Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Can I Sleep on That?
It no secret that people in high-pressure developed countries are not getting enough sleep. Even for younger people, sleep deprivation is taking its toll: “[A 2013 Boston College study], which draws on data culled from tests taken by more than 900,000 students in 50 countries, found that the U.S. has the greatest proportion of students whose academic performance, particularly in math and science, suffers due to poor sleep, with 73% of 9 and 10-year-olds and 80% of 13 and 14-year-olds affected. Those rates are significantly higher than the international average of 47% and 57%, respectively.” BBC.com (5/9/13). Ouch!
“[The] American Academy of Pediatrics urged schools to adjust start times so more kids would get the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of nightly rest. Both the CDC and the pediatricians’ group cited significant risks that come with lack of sleep, including higher rates of obesity and depression and motor-vehicle accidents among teens as well as an overall lower quality of life…
“In more than 40 states, at least 75 percent of public schools start earlier than 8:30 a.m., according to the CDC’s report.” TheAtlantic.com (8/17/15). Some school districts are beginning to push their morning start an hour later, noting that teenagers average going to sleep at 10:40 pm regardless of when their school day starts. When Nauset Regional High School (Eastham, Mass.), kicked their school day to an hour later in 2012, “The results were instantaneous, administrators say. More students showed up to school refreshed. Tardiness fell by 35 percent, and the number of Ds and Fs dropped by half.” Boston Globe (3/10/16). As most of us know, it gets worse in college.s
When it comes to those who have entered the work force, it can stay nasty. With less than 7% of our private sector workforce protected by unions, with the Trump administration’s repealing a pile of workplace safety (OSHA) rules and with 70% of Americans earning less in true buying power every year for two and a half decades… pushing many to holding two or more jobs (or picking up spare cash in the gig economy… Uber anyone?). Sleep deprivation is the new normal. The Centers for Disease control tell us that 41% of our workforce simply does not get enough sleep.
It gets worse if you are a white collar worker, where no overtime is required, when you are tethered to your job with a remote computer, a tablet and, worst of all, a smart phone. No matter where on earth you are. Some call a vacation “changing computer terminals.” Despite studies clear evidence that taking vacation time improves productivity, Americans are taking less time off than ever. Far from that five week break offered in most European Union countries. And for those taking time off… are they really stepping away from their jobs… or just doing a little less… remotely?
“‘Technological advancements have irreversibly changed the way we work—in many ways for the better—but the omnipresent office requires being intentional about our time,’ said [Time Off research] Project: Time Off Senior Director and report author Katie Denis. ‘Americans need to decide whether vacation will become a casualty of the new working world or if we will change to win back America’s Lost Week.’
“More than half of American workers (55%) left vacation time unused in 2015. This adds up to 658 million unused vacation days. It is the highest number Project: Time Off has ever reported, far exceeding the previous 429 million count. The increase highlights the difference between American workers’ intent and action. Previous Project: Time Off surveys, conducted mid-year, asked about anticipated vacation usage. The latest survey, conducted in January 2016, asked respondents about their actual usage for 2015, providing a more accurate picture of America’s vacation habits.” Project Time Off (6/14/16)
Should we learn something from siesta-driven Spain? Sure they eat dinner a tad late, but isn’t their habit of taking an afternoon nap a sensible approach to life? “In the small town of Ador, near Valencia, the siesta is sacred. So sacred, in fact, that in 2015 its mayor enshrined its citizens’ right to the afternoon nap in law.
“Everything in the town closes between 2pm and 5pm, while all noise must be kept to a minimum. Parents are encouraged to keep their children indoors and ball games are strictly off the agenda while the town’s inhabitants get their forty winks.
“But while Ador is embracing the tradition of siesta, elsewhere in Spain it seems the days may be numbered for one of the country’s most enduring stereotypes. The siesta is now as alien to most Spaniards as it is to the foreigners who package it into their image of Spain.
“Almost 60% of Spaniards never have a siesta, while just 18% will sometimes have a midday nap, according to a recent survey. In fact, the Spanish spend far more time working than many of their counterparts in Europe. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Spaniards rack up 1,691 hours at work each year while British workers do 1,674 annually and the Germans work just 1,371 hours a year.” BBC.com, June 12th.
Except for small town and rural America, few Americans live close enough to their place of work to grab a few Zzzzzzz midday anyway. That reality has settled on Spain as well. And as you can see from the hours they work – even more than those kick-ass Germans – Spaniards wouldn’t have time for that siesta anyway. But if you think Spanish work hours as nasty, Japanese workers average, according to the OECD, 1719 hours per year. Whew!
Americans? Even worse. The OECD tells us that we work an average of 1790 hours a year, blowing away those lazy Germans! Is it really a race we want to win?
And speaking of “lazy,” how about those “lazy Mexicans,” the slackers we are trying to push over the wall? The OECD tell us that those folks work a staggering average of 2246 hours a year!!! The highest average on the OECD report!!! Stereotypes die hard, but I have to admit in my years of watching lots of those undocumented Mexican nationals work on U.S. construction projects or in hot, high pressure commercial kitchens, on my many trips to Mexico, I have yet to meet a single lazy Mexican… ever. I know they’re out there; I guess I will just have to keep looking.
In the meantime, in terms of physical and mental health, stress-reduction, maximizing productivity, efficiency and learning, sleeping enough is perhaps the most important element we should be able to control, digital distractions notwithstanding. What are you doing about this? If you have children, what are their sleeping habits? Yeah, exactly. “To sleep, perchance to dream.”
I’m Peter Dekom, and sometimes what we should obviously do to improve our lives is one of those “things” we just do not have time for.