It's safe to say that I spent a lot of time on the train this past summer; interning in the heart of Manhattan—a whopping 70 miles from my family's house—required me to navigate through the city like a pro.
I guess spending more time on the train makes you realize things about the passengers that you wouldn't have noticed otherwise. You begin to recognize familiar faces workday after workday. The conductors may even start to remember you.
But there's something so simple and mundane about the passengers that I had never noticed before. What really struck me was that so many people are sleeping on the train.
Obviously, it's completely understandable for passengers who ride at the crack of dawn or at the stroke of midnight to struggle with keeping their eyes open. Yet, what really caught my attention was how often people take a snooze when they're riding in the middle of the day.
It's not a secret that an absurd amount of Americans struggle with sleep deprivation. I was blown away when I learned that about sixty million Americans suffer from sleeping disorders.
Americans just aren't getting as much sleep as their bodies need. Whether it's stressing from schoolwork, working long hours, dealing with family or relationship issues, or experiencing any other stress or busyness, people aren't able to secure the number of hours they need to sleep.
I'm going to assume that my sleeping patterns as a college junior are pretty similar to those of my peers. By the time I get back from work, eat some dinner, and take a shower, it's pretty late at night. Then, it's time to hit the books. Some nights are worse than others, but I always go to bed after midnight. Seriously, I can count on my hands the number of nights I've been in bed before midnight.
I often feel like there isn't enough time in the day to get things done, and this is why I stay up so late. There's always something to do, so I don't even have the luxury of sleeping in. For me, "sleeping in" is equivalent to "getting up at half-past eight". For us students, there's pretty much no way of escaping sleep deprivation.
Yet, perhaps sleeping on the train is a way to escape from reality. When paying attention to their attire and the things they bring on the train with them, it seems as if more than half of passengers use the train as a means of getting to and from work.
But even people who aren't dressed in professional clothes or lugging a briefcase with them spend the ride getting some shuteye. Everyone is just so busy; regardless of who you are or what you do in life, there's always something to do.
People use their train rides as a means of escape (along with transportation, of course). Riding on the train allows people to just sit back and … do nothing. For some, the amount of time they spend on the train is the only down-time they have during the entire day to rest their eyes and pause their thoughts. That's pretty scary.
Seeing the train from this perspective—a gift from the sleep Gods above—really makes you think about how busy and stressed-out the average American is. I know I've had my fair share of snoozes while I would make the early-morning trek to the city or on the way home after a busy day.
After all, it all comes down to one simple claim: we want sleep and we want it now.
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