Give it a REST!

By Sarah Winfrey on 31 May 2007 (Updated 10 June 2007) 7 comments

relax and rest

So you've heard of a sleep debt. You know that not getting enough sleep effects your body and your concentration, and that when you don't get enough sleep, you accumulate hours of sleep that you need to make up before your body feels rested and functions as such. But did you know that not getting enough sleep can cause you to spend more money than other people and not make as much?

Spending More

People who don't get enough sleep spend more money in several ways. First of all, they pay, on average, $4220 more than good sleepers in medical costs. This includes both the costs of investigating and treating causes of insomnia, like sleep apnea , and treating ailments and diseases that non-sleepers catch because their immune systems are weaker than those of good sleepers. But over $4000? That's a good chunk of a car, or a year of college tuition at some universities, or a huge chunk of an emergency or savings fund! Granted, most people who can't catch up on their sleep don't pay this all at once, but that sounds like a constant drag on the finances.

But people who can't sleep also shell out money on things that, hopefully, will help them sleep. Even if you're not an insomniac, if you've ever had a night where you lay in bed, unable to sleep, with your mind churning through every aspect of your life, then you know that there would be little you wouldn't do (and few prices you wouldn't pay!) to make it stop, particularly if it happens often. Apparently, there's a whole "sleep industry" out there, full of companies who have realized that people will pay through the teeth to sleep better.

Who makes up this industry? The drug companies, for one. It's projected that Americans will spend $4.3 billion a year on sleep medications by the year 2010. On top of that, DVD companies offer "workout" videos that promise sleep (Sleep yoga DVD: $24.95), office supply companies cash in on people who buy white-noise machines (Marpac 980 SleepMate White Noise Machine: $56.95), and mattress companies charge more every year for new mattresses that promise better sleep through comfort. (See MSN Money). Basically, anyone who can cash in on the money of the sleepless will try it! It's crazy and, while it works for these companies, it doesn't work for us! Just start to imagine the other places this money could go, and it's amazing what springs to mind.

Not Making as Much

On top of all that we spend, we make less money when we don't sleep enough. Because lowered concentration, higher anxiety, and a reduced ability to deal with stress come with racking up a sleep debt, productivity is drastically reduced in people who don't get enough sleep. People don't test as well (even on fairly simple exams), and they are less creative when they haven't slept. Both of these combine to mean that the sleep-deprived can't solve problems or deal with unexpected issues that come up on the job as well as those who have slept. So it's harder to make a sale to a difficult client, promote yourself when they ask a question you didn't expect at a review or an interview, or create the layout that wows the department. Thus, the sleepless lose out on big clients, big cases, and even simple promotions.

Additionally, because people who don't get enough sleep tend to have weakened immune systems and get sick more often, they are at the doctor, and even hostpitalized, more than those who do sleep well. Thus, they spend less time actually at their workplace, performing tasks, than those who sleep enough. So they make less money, take fewer vacations, and put themselves in a position to sleep even less, thus putting themselves in an unending circle of not sleeping enough and not having as much money as they could.

What do we do?

This is so well-documented on the web that I'd feel silly going into it again here. So try WikiHow's excellent page on falling asleep, or breastcancer.org's tricks to help cancer victims and their families sleep better (oddly enough, this is one of the best sites, offering some of the most unusual tips, that I've found). If you try the suggestions that make sense to you and still can't sleep, go to a doctor. There are legitimate health problems that disrupt sleep, and you may find a cure though medical treatment.

But whatever you do, dude, get some sleep.

Awesome photo by Tom@HK

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Andrea Karim's picture

I was just writing a related post, Sarah, when I read this one. Thank you! I find that a lot of people get too little sleep as sort of a badge of honor. I'm not talking about people with insomnia, but about the ones who stay up late doing nothing (or, occasionally, work) and get up early, mainly so they can tell everyone within earshot that they only got two hours of sleep last night.

It's not worth it. Sometimes I hate that we sleep for 1/3 of our lives, but god, sleep is so nice.

Radio Lab had a really cool story about sleep, sleep disorders, and animals that can allow on half of the brain to rest while the other stays awake.

Lynn Truong's picture

I have a friend who tells me everyday that he's tired because he only slept 2 hours, or haven't slept at all in the last 24 hours.  And then goes on and on about how his sleeping pattern is so weird.  Man, "give it a REST!"

I don't use alarm clocks anymore.  I've found that by going to bed at a decent hour at night, I wake up at the same time every morning.  I can even wake up earlier on my own if I "tell my body" I need to wake up earlier.  It's very crazy how well our bodies respond when we treat it well. 

Guest's picture
Jenny

We have a kitty alarm clock who seems to be more aligned to the sun than anything else. All that I can say is I'm glad I live in san diego, where it gets light at 6am, and not england where it seems to be light really super early in the summer!

Sarah Winfrey's picture

Rather ironic that the ads on this post are for sleep aids (except for the baby timer).

People who can function well on little sleep annoy me, but mostly because I can't.  And because they like to talk about it.  To me.  When I'm tired. 

Ed O'Reilly's picture

I find that a few days without a really good night's sleep throws everything off: I'm moodier, I'm more forgetful, hard time concentrating, etc. You just really feel like something's not right.

I also read somewhere that every half hour you sleep before midnight is the equivalent of 2 hours of sleep after midnight. So, the earlier you get to bed, the more real sleep your body gets to repair itself.
Guest's picture
Paul

I agree with much of the original post, except that I believe products like the Marpac Sound Conditioner CAN help. The National Sleep Foundation recommends creating a "sleep environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool." Creating this type of environment can require some "tools" unless you live in a cave. The "tools" include sound conditioners, sleep masks, earplugs and blackout blinds. I've been using all four for 15+ years because I'm a light sleeper and sleep like crap otherwise. I've even started a blog on the topic at sleepynation.blogspot.com, as well as a store that sells these products at The Complete Sleeper. Sleep tight! Paul

Guest's picture
Oleg

There are differing quality of sleep as well. For example, ever woke up after 10+ hours of sleep and still felt tired? Or slept for only 6 hours and woke up extremely refreshed?

People shouldn't only look at quantity but also quality of their sleep.

-Oleg
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