Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Is lack of sleep addictive?

16 January 2017


Based on my own experience, I am inclined to say “Yes” to the question whether lack of sleep is addictive. Apparently, I am not alone in this question and in its answer (eg, link1, link2, link3, link4, link5).

A 2011 Berkeley article states: “a lesser known side effect of sleep deprivation is short-term euphoria, which can potentially lead to poor judgment and addictive behavior, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley. [] The findings [] in the Journal of Neuroscience, underscore the need for people in high-stakes professions and circumstances not to shortchange themselves on sleep, Matthew Walker said.”

Berkeley News: “brain scans of the participants who pulled all-nighters showed heightened activity in the mesolimbic pathway, a brain circuit driven by dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates positive feelings, motivation, sex drive, addiction, cravings and decision making. [] As for a therapy for people who are clinically depressed, sleep deprivation is not a viable solution, according to Walker: “The elastic band of sleep deprivation can only be stretched so far before it breaks.”

The reference to certain professions is valid. A few decades ago, at Price Waterhouse Netherlands, some people said “good morning/afternoon” to people leaving at 7PM or 8PM. Sometimes this caused a verbal fight. Some may not have been able to withstand this social pressure. Examples may be found in C-suite jobs, international professional services, and multiple time zone jobs.

Indeed, I remember having felt this sense of euphoria. It’s like playing a game against yourself and winning. Obviously, that is sheer impossible. Nevertheless, pushing your boundaries is tempting and ultimately also addictive

Once you have a lack of sleep, it’s hard to recover. Initially, additional sleep makes you feel even more tired. Then it becomes tempting to refrain from additional sleep. I suppose this process leads to chronic sleep deprivation. In extreme cases, some people will claim they need 3-4 hours while the rest of the global population needs 7-8 hours.

I have noticed that a sudden drop in working hours may cause short periods of a vague illnesses. I think, feel and believe that this results from the sudden drop in mental and physical pressure. The illness may be nothing more than an overdue (re)balancing act between the body and mind.

Technology, our newest addiction, has accelerated and worsened the above (eg, PT). The 2017 French law that gives workers a “right to disconnect” will not be helpful at all in high-stakes professions. An early promotion and/or a salary raise is usually more important.

Addiction, sleep management, and time management are all behavioural issues. To me, sleep has always been important. I need it, I want it, and I believe in it. Still, I have been sleep deprived in my 30s and 40s due to an inappropriate work-life balance. The solution is always in adjusting priorities. Essentially, the less is more principle also applies here.

I Go To Sleep (1981) by The Pretenders – artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


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