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It bewilders me that sleep deprivation is seen as a valued asset in Silicon Valley. As a sleep medicine physician, I see people rising earlier and earlier to avoid traffic. Knowingly or not, they have traded sleep to be more "productive" at work

The medical community has conclusively researched the ill-effects of sleep restriction. We commit more errors, make regrettable decisions, are difficult to work with, and, worst of all, cause fatal errors when sleep-deprived. Many major industrial accidents have been attributed to lack of sleep. Medical residency has revamped training to avoid work shifts beyond 24 hours. Yet, going without sleep to meet deadlines, is still prized as commitment to the workplace in many industries.

I wonder if decision-makers of major companies realize that sleep deprivation is torture, a technique used against our war-time enemies. We broadcasted loud music and sounds to disrupt the enemy's sleep. Why in the world would we encourage sleep loss from one's staff and expect higher productivity?

To emphasize wellness alone is insufficient. We know that work schedule flexibility, and adequate periods for sleep results in higher productivity, less error, less absenteeism and improved mood. Similarly, high school students also need enough sleep to learn effectively.

Our immune system, memory, recall, coordination and sense of orientation all function better with adequate rest. It's time for policies that encourage adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation is no badge of honor; it is a productivity loss leader. Let's eliminate this concept from health and wellness.


With a Perspective, I'm Kin Yuen.

Kin Yuen is a sleep medicine physician, practicing in the Bay Area for two decades.