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Generally Accepted Sleeping Principles (GASP)

“Sleep is a weapon. Use it.” -Jason Bourne

At this time last year it seemed to me that everyone’s conversations centered on either bragging about how little or how much sleep they had the night before. Talking with several first-year students, I can sense that not much has changed. If anything, the downward pressure on sleep time has only become more acute-and FIN 1 has not even started yet. Sleep deprivation is epidemic not only at HBS, but in the context of modern society as a whole. Prior to the invention of electric lighting, people generally went to bed and rose with the sun. Although our technology and culture has evolved to allow us the flexibility to choose our waking hours, the human body has not. Like the flow and ebb of the tides, our bodies are affected by planetary forces beyond our control.

Think of sleep as an item on your body’s balance sheet. Every day, your various activities incur expenses that credit your sleep account. To offset them, you must get sufficient rest revenue to debit the account back into a net zero balance. In the short-term, you can carry a sleep deficit, but watch out if your account becomes a long-term line item. Davin Chow (NB), worked on the “Proposal for a National Sleep Health Agenda” while at BCG Australia. The report found that long-term sleep deprivation is linked to a veritable Who’s Who of nasty diseases.

It may be tempting and perhaps even unavoidable at times to skip sleeping. To escape serious health consequences, however, please keep in mind a few tips for managing your sleep account:
 Your body likes routine. One reason you may feel tired, even if you are getting adequate rest on average, is the lack of a regular sleep, eating, and workout schedule. I probably dedicate 20 minutes a day to time management itself: prioritizing, planning and scheduling. If you cannot figure out work/life balance now, when else will you learn the lesson?
 Naps are delightful, but do not take a nap between 30 minutes and one and a half (or two, depending on the person) hours in length. Waking up during that period will disturb your sleep cycle and make you even more tired. Napping for more than two hours also has a downside-you may not be able to sleep later at night.
 It hurts to say this, but alcohol is detrimental to your sleep. Since teetotalism is tantamount to social suicide in many circles around here, at the very least make sure that you are not severely dehydrated when you go to bed or else you could wake up feeling exhausted.
 Invest in a sleep habitat. You should be happy with your mattress or bedding; if not, change them. Before sleep, turn off the lights and sources of noise, maybe even your beloved Blackberry. And lastly, if your partner’s sleep habits disturb your own, do not delay having a conversation about how to reach a compromise.
 If you or your partner feel chronically tired or observe what seems like abnormal sleeping behavior, then you should definitely seek expert medical advice.

September 25, 2006
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