We can’t leave our month of talking about health without hitting on sleep.
We already looked at sleep in the context of productivity and time management. There are lots of great productivity reasons that you should sleep more and lots of research showing that skipping sleep to work more doesn’t actually result in more work getting done.
But there are also a lot of health benefits to getting sufficient sleep, so we’re revisiting it today.
Stop Telling People to Sleep Less
Sleep is something I talk about more than one would expect, mostly because I vehemently disagree with the advice that I see in the personal finance and entrepreneur space.
Hustle more. Work harder. Sleep less.
This, we’re told, is the secret to success.
I went on a mini rant on Twitter last month after reading a book that is highly regarded among entrepreneurs. The book suggested, in all seriousness, that if you believe hard enough that you only need four hours of sleep, then you’ll be fine on four hours of sleep a night.
More Than Lack of Rest
We’ve already learned that this advice is just plain wrong from a productivity standpoint. You may have more hours in your day this way, but you won’t actually get any more done.
Lack of sleep will damage your focus enough that your productivity will decline beyond the benefit that the extra hours give you.
Importantly, however, my angry tweets focused more on the dangerous health implications of not getting enough sleep. Making readers less productive sucks. Making them less healthy is cruel.
Getting less sleep will damage your physical health
We know that tired people have more health issues, because we know that tired people end up spending more on health care services than the rest of the country.
Beyond that, though, we’ve learned that even a small amount of sleep loss can mess with your immune system and make you more likely to get sick.
We’ve also learned that people who sleep seven hours or less per night are three times more likely to catch a cold than people who sleep eight hours or more.
Our culture has a tendency to think that physical health is more important and more real than mental and emotional health. This is wrong.
Ask someone with a mood disorder if they think it impacts their life and you’ll see that harm to your mental and emotional health can be just as damaging as harm to your physical health.
Unfortunately, sleep loss damages our mental and emotional health as well as our physical health.
Multiple studies have shown the huge effect that a lack of sleep has on our mood. And when we’re in a bad mood, we’re more likely to work poorly with others, struggle to maintain focus, and be easily frustrated and interrupted.
One study found that “sleep loss amplifies the negative emotive effects of disruptive events while reducing the positive effect of goal-enhancing events.” Basically, we take longer to bounce back from interruptions and annoyances and we don’t get much of a boost from things that would normally help us along the way.
We’ve worked so hard at becoming happier and limiting negative emotions. If you don’t sleep enough, you’re throwing it all out the window. What’s the point of doing all that extra hustling if you’re making yourself miserable in the process?
Sleep has long been considered a symptom of a number of different mental health disorders.
New research suggests that lack of sleep actually contributes to the development of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and ADHD.
Again, is the extra hustle worth it if the cost is an increased risk of mental health disorder?
Learning and Growing
It may not be surprising to you that sleep impairs your memory. I am sure that the number of people who have left the house without their keys after a short night of sleep is legion. But in case you doubted, there is scientific proof that more sleep is better for your short-term memory.
This matters more than just locking yourself out of your house, however. Sleep plays a major role in memory consolidation. What this means is that when you learn something, you need a good night’s sleep for your brain to securely store that information. (Obviously this is a gross oversimplification, but it gets us to where we’re going here.)
Multiple studies have shown that without a full night of sleep, it is much harder to learn new facts and skills. Think of the massive hit to productivity you are taking by undermining your own ability to learn.
Loss of sleep impairs your ability to learn and thus impairs your ability to grow and improve. Don’t stunt your personal growth for the short term feeling of increased time in the day.
Still think it’s worth cutting back on sleep for a little extra time to work?
Consider that when you miss out on sleep, you start building up a sleep debt. If you skip out on two hours of sleep per night during the work week, you can’t get back to 100% by grabbing an extra hour or two on the weekend. Like with personal finance, you need to pay back that loan in full to get back in the black. Unless you’re sleeping for twelve hours each on Friday and Saturday night, you’re still going to be sleep deprived when Monday comes.
Similarly, little bits of lost sleep can pile up. Cutting back on sleep by an hour a night may not seem like much. And maybe you don’t notice any effects at first and decide to keep going with it. But after eight nights of it you’ll face the same effects as if you had pulled an all-nighter. We don’t notice it as sharply because we get used to it as our sleep deprivation builds one hour at a time like the proverbial frog in boiling water.
If you wouldn’t carry a credit card balance from month to month, why are you letting yourself build up sleep debt? Start getting back in the black tonight and then work to stay sleep debt free. It’s a key to living a healthy, productive life.
Join the Conversation!
Have you noticed sleep’s effect on your health? Have you noticed the effects of sleep debt? Let us know in the comments!