Imagine a world in which eight hours of sleep were guaranteed each night. To us ambitious and dedicated and perhaps overworked students, this is a foreign concept. We spend our days deriving formulas, reading Shakespeare, crafting essays, telling stories, writing emails, practicing athletic drills, painting. But in our overbooked schedules, we hardly find time to sleep—and we broadcast it, too.
It’s not uncommon to hear others boasting about their arduous, sleepless nights or arguing over who stayed up the latest. But what does bragging about sleep deprivation achieve, other than useless competition and the glorification of all-nighters?
We’ve subconsciously—or consciously, in some cases—come to think of lack of sleep as an attractive thing. Little sleep can imply someone is hardworking, overflowing with extracurriculars, or simply doing the most. And so we publicize our sleeplessness, both in the hopes of garnering pity and subtly advertising how busy we are. But less than seven or eight hours a night is not something we should be bragging about!
Not only do these comments breed unnecessary and trivial competition, but they also create a culture that celebrates harm. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, sleep deprivation can lead to similar levels of cognitive and motor impairment as excessive alcohol intake. Around 17 to 19 hours without sleep is equivalent to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 percent—0.01 percent higher than the maximum BAC for commercial vehicle drivers. Further, around 18 to 20 hours without sleep produces effects equivalent to those of a BAC of 0.1 percent—0.02 percent higher than the maximum BAC for regular drivers over 21.
The Vanguard suggests that we adjust how we think about sleep. Next time you find yourself telling your friends about how little you slept, actively try to fix the problem instead. Talk to your advisor or Ms. Tabb about better time management strategies and ways to boost your efficiency. Or research strategies on how to improve your sleep habits. If you feel the need to vent about feeling tired, shift your sentence from “I slept so few hours last night” to “I wish I got more.”
We should be honoring the quality of our work instead of the sleepless nights we’ve endured to produce it.