How many times have you heard a peer boast about the two hours of sleep they’ve had, scrolled past a #riseandgrind post on your feed or had someone proudly showcase a planner crammed with events? Every day we groan and compete about how busy, productive and exhausted we are.
Don’t get me wrong. Working hard is important. As college students budding into our careers, displaying more effort and pushing through late nights are easy ways to communicate dedication and commitment to our professors, potential employers and peers.
However, when we use exhaustion and fatigue as status symbols, we perpetuate harmful mindsets that can cause irreversible damage to our bodies and mental health.
According to research from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, sleep deprivation leads to a slew of harmful health consequences such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and a correlation to mood disorders.
The irony of it all is that compromising sleep or other basic human needs for a productivity spike is not effective. A study conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine revealed a negative correlation between sleep and productivity.
In the 2018 study, participants who reported getting five to six hours of sleep experienced 19% more productivity loss while those who reported getting less than five hours of sleep experienced 29% more productivity loss, compared to those who regularly got seven to eight hours of sleep.
In a college setting, many of us have adopted a “hustle culture” lifestyle, exerting ourselves at maximum capacity to meet the societal standards of success we created for ourselves. When we begin to normalize exhaustion and proudly wear it as a badge of honor, we begin to feel as though we have to handle double to triple the workload of a generation ago.
Admittedly, I am not the shining example of someone who maintains a healthy work-life balance. I’ve spent way too many Sunday nights stuffing tasks into a Google Calendar, smiling at the rainbow of tasks I have laid out for the week.
I’ve skipped way too many lunch breaks to cross off yet another task on an endless to-do list.
I’ve missed countless hours of sleep to squeeze in just one more reading for class.
I have boasted about the two hours of sleep I had. But what I’ve realized is that there is no gratifying feeling after pushing myself to my absolute limits and it didn’t make me a better person. It made me a tired person.