Feb 28, 2010

Why can't I sleep late?

I have always envied many of my friends who work late into the night. Typically, they go to bed by 2 or 3 in the night presumably doing more work than someone like me who dozes off latest by 11 p.m. Even office colleagues who play dandiya all night appear fresh the next day morning. I am wondering whether I am lazy or whether there is some genetics at work.

It is not that I never slept late. In college, last minute studying invariably meant studying till 3 or 3.30, by which time you don’t know whether you are asleep or awake. This night long study was often interrupted by endless cups of chai and often, a visit to the nearby 24 hours shop where they would start their first batch of fat samosas floating in oil at 12 in the night.

In one of my previous jobs, I often reached home after 12 but still had to be present the next day at 9.30 am sharp. I noticed that whenever there is external pressure to stay late, there was no option but to do so. However, given a choice, I would like to retire to bed by 10. Once, I was watching a movie on a video and while the night wore on, the screen became hazy and I completely lost track of the proceedings. Thankfully, no one asked me about the movie the next day.

Recently, I got a chance to check my capacity when I had to sit late and work. By the time I switched off the light, it was 1 a.m. In the quiet of the night, the work had gone very well and I was happy and peaceful. There was no feeling of sleep deprivation.

The next day I had to go to office. I dozed off in the bus in the morning. In the office, I walked around semi conscious. I couldn’t concentrate. I had become dysfunctional. My boss, while speaking to me was able to see the inside of my mouth as uncontrollable yawns forced my jaws open. I had no appetite. On the way back, my eyes started watering and became red. I was feeling nauseous and irritable.

After a sound sleep, I did some research and found that there are night owls and early-morning larks, sound sleepers and light ones, people who are perky after five hours of sleep and others who are groggy if they log less than nine hours. It explains why I can start work at 5 a.m without much problem.

Nevertheless, many factors can affect how a person sleeps. Aging is the most important influence on basic sleep rhythms — from age 20 on, it takes longer to fall asleep, you sleep less at night (!). A person who is 20% sleep deprived has the mental acuity of a person who is legally drunk. By the way, CEOs often brag about how "hard" they "work" and how little sleep they get—4 to 6 hours is common. Now you know why layoffs happen—a bunch of drunks run most of our corporations.

So, maybe the best strategy is not to lose sleep over more sleep…yawn.. but  to just let sleep…sleep…slee…zzzzzzzz


  1. vurshaa said...
    totally agree... i too become dysfunctional if i don't get my 7-8 hours beauty sleep. and worst, in my case is, that all the late nights accumulate to create one big chunk of sleep deprivation which then has to be slept off over a few weeks...!!
    gopakumar said...
    As someone who has worked nights for near on 7 years I find 3-4 hours of sleep more than sufficient.
    Suresh said...

    Isn't it amazing that the body can make such adjustments and allow you to compensate over a few weeks?


    Even this is amazing that the body has adjusted to reduced quantum of sleep. However, since the body has been designed for 7-8 hours sleep, one cannot be sure about the long term consequences.
    Jazzy said...
    After reading your posts, I identify myself to the above mentioned Night-Owl category. I recently came across some people who flaunt themselves by saying that they work 24/7; I wonder how they manage to survive.

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