I’ll never understand why some workaholics brag about their long hours like it’s a badge of honor. They claim working 20-hour days with little or no sleep gives them an edge and helps them get ahead.
Personally, I think that kind of workload is more likely to give you a heart attack or stroke.
I understand the value of a strong work ethic, not just as a doctor, but as a small business owner. In fact, I recently came down with shingles due to overwork. I know what it’s like to put in long hours every day.
But there’s a difference between putting in extra time to overcome a specific challenge or achieve a specific goal, and trying to sustain that kind of workload throughout your career.
Most people who put in such long hours claim to be able to get by on a few hours of sleep. After all, sleep is an option. Work is the only requirement.
However, a study conducted at the University of California at Berkeley found that a lack of sleep affects high-level brain regions that are used to make complex judgments and decisions. In other words, sleep deprivation affects our ability to make good decisions and solve problems.
That won’t give you an edge at work.
Not only can a lack of sleep make you think less clearly and hamper job performance, but it can lead to junk food cravings. The UC Berkeley study revealed that the deeper brain centers that respond to rewards become more active when sleep-deprived. Study participants favored unhealthy food after a lack of sleep, which helps to explain why so many obese people don’t get enough sleep.
There are two key takeaways from this study. First, sleep enables us to store and process the information we’ve collected over the course of the day so we can start learning and processing new information the next day. That helps us perform better at work.
Second, proper sleep can help us eat healthier because it primes the brain mechanisms that control food choices. Better sleep leads to better food choices.
Of course, a number of studies have also linked a lack of sleep to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, depression, Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic illness.
I’m not a career coach. But if you want to be more productive at work and advance in your career, I would highly recommend getting eight hours of sleep per night and maximizing every hour at work rather than grinding out 20-hour days on no sleep.
Think about it this way. If we spend our health to obtain wealth, and then spend our wealth to try to obtain health, is it really worth it?