Reuters reported yesterday that research has recently shown that lack of sleep may be deadly. A 17 year study of over 10,000 government workers showed a high correlation between lack of sleep and increased incidence of cardiovascular disease. According to the report, individuals who decrease their sleeping from 7 hours per night to 5 or less per night "face a 1.7 fold increase in mortality from all causes and more than double the risk of cardiovascular death."
An interesting report, to say the least (as I sleep very little-as evidenced my the timestamp on many of my posts). But reasonably unclear, I think. First, I don't know how it can be said that lack of sleep increases mortality rate. Ultimately, no matter how long you sleep, the chances of "mortality" are 1 in 1. That is, we're all going to die. So, to say that the chances of dying increase by 70% just because I sleep less? It's absurd.
Perhaps, on the other hand, what they MEANT to say was, people tend to die younger if they sleep less. That's a concept that, whether I believe it or not, I can wrap my mind around. Keep in mind, the study didn't report that at all (at least as I read it), but what they DID report is asinine-beyond the point of discussion. So, for the sake of argument, let's assume that they meant that short sleepers die earlier.
Assuming that, I have to ask: how much earlier? Do they die, on average, five minutes earlier than those who sleep 7 hours per night? Is it one year earlier? Five years? Twenty? My guess is that it's likely closer to the lower end (that is, assuming you die earlier if you sleep only five hours per night, my guess is, on the average, it's no more than a year or two).
And those who are only sleeping five hours: what are they doing late at night? Barhopping? Partying? And, if so, wouldn't that lifestyle be a far greater contributor to the "mortality rate" than the amount of sleep they're getting? You see my point? In a way, it's another example of post hoc ergo propter hoc.
But that's not really my point. Consider this: assume I opt to sleep two fewer hours each night from the time I'm 20 until I pass away at, say, 70. 50 years, 365 days per year, 2 hours per day: 36,500 total hours-spent doing something I enjoy, I love. Like interacting with my family, or reading, or writing, or blogging.
Conversely, I could force myself to sleep those extra two hours, and gain an extra two or three years of effective life (which would, likely, be spent without many of my loved ones, children having moved far away; inarguably, diminished quality of life). Do you realize that, spending those two hours every day netted me just over 4 years of "living"? That is, those two hours, added up over 50 years, equate to a total of 4 years-in the prime of my life, with family and friends around me, doing the things I love!
So, in my mind, less sleep may in fact contribute to reduced life expectancy (arguable, at this point, to be quite honest, but I'll give the the benefit of the doubt). But, by sleeping less, I'm a happier person over my life-in that I have four more years of doing the stuff I like to do, with the people I love doing it with.
Why wouldn't anyone choose less sleep?
It's said that Michelangelo, inarguably one of the most accomplished individuals in history, would sleep no more than 45 minutes at a time. He worked, it's said, around the clock, breaking every four hours or so for a 20-45 minute nap. And look at what he achieved.
You can't argue with that.