Sleep – “Chief nourisher in life’s feast”

Randi Zuckerberg explained the challenges of maintaining a work/life balance in her tweet, “The entrepreneur’s dilemma: Maintaining friendships. Building a great company. Spending time w/family. Staying fit. Getting sleep. Pick 3.” Now, this is not just an entrepreneur’s dilemma. All of us go through this every day, and a lot of us choose to sacrifice sleep. Bad idea!

I have not been sleeping much these past few weeks, and I noticed that though I spend more hours at work, I am not as efficient as my well-rested self. And then I stumbled on The Economics of Sleep, and it opened my eyes (helped me realise that I should get more shut-eye). The podcast talks about how the lack of sleep affects cognitive reasoning and how it is a potential health hazard. So sleep is a big deal. But why do we take it so lightly?

“Burning the midnight oil.” That’s why! We’ve been told that someone who sleep less, works harder and thus, is more likely to succeed. (Yes, they work harder. That’s because their brains stop functioning at optimal efficiency after a point).  We have to move away from this Industrial Age thinking and look at sleep as mandatory, not optional.

So where do we start? With our education system. I remember sitting up late to study/complete assignments/work on projects back when I was in college. I’m sure most you did too. And many students still do. Aren’t we jeopardising the future of our species by pushing the next generation to make the same mistakes we did? To begin with, our education system has a production line format, and we have to change that. How do we do that? Well, I don’t know. But it’s time we fixed it.

And then we have the modern work environment. Dan Kedmey talks about the adverse effects of working overtime in The business case against overtime. Yes, overtime is not directly linked to lack of sleep. But when we are confronted with the ‘entrepreneur’s dilemma’, most of us just choose the easy way out and ‘pick 3’ – sleep and/or fitness are the first casualties. This is as dangerous an epidemic as any and it is time Governments made policies to tackle it. Many developed countries have modified their labour laws, but the rest of the world hasn’t.

I see two timelines in the future. One where we focus on a balanced life where people have enough time for work, family, friends, recreation, and sleep. The other, where we rely on drugs.

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