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Burning the midnight oil implies working overtime, long into the night, to get something done and ultimately to get ahead. But the belief that sacrificing a few hours of sleep for a few more hours of work will lead to higher achievement has been debunked by science.
“According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, the short-term productivity gains from skipping sleep to work are quickly washed away by the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on your mood, ability to focus, and access to higher-level brain functions for days to come,” wrote Travis Bradberry for Forbes. “The negative effects of sleep deprivation are so great that people who are drunk outperform those lacking sleep.”
On Sunday, the National Geographic Channel in collaboration with the Public Goods Project and National Institutes of Health, aired a documentary about the silent and dangerous epidemic of sleep deprivation in America. Sleepless in America revealed that 40 percent of all Americans and 70 percent of adolescents are sleep-deprived.
Lack of sleep is linked to critical health problems such as “weight gain, depression, diabetes, memory loss, brain function impairment and stress,” reported the San Francisco Chronicle.
For people with full-time jobs, not getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep is detrimental to the worker’s productivity at the office.
Bodies and brains need sleep for rejuvenation. Removing that rejuvenation has physical and mental consequences.
“(A University of Rochester) study found that when you sleep, your brain removes toxic proteins from its neurons that are by-products of neural activity when you’re awake. Unfortunately, your brain can remove them adequately only while you’re asleep. So when you don’t get enough sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, wreaking havoc by impairing your ability to think — something no amount of caffeine can fix,” wrote Bradberry.
Too little sleep damages the brain’s ability to process information, problem solve, think creatively, manage stress, remember things and stabilize emotions. And these skills are critical to have in the workplace.
“Sleep rejuvenates the learning capacity of our brains. It also helps cement new memories, effectively hitting the ‘save’ button so we don’t forget. Sleep also refreshes our emotional brain circuits, preparing us for next day social and psychological challenges,” Matthew Walker, director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory told BrainBlogger.com. “Beyond the brain, I should also note that sleep boosts our immune system to ward off sickness, infection and malignancy.”
Arianne Huffington, the namesake of the Huffington Post, is a well-known proponent of healthy sleep habits for success. So are Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Sheryl Sandberg, reported Forbes.
Studies show that high school students who get enough sleep perform better in class and standardized tests, according to the Financial Post.
To sleep better, Bradberry recommends a consistent routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (even on weekends), eliminating caffeine after noon, not using sleeping pills, never working in the evening and avoiding using blue light electronics (smartphones, tablets and laptops) soon before bedtime since the light tricks the mind into releasing daytime hormones.