Last time, I wrote about how America still glorifies workaholism, to the point that the workaholics are the only ones who do much advancing up the corporate ladder. So where do people find the time to work 80-hour workweeks? A lot of them do it by cutting back on sleep.

The Stereotypes

We all know the workaholics that brag very loudly about their 80- or 100-hour workweeks. They seem to believe that working these hours makes them a higher life form than everyone else, that anyone who works less than them is a lazy bum. Some of them also make the same boast about rarely sleeping. “I work until 2 AM! And I get up at 5 AM! AND NO, I’M NEVER TIRED! IF YOU SLEEP MORE THAN 3-4 HOURS, YOU’RE A LAZY BUM!”

I have a friend who works in real estate. She will sometimes make a Facebook post with a time-stamp of something like 2:30 AM. She says, “Who’s up with me working their plan?” I don’t know how she does it, especially with 2 teenagers to deal with. And while she never shames people for working standard hours, it’s pretty obvious she values working at any hour. It might be a real estate thing. I have another friend in that industry that has stated that real estate is “a 24/7 business” while working late nights and on holidays.

I’m not buying it. The research isn’t buying it either.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

The Cleveland Clinic reports that 7 hours of sleep is a good target. If you want to drill down a little more, the National Sleep Foundation did a report that lists sleep needs by age group. Here is a summary of the findings:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range 14-17 hours each day
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range 10-13 hours
  • School-age children (6-13): Sleep range 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range 8-10 hours
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range 7-9 hours
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range 7-8 hours

Of course, every person is unique and can have their own sleep pattern. I find this list encouraging – not only am I sleeping in the proper range for my age but despite turning 50, I’m not in the “older adults” category yet. (Insert “big grin” emoji here.) My range is 7-9 hours, and I can go to either end of that range on any given night. Occasionally I don’t reach 7 hours if I allow stressors to occupy my mind in the last 2-3 hours before bedtime.

How to Improve Sleep

The NSF gives these recommendations to pave the way for better sleep with healthy sleep tips:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule, even on weekends.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.
  • Exercise
  • Evaluate your bedroom to ensure the ideal temperature, sound, and light.
  • Sleep on comfortable mattress pillows.
  • Beware of hidden sleep stealers, like alcohol and caffeine.
  • Turn off electronics before bed.

BONUS: I read that snake plants are known to emit extra oxygen at night, which can help you sleep. I think I’m going to invest in one for my nightstand next to the bed.

Do You Have Sleep Problems?

If you or a family member are experiencing symptoms such as sleepiness during the day or when you expect to be awake and alert, snoring, leg cramps or tingling, gasping or difficulty breathing during sleep, prolonged insomnia or another symptom that is preventing you from sleeping well, you should consult your primary care physician or find a sleep professional to determine the underlying cause.

And the people that brag that they don’t need any sleep? They may need less than the amounts stated above but are likely taking min-naps all day long without even realizing it.

Final Thoughts

What is the obvious conclusion? Sleep deprivation is just like workaholism – no matter how much we glorify it, engaging in it is hazardous to your health. When someone brags about it, give them about a dozen copies of the “eye-roll” emoji. Going to sleep is not the same as being a sloth. Don’t get caught falling asleep on the couch by accident. Be intentional about going to bed and getting a good night’s sleep. 

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