Sleep is More Important than Food

Tony Schwartz in HBR Blog Network

So why is sleep one of the first things we’re willing to sacrifice as the demands in our lives keep rising? We continue to live by a remarkably durable myth: sleeping one hour less will give us one more hour of productivity. In reality, the research suggests that even small amounts of sleep deprivation take a significant toll on our health, our mood, our cognitive capacity and our productivity.

Many of the effects we suffer are invisible. Insufficient sleep, for example, deeply impairs our ability to consolidate and stabilize learning that occurs during the waking day. In other words, it wreaks havoc on our memory.

So how much sleep do you need? When researchers put test subjects in environments without clocks or windows and ask them to sleep any time they feel tired, 95 percent sleep between seven and eight hours out of every 24. Another 2.5 percent sleep more than eight hours. That means just 2.5 percent of us require less than 7 hours of sleep a night to feel fully rested. That’s 1 out of every 40 people.

 

Walter Mischel, The Marshallow Test, and Self-Control

Maria Konnikova, in The New Yorker, talks with Walter Mischel about his new book The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control:

Mischel believes that the skills which enable us to delay gratification are the same skills that allow us to make other good choices despite temptations to do otherwise. “We’ve found a way to really improve human choice and freedom,” he told me. “If we have the skills to allow us to make discriminations about when we do or don’t do something, when we do or don’t drink something, and when we do and when we don’t wait for something, we are no longer victims of our desires.” As Roy Baumeister, a professor of psychology at Florida State University who studies willpower, put it, self-control is like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Avoiding something tempting once will help you develop the ability to resist other temptations in the future.

The Alarming New Research on Perfectionism

Melissa Dahl in New York Magazine's Science of Us

In one 2007 study, researchers conducted interviews with the friends and family members of people who had recently killed themselves. Without prompting, more than half of the deceased were described as “perfectionists” by their loved ones. Similarly, in a British study of students who committed suicide, 11 out of the 20 students who’d died were described by those who knew them as being afraid of failure. In another study, published last year, more than 70 percent of 33 boys and young men who had killed themselves were said by their parents to have placed “exceedingly high” demands and expectations on themselves — traits associated with perfectionism.