When I was a kid, I was a huge fan of Myth Busters. Who doesn’t like watching stuff being blown up on TV with the excuse that it’s for science?
Explosions aside, one episode stuck out to me and has stayed with me throughout the years. I think about it almost every time I get behind the wheel and every time I’m tired.
It was a test for how well people could drive after missing out on sleep. Their conclusions? When you drive sleep deprived, you might as well be drunk. You’re driving that poorly.
It seems like a simple enough fix. Just don’t drive when you’re tired. Get more sleep. Problem solved, right?
The disconnect there for me is that we seem to live in a society that champions sleep deprivation.
It’s a common bragging right, especially among students. How many times have you heard someone talk about how late they stayed up last night with a grin on their face, only for another to butt in about how they only got three hours of sleep. As if it’s a contest, one in which no one wins.
How many think pieces have you read crowing about the author’s productivity and genius for starting their days at 5 a.m., 4 a.m. Without mentioning that to get the recommended eight hours of sleep, that means they would have to go to bed at 8 p.m.
If you can achieve that schedule and are happy with it, and I mean this sincerely, more power to you. It’s just not for me.
For most people, including myself, if you go to bed that early, you have no social life and are boring. It’s called night life for a reason, after all. That’s when all the parties, movies and social gatherings are held. It’s important to go have fun and live a little every now and then.
But if you wake up later than usual to recover from your night out or night working on some project, you’re lazy and have wasted the whole day.
So, you might bite the bullet and go to work or school after four hours of sleep. That’s what coffee is for, to get you through the day.
People joke all the time about being addicted to coffee, and don’t get me wrong, I love my caffeine. It is a little concerning, however, to be reminded that caffeine is considered the most commonly used drug in the world and to hear someone say, unironically, that they can’t get through the day without their morning cup of joe, because they’re so sleep deprived.
The effects of sleep deprivation are numerous, including memory issues, mood changes, weakened immunity, weight gain and high blood pressure — there’s a reason it’s been used as a form of torture. Yet, people continue to put it on the backburner when faced with their ever growing “to do” list.
I don’t have all the answers for how to improve sleep in your life — there are hundreds, thousands, of articles and talks online with information about that topic from people much more qualified to talk about it. But people shouldn’t neglect sleep so much and should stop applauding lack of sleep.
Please, if you have the opportunity, try to go to bed a little earlier tonight or take a quick nap. Be kind to yourself.