It’s obvious that we need sleep. Every 16 hours or so, our bodies feel like they’re shutting down. Our eyes close. We feel an unnatural weight in our shoulders. Our thoughts come at a snail's pace. Sometimes we drift off without noticing and feel like we’ve lost time. We need sleep; that point is not arguable. But when we come up against a deadline, it can feel like sleep is the least important thing in the world.
The truth is that sleep is incredibly important. Our long term and short term health and sanity depends on it. NHS.uk points out that lack of sleep can lead to impaired cognitive function and depression, rapid aging, weight gain, poor judgement, heart disease, and increased chance of death from literally all causes. Even high profile nuclear disasters, including Chernobyl, have been linked to sleep deprivation.
For anyone in school or a professional field, pulling an all nighter is par for the course. We voluntarily sacrifice sleep to prioritize productivity. I often hear people say “Between the age of 18 and 28, I never got any sleep!”
I don’t feel like enough people come down on the normalization of sleep deprivation as hard as they ought to. When people say that they didn’t get any sleep at the start their career, it’s often said braggingly, almost like not sleeping is a badge of honor, as if implying that their lack of sleep is what got them where they are. It can get even worse when people who do choose to get a good night’s sleep are looked down upon, and seen as lazy or not motivated.
In fact, America is one of the few countries where it is considered lazy to want to get extra sleep. Siestas are a well known cultural element in Spain, where it’s common for people to take 2 hours or so to eat a lunch and have a rest. I know that naptime makes my days feel several times more productive.
Getting a good night's sleep can be the difference between productivity and chaos in the short term, and it can lead to a long and healthy life in the long term. It might feel like staying up all night to get that project is the most important thing in the world, but it’ll be much easier to complete your next assignments if you’re rested. Plan ahead, too, perhaps using some strategies outlined in previous Professional Geek blogs. That way, the chance that an the nighter will be necessary is decreased. Your body and your productivity will thank you.