Let’s End Sleep Shaming

Posted on
We live in an age where people feel the need to critique everything, no matter how personal. This can result in unnecessary insecurity and shame for the person being critiqued. Let’s break the cycle of shame: embrace your personal expression of sleep, naysayers be damned. 

Early on in my marriage, I was working a horrible job as a repo man.

The hours were abysmal, the schedule inconsistent (constantly hopping from mornings to evenings to everything in between), and the work backbreaking. As a result, I was basically asleep by the time I got home no matter what time that was. 

Of course, my newly minted wife would want to talk and connect when I got home. I would do the best I could to remain engaged in the conversation, but inevitably, I would doze off while she was talking. I felt terrible about it, but there was so little I could do to control it! Try as I might, I would constantly fall asleep at inopportune times, making my wife feel unimportant. 

Eventually, we got to a place where I would drift off mid-conversation, my wife would ask “are you asleep?!” and I would wake up and respond with some indignant version of “Of course not! Why are you asking that?” I became very stressed about her thinking I was asleep, whether or not it was actually true. 

Finally, one night, she was telling me about her day while folding laundry. I was sitting on our bed, and I just couldn’t keep my eyes open.

I had an idea: I rolled over with  my back to my wife, pulled out my phone, and opened up my Scrabble app.

She knew I loved to play Scrabble, so this didn’t raise any alarms. I then closed my eyes, and just kept moving my thumb around on the phone’s screen. She asked if I was asleep, and I roused myself enough to say “I’m just playing Scrabble! Come on!” Unfortunately, she came around to the side of the bed and saw that my eyes were closed, and I was just tapping away on my phone’s powered-down screen in my sleep. 

Where Does Sleep Shame Come From?

In the case above, the sleep shame origin story was born out of knowing my wife was disappointed. We had just gotten married, moved 1,000 miles to a town where she knew no one, and the one person who was supposed to be there for her couldn’t stay awake long enough to recount his day. 

While that scenario may be too specific for most, I think one more wide-spread factory for sleep shame is the startup/grind/entrepreneur movement. 

Everybody’s an entrepreneur these days. Everyone’s a budding mogul. Everyone’s hustling, grinding, hacking, blah blah blah. But you know what they aren’t doing? Sleeping. 

Sleep has become an abomination in the eyes of the rise-and-grind, productivity-hacking, startup-culture worshiping, business podcast listeners. If you’re sleeping, you’re not #winning, and no one’s going to buy your $99 course on how you ditched sleep and doubled your income in 30 days. 

Oh, you’re tired? Did you even try moving your ice plunge into your sauna while microdosing Ayahuasca and macrodosing Yerba Mate? You’ll never hit the big time, bro. 

If Startup Bros Don’t Sleep, Why Should I?

For one, these people aren’t doing as well as they might have you believe. According to a study by Dr. Michael A. Freeman that compared mental health issues between entrepreneurs and “normal” people, entrepreneurs had a nearly 50% rate of personal mental health conditions compared to 32% of non-entrepreneurs. That’s more than a 50% increase in mental health conditions for entrepreneurs. The study also found that entrepreneurs have double the rate of depression and 3x the rate of substance abuse. Interestingly, the NIH links poor sleep to an uptick in depression and suicide – who’d of thunk it?

Let Your Sleep Flag Fly

Life is stressful enough with a good night’s sleep. Don’t put yourself behind the 8 ball trying to keep up with LinkedInfluencers and podcasters who are propping themselves up with illicit drugs. Take pride in your sleep, and get plenty of it. That way you’ll have the energy necessary to step into one of the many executive-level positions that will soon be available when the current sleepless c–suite burns out.