Friday, December 26, 2008

Losing Sleep Isn't a Useful Signal of Worth

In certain fields -- I'm thinking of law, medicine, and politics, but there are surely others -- some people have a sort of bravado about how often they skimp on sleep to put in extra hours at work. I understand why this sort of signaling goes on (people are trying to signal that they are truly dedicated), but it's still not a very good signal, particularly in fields that are cognitively demanding. The times that I've worked past midnight (or past the point of sleepiness), I've noticed a definite dropoff in cognitive functioning -- even in the simple ability to quickly comprehend a paragraph. And it's not just me: There are lots of biological reasons why losing sleep literally makes you dumber, such as less neurogenesis, a less accurate memory, lower attention span, less ability to master complicated tasks, etc.

Moreover, sleep helps prevent coronary artery calcification, while loss of sleep turns on dangerous inflammatory processes and is linked to a wide variety of diseases.

Pulling an "all-nighter" ought to be quite a rare event, for anyone who wants to have a well-functioning brain and body. In fact, if you have an intellectual job or task to perform, a better way to signal both that you know how the human body works and that you're dedicated to performing at your peak intellectual abilities would be announcing that you took a nap.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Michael Drake said...

You might be interested in James Wimberly's post today.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Bryan said...

I've seen somewhere research that shows people lying about how much they work, and that they lie more when they work more.

8:36 PM  
Blogger sean said...

Work that is being done by law firm associates after midnight usually isn't that intellectually demanding, i.e., proofreading, document assembly etc. If you are drafting partnership allocation provisions at that hour, I agree, you are making a big mistake.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Marina said...

poor medical residents... not only suffering during their residency but also putting themselves at risk for these illnesses...

1:25 AM  

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