We Need to Stop Bragging About How Little Sleep We Get
"Dude, I'm soooo tired. I only got, like, an hour of sleep last night. I'm totally crushing it."
When did bragging about one's sleep debt become a thing? We talk about sleep as if it's an inconvenience or an obstacle to getting work done. We wear our exhaustion like a badge of honor we won for doing more, sacrificing more, caring more than those who "chose" to sleep while we had more important things to do. We have a crazy long list of priorities, and sleep is at the bottom.
This is bullsh*t, and it's a problem.
"Sleep is fundamental to most of the body's systems," Dr. Paul Kelley, a sleep scientist at the University of Oxford, said in a phone interview. "It will be damaging to your health, your mental health and your performance if you don't get enough sleep."
But we already know this. Frankly, we don't need a scientist — even one from Oxford — to tell us that sleep is one of the most important basic human functions we need to survive. If you can sleep, eat and breathe, you're pretty much set on the whole being alive thing. The more one cuts down on sleep, the more they compromise their physical and emotional well-being.
This isn't about the things beyond our control — like not being independently wealthy and thus having to wake up in the morning to go to work. There are many legit reasons why the average American adult clocks only 6.75 hours of sleep during the workweek. However, the fact that so many of us actively deny ourselves sleep — and then boast about that fact — is symptomatic of a broader American dysfunction in how we prioritize productivity and self-denial over basic necessities like eating, physical and mental play, relaxing... and sleeping.
It makes you sound like a douchey tech-bro.
Capitalist machismo and Silicon Valley would have us believe that sleep must be mastered — and minimized — by technology and technique. As if it's possible to operate at such peak robotic efficiency that you'd only need to "shut down" for four-to-six hours.
Hey, dudes: Sleep is not a problem that needs to be hacked. You either sleep or you sacrifice the very thing that enables you to be productive in the first place.
It's why the U.S. lags behind in Gross National Happiness.
Since the United Nations began measuring national well-being, the U.S. has ranked 13th, behind a bunch of European countries (including, of course, the usual Scandinavian suspects). But that's what we get for feeding a culture that glorifies staying late at the office and forgoing walks outside and proper midday meals in favor of sad, ordered-in desk lunches.
Let's take a hint from Mediterranean cultures that regard sitting down for a meal a sacred ritual. In Spain and Italy, a midday siesta is built into the workday, with most businesses closing between 2:00 and 5:00 p.m.. You want to "make America great again?" — take a nap.
Your lack of sleep is a high-class problem of your own making.
If you're bragging about not sleeping, it's not because you're too busy to sleep — it's because you are either too lazy to prioritize your time, or you are committing the far worse sin of belittling others who have real obstacles to sleep.
As Marcie Bianco wrote in Quartz, sleep deprivation, in both quality and quantity, can be attributed to "a variety of environmental and psychological stressors specifically experienced by people of lower socioeconomic status." One study found that one more hour of sleep per night had a direct correlation with higher annual salary.
No one's impressed.
Really, just stop.
Something to celebrate: Sleep is an elusive elixir, a luxury many of us can't afford. We should celebrate when it graces us for a full eight-to-nine hours. We should applaud ourselves for prioritizing something that's good for our well-being — not to mention the well-being of those around us who previously had to endure our crankiness. Let's be proud and thankful to be well-rested.
But let's not brag about it, because that would be annoying.