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Well-being

Musings: Why don't we sleep enough?

By Jane Hagl & Lauren AguirreFebruary 28, 2017

sleeping on the ledge
sleeping on the ledge

L: Can you imagine a society that completely devalues a necessary bodily function? Well, we’re living in one. We just don’t value sleep like we should. It’s easy to cut off a couple hours to get more work done, but it often comes with a sacrifice to your health. Can you imagine someone logically saying, “I’m not going to eat lunch today so I can finish this thing up.” Some people might actually do that, but skipping meals is not widely accepted as a healthy or productive action. But sleep is a completely different story.

 

It’s easy to cut off a couple hours to get more work done, but it often comes with a sacrifice to your health.

J: I love sleep, but sleep is the first thing to go if I have a busy schedule or I need all 24 hours. There’s an assumption that you can catch up on sleep and you’ll just be fine.

L: And health wise, you can miss a few hours for one night and you’ll probably be okay. But if you make skipping sleep a habit, you can end up harming your overall health. Many studies have shown a correlation between not getting enough sleep and increased risk for serious health problems, including heart issues. You can also lower your immune response, which opens you up to all kinds of illnesses. Sleep is actually pretty important.

J: How many hours a night do you get?

L: I personally need at least 8 hours. The average adult needs between 7 and 8 hours, but it can really depend on the person. It’s based on your genes, so some people are completely fine with just 5, but others might need 9 or more. The key is you want to wake up feeling awake and rested without the help of caffeine or other drugs. So however much you might sleep on a weekend or a day you don’t work is probably a good indicator.

J: I drink a lot of caffeine so I probably need more sleep. It’s hard to break bad sleeping habits. I haven’t had a regular sleep schedule since my parents stopped telling me what time I need go to bed. High school was a lot of late night studying, college was just college and now, it depends on what I need to do. Sometimes it’s hard to justify lying in bed when there’s so much to do. It’s important and I’m a prime example of not taking sleep seriously.

L: And you’re not the only one. I’m a night owl, so I always have a hard time getting to sleep on time. I definitely struggled with this in college. All-nighters are never a good idea, but I usually pulled one to write a paper I didn’t get to in time. Forcing myself to stay up through the night was so difficult and it just made the next day worse. The next night, I slept so much and so deeply. This habit is probably what woke me up to valuing sleep. And what’s more, losing sleep can actually hinder your concentration and productivity. So skipping out on it just creates this never ending cycle of diminishing returns.

 

And what’s more, losing sleep can actually hinder your concentration and productivity. So skipping out on it just creates this never ending  cycle  of diminishing returns.

J: I once pulled six all-nighters in one week. It’s kind of a personal achievement. It does screw up your immune system, concentration, and general mood. Not completing something or missing out on an event both have a heavier significance in our culture. Actually, bad sleeping habits are in line with our culture's lack of work/life balance.

L: How on Earth did you survive six all-nighters? That’s crazy. And I completely agree about our lack of work/life balance. We’re expected to dedicate our lives to our work. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there’s also not much room for personal development and just having fun. There’s almost no time to spend with your family and friends so you make time by losing sleep.

J: I had a serious portfolio review, two long-form articles and something else due that week. Now that I think about it, my sleepless nights showed in my portfolio. One of the critics said working in the service industry would be able a great fix because it didn’t matter how tired you are, you still have to smile. It applies equally to having a very active social life too, not just work. If you go out every night, you’re not sleeping much either.

L: Having a busy social life can be just as demanding, I agree. I feel the fear of missing out too, but I just remember that being healthy and feeling rested is more important than hanging out for an extra hour. It’s frustrating to me that society as a whole doesn’t value sleep when it is essential to live.

J: I’m frustrated there’s inspirational sayings on the tea bags of my favorite tea. What are you going to do about it? Just make sure your personal sleeping habits are good and maybe advocate for better sleep habits. I’ll just keep drinking my tea.