Tomorrow, 0.01% of the world's population will wake up and no longer need to sleep. (Some of these Awakened people may then be incapable of sleeping any more, but that's incidental). To give a rough guide, that'll be about 32,000 people in the US, 6,500 in the UK, and about 750,000 people worldwide.

I've seen this page (The end of sleep), which has offered some helpful ideas about the economic impact if everyone didn't sleep any more, but I'm curious about the legal side if only a small fraction of people were Awakened.

The Awakened can get benefits similar to sleep from sedentary activity (reading, meditating, watching TV, even uneventful driving, etc.), so their immune systems aren't compromised, and their imagination still has time to play.

They don't lose concentration due to fatigue, so are capable of working much longer hours than the Unawakened — although they may not want to.

It can affect all ages, from babies to nonogenarians and beyond.

Basically, I'm wondering would different laws need to apply to the Awakened? Should they be expected to work for 12-16hrs as their norm, or would they still be bound to the traditional 8hr workday? How about weekends? Should they be given a higher salary to compensate for the extra food/electricity/materials they'll consume if they're awake for longer? Would society legislate to make them take on certain roles, for the benefit of society?

Any ideas about whether changing the legal system would be welcome.


The reason I'm asking about legality is I'm wondering whether they'd have their own version of the Equality Act. Companies (at least in the UK) aren't allowed to discriminate according to race/gender/sexuality/disability/etc. - so a company might not be allowed to specify "Only Awakened can apply" (or vice versa). Or, OTOH, if the Unawakened would somehow be expected to match up to what the Awakened can do. Would you effectively need to legislate for two different species, perhaps if the split was 50/50 in the population?

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    $\begingroup$ Why do you think different law should be any different for the Awakened? Is being Awakened means you can treat them as "slave" ? $\endgroup$
    – Vylix
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 18:04
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    $\begingroup$ Is there a law in the United States of America which compels people to sleep 9 hours a day? I'm confused. I never thought that when I sleep, for how long I sleep, and whether I sleep at all was a matter of legal compliance. Note that as far as I know regulations exist which limit the amount of driving lorries or flying aircraft which can be done in 24 hours; they dont say what the drivers or pilots must do when they are not driving or flying; all the law has to say is that they "rest"; how they do it is their business. And working 8 hours per day is excessive; here we work 40 hours in 7 days. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beggars_in_Spain $\endgroup$
    – gnasher729
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 21:00
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    $\begingroup$ The Awakened can get benefits similar to sleep from ... uneventful driving that bothers me for some reason... $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 2:55
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    $\begingroup$ A newborn baby that never sleeps? Truly this is the worst horror this site has created. $\endgroup$
    – Nacht
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 4:22

8 Answers 8


Most democratic societies would not give them any more or less rights than would apply to any other citizen. Democratic societies sometimes give additional rights to disadvantaged minority groups, but giving less rights to privileged minority groups is pretty much unheard of.

You also see little precedence for especially gifted people being forced into roles they aren't comfortable with. For example, I have never heard of a law which says that people who have an IQ of over 150 are not allowed to work menial jobs and must get an education and profession where their high intelligence is useful.

Some awakened people might choose to work more than regular people, but that would be their decision. Just because they no longer have the need to sleep doesn't mean they have no need for personal freetime anymore.

However, more authoritarian governments might think differently.

Any population group which is different from the norm is a potential target for discrimination. The awakened would be no exception. A populist governments might feed off of some distrust in the general population and start to persecute them. Declaring distrusted minorities to be scapegoats to distract people from the errors of the government has always been a standard move in the autocrat's handbook.

Other authoritarian states might however see the potential the awakened have and force them to take the jobs the government wants them to take.


It would be difficult to figure out who these people are. A lot of people feel like they can't sleep and claim to sleep only an hour or two each night. The Awakened would no doubt be mixed up in these. The Awakened would probably lie there and zone out and feel like they never slept, just like people do now. Except they would be right.

The other thing is that once it was recognized that there were these weirdos in our midst, people to whom this happened would keep quiet about it. Any sort of spooky supernatural difference will arouse suspicion and why be persecuted? They would be late to bed and early to rise like a lot of people are, except the Awakened would be watching TV all night (a lot easier now than it would have been 20 years ago!).

Even if your government took people one at a time and watched them all night to see if they slept, people who did not sleep could argue that they were scared. Probably lots of normal people would not sleep because they are scared. You could offer a bounty to family members who turn over one of their own as an Awakened. As a scifi premise for a redo of 1984 that would be workable.



How the laws would be affected would depend on the politics, but truck drivers and airplane pilots often have restrictions on how long a shift they can have. Such shift level rules would not be necessary for the Awakened. The law might change to reflect that.

Of course, the law also might not change. There would be a lot of pressure for the Awakened to live by the same rules as everyone else. Otherwise, the Awakened would end up with all the jobs where long shifts are desirable: driving, piloting, nursing, etc. The Unawakened would be at a disadvantage.

Driving: shifts are limited because people lose attention when they work past ten hours. But many trips are longer than that. So truck drivers sleep in their trucks or hotels. The Awakened could drive straight there and back and then have their days off together.

Piloting: pilots can only fly for so long in a flight and so much time in a twenty-four hour period. So pilots end up sleeping in hotels for a day or two frequently. The Awakened could just work through and then fly back home. Again, they get a bundle of time off afterward. Say two days on for forty hours and then five days off. Similar rules may apply to other flight staff.

Nursing: nurses have twelve hour shifts because switching frequently leads to mistakes, but they can't practically be there for twenty-four hours. The Awakened could work forty hours and then go home for five days. Or longer than that with more time off. Note that surgical nurses have different conditions, so the Unawakened may fit better there.

There are doubtless other professions with similar advantages to long shifts. Perhaps the Awakened will be allowed to use that.

Per week

I don't see why weekly limits would change. If an Awakened wanted to work eighty hours a week, she or he could do it the same way that people do now -- a second job. Eleven hours of sleep a day is rather long, and that still leaves ninety-one waking hours a week. The forty hours we can work before overtime is less than half of that.

It might become easier to turn a weekly limit into a monthly limit. So an Awakened might do four weeks of work in one week and then take the rest of the month off.

  • $\begingroup$ Great answer! I'm not going to bother posting another one since you had most of what I was going to say in your answer already. I would just add that driving laws would change. For those who have a driving licence under 18, there is a curfew that doesn't permit them to be out after 10. That would probably change for the Awakened. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 22:00
  • $\begingroup$ Do you want the normal people to become jealous and distrustful of the "awakened"? Because you describe a safe way to achieve that. $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 22:25
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    $\begingroup$ @ClangorousChimera where is this? (I doubt a bit that it is related to the need of sleep.) $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 22:38

My best guess is laws will be slow to change for something that is not even one in a thousand people. people who do not need to sleep might often take two different jobs doubling incomes though that is hardly going to make one be part of the one percent
Miltary would love these people which in itself will provide some protection from bigotry combined with the rarity making them not that much of a big deal. business. So would other jobs where people can be called in at any time and night hour jobs. More businesses might stay open at midnight to cater to the awakened since I can see a lot of awakened avoiding the hustle of the city by walking around and driving around midnight.

No need to sleep might let them work two shifts at the same job and thus possibly climb ranks quickly and handle jobs like being CEO, President
and the like much more effectively. This power advantage might promote envy but it will also give resources which will protect from bigotry. Also this edge might not manifest since one likely has to pay double time employees twice as much and while the extra time for networking, refining skills, learning new things and practicing might help and as such natural talent and charisma might get one farther than being awakened. Plus the awakened can at very best hope to be one percent of the one percent and therefore they will not be all that rich.

One thing to note is a natural balance which evenly split the extra time between job and time off would have one working four extra hours would not fit nicely in shifts thus perhaps forcing Awakened to chose between being over worked (A 16 hour day will be brutal) and under worked through since spending one third of time at a Job is not that low they may in fact prefer being under worked and exploit the fact they have free time. Or prehaps they can choose jobs with flexible hours.


There are many people who only need a few hours of sleep per day and they already earn higher salaries, not because of different laws for them, but because the existing laws that are valid for everyone, puts them at an advantage. E.g. Narendra Modi sleeps 3.5 to 4 hours per day, Marissa Mayer barely manages 5 hours a day, General Stanley McChrystal eats one meal per day and sleeps four hours per night. These people have a higher chance of getting to the top because they can keep up working a lot harder than most other people with impunity.

The real problem is then that people who lead very little sleep are overrepresented in top positions in politics and business where decisions for other people are made. If your boss is doing fine with 5 hours sleep and he understands that most people need a bit more, he may still not understand that you need a few days off because of a jet-lag resulting from your business trip. Experience with your work performance may lead to him hiring people who can cope better with less sleep.

Marissa Mayer has made clear her discontent with ordinary people:

Indeed, Mayer has said that she pulled 250 all-nighters in her first five years at Google, and has been dismissive of people who, as she puts it, “want eight hours of sleep a night, three meals a day.”

So, if we need different laws then it's to make sure we can keep on getting the amount of sleep we need. And it's not just sleep but also exercise. The best time to exercise is during the afternoon when most people would be at work. It would be a good thing for the law to guarantee 90 minutes of continuous exercise break allowing people to do intensive exercise like running for one hour, take a shower and eat something afterward.


I've personally experimented with Polyphasic sleep - specifically the goal of sleeping for 20 minutes every 4 hours (AKA the "Uberman Sleep Schedule"). I never quite got to that level, but I did get to the level of 30-40 minutes every 4 hours and I maintained it for quite a few months with a few slip-ups along the way. One thing I absolutely noticed, was that I was consuming more of everything (food, water, electricity, media, you name it). In fact I found myself wondering what to refer to my meals that would happen like at 10 PM and 2 AM, that sort of thing. It was a quite bizarre and fascinating experiment/experience and I would do it again in a moment if the rest of the world wasn't so out of sync with such a lifestyle.

Personally as I work for myself I certainly did "work" a lot more hours because I enjoy what I do so, why not do more of it? If I had a "job" however that somehow mandated that I work more hours, there's no way I'd have gone for it. However I absolutely did put in extra work into my entrepreneurial activities, and I would imagine that many of these Awakened might do the same. I could even see there being mechanisms in place (support centers, hotlines, that sort of thing) to help Awakened find things to do with all their "extra time", possibly shepherding them into side business ventures, hobbies, community activism (imagine them on a neighborhood watch rotation...) etc.

There is an episode of American Dad (forgive the weird formatting, it's the only copy I could find on Youtube) where two of the main characters take a pill that enables them to no longer need sleep but has no other effects whatsoever. They use the time in very different ways that I thought explored the idea of not needing sleep in an amusing yet insightful way.

I can't really see the law coming into play, at least not on Earth as we know it today, as what people do with their own time is a very closely-held and personal thing. But certainly they would have a ton of opportunities that others wouldn't. If anything I would think the Awakened would likely seek each other out and might eventually establish something of a "Shadow Society" or somesuch, maybe for good or maybe not, because they would be so much more aware of things than others. And there could also simply be special job opportunities for them such as paramedic/EMT, police/fire/rescue, military, that sort of thing. In those cases I would imagine they would be paid more because quite frankly they would be more capable.


You seem to think those people would have an unfair advantage over, and would use it to the detriment of others.

First let me say (I'm an atheist) that jealousy is a sin. Don't be jealous.

Secondly, many people have advantages over others (money, health, education, bodily strenght, intelligence, beauty, whatever), and most people agree that the same laws should apply to everyone.

Thirdly, most societies have laws in place to keep people from exploiting their advantages in an unfair manner, and expect wealthy people to provide to the public welfare overproportionally.

Now what should happen? Some of your nonsleepers could become very rich, so they should pay higher taxes. Same applies to other rich people. Some could become politically powerful. So are some groups of people today, and most of them haven't "earned" it. Or some of them could form a syndicate to enslave the rest of mankind, which is the moment to arrest them, and put them on trial, like you do with every other group of criminals.

And yes, perhaps they should have their own sports competitions in some cases, like men and women and people with disabilites do. Nothing that the legislative should be concerned with.


legally there is no justification for treating them differently, but society may impose a different standard on them. as an example, if i could be active 24/7 but spent 16 hours a day playing videogames (while working normal hours) i might be judged for it more harshly than someone who sleeps 8 hours, and plays videogames for 8 hours. the only legal change might be relating to overtime pay being reduced for Awakened individuals.

  • $\begingroup$ You want to exploit them by cutting their pay? $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 22:27
  • $\begingroup$ me personally? no, i would advocate equal treatment in the eyes of the law. but the awakened individuals could be perceived as having an unfair advantage, which would be enough cause for new laws to be passed in favor of "leveling the playing field" $\endgroup$
    – Jonathan
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 0:32

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