How a Lack of Sleep Can Hurt Your Finances
Proud that you’re awake at all hours and still functioning normally? It may be costing you.
The arguments for a good night’s sleep are well-documented, with studies showing that people who get more sleep get fewer colds, tend to maintain a healthier weight and have a smaller chance of coming down with heart disease and diabetes.
But if you’re uninterested in the health benefits of sleep, you may want to consider what your sketchy sleep patterns are doing to your wallet.
You’re probably sleepwalking through your sleep problem. There are many reasons we don’t get enough sleep. Some people are workaholics or night owls. Others are kept up by chronic stress or insomnia, and still others have a disorder like sleep apnea. According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, a condition that causes troubled breathing during sleep, and 75 percent of people with sleep apnea don’t know they have it.
What’s unsettling is that the average person may not realize they’re sleep deprived due to the way the body works. ”We habituate to adenosine, a brain chemical that induces sleep. So even though judgment and performance are impaired, we think we’re performing just fine. The reality is, they are depriving their brains of a nutrient just as vital as food or water,” says Emerson Wickwire, sleep medicine program director at Howard County Center for Lung and Sleep Medicine in Columbia, Maryland. He also teaches non-drug treatment approaches to sleep disorders at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Wickwire continues: “The effects of sleep loss on cognitive processing, concentration and memory are striking and acute. Processing speed deteriorates dramatically with shortened sleep duration, and you can’t simply ‘catch up’ on the weekends.”
If you aren’t sleeping, you’re putting your career at risk. Nitun Verma, medical director for the Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders in Fremont, California, sees this a lot. He works with many professionals in Silicon Valley and says there are two typical groups of patients who tend to come into his office.
"The first group is the professional at a larger, more established company, usually in their 40s to 50s," Verma says, adding that these people often feel sleepy at work, which worsens as the afternoon progresses. "They have a fear that some younger, more energetic person is going to take their job or their promotion."
People in their 20s and 30s suffer from sleepless nights, too, Verma says. They have a more active social and professional night life, advancing their lives and careers, and often only sleep four to five hours a night, he says.
"Adrenaline is carrying them during exciting times, but the sleepiness finds them during brainstorming and creative times," Verma says.
Of course, it’s easy to dismiss the problems. Occasionally falling asleep during a meeting, aside from the embarrassment, may not be so bad. But do it enough, and it can destroy your career.
W. David Brown, an assistant professor of psychiatry at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas who is board-certified in behavioral sleep medicine, says that not long ago, he saw a patient who had been disciplined by his supervisor for falling asleep at his desk.