First of all, yes, you do become stupid (ish) if you don’t sleep properly. You may have a sleeping disorder causing you not to be able to get quality sleep if any at all. If that’s the case you best seek professional advice or consult your doctor.
Disclaimer: this is not a how-to guide on how to sleep either.
That being said there are those people who just choose to sleep less purposely because they are too “busy”. That’s dangerous. Let’s get to it.
We live in a society where everyone is just super busy. There are those who work long hours at work while also running a small business in the evenings and weekends. Or perhaps after work you have the kid’s activities to go to and then some more work to catch up on at home. And then those who just like to stay up all night watching films or TV shows till stupid o’clock in the morning only to then hate themselves when they are feeling tired and groggy in the morning. And then do it again the following day. Sigh.
How many times do you find yourself or hear someone else say they wish there was more time in the day? With our busy lives, we sometimes end up resorting to sleeping less to get our work done. There’s also this idea that getting more work done requires sleeping less in order to maximise your time but we forget that it’s also about putting in quality time into our work. So you need to be able to strike a proper work-sleep balance.
In short, in order to be more productive, you need to sleep more. To some people sleeping sounds like it’s a waste of time and slows down progress. But truthfully it’s probably one of the most productive times of our 24-hour clock. And yes, of course, sleeping too much is also counter-productive and plain lazy (unapologetic).
The recommended sleep for adults is seven to nine hours a day – I’m sure you know that already. But sleep quality is more than just the number of hours of sleep you get. Other important factors that affect the quality of sleep are: how early/late in the night you go to sleep; activities before you go to bed; what you consume and also how you sleep.
“The recommended sleep for adults is seven to nine hours a day”
The most important factor is how much sleep you get each day. I’ve met several people with different views on the amount of sleep they need to have a fully functional day. Some people get on just fine with four hours of sleep, others are fine with six hours of sleep. I personally, function better with 7-8 hours. If I sleep anything less (or more) I find it hard to concentrate on certain tasks and feel sleepy for most of the day.
I often come across people who brag about how much little sleep they had the night before or on a regular basis because they are too busy working on their business or dream project. While it’s true that you have to put in the time and work at what you do in order to succeed, depriving yourself of sleep can actually be counter-productive. Your body and brain will need to rest to function effectively. According to Dr Itzhak Fried of the University of California (UCLA), “…starving the body of sleep also robs neurons of the ability to function properly”. In the study, they found that people who had less sleep were a bit “slow”. Which is why I say lack of sleep causes you to become a little stupid. Just a little.
But yet I still find some people who say “sleep is for the poor, I’ll sleep when I’m dead”. I think you’ll die before you sleep! Guess who’s stupid there.
Microsoft’s founder and philanthropist, Bill Gates, finds he is more creative when he gets his seven hours of sleep. In his words, “I can give a speech without much sleep, I can do parts of my job that way, but in thinking creatively, I’m not much good without seven hours”.
When you have less than the recommended hours of sleep, studies have shown, your concentration tends to dip even though it appears as if you are being productive. It would also depend on what kind of job/tasks you do while you’re up. If you work in an office where you are sat down and your tasks require a great amount of concentration then you are very much likely to be affected by a lack of sleep. But if you are in a role that keeps you on your feet and doesn’t need much concentration you’ll likely perform fine.
It goes without saying, getting adequate sleep is essential for our health. The lack of sleep can cause chronic diseases like depression, diabetes and obesity. What benefit is there to be working stupid hours a day with little sleep so to make riches and then only spend the better half of your life in bad health and not even able to enjoy that wealth you have accumulated. A fair balance is necessary. No other person would have said this better than the Dalai Lama himself. I quote:
“[Man] sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not
enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never
going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
Think about that statement above carefully. Even successful media guru Arianna Huffington is an advocate of getting your good night’s rest in her sleep your way to the top post. The co-founder of The Huffington Post learnt the hard way after her body gave-in to exhaustion and she collapsed after a late night of catching up with work.
Of course, there are some cases when you would need to stay up without sleep in order to meet a tight deadline. If that is the case you are better off doing it tactically. If you have to sleep less than usual you could try taking a nap during the day. A nap only needs to be either 20 minutes or 40-45 minutes.
I think what it comes down to is how you manage your time. If you find yourself burning out with work you’re probably doing more than what you’re capable of. Consider dropping or deferring some of your work. Or better still delegating. We all know of a number of successful people who get the same 24 hours each day as you.
Work smart, not hard. Sleep tight.