In today’s competitive 24/7 and 365 days world, how can you waste your time in sleep? Sleep is an integral part of our day; we work, socialise and sleep. Our energy spent during waking hours is recouped when we have sufficient rest. How much sleep does one need to regain strength? Every individual has own requirement of sleep, and it is defined by the body like our blood group. This property is known as Chronotype and is described as a person’s natural inclination about the times of day when they prefer to sleep or when they are most alert or energetic.
We have different ways of describing people like an early bird, night owl and those who are in between the bird and the owl. Early to bed and early to rise is the way to be healthy and wealthy and wise, is a saying that has been popular for a long time. Does it mean that the early birds are smart people and others are not? I don’t think so because it is a natural property of human beings. I remember my friend’s daughter. For first three to four years of her life, his princess would sleep throughout the day and would be fully awake during the night. Luckily the friend’s wife was not doing a job outside. Hence she could sleep for at least some time during the day time. But day time sleep has its limitations as the world runs on a daytime cycle. They had a tough time during those 3/4 years.
During the last hundred years or so, we humans have started working during nights. Before that very few people in any trade required night working. I remember my grandfather’s lifestyle. He would be ready to go to bed at 7 pm after having early dinner. I am talking of lifestyle that was prevalent in ’50 s of the last century. There was nothing else to do anyway. But with the industrial revolution, night shifts started in factories. In factories first shift would begin at 7 am, second would end at 11 pm and so on. These timings started invading our way of beginning and ending the day. Before all this, there was not much difference in humans and other creatures. If we observe, even today, the birds start flying out depending on the timings based on Sunrise and Sunset. Species other than humans follow nature. They wake up with the environment; they eat and drink water when hungry or thirsty. (Only humans drink specially manufactured alcohol); in the end, they die naturally. In certain species when the death is near, they go away from others and merge with nature. All this thinking has created words describing “Time is Money”; I have added to it “Sleep is Debt”! We, humans, give too much importance to when we wake up, when we sleep, and so on. People from the same organisations working in different continents adds to the misery.
But is it true? Is it right? I read about a large organisation in China. They have a vast multi-storied complex where hundreds of people work. A team from the USA went there for some meetings. The meeting started at 10.30 am. It went on till 1 pm. They were taken for lunch, and they came back at 1.30 pm. Within, five minutes, all the lights, computer screens were put off. There was an announcement in Chinese to switch off the cell phones. At 2.15 pm everything came back to normal. The Americans were shocked. Their Chinese counterparts told them that they wanted to give surprise to the Americans. The practice of switching off everything is being followed in that organisation for some time, so that people take a nap. During this period, the Americans found it impossible to go to sleep, initially many of the Chinese staff also faced the same problem, but now they are used to it. The Americans found that some of their Chinese colleagues were even mildly snoring. Majority of the staff has given thumbs up to this method of taking a sleep break. Such breaks have increased the zest of people working in the second session. I can vouch for this method. I have been following this method for quite some time in my office.
In the western world, sleep is treated as some sin. People become judgmental when someone says that he/she needs some sleep. In olden days, though everybody had different sleep cycles, some people were required to keep awake against attacks by animals. Another need was to ensure that the fire needed for warmth did not spread dangerously. In Mahabharata, the war stopped at the Sunset. Lord Krishna had taken advantage of this fact and killed Jayadratha, by hiding the Sun in the afternoon with his Sudarshana Chakra, and bringing Jayadratha out in front of Arjuna.
I am sure that a word associated with sleep in olden days must have been fear! That is because of the animal attacks. Now in modern times, we don’t have fear associated with the word sleep, but still, we make sure that all the door and window latches are in place. Worry before sleeping is the remnant of the “fear” we had in mind. Maybe the night prowlers may break in, is the fear we still may have! On the other side, it is considered good if someone dies in sleep. The reasoning could be that the person may not feel the pain if any, while dying.
All said and done; a sleep deficit is bound to have its issues. Each human can handle only a certain amount of sleep deficit. After that, the performance gets deteriorated. The person will be anxious; the concentration may reduce and accidents while driving can also take place.
Once we had gone out for dinner with some Japanese friends, we finished our dinner at around 11 pm. I asked the friend how do they handle this in Japan. He said, “Initially we do bar hopping till midnight and then have dinner. By the time we are done, it is 2 am.” I asked him, “How do you manage the office the next day?” My friend said, “ We must reach the office at 7 am, but if I am not up to it, I take my boss’s permission to go and sleep in my car!” Great solution!
But one thing is sure; you cannot be in debt in life, as well as in sleep. You have to repay it; you have to make it up at some stage. A good way of handling this is to learn to take power naps! A ten-minute power nap will go a long way.
In modern times, during the last 15 years, things have changed for the worse. Housing loans are much cheaper than personal loans. We can call our sleep deficit due to work as a housing loan, but we also take personal loans which are costlier than housing loans. These new loans are in the form of social media or screen time. With these two loans running simultaneously, sleep deficit is bound to be there; make sure you avoid it or you may become bankrupt!