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Working Tired Is For The Birds

Why do some career professionals often feel that they can miss sleep without penalty? Or, if they know there are penalties, why do they nevertheless proceed? When several high achievers were asked this, the response that occurred most frequently went something like this: By working longer or harder now and perhaps getting less sleep, the potential payoffs can be greater.

In other words, some people knowingly take less sleep as part of a calculated plot to become prosperous younger or sooner. Paradoxically, the most successful people I know tend to have regular, sufficient sleep patterns. Whether they retire early or late, they get ample sleep daily and weekly to keep themselves vibrant and moving forward.

Now and then, you read about some ultra-high achiever who only sleeps an average of four or five hours a night. You have to remember that:

  • Most articles about people contain considerable fabrication.
  • Even if it’s true that these people can sleep four or five hours a night on average, that does not necessarily apply to you.
  • Unless a longitudinal study of their sleep patterns is undertaken, no one knows the long-term effects. Maybe this person will develop some acute disorder. Who can say?
  • Your need for sleep differs from others. There is no value in comparing yourself to those who sleep more or less than you. Your quest is to get the amount of sleep you need to feel and be at your best.

Driving and Dozing

You’re a danger to yourself when you try to function with consistently too little sleep. You’re a danger to society when you operate a vehicle with too little sleep. There are simply too many transportation mishaps today that are a direct result of someone being tired at the wheel. Dr. Martin Moore-Ede, in his hard-to-find book, The 24-Hour Society, points to numerous transportation mishaps that can be traced directly back to insufficient sleep.

What’s worse, Moore-Ede found that vast numbers of people in society engage in micro-sleep, which is a form of trying to compensate for under-sleeping. Micro-sleep is a five- to ten-second episode where your brain is effectively asleep while you are otherwise up and about.

As hard as it is to fathom, parents transporting their children may often engage in micro-sleep. School bus drivers with forty children in tow may be engaging in micro-sleep. Train conductors responsible for hundreds of passengers and millions of dollars’ worth of equipment engage in micro-sleep. Truck drivers traversing hundreds of miles carrying hazardous waste materials engage in micro-sleep.

Some people mistakenly believe that the act of driving is sleep-inducing, but one study shows that is an erroneous belief. Dr. Allen Pack, Director of the Sleep Center at the University of Pennsylvania, says, “You’re sleepy to begin with and the task unmasks the tendency to sleepiness.” So, if you’re in a nice big car with cruise control on an open road, you might think that’s conducive to sleep. However, if you weren’t sleepy to begin with, you wouldn’t nod off.

Get the rest you need, starting tonight.

Jeff Davidson

Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" and the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people.