Image: Arman Zhenikeyev / Corbis
I’ve had trouble with sleep since I was a kid, and it makes waking up early hell. I have a delayed circadian rhythm, which means I have no trouble staying up late, but trying to falling asleep early is impossible. When I had to wake up to commute to a 9am job, I’d often lie in bed awake from 11pm to 3am the night before, trying desperately to fall asleep.
And boy did that affect my performance and mood at work. I often left the office exhausted and feeling I just had to blow $30 on beer “because I deserved it” for slogging through yet another miserable day.
That’s why I can never understand it when people tell me they voluntarily stay up till 2am on a work night watching YouTube or playing DOTA. If you’re the kind of person who feels like a champ after 5 hours of sleep, good for you, but for the rest of us, here’s how getting too little sleep can make us not only grumpier but also poorer.
1. You’re willing to spend more for convenience
Singapore is often lauded as the land of convenience—whether you need a quick meal at 2am, want to go shopping late at night or wish to completely outsource your housecleaning/cooking/childrearing duties, you can quickly and easily get it done, so long as you’re willing to pay the price.
That’s the problem—we’re all too ready to shell out cash for convenience. And believe it or not, a chronic lack of sleep will make you far more willing to do it.
Exhaustion is the main reason so many of my friends take taxis to or from work almost every day, despite the fact that it would cost them less than one tenth the price to take the bus or MRT.
When you’re so exhausted you’re actually nauseated, the thought of spending an extra hour on public transport is not appetising. Neither is cooking at home when you can just sit down to dinner at a restaurant or food court, or bothering to comparison shop just to save a few bucks.
2. You spend more to wake yourself up
Human bodies weren’t designed to be sit in front of a computer all day long whilst fighting sleep. If you’ve ever narrowly avoided losing a tooth by slamming your face on the keyboard as you dozed off, you know that feeling sleepy every second of the day is real torture (for real – detained terrorists are tortured with sleep deprivation too).
And once you reach a certain level of fatigue, the discomfort is so real and makes you so desperate you’re willing to spend on just about anything to wake yourself up—even if that something is a daily $5 cup of Starbucks coffee. Just that alone would cost you over $100 a month.
For those who are really desperate, there are now rentable sleep spaces in the CBD area. A 30-minute snooze costs $20 to $28 at Chop! Chop! Massage Express at Chevron House.
When people are actually willing to pay for sleep, it makes you wonder if it’s only a matter of time before they will start paying their employers to give them personal time, too.
3. Your healthcare spending increases
I’ve worked at all types of hours. I’ve stayed at the office from 9am to 2am, and have also worked security guard type hours, starting work at 7pm and continuing on till sunrise. So I think I’ve had a pretty good chance to observe the effects of various sleep patterns on my health.
And I can say without a doubt that during the times when I was sleep deprived, I fell sick five times more easily. After more than a week of feeling intensely sleep-deprived my body would usually shut down by running a fever and I’d be forced to catch up on lost sleep.
Even now, though I do try to get my 8 hours every night, each time I come down with a nasty flu or infection, it always happen on a day when I’m exhausted from not having slept enough.
Now, everyone’s body is different, and I’m not saying you can’t be some mutant with immune power.
But if you’re not, be prepared to increase your spending on healthcare and other peripherals like vitamin supplements as your immune system shuts down.
4. You’re compelled to treat yourself more often
On hindsight, buying that Burberry trench coat wasn’t such a good idea, especially considering the fact that even flashers don’t wear trench coats in Singapore. But at the time, you were so tired and stressed out from work you just weren’t thinking straight, and it seemed like a good way to reward yourself for all your hard work.
You rationalised the purchase by telling yourself you could wear it on your next overseas holiday.
After a good night’s sleep, you realised you’d spent $800 on something you’ll wear once every two years max.
Sleep deprivation is intensely stressful. You might be able to handle one or two all nighters at the office, but if it’s an everyday affair, your stress levels could reach an all-time high. Just ask the rookie lawyers at big four firms who sometimes leave the office after midnight every day for months on end.
When you’re stressed out and in physical discomfort, you’d have to be a machine to make good decisions.
Singaporeans are pretty susceptible to the philosophy that it’s okay to spend handsomely to treat yourself since your job is so stressful.
Obviously, that’s not a good idea, but when you’re already standing at the counter in the boutique with those $500 shoes in your hands, it takes a clear mind to talk yourself out of it—preferably one that’s not buckling under the stress of sleep deprivation.
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