The sum of an Integer and its additive inverse is zero. Three plus negative three is nothing because the positive and negative balanced each other out. Electric charges on protons and electrons cancel each other, and when they are equal the result is a neutral atom.

Sleep and wakefulness can be seen in this light, as well. Hours of sleep need not equal hours of wakefulness, but there is some fairly constant ratio that leads to a balanced state. Usually I feel this balance when I am getting around seven hours of sleep a night, though that doesn’t happen all that regularly.

What happened Thursday night brings another class of object into the sleep and awake conversation. It breaks the duality and even linear nature of the resting continuum. My son screamed inconsolably for significant portions of the night. I offered food and milk, I changed him, I gave him a dose of pain killer for his teeth, I sang, I rubbed his back. He would only stop if I was holding him while standing upright. Eventually my wife came home and did the same things with the same net result. We moved my daughter out of the room, and she and my wife slept downstairs. I manned the bedroom next to my regularly waking and screaming son.

This is not the inverse of sleep. When it meets with sleep, just like the collision of matter and anti-matter, the result is not just the absence of both, but an event far greater than either would create on its own. When my son screams while I am fully rested, it is not such a big deal, but when I ache to sink into my bed, his incessant screaming brutally smashes the concept of sleep and not sleep. This is anti-sleep.

My children are also responsible for significant amounts of ultra-wakefulness, that feeling of being extra awake when everything is so real it seems to be the only reality. Just watching my son explore the world and make connections, just listening to my daughter sing her day in her play room–these things are achingly real beyond my normal, somewhat hazy version of being awake. These moments of ultra-wakefulness are not just being very awake; they are another state altogether.

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