By Standard On Saturday Reporter
“Oh my god I have until morning to hand in my report,” she said.
“Thank God you have until morning am past my deadline and it’s getting to midnight,” he retorted.
Both were late.
To what extent would you go to avoid sleeping? The world’s attention has in the past fortnight been drawn to a debate about a drug that proves wonders of pharmacology are not about to end.
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While smart drugs such as Viagra and Prozac have in the past stunned humanity, another smart drug, Modafinil, is fast gaining popularity over its ability to make sleep optional.
Marketed as Provigil, Aletec and Vigicer, the drug enables people to stay awake for more than 40 hours at close to full mental capacity, and with limited side effects. It is also reported to improve memory and boost one’s mood, alertness, and cognitive powers.
After just two and a half hours of sleep daily, the drug helps one stay awake with no headaches, hangover feeling, withdrawal, or even sleep debt. Modafinil, which has been available for over a decade as a prescription-only drug, is a psycho stimulant approved for the treatment of narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder, and excessive daytime sleepiness.
But rather unsurprisingly, the drug is fast gaining widespread global usage as an over-the-counter time-shifting drug hence attracting animated discussions over its usage.
Earlier this month, a debate was held in Bristol, England to discuss whether students should use smart drugs.
The debate came in the wake of a report indicating a rising use of various ‘smart drugs’ amongst secondary school and university students, with nearly 25 per cent of students at some American universities admitting to have used smart drugs to help them study and improve grades.
Among the most commonly used prescription pharmaceuticals was Modafinil.
Here in Kenya, many doctors admit they are yet to hear about the drug and note that it could be yet to enter the Kenyan market. But with its popularity, they believe it is a matter of time before it hits pharmacy shelves.
But how would Kenyans respond to a tablet that would keep them awake for up to 22 hours daily? Retired rally ace Abdul Sidi says he would never take such a drug.
“Personally I would not take the risk at this stage,” states Sidi, who says he sleeps for six to seven hours daily. He opines people who sleep less than he does are not in any way more productive than him and that they normally ‘feel lazy’.
Asked what he would do with the extra hours if he reduced his sleep time to two and a half hours daily,
Sidi says he would find himself “looking for extra work, feel tired or bored”.
Bishop William Abuka of the Faith Community Fellowship in Nairobi sleeps for six to eight hours daily and says nothing would prompt him to be in bed for less time.
“I can’t take such a drug. I have to rest and obey the law of God. My maker was not lacking in wisdom when he said people should rest at night. He wants us to wake up fresh, and ready to face a new day. Let us not try to insinuate he wasn’t wise,” says Abuka.
The clergyman disassociates success with less sleep, saying there are many people who remain paupers despite working around the clock.
He warns the public to be wary of individuals who are willing to do anything to make money.
“You are somebody’s market and these drugs are some of the things people manufacture to make money,” he cautions.
Normally, 24 hours without sleep is enough to reduce majority of people to half their normal mental capacity and it declines rapidly from that point.
But a search online shows many people are turning to Modafinil and cognitive-enhancing drugs to tackle the effects of sleep deprivation.
According to a study conducted by the Newsnight and New Scientist magazine in November last year, 38 per cent of the 761 respondents admitted to having taken cognitive-enhancing drugs.
Interestingly, nearly 40 per cent revealed they had purchased the drug online, with 92 per cent saying they would try it again.
One respondent perhaps summed up the effects of Modafinil with this comment published in the BBC “I was able to write a 22-page paper in one day. I revised it over the next couple of days and got an A.
Normally, I wouldn’t have even been able to get a rough draft done in a week.”