Recently I saw YOHIO tweeting that “Sleep is something you earn” and I had flashbacks to GACKT saying grossly misinformed things about how sleeping 8 hours is just a “bad habit” left over from childhood. I thought it was a really messed up thing to say back then, as I personally experienced many times the negative consequences of chronic sleep deprivation (from both insomnia and having too much work) and am pretty sure the science is slanted heavily in favor of “sleeping less than 6 hours can have serious health consequences for most people.”
A few months ago I saw part of a PBS documentary on Alzheimer’s (maybe Every Minute Counts but I’m not sure), and I was blown away by what form literally losing your mind takes. I guess I had always thought of the symptoms as simply being forgetful, but to what extent, I really hadn’t imagined. But I watched as this older woman was looking at a comb and couldn’t summon the word for it. She would say “yes” to any suggestion she was given, even if given a contradictory suggestion immediately afterward. Watching the form her daily life took was, to me, mind-blowing and frightening.
And then I started reading about how sleep deprivation may contribute to Alzheimer’s. (And maybe it was mentioned in what I saw on PBS too? I don’t remember.) While I don’t have a family history of the disease, considering how many sleepless nights I’ve had…it was a pretty scary thing to read.
Through high school, college, and most of my adult life beyond that, I’ve considered myself lucky to get 6 hours of sleep a night. But there were many extended periods of less than that. My last two years in Japan, I averaged 4 hours a night. It’s not surprising to me in hindsight that those were the two most miserable years of my life.
So I really do wish celebrities would stop using their platforms to spread this attitude that “sleep is for the weak.” I used to crack that joke as a way to get by, and to justify the trade-off I was making. But we should know better than that at this point. To say nothing of the fact that yeah, it’s a lot easier to pull all-nighters as a teen or young adult and not immediately see/feel the difference in how you’re functioning. (That doesn’t mean the difference isn’t there, you’re just not aware of it yet; it took me years to realize sleeping 4-5 hours a night on average made my appetite—especially for sugary carbs—go through the ROOF.)
If you were up for 16 hours and you didn’t do anything productive to “get somewhere in life,” don’t punish yourself by staying up. Go to bed and get a fresh start the next day.