How does sleep compare with death?

Say that you, like me, expect to live another forty years.

Now imagine that I could learn to live with one less hour sleep each night.  The extra time adds up to almost two more years of life.  And by definition, two more years of awake life.  Which is worth about three years of life with one-third sleep.

I would give a great deal to live three more years, but I don’t try so hard to sleep less.

Nor do I enjoy sleep.  I enjoy "the feeling of having slept."  The best sleep is the sleep I don’t notice at all, and I would do without sleep if I could.  It appears that I find death much worse than sleep.

Might I have negative time preference for time (a non-storable) itself?  I would rather have an extra year in the distant future than many extra hours — adding up to a year — in the interim.

Much of my negative time preference for time stems from plain curiosity.  If I were single at the time, I would give up my last year of life for a year in 2250, if only to see how things turn out (I also would have a chance of trying some neat new goods, but for me that is a lesser attraction). 

I would rather be born later than earlier.  Even if I did not expect economic growth, I could learn more history.  So how much life would I give up for a true and comprehensive account of the future of the human race?  How much money?

Say that "deep-freeze" worked and the future were secure.  How many people would deposit a penny in the bank and wake up much later as billionaires?  Would you have an extra child — one more than you want — in order to freeze her and pre-arrange future care in this manner?  Is there a free-rider problem, and if so what must we do to keep people going in the present, thereby maintaining real rates of return for future "sleep astronauts"?

Addendum: Here is Shakespeare’s take, thanks to Robert Schwartz for the pointer.


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