I HAVE BUT ONE New Year’s resolution: I’ll be working on a habit that promises to lower my risk of cancer, boost my immune system and decrease the odds that I’ll succumb to Alzheimer’s disease. This activity has a host of other health benefits: lower blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and aiding weight loss. It has also been shown to improve mood, memory and creativity.
What is this wonder drug and how much will it cost me? My resolution for 2022: Get more sleep. And not just more sleep, but higher quality sleep.
I’ll admit that I’ve been a lifelong skeptic on the importance of sleep. Since my teenage years, I’ve gotten by with less than seven hours of sleep, sometimes far less. Like many people, I wore my sleep-deprived state as a badge of honor and a necessary evil in the pursuit of lofty ambitions.
No more. My eyes were opened by a book by sleep scientist Matthew Walker called Why We Sleep. A professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and an eminent sleep researcher, Walker makes a compelling, evidence-based case for the importance of sleep and the costs we incur when we shortchange ourselves of its many benefits.
The World Health Organization has declared sleep loss an epidemic throughout industrialized nations. As Walker points out, “It is no coincidence that countries where sleep time has declined most dramatically over the past century, such as the U.S., the U.K., Japan, and South Korea, and several in western Europe, are also those suffering the greatest increase in rates of the aforementioned physical diseases and mental disorders.”
More than four centuries ago, the great bard himself spoke of sleep: “Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, chief nourisher of life’s feast….” William Shakespeare was, as usual, far ahead of his time.
Getting more sleep may, in fact, save your life. I read with amazement that vehicular accidents due to drowsiness exceed those caused by alcohol and drugs combined.
But HumbleDollar is a site devoted to money. Assuming a longer, healthier and more fulfilling life are insufficient inducements to sleep more, consider how it might improve your finances. After adjusting for socioeconomic, educational and professional factors, economists Matthew Gibson and Jeffrey Shrader found that those who slept more earned more money on average. The return on investment? About 4% to 5% higher pay accrued to those who got an extra 60 minutes of sleep.
It may surprise you to learn that NASA has studied the occupational benefits of sleep. In the mid-1990s, NASA found that naps as short as 26 minutes could improve task performance by 34% and overall alertness by more than 50%. CEOs, please take note.
Should you see fewer articles by yours truly in 2022, rest assured: I’m not frittering away my time on social media or slaving away at work—but, rather, simply resting.