The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Losing sleep

April 30 2013 30 April 2013

Not getting enough rest? Join the club...

I don’t know whether William Shakespeare ever suffered from sleep deprivation, but he certainly appreciated the restorative power of a good night’s rest.

It “knits up the ravelled sleeve of care; it’s the balm of hurt minds; great nature’s second course; the chief nourisher in life’s feast,” he wrote in Macbeth, perfectly  and poetically illustrating why we need to satisfy this basic human need — and hinting at what losing sleep costs us.

Today, many people are missing out on the chief nourisher in life’s feast. We toss and turn before falling into a fitful sleep that does not leave us rested. Or we steal from our night’s slumber to squeeze a few more tasks into our day. Either way, we are not allowing sleep to perform its healing function — and we’re paying the price in diminished productivity and poor health.

Not surprisingly, lawyers are prime candidates for sleep deprivation. As Lyndsie Bourgon reports in this issue, the profession ranked second in a recent U.S. study of sleep-deprived occupations, with respondents reporting they get just over seven hours of sleep per night. Lawyers apparently responded with astonishment that so many members of the profession were able to luxuriate in such sloth.

Our insistence on pushing ourselves beyond what is sustainable over the long term is responsible for attitudes like this. Working hard, long hours is a badge of honour and being able to do it on minimal sleep earns bragging rights. Unfortunately, it also has consequences for our health and productivity. Chronic sleep deprivation contributes to serious health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. And it undermines cognitive functions that we rely on to perform at our best.

We’ve got some tips for you on how to ensure you’re getting the rest you need along with some compelling facts about why it’s so important.

Make a commitment to look after yourself. Who knows what dreams may come?

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