I don’t understand why American culture undervalues sleep so much. 40% of Americans routinely get less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night. We tolerate our leaders consistently depriving themselves of sleep, and even culturally consider less sleep to be a desirable trait indicative of hard workers.
Bill Clinton self-described himself as a “functional insomniac” and was documented to get 4–6 hours of sleep per night while president.
President Obama seems to get around 5–6 hours of sleep per night: he goes to bed around 1am (or even 2 am) and wakes up around 7am.
The truth of the matter is: unless you have a rare mutation that allows you to function well on less sleep (Benjamin Franklin is speculated to have had this “Thatcher Gene”), you need 7–9 hours of sleep as an adult. As a teenager, you need even more: 9–10 hours.
A week and a half of getting just 6 hours of sleep (the most President Obama ever gets in a night) can result in the same level of impairment on the 10th day as being awake for the past 24 hours straight. In terms of level of impairment, this is equivalent to a BAC level of 0.1.
The prefrontal cortex is responsible for complex thought and logical reasoning. It is also one of the most susceptible brain structures to sleep deprivation.
Would you trust the President of the United States making decisions while intoxicated? If not, you should’t accept the president making decisions while sleep deprived either.
The president has a unique power through the bully-pulpit to help change America’s perception of sleep. I trust that the president can surround himself with advisors who can make decisions while he or she revitalizes their own decision making skills.