Donald Trump says he only sleeps three to four hours per night. That could explain everything. At the risk of politicizing this issue it may be the only way to get it any attention these days. I was going to post a third blog on Seattle Public School’s shift to later start times for teens, but it can wait.
A report from Harvard Medical School, Division of Sleep Medicine indicates that sleep deprivation is a serious risk to public health. This report lists a number of high profile disasters tied directly to sleep deprivation, including the nuclear accident at Three Mild Island, the meltdown at Chernobyl, the grounding of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker. Countless other accidents are tied to lack of sleep including one million car crashes and the same number of medical accidents every year in the US.
Trump claims that three to four hours of sleep per night gives him a mental edge. Now that we’ve all seen his edge it’s obvious that his judgment is impaired on this matter and many others.
According to the Harvard report, “Sleep deprivation negatively impacts our mood, our ability to focus, and our ability to access higher-level cognitive functions.” It leads to deficits in concentration, working memory, mathematical capacity and logical reasoning. Performance on tasks requiring logical reasoning or complex thought is measurably impaired. There are also mental health consequences. A Harvard newsletter, Sleep and Mental Health reports that sleep deprivation can be either the cause or the symptom of psychiatric disorders. Treating the sleep disorder may alleviate the psychiatric disorder.
The science shows that inadequate sleep, “wreaks havoc in the brain, impairing thinking and emotional regulation. In this way, insomnia may amplify the effects of psychiatric disorders, and vice versa.” So why do Trump and others believe that sleep deprivation gives them an edge?
A Web MD report says it’s simply a myth that some people perform better on less sleep. Thomas Roth, a Ph.D sleep researcher at Henry Ford Hospital says, “They’re just not aware of how sleepy they are.” “Wakefulness for 18 hours makes you perform almost as though you’re legally drunk,” says Joyce Walsleben, Ph.D, New York University psychologist and co-author of A Woman’s Guide to Sleep.
Unless you are one of the few with a rare genetic mutation your mental and physical health suffer significantly if you sleep only three to four hours per night. And even the 5% with this rare mutation require at least six hours to function normally.
There is a manic movement across our culture to hack sleep, to replace sleep with power nutrients, to find other ways to push the human physiology beyond the need for adequate sleep. But the fact remains we all need it and there’s no way around it. If we deprive ourselves of sleep we are posing a risk to ourselves and others. Donald Trump seems to be living proof of all the above. Like the rest of us, he needs at least eight hours every night. And like the rest of us Donald should give sleep a chance.