I’ve always been one of those people who went to bed late and got up early. Until I hit 40. I’d still stay up late, but getting up early no longer meant 5am. It started to creep later and later. Surviving on 4 or 5 hours of sleep now seems impossible. Well, unless caffeinated.
When I travel, it doesn’t matter the time zone, I try to adjust as quickly as possible. If I’m only staying a day or two I’ll just deal with the time difference and try not to keep reminding myself that I’m getting up at 3am or whatever time it is. It really doesn’t matter because the number of hours slept often doesn’t change.
As I get closer to 45 and spend more time getting to know people all over the world through social media, I’m seeing a terrible trend. Likely tied to the “FOMO” concept (that’s Fear of Missing Out for those of you not up on your acronyms), I am seeing more and more people talking about how they can survive on minimal sleep.
It’s as if the amount of time dedicated to sleep is a modern-day Name That Tune. “I can survive on 4 hours of sleep!” posts one person. Soon their feed is filled with their “friends” trying to outdo them and boasting about not sleeping for days. And those who chime in how they “need” their 8-hours of sleep are derided as slackers.
Studies show that healthy adults likely need 7-8 hours of sleep. Yes, this is an average and there are dozens of factors affecting this number. Some people need more, others may need less. But when we get into sleep deprivation, or sleep debt as it’s called by the experts, the need to establish bragging rights raises within us. When was the last time you heard people try to one up each other with sleeping beyond 8 hours?
In most conversations, there’s a sense of embarrassment for sleeping 8 hours or more. Even when a person is sick, they may not want to admit to sleeping too much. Why? For fear of being seen as lazy? Because they may be left out of something fun? I’m sure there is a body of psychology about this that basically comes down to the fact that we’ve been programmed over the last several decades that down time equals being a loser.
But do you want your surgeon operating on you while sleep deprived? How about the other parents in the pick up and drop-off line at school? Perhaps you’re OK with your kid’s teacher not getting enough sleep? Would you be fine with a sleep-deprived EMT coming to your house when you call 911?
In all these instances we’d be up in arms if anything were to go wrong because one of these people were sleep deprived. We’d be appalled if they boasted about doing their job half-assed because they really needed sleep but were “so busy” with social media, watching TV, to texting with friends. Yet we do this to ourselves and our friends, often with a sense of pride.
While studies exist about the negative effects sleep deprivation has on us, I don’t need to quote fancy studies or double-blind research, or empirical data from government agencies. We all know sleep deprivation makes us say and do things we wish we could take back. And I’m not even throwing alcohol into this mix. Totally sober but sleep deprived people. Saying stupid stuff on Facebook, not thinking twice when hitting “tweet” and posting insensitive comments on Twitter. We’ve seen it, possibly done it, and may have been on the receiving end of it.
What are some other negative effects?
1. Ever get the munchies when you’re tired? Just thinking you’ve been up so long without eating so you should eat, when the reality is your body’s pleasure response mechanism looking for some satisfaction.
2. Being called a firecracker is often a good thing. Not when it means you have a short fuse and you’re yelling at your kids, spouse, friends, or even total strangers.
3. Remember that college paper you turned in after being up for 36 hours straight? Not your best work, huh? Yet we don’t learn. We think staying up all night to land that big account, make a bigger splash online, or recreate that Pinterest-worthy whatever-it-is will get us our big break.
4. Driving while impaired isn’t just for drunken fools or drugged-up losers. It’s enough that people drive while doing other things. If they’re tired, they don’t even have to be doing anything else to cause an accident.
It’s not a badge of honor, this sleep deprivation. So why do we treat it that way? So many reasons we can come up with but what it likely comes down to is that we don’t want to miss out. No longer is our world on the same time zone. We have friends awake every minute of the day. There’s always someone to talk to.
Up until even a few years ago, this pressure-cooker of online engagement either didn’t exist or was so low we could just walk away. Now we don’t. We may be in bed, but rather than go to sleep we’re still trying to be present with people all over the world.
With age comes wisdom. Or so “they” say. And with wisdom comes the realization that when tired or sleep deprived we’re not at our best. We make mistakes. We have compromised judgements. And we begin to see ourselves in a hazy perspective that causes us to do or say things we otherwise wouldn’t.
We can post all we want about changing the world and making it a better place. But we can’t do those things when we’re not able to think straight.
Are you read to give up your badge and go to sleep?