Only Child views sleep deprivation and ethics

Only Child trying to catch up on zz's

I wish I could sleep like I used to as a child – as in sounder sleep and longer sleep time (usually). I remember my mom banging on my bedroom door and calling, “Sharon, time to get up.”  I wasn’t too happy about it if it was  a school day. Weekends were another matter.

These days, although it is an alarm clock, not my late mother waking me up, my wake-up mood remains the same on weekdays, grumpy and dazed, with one exception – spring and summer when it is actually daylight with the sun streaming in when I open my eyes. In my late teens and early 20s I used to burn the midnight oil reading a good mystery book. That remains the same, except it is more like way past the midnight hour. It seems after turning off the TV at 11.30 p.m. when I have my fill of the news and weather, instead of getting ready for bed I dive into housework. Stuff on my “to-do” list not yet done, even stuff not on today’s to-do list. My mantra seems to be “don’t leave to tomorrow what you can do tonight.”

So, if I get five to six hours of sleep on weeknights, I’m “lucky.” I try to make up for it on weekends by sleeping an hour later, something the sleep experts don’t recommend. The experts say you should go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time each day. They obviously aren’t considering the “only person syndrome” lifestyle as I call it.

But not getting enough sleep each night definitely has its “side-effects” and not all of them are what you might expect, i.e., a little cranky, can’t remember someone’s name or where you put your  keys (try the door for the latter), and putting your immune system in peril. But a study has shown that if we don’t get enough sleep we might turn into mini-depraved monsters.

The study, conducted by Michael Christian of the Kenan-Flagler Business School (University of North Carolina) and Aleksander Ellis of Eller College of Management (University of Arizona) discovered this from something not commonly done in a sleep lab. A group of nurses and students deliberately pulled all nighters. The next day they were more prone not only to be rude but to steal money. (Reported in the Washington Post, May 13, 2011. See

The problem is glucose just doesn’t metabolize as it should when we don’t get enough zz’s. Most of us know that glucose gives our brain energy but did you know that it also helps the brain to function ethically? All this occurs (or not) in the prefrontal cortex part of the brain. This area manages tasks such as keeping our emotions and behaviour in check. And like the rest of our bodies, this part of the brain needs its beauty sleep to work properly.

That can bring out wacko behaviour in our personal and professional lives, such as yelling at clients, having a hissy fit in a bank or store check-out line-up, and the one we have all sent or received – the nasty email. And we should not use sleep deprivation as the go ahead to bill a client way above our normal rates. Wait until you get enough sleep to go for a fee increase and let the client know first.

You are not alone in lack of sleep. The National Sleep Foundation states that between 1999 and 2009, the number of Americans getting under six hours of zz’s a night has skyrocketed from 13 percent to 20 percent. I’m guessing it is still climbing, given our 24/7work culture and pre-occupation with technology.

So, the new mantra could be: lose your sleep time, lose your ethics.

Now where did I put my keys? They aren’t in my door. Maybe check another section of my purse. Heck, maybe some other sleep-deprived person swiped them. Wait a minute, unless a ghost got into my place…


Happy zz’s

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under brain, Ethics, glucose, Only child, prefrontal cortex, Sharon Crawford, Sleep deprivation, Stealing, to do list

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