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Sleep deprivation, the new norm?

Sleep deprevation
On Friday, I was having a conversation with a female partner at a major law firm in Florida. She talked about the expectations from clients and her firm and I asked her whether she would encourage her daughter to enter the legal profession and seek partnership. She brought to my attention that regardless of what profession females enter today, if they want to reach the pinnacle of success, they will have to work hard, put in long hours, expect to get back on their computers after dinner, and most likely sacrifice sleep.

Yes, sleep is the activity that most women are giving up to get it all done. Men are cutting back on sleep, too, but women do it more often to achieve work life balance.

Some experts are comparing it to cigarette smoking : "Not getting enough sleep is as pervasive in today's culture as was consuming two or three packs per day of Lucky Strikes in the 1940s, 50s and 60s," says Dr. Jeff Dietz on a Huffpost Healthy Living blog.

These same experts say sleep deprivation leads to preventable mistakes.  The worst part of this trend is that we're turning into horrible role models for our kids. As I stay up later at night, I find my teenagers right alongside me. When I tell them to go to bed, they see me on my computer and think it's okay to be up at midnight, getting stuff done.

Dr. Dietz says we all need an attitude change with respect to sleep behavior. "Facing sleep deprivation head-on means that the adults in charge of our teenagers acknowledge and deal with their own sleeping habits, including maladaptive sleep behaviors like the widespread use and abuse of sleeping pills and alcohol at bedtime; like stimulant and caffeine dependence and abuse during the day; like snoring and obstructive sleep apnea and the toll snoring takes on sleep-partners and relationships; like arguing at bedtime, as well as a host of unattended mental and physical disorders -- depression, obesity and diabetes for instance -- that disrupt sleep patterns."

Dietz thinks the answer for teens is to move back the start time of high school, allowing them to sleep later in the mornings.

But what's the answer for adults? Is sleep deprivation just a requirement of getting to the top echelon of a big company or large law firm or succeeding as an entrepreneur? 

I just don't see how working mothers can make it into the executive offices of companies or become partners at law firms and spend time with their kids unless they dash home from work by dinner time and then respond to emails late at night -- and that means cutting back on sleep!

Readers, do you think working mothers can be super successful in their careers and get eight or more hours of sleep a night? What about working fathers? Is sleep deprivation the new requirement for achieving work life balance?



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Kathy McDonald, GetClearGetGoingCoaching.com

It's a thought provoking question, Cindy. It depends on what you define as super successful - if it's only the very narrow definition of C-suite/ partner success, as work is currently structured, perhaps that's the trade-off women must accept.

But I know plenty of women who redefined success for themselves to include more than work success, and others who started businesses in order to have more control over their time. I'm even hearing young lawyers leaving to start their own practice because the traditional model doesn't work for them anymore.

Rebecca Staton-Reinstein

Sorry, Cindy, I think you've posed the wrong question. I agree with Kathy, the first step is redefining success and not just limiting it to the top of the heap. At the end of your path, no one puts "good corporate citizen" on your tombstone. Biology is destiny when it comes to sleep, productive work hours, and nutrition. Evolutionarily we are designed to sleep about 7 hours, work productively about 35 hours in one week, be physically active, and eat a variety of naturally occuring foods. When we ignore Mother Nature over a long period of time she takes her revenge -- including reducing our brain's ability to work at its peak performance. When I started sleeping more, working fewer hours, moving around more, and eating well, I became more "successful" and happier and healthier. At 71 I have more enerygy than 20 years ago, run an international business, and enjoy life.

FIU Student

In College you don't have time to sleep! Between partying, studying and working - it's the new norm. We can sleep when we die.


I do not think most working moms get 8 hours of sleep... I am a teacher, yet I find myself working till 5 (because I tutor after school), coming home to make dinner, give baths, and do the whole bedtime routine. I can get my 2 kids to bed by 8pm, but then I need to eat dinner, do housework, get the lunches prepared for the next day, make the baby food and bottles, and I always need to check my work email and sometimes grade papers. I very rarely get to bed before midnight. I even have a husband who is a huge help. It's a crazy life, but I wouldn't want it any other way! I live for the weekends! :)

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