do we go?

  43. holly_jolly says:

    Thus video sums up my depression

  44. Jon Shefsky says:

    "Fuck you wasps!" hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha -thanks you for making such a wonderful video:)

  45. Cedric Mathieu says:

    I don't know why people are freaking out in the comment section lool this made me feel better thank you Exurb1a you just got yourself a new fan 👋😁

  46. sacha dnhsk says:

    Well, what do you reckon slep is for

  47. sacha dnhsk says:

    sleep is a death trial

  48. pillowofacat says:


  49. Floop The Tesseract says:

    “I don’t sleep because sleep is the cousin of death” -Nas in the song NY state of mind

  50. Chris84 says:

    yer dads a mutant if he said that to u

  51. Aktby says:

    hey, exsuburb1a, try not to burnout now, i love this vid, but just a heads up.

  52. GuardianVerse Products says:

    That beautiful Clare De Lune at the start…

  53. doodle-tube says:

    This reminds me of the futurama episode where they keep going forward in time forever

  54. y e e says:

    I love this so fucking much but hate it for giving me another existential crisis this week

  55. Jackson Gilbert says:

    I’m currently reading the fifth science, I love it so much. The prince of milk was also amazing!!!

  56. 11 PM says:

    This keeps being recommended so fuck it why not.

  57. Dogotato plays says:

    Where did we just go from sleeping…?

  58. Liu Xiaokun says:

    Life – the silly bit inbetween birth and death

  59. Liu Xiaokun says:

    This is apparently called optimistic nilhism

  60. Kaeden Hammer says:

    Ah… okay ^^

  61. Kristian Jerak says:

    You just made a 17 year old male cry

  62. Ivan Gentile says:

    thank you lad

  63. HM arts says:

    Billie eilish has entered my chat

  64. Uncle Billy says:

    I love you

  65. Wavyy Babyyj says:

    How did this turn from a video about my dreams to a video about what will happen 1,000,000,000 years after I die

  66. Pradyumn kasundhan says:

    One of the best videos on utube

  67. Yoshi says:

    am i the only one crying

  68. Ethan-Ambrose Sellers says:


  69. The Doorman says:

    Fuck you for making me happy lol love your work

  70. Mathew Ruppert says:

    youtube reallllly be pushing this video in my feed for the 20th time

  71. Hannah Brook says:

    i’m halfway through this video. Is this going to become theory of evolution backwards . .?

  72. a nice cup of tea says:

    Love clair de lune.

  73. Evan Lobo says:

    I’ve always been afraid of sleeping, because something could happening during at and bam, my life gone without me even having a clue

  74. Smorange says:

    This, in its own way has oddly soothed me about the prospect of death…the long sleep. Whatever happens after (if there is an after) I have already practiced it.

  75. BREZ760 says:

    Sleep is so your body can recover 🙂 lifechanged

  76. BezoS says:

    Im not afraid of death im just afraid of dying to early.

  77. Leah Bailak says:


  78. Trucky Dee says:

    i wonder if after all of those years mount and blade bannerlord will finally release

  79. Hakim Habib says:

    I never sleep because sleep is the cousin of death.
    -Nas, The Message

  80. Andre Whyze says:

    "It's just as arbitrary to lose hope as it is to find it"… yup

  81. -MeinJuaco- says:

    No one asked me if i wanted to go in this trip >:(

  82. bustanuwu says:

    s u p e r m a s s i v e b l a c k h o l e

  83. Jakub Matta says:

    Ahh yes, enslaved existential crisis.

  84. Omar Abs says:

    This guy sounds like Mrwhosetheboss at the start of the video

  85. Haroon Mahsud says:

    If you read the Holy Quran you will be amazed

  86. zkazzay says:

    Remarkable writing my dear friend, you always seem to almost make me want to change my life completely.

  87. Cassette Tape says:

    I watch him. Even if there is some shit going around talking about rape and that.

    He has his life and I don't think its ok to judge him before we get the details. What I see is A man with a shady backstory try to make a good name for himself only to be punched back down by people who don't know the whole story.

  88. John Boi says:

    Sleeping is death but temporary. Dreams are just either hell or heaven…

  89. theGhost LTU says:

    Truly, you are the voice of a generation

  90. ugandan knuckles says:

    there wont be no life we probably al die in a few years probably worlds fucked up

  91. Stereotypical Weaboo says:

    Who else tought this was some shitty r/showertoughts reddit tts video?

  92. SAMUEL NUTAS says:

    Great information right on !! Love th ed way you bring your " art of magic "

  93. Rice Will says:

    when we all fall asleep where do we go?

  94. Silva Lupas says:

    you make me cry every time 🙁

  95. Daniel Bradshaw says:

    I was hoping this video would stop my back from hurting!! Been hurting for weeks now

  96. JisunSijanSojan1 says:

    Everybody will die 1 day lol

  97. Alc odce says:

    thanks for the facts, now i have something else to stay up all night about

  98. Harry McGuinness says:

    This honestly is something I think about all the time and it fucking hurts to know that someday I will be nothing and that I won’t even know I ever existed and that I know everyone around me will die and that everyone I have ever loved will just disappear and that I will have to live through the deaths of these people and know that they no longer exist and knowing this makes me fucking depressed but it also makes me grateful for right now but what I would give to have everyone live forever but that’s just not sustainable and it really messes with my head . So I hope some day I get over my fear of death and can live my not so long life happily and accept that death is something that just happens

  99. hanna punkt says:

    Ah fuck this is amazing

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