Can’t Get Eight Straight Hours Sleep? Maybe You Don’t Have To!!

I am guilty of one of the most heinous unhealthy habits: I don’t get enough sleep. At least to according to the most published experts, who tout eight consecutive hours of sleep as the ideal for optimum health.  Most days of the week, I’m not even close. I try to get to bed/sleep no later than 11 p.m., then get up between 5-5:30 a.m. to workout. So on my best days I get a maximum of 6 1/2 hours sleep.

I’ve tried to sleep more. But I’m generally not sleep before 11 at night, and am passionate about my early-morning workout. Moreover (and here’s where rationalization is extremely powerful!), whatever health benefit I may lose in giving up that extra 90 minutes sleep, I gain back multi-fold by being in the gym five to six days a week.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

Now I do “sleep in” one day each week – Saturday, when I allow myself to wake up when I wake up–usually between 8-9 a.m. (Unless I have an early tee-time.) Do I get eight hours then? Maybe, but not likely, since I usually don’t get to bed on Friday nights until after midnight.

I’ve tried to change. I’ve told myself to go to bed earlier and try to get at least seven hours sleep. And it happens occasionally.

Okay, rarely.

Sigh, almost never.

Well, I may not have to feel guilty about it any more. And if you’re struggling to get eight straight hours as well, you may not have to hide your head in shame (presumably beneath a pillow), either!

A recent story in the New York Times revealed that eight consecutive hours sleep may not be the ideal. In fact, it suggests that our hyperactive bodies and minds–infected by the ever-logged-on digital age–may not even be suited for such an arcane notion.

Moreover, sleeping eight straight hours isn’t the norm in many other countries. The story points out that workers in Asia regularly catch naps during the workday by simply putting theirs heads on their desks, an accepted practice. And the tradition of mid-day siestas, usually after a hearty lunch, has long been tradition in many European and Latin nations.

So where did we go wrong? I blame the workplace, and our stodgy idea of maximizing our productivity during an eight-hour. Try putting your head on your desk tomorrow for a quick nap and see how far it gets you. Unless you’re working at a Silicon Valley startup (or for yourself), it’ll more likely get you canned than named Employee of the Month.

Working 9-to-5 (sing it in your Dolly Parton voice!) is so ingrained in our culture it’s still rare that a corporate culture would actually recognize the value of giving employees time to grab some shut-eye on the job. And employees, if asked if they would work an extra hour if they were given a “nap” hour, would rather walk around sleep deprived than even think about hanging around any longer.

But perhaps that’s changing.  Along with ideas like flex-hours, shared jobs and even remote gig (i.e. occasionally working from home)–all made easier by our always-logged-on digital age–perhaps creating “nap rooms” or allowing employees time to recharge with a bit of shut-eye aren’t all that far fetched.

And if it can be proven that taking an occasional nap during the day might actually make an employee more alert and healthier, which translates into actually being more productive, then well perhaps we can all stop worrying sabot getting eight consecutive hours of sleep and simply remember to bring pillows to work.

Challenge yourself!



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