Monday, June 15, 2009

Why do not we sleep more?

Most Westerns seem to be sleep deprived.

Being tired is negative for many aspects of life.
It makes feeling worse, reduces working and living effectiveness and more.

Are people that stupid?

I have an escape. As I find it hard to fall asleep on command, I cannot be accused for not going to sleep on time. I have relatively less control on it (I still may do tricks, but forgive me, I am superhuman with intelligent excuses)

1) Too "low" in value and salience?
Many see life in terms of their larger goals, namely, their paychecks, social status, family, philosophical ruminations, etc.
Having more sleep is too human, and low level to consider a central goal to fight about. (if something is not important enough, is has lower chance to get throught)
This is compatible with research by Danny Kahneman about moment to moment happiness.
When you ask people "how happy are you?" the response is not very correlated with how much sleep they get.
If you track their day by the hour, however, you will find that sleep has a strong effect.
Sleep affects our actual experience moment to moment. But it does not reflect in our general evaluation of our live (then we look at our paycheck, family status etc.).

2) Another problem is self-control. It takes quite some willpower to put oneself to sleep when an interesting book, TV, or simple laziness whispers us to stay awake.

Controlling oneself is far from simple, or easy.

3) Personal time.
Not all hours in a day are made equal.
A 9 hours worker who spends the first 12 hours of the day in waking up, preparing, commuting, etc. etc. may be free to himself only after 12-13 hours. Then one may even take some time to relax and get some energy and focus.
Ultimately, the last hour he stole from sleep, may have increase his free time from 4 to five hours, or maybe even from 2 to 3. Which is a huge change.

It is arguable how much do we value the experience at work, etc. etc. But the point is true.

4) The complexity of emotional energy, and getting relaxed.
For some people it may take some time or activities inorer to get into a sleep mood and phisiological relaxation.
These procedures are complex and for many unconscious.
So when deciding "I go to sleep on 11 pm". Most will not take it as staying at home from 9 pm on to relax. But rather in an appointment style, meaning that at 11:00 they will say to themselves "now sleep". As if one can go to sleep in an instant.

5) What do we want form life?
While it seems intuitive that people want to feel good, it is not clear that this is what we are inclined to do naturally.
Our evolutionary heritage may have programmed us towards wanting power, status, sex. Not necessarily towards happiness.
If our life is geared towards these other goals, it is no wonder if we fail to sleep enough. It is simply not on the agenda.


i.c. said...

(not too seriously in the morning)
a simple equation: who wants to get up in the morning... but often enough we make ourselves;
who wants to go to sleep if one has survived a day and feels fine... so often we go on;
adding those effects = too little sleep

(an idea)
maybe sleep deprivation works a little bit like alcohol or drugs - it makes life bearable because one neither realizes how bad it is, nor is there energy to improve

(more seriously)
I definitely agree that "too little sleep" is a good example of how good "instruments" are not used for various reasons

Yechezkel Zilber said...

there seem to be ways to improve life that go neglected.

why? can it change? how?

This is the trillion dollar question in life management and happiness.

It is my general impression that there are things that will improve life for many.
Some are certainly illusion. impractical high costs, etc.
But certain things are useful etc. and I am wondering how many of these positive neglected tricks are there, and whether they can be somehow used.

PS. Many people are taught that you should be "serious" which means sleeping less etc.
These perceptions about what a "normal" life and "good" life is etc. cause in my humble intuition quite a bit of harm.