Less Sleep, Less Sharp – 5 Lessons from Science for the Type A Personality

A healthy life needs loving relationships, good nutrition, some activity and lots of rest. Rest doesn’t mean being a couch potato! It means getting enough sleep. 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. who have a job routinely get less than 6 hours of sleep per night. I am one of those adults, are you? Science is showing us that if you sleep less, you are less mentally sharp. This article delves more into that science to show how lack of sleep for a Type A personality affects your ability to think, understand, learn and remember.

So I have a confession to make.

According to my Fitbit, I averaged 4 hours and 44 minutes sleep every night this week.

 

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Source: Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, National Health Interview Survey, 2005–2007

Since I started working again after having Tobias, I have gone back to my bad sleep deprived habits. These habits greatly contrast to what I learned from the book, Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson. I spoke about this here.

How Many Hours Sleep Do You Need Each Night?

Does sleeping less than hours each night make me “sleep deprived”? I mean how does every other working mom cope? I have responsibilities. I have places to be, people to see. I have to-dos to be checked off my list. 

According to The National Institutes of Health, I am sleep deprived. Adults need 7-8 hours sleep each night.

The Sleep Better Council is even more specific, saying adults aged between 19-55 need 8 hours sleep per night.

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OK I know what I should do, but who does that, right?

Personality Type and Sleep

My lack of sleep could be linked to my Personality Type. It’s a double-edged sword being a Type A when it comes to sleep.

Trouble Falling Asleep

Type As have a hard time falling asleep.

If something unpleasant, awkward or bad happens in our day, Type As takes it to bed with them.

We ponder.

We stew.

We dwell.

In short, they let things “get” to them.

The result? The brain is stimulated in bed rather than winding down.

Going To Bed Late

Type As do not like wasting time.

We are perfectionists.

We are over-achievers.

We are workaholics.  

We have so many things to do. And it ALL needs to get done. Sleeping enough isn’t on the list – why waste time sleeping?

What’s the outcome? We stay up late at night to get things done and then when we get to bed, we can’t sleep.

Ughh! How frustrating!

Lesson From Science #1: Less Sleep Leads To Lower Cognitive Performance

The brain patterns of 839 sleepers were analyzed in a new study in Brain and Behavior at the University of Utah. There were 2 groups of sleepers:

  • Conventional Sleepers got 7-9 hours of sleep each night
  • Short Sleepers like me got less than 6 hours sleep each night.

Although the Short Sleeper often denied what the researchers termed as “daytime dysfunction”, the MRI showed “diminished wakefulness.” This goes a long way to explain the need for strong coffee and sugary treats by mid-afternoon. 

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Source: Inc. magazine “Think You Can Stay Sharp Despite Less Sleep? You’re Wrong, According to Science”

Inc. magazine concluded from the study that

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 Source: Inc. magazine “Think You Can Stay Sharp Despite Less Sleep? You’re Wrong, According to Science”

 

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Lesson From Science #2: Poor Sleep Reduces Focus and Attentiveness

Type A’s are highly consciousness. They work hard. They have successful careers or are entrepreneurs. But could the key to more success be something as simple as getting more sleep?

Inc. magazine believes that the primary asset of any successful professional or entrepreneur in our Knowledge Economy is the brain. I agree.  And if science shows that your brain functions better after a good night’s sleep, then I am listening. That can only be good for my professional, business and personal life.

 

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Have you noticed when you don’t get enough sleep that you are slow to complete tasks?

And do you make mistakes more easily?

Check out the research that supports this.

And if you are a Type A, you are more likely to make bad decisions when you haven’t had enough sleep because you are more impulsive and impatient.

drunk

Don’t believe me? Check our more scientific research here.

Lesson from Science #3: You Can’t Operate on Less Than 5 Hours Of Sleep Each Night

According to Inc. magazine, researchers have concluded that if you think you can operate on less than 5 hours sleep per night, you are delusional.

That lack of sleep is dulling your sense to accurately assess your abilities. You think you are productive, you are putting in the hours but you are achieving less. You think you are effective, but you are actually making more mistakes.

Calling all professionals and entrepreneurs who “don’t have time” to sleep, the message is many high performers and famous people credit their success to getting enough sleep at night.

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Lesson From Science #4: Less Sleep, Less Learning

Remember the point I made earlier about your brain being your biggest asset if you are a professional or entrepreneur? In this Knowledge Economy, you are expected to keep that brain fresh with new thinking, concepts and skills. But when you suffer from a consistent lack of sleep, you are not giving your brain enough time to consolidate all the memories from the day. As a result, your short and long term memory shrinks so you retain less new information that you learned and you tend to remember less of what you experienced.

American Psychological Association talks about researchers teaching test subjects to perform a visual discrimination task. When the subjects were tested on these tasks on the same day they were taught, they showed no improvement. 

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A study at Harvard Medical School found that sleep had a significant impact on performance relating to motor skills. The group of subjects that had a nights sleep after training improved their performance the most.

Lesson From Science #5: Less Sleep Leads to Raw Emotional Reactions

This one I have experienced first hand.

At work, I read an inflammatory email and I write a response angrily. DO NOT PRESS SEND just yet. That venting email is bound to come back to you in a negative way. I go for a walk. Return to my desk calmer. Write a constructive email and then press 

At home, I am Mrs Cranky Pants. Irritable. Short-fused. I will lash out at my loved ones.

Without adequate sleep, people, like me, have no emotional filter for our anger and frustration.

More sleep will make us more emotionally balanced and that means becoming a better partner and a better colleague and leader at work.

There is a very close relationship between sleep and emotional well being. According to Frank aka The Sleep Judge (Health Benefits of Sleeping)…

What Have You Learnt From This Article?

Get at least 7 hours sleep each night if you are a Type A personality and need your brain to be your primary asset in your professional or business life. This will improve your cognitive function and bring more emotional balance into your life.

May the zzzzzs be with you!