Thrive on Campus//

The One Sacrifice You Don’t Need To Make To Be Successful

Why is sleep deprivation culture is so prevalent? I explore the reasons behind this trend and why you don't need to buy into it to achieve your goals.

Photo by Tse Hon Ning/Getty Images
Photo by Tse Hon Ning/Getty Images

Welcome to our new section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus.) We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

Some of the most common sleep-related phrases I’ve heard in my current academic environment include: “I will sleep when I am dead,” “I only slept for two hours last night, but I’m fine!” and, “I had to pull an all-nighter.”

More often than not, I find myself confronted by people who feel that a lack of sleep is not damaging. On the contrary, at times it feels like some sort of masochistic competition: who can perform best on the least sleep, while parading the latter.

But I propose and constantly challenge my friends to ask themselves: When did sacrifices of this nature become badges of honour? What long-term effects does this culture have?

History Repeating Itself

Based on the history, some may be tempted to suggest that lack of sleep could boost productivity.

A really interesting example of this correlation between lack of sleep and productivity can be found in Thomas Edison. Edison, the inventor of light bulb, slept mere four hours a day. He was a firm believer that “success depends in no small part in staying awake to stay ahead of the technological and economic competition.” To rephrase Edison, he’s basically saying something along the lines of what Elon Musk is currently saying today; those who deprive themselves of sleep intrinsically gain more by adding more hours to their day. Renouncing sleep is perceived, by these men, as a “necessary sacrifice” to achieve their version of success.

Edison was known to encourage Americans to follow his lead, and with his invention he had hoped that the bright lights would help brighten minds by circumventing the obstacle of darkness.

A Vicious Cycle

Since Edison’s time, the sleep deprivation culture has shifted drastically due to growing consumerism. An interesting trait I’ve found about sleep deprivation in the 21st century is that markets have increasingly benefitted from the vicious cycle that characterises this form of deprivation.

There is a dangerous competition between “staying awake” and “sleep aids” on the market.

It seems to be a vicious cycle: We can wake up easily with a fancy red-eye coffee, stay up late thanks to over the counter energy shots, then take a pill to help us sleep only to repeat everything again the next day.  

With Sleep, You Can!

The ugly truth is that we cannot ignore the importance of sleep, its duration and its quality. Long-term effects of reduced sleep include obesity, diabetes, and reduced lifespan according to the National Health Service. Needless to say that proper sleep is vital for good mental health, too, and is something that requires to be prioritised daily.

I guess this article just serves as a mere reminder, that although it is tempting to follow through with this invisible sacrifice, I would urge you to act otherwise.

With advanced planning and minimal procrastination, I guarantee, you will get the job done: long hours of work dont necessarily indicate the strength of your work.

With sleep, you can succeed.

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More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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