56: if you could give up one of these physical needs, which would you choose?

I was asked this hypothetical question the other day:

If you were able to give up the physical need for one of the following, and had to choose one, which would you choose?

  1. Eating
  2. Breathing
  3. Sleeping

It’s an interesting question. Each choose comes with certain benefits and pitfalls, and each poses difficult mechanical questions.

1. Give up eating, and you presumably no longer need food for energy or nutrients. Those nutrients would have to come from somewhere, though.

There are plenty of nonhuman organisms that obtain the nutrients and energy they need without the need to eat. Plants, for example take in water, sunlight and CO2 in order to produce their own sugar for energy. Perhaps humans could operate in a similar way, taking in a combination of water and sunlight in order to naturally energize.

Give up eating and you’d also save a boatload of time and money – no more groceries, no more cooking!

And we ALL know that groceries can be SUCH a hassle.

Downsides: Some people really enjoy cooking, and most food doesn’t exist purely for the sake of nutrition. We eat for pleasure, too! But just because you don’t need to cook or eat doesn’t mean you can’t do so when you feel like it, so this con isn’t really that big of a con.

2. Not needing to breathe seems like much more of a superpower.

The primary purpose of breathing is to take in oxygen, which gets carried around in our blood to burn energy. Without oxygen, your organs would all fail, and you’d suffer massive brain damage.

So without breathing, maybe you could get your oxygen more directly. Like an insect, you might absorb oxygen directly through your pores.

The pros of this are obvious – no longer would you need to rely on the strength of your lungs to perform great physical feats. You’d have incredible stamina and be able to run tirelessly for great distances. You might even be able to absorb oxygen from water and dive to incredible depths. As an added safety feature, no one could strangle you, and you’d never choke on food.

Downsides: Breathing is your body’s built-in stress reliever, and different types of breathing can profoundly affect your mood and energy levels. A heavy sigh, for example, can go a long way towards calming you down.

That said, there’s nothing stopping you from breathing consciously – but you’d have to practice it regularly and purposefully in order to keep your breathing ability refined. You’d have a natural disadvantage over someone who breathes constantly, keeping their lungs strong.

3. I initially thought that the idea of not needing sleep was the most attractive of the three options.

Sleep is, to my knowledge, still sort of mysterious to those who study it. It seems to do a lot of things. Most of us are aware that sleep refreshes and restores our bodies. We feel less tired, our muscles rebuild, and sleep helps us combat illness.

Sleep also recharges our brain, and allows for a period of processing so that we can better retain information and memories.

So imagine not needing sleep to do any of those – if your body was just constantly recharging itself, your memories were automatically processed and solidified, and your immune system was always on its best game.

Physically, I don’t know how that would work, but it sounds great.

A day is 24 hours long, but personally I need about 7 hours of sleep each night to feel my best. That leaves me with only 17 hours a day. I would feel so liberated to know that I had an extra 30% of a day every day to do whatever I wanted or needed to do.

Travel would become more efficient and safe. Maintaining a healthy balance between my social and work life would become effortless. I’d never doze off when hanging out with friends late at night.

I would learn more, do more, experience more in my brief time on Earth, so I maintain that giving up sleep would be my ideal choice between the three.

Downsides: Sleep is the path to another mysterious function of ours – dreaming. Dreaming can be a cool window into the workings of our subconscious, and when done lucidly can be a virtual reality over which we have autonomy. Unfortunately, unlike eating or breathing, sleeping without the need to sleep seems impossible without the use of drugs. On the plus side of this downside, no dreaming means no risk of nightmares!

So how would you answer this question? I’m curious to hear how and why you’d choose. Hit me up in the comments or send me a message via the contact page.


2 Replies to “56: if you could give up one of these physical needs, which would you choose?”

  1. Dunno. Eating’s probably my least favorite to do here, and if I could skip it, I would. Many days, eating is just a hassle for me.

    I love sleeping too much to want to give it up, but as you said, the upsides for not having to sleep would be pretty incredible.

    I’d probably pick breathing. The way you described breathing through your pores seems like it’d be pretty rad, and there are other ways to relax, if that’s the worst of the downsides.

I'd love your feedback. Srsly.