This is what sleep deprivation does to you

This is what sleep deprivation does to you
Recent research shows that lack of sleep for even one night can seriously reduce your productivity.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

What does Donald Trump have in common with the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, other than similar hairstyles, of course?

It would appear that Trump survives on four hours of sleep a night, the same amount that Thatcher said she needed. In common with Thatcher, he's also proud of his need for little sleep, to the extent that he even boasts about it. I suspect it makes him think he's a superior being, while the rest of us mere mortals go about our lives in a sloth-like manner, daring to sleep for eight hours a night - sometimes more on weekends.

Getting by on less sleep than the average person is not an achievement. You shouldn't talk about it in the same tone of voice you would normally use when talking about accomplishments like climbing Mount Everest, or swimming the English Channel, or donating your kidney to a stranger.

Boasting about how little sleep you get is as silly as boasting about the length of your big toe, or the roundness of your head, or your ability to roll your tongue.

Read also: Don't sleep on it - discover benefits of snoozing longer

Thatcher may have slept in a bed for four hours, but she was also notorious for falling asleep during meetings. Helmut Kohl, who served as chancellor of West Germany and Germany from 1982 to 1998, had this to say about the Iron Lady in his memoir: "She would doze off during summits and would then nearly fall off her chair, clutching her handbag."

The poor woman must have been chronically sleep-deprived. Thank goodness she only had a country to run and didn't haveto fly a passenger plane or drive a train or perform open-heart surgery.

Lack of sleep can also affect your social skills, reduce your cognitive functioning and lead to irrational emotional responses. Moreover, it can make you write dumb early morning Tweets like the ones Trump is notorious for sending. Especially the one that said, "My IQ is one of the highest - and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure; it's not your fault."

When I read that one, I laughed so hard I nearly fell off my chair.

Chronic sleep deprivation can also make you hallucinate. When Trump looks in the mirror in the morning, he doesn't think his contorted hairstyle makes him look as if he's fallen head first onto a batch of yellow candy floss that's been stomped on by Riverdance, the Irish dancing troupe. He thinks he looks like one hot dude - someone most women can't resist.

I don't know if Trump is really sleep deprived, but recent research shows that lack of sleep for even one night can make you grouchy, seriously reduce your productivity, diminish your concentration and cause you to fall asleep at the wheel the following day.

I don't think sleep gets as much respect as it should. For example, who hasn't heard a mother complaining about the length of time her teenager sleeps? When my son was a teenager, his body demanded more sleep than usual so he could cope with his raging hormones and the accompanying growth spurts that gave him the appetite of a horse. I swear he went to bed one night, and when he emerged from his room almost a week later, he was a foot taller.

Read also: Study suggests a good night's sleep can help prevent depression

Teenagers don't sleep a lot because they're lazy. Or at least most of them don't. They sleep a lot because their bodies need it. Still, many parents are reluctant to let their teenagers sleep. They're afraid their children won't grow up to be productive members of society unless they are nagged out of bed to do their chores. There are not many chores that can't be put off for a little while.

Teenagers morph quickly into fully-fledged adults who have to go out and support themselves. It's even possible that they will encounter many days when they will suffer from sleep deprivation. Maybe they have to work late on an almost regular basis, or do shift work, both of which can have a negative impact on the amount of sleep they get, which in turn will affect their productivity and health. I'm surprised that many doctors still do 24-hour shifts.

I have a friend who undertook many years of nightshift in France. His employer, the French government, obviously knows all about the toll that constant nightshift can have on a person's health, because they retired him on full pension five years before the compulsory retirement age.

Private companies are also beginning to realise the importance of sleep, if they are to get the best out of their employees. Google provides its staff with "nap pods", while other companies offer their employees financial incentives to get at least seven hours' sleep a night. Hopefully, others will get the message and follow suit.

I'm off to bed now, before I start hallucinating about the tub of ice cream in my freezer calling out my name. When food starts talking, you know you're in big trouble.

Sleep well.

 

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