I have just returned from a trip to Oman and am desperately trying to adjust my body clock to match UK time. Even though there is only three hours difference between Muscat and my sleep has been curtailed by being jammed up in economy class like a battery hen on a flight that left Abu Dhabi at 2:30 and flew overnight.
I hardly got a wink of sleep, either smashing my legs on the seat in front or being pushed by somnambulists, walking down the aisle in a trance on their way to the toilet having quaffed too much liquid in the airport.
I arrived at home at 8:30 in the morning and went straight to bed. And today, a day later, I am shattered and don’t know when to sleep.
There are people I work with who follow the mantra of Mr Motivator, whose drive and desire to work at 200% mean that, in their opinion, there aren’t enough hours in a day. Such people think that I should have gone into work on Friday – for at least half a day, “because there is so much to do and the work won’t complete itself”.
I wasn’t asked directly – probably because the people concerned know that my response would have rhymed with “duck trough”.
I have many reasons to dislike (and for some people actually detest) those who follow the work ethics of Mr Motivator but lack of sleep and tiredness are major ones.
When I travel to a place like China, a journey that can last over 18 hours, I am expected to work as soon as I possibly can after I arrive. The first day of work is usually totally non-productive because of jet lag.
How people expect you to work, when the time difference is eight hours and you have travelled for almost an entire day on at least one long haul flight on an aircraft where sleep is utterly impossible, is totally beyond my comprehension.
Yet it happens.
And that is just the travelling aspect. I have heard Mr Motivator say absurd things like:
“Don’t believe people who say that you need a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night are just lazy. You can get by on four hours. Margaret Thatcher did – and so do I!”
Everybody needs a different amount of sleep. Not everyone is like Mr Motivator. I would go further and say that while Mr Motivator thinks he can get away with only five hours sleep, the reality is that he can’t. You will see him sitting there yawning occasionally and totally fuelled by caffeine to get him through the day.
I’ve done some research on this and I hope that Mr Motivator is reading because people really do need sleep. Here are ten effects of lack of sleep:
(1) Tiredness causes accidents. If you live miles away from work and have to drive on a motorway after only a couple of hours’ sleep, the chances of having an accident because of drowsiness and slow reaction times is vastly increased.
(2) You are more stupid. Lack of sleep impairs concentration and alertness and slows down your capacity to think clearly. In a job like mine, where I need to use my brain to solve problems, I need a full night’s sleep to make my mind sharp for the challenges of the day. This may explain some of Margaret Thatcher’s ridiculous policy decisions.
(3) You look older. Sleep deprivation can have a detrimental effect on your skin, as well as those bags under your puffy eyes, making you look as if you have aged a number of years. The term “beauty sleep” was not coined as a joke. And it is quite clear that I need a lot of beauty sleep.
(4) Increased health problems. Being a hypochondriac, I wish I hadn’t discovered this. Lack of sleep can increase your chances of suffering from heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes and diabetes.
(5) Lower sex drive. Apparently age has an effect on your sex drive so if you are also not getting enough sleep then your libido will suffer. I can’t make myself younger (God knows I’ve tried) so I think I need more sleep.
(6) Depression. Depression is bad enough but if you can’t or won’t sleep because you are depressed, the condition can be aggravated.
(7) Forgetfulness. As I grow older my memory is fading slowly but if you do not sleep enough, your already addled brain struggles even more to locate nuggets of information locked in your mind in little boxes labelled “Do not forget this”.
(8) You get fatter. Latest research suggests that lack of sleep can increase your appetite, causing you to eat more and therefore put on weight.
(9) Impaired judgement. Your brain suffers quite a lot because of sleep deprivation but as well as the effects mentioned above, your ability to assess situations correctly is also impaired.
(10) Increased risk of death. Possibly the scariest effect is that lack of sleep can increase the risk of fatal health issues.
If you are reading this, Mr Motivator, and think that I should spend more of my time working and not sleeping then you can think again. You may feel like you can survive on five or six hours’ sleep but I can’t. I need at least seven hours and I will continue to do that.
I am pretty sure that any readers who regularly wake up naturally after a full night of sleep will agree with me that there is no better feeling. You are refreshed, your brain is alert and you do not need a bulletproof caffeine injection to stimulate your groggy brain into action.
There may not be enough hours is a day for you Mr Motivator, but that is your problem and not mine.
I will not lose any sleep over your ill-judged advice, particularly if I have just suffered the ignominy of trying to sleep on a crammed aircraft next to a snoring bloater who is so fat that every time he moves, the entire aircraft shifts to the right, causing my knees to smash into the seat once more.
You should not have to adapt to a lifestyle created by Mr Motivator, dear reader; tell him to bugger off and get your eight hours of sleep.
You will feel healthier than he does.
I feel like starting a campaign.
Who’s with me?