Interview Question: How much sleep a night do you get? Part 3

During Part 1
of my three part series on asking about sleep, I looked at the question
of “How much sleep a night do you get?” mostly from the view point of
the interviewee. In part 2 I tried to look at it from a general
perspective; focusing primarily on memory retention. In this final part of the 3 part series I will look at the question from the point of view of the potential employer.

I referenced the CBS 60 Minutes on sleep in part 2 of this series and I will get more into the findings now. So much of what I’m writing is sourced there.

On average a person spends one third of their lives asleep. That is 33% of your life is spent unconscious and immobile. Sounds like a good portion of your life is wasted. But think of it this way, something about sleep is so important that humans, and all other animals and insects, take the risk. Think about that from a business perspective and do a trade off analysis. Something about sleep is so vital that you would risk one third of your time to do it. What is fascinating is that researchers are finding that sleep serves many functions.

To change gears back to the question in the interview “How much sleep a night do you get?” Is this a valid question to ask? If I’m an interviewer and the interview is going well, I will ask it. What I’m looking for is an answer beyond 7 hours. As I’ve written before, it is a personal question and what someone does away from work is their own business, but this question does impact work.

Consider this, being sleep deprived begins to have a cumulative
impairment on your cognitive ability and not only that, you believe you
are doing an adequate job anyway. For instance, a Virginia Tech study of people recorded while they drive found that driving drowsy was the number one driving problem. Drivers microsleep. To me that is startling because if someone can’t operate an automobile without microsleeping, or worse, falling asleep entirely, then how will this person perform on the job? Performance problems can be expected just from the impairment of the cognitive ability.

The prior example is physical in nature, the research also showed that their are affects in the brain occurring as well. The area that controls emotion begins to overreact and even hyper react during sleep reduction. And the frontal lobe (the area that controls logic and reason) isn’t able to keep the emotion areas in check. This creates mood swings and chaotic behavior. So not only do you have a person that has their cognitive ability impaired, but this person is also more emotional than normal. And who knows what that might mean in the work environment. Good luck to any team that has planned collaboration scheduled.

Finally, another brain situation is that the hormone leptin, which controls energy intake, starts to go haywire. People that are sleepy are hungry. Just 6 days of continued lack of sleep can result in someone who consumes irregular amounts of food, all the way to the point of being considered prediabetic. That is just after 6 days. So not only do we have a person that is impaired physically and emotionally, but this person is starting to be a health risk. This potentially can result in more sick days and higher insurance premiums.

In summary, the benefits of getting enough sleep far outweigh the hour or so a night that is being sacrificed. The advantages are there for the employee and employer. “How much sleep a night do you get?” In 1960 the answer is 8 hours and today it is 6.7 hours.


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