Sleep Deprivation Can Even Make You Unethical

An article in the New York Times about sleep said it’s a necessity, not a luxury. For a lot of people, it’s a luxury, but it turns out that it’s an absolute necessity on many levels.  And most of you are living in a state of chronic sleep deprivation, which is a really bad thing.

“Studies have shown that people function best after seven to eight hours of sleep.”  So it’s best at least to aim for seven.  Get this: In the last 50 years, “the average night’s sleep for adults in the United States dropped to six and a half hours from more than eight.”  Some experts predict that this is going to get worse, mainly because you folks permit yourselves to be distracted by emails, instant text messaging, online shopping, online porn…online anything.  That flat, little screen in front of you is robbing you of sleep.

Now, what does that mean?  Well I can’t blame it all on the fact that you’re doing the wrong things…you know, with advancing age (something I know nothing about yet), natural changes in sleep quality occur.  It’s not unusual for people, as they get older, to take longer to fall asleep….they tend to get sleepier early in the evening, and they tend to awaken earlier in the morning.  Much of the time  “is spent in the lighter stages of sleep,  less in the restorative deep sleep.  R.E.M. sleep, during which the mind processes emotions and memories and relieves stress, declines with age.”

There are some bad habits you have that can ruin your sleep also: 

  • Not getting enough physical activity
  • Not spending enough time outdoors (turns out “sunlight is the body’s main regulator of sleepiness and wakefulness”.  That’s hormonal.) 
  • Crappy diet
  • Sometimes “medications can disrupt sleep.”
  • “Having a partner who snores.”
  • Too much alcohol (it’s a nervous system depressant but, in fact, it disrupts sleep.)

And there are sleep-robbing health issues like arthritis that is painful, diabetes, depression, anxiety, sleep apnea, hot flashes…there are all kinds of things that happen that can disrupt our sleep.  But there are a number of reasons we need our sleep.  Restorative is at the top of the list.  Also, you look a lot more attractive when you’re rested.  Somebody actually paid to do a research project which in which photographs of people were taken when they had good sleep and when they hadn’t…and the research showed (I don’t know, did this research cost a million dollars?)  that when you sleep, you look better!  Really?  I love this kind of research – it’s a true waste of money.
 
Losing sleep also makes you fatter or at least fatter than you’d otherwise be.  Harvard looked at 68,000 middle-aged women, and followed them for 16 years, and “those who slept five hours or less each night were found to weigh 5.4 pounds more.”  This is a 16 year research project to get that answer?  Five pounds?  Two weeks of potato chips; we can do that.
 
Basically this is the case, because when you’re up later, you tend to nosh…munch, munch, munch.  You  could add a pound in two weeks.  So you need to get your sleep.  If you can take naps, they also help your brain function, and improve your energy, your mood, and your productivity. 

But I loved this tidbit from the Washington Post: “Sleep deprivation can make you unethical.”  Two business school professors did some research in sleep labs.  “They found that a lack of sleep led not just to poor performance on tasks that require ‘innovative thinking, risk analysis, strategic planning’- but also to increased deviant and unethical behavior.”  These people are ruder, have more inappropriate responses, and attempt to make money they haven’t earned.  They tend to cheat.  And the irony in this is that, in business, everybody gets so impressed if you’ve been up all night working on projects, papers, analysis, taking red-eye flights to meet clients…everybody considers you a hero.  Instead, companies should really be giving you sleep awareness training (If there is such a thing), because these workaholic cultures, without the restorative opportunities, actually “cost the U.S. economy some $150 billion annually in accidents and productivity losses.”  The percentage of folks “who sleep less than six hours a night has jumped from 13 to 20 percent” in the last 10 years.

So we become less ethical people and we don’t do what we have to do as well.  Other than that, if you don’t want to sleep, I suppose it’s just fine.
 
References:
 NY Times article 
Washington Post (5/13/11) article