In a recent article, I wrote about how happiness has become an unhealthy obsession. It is impossible to be happy all the time, and most people do not even understand what it means to be happy.

Incredibly, the pursuit for success, not health or happiness, has taken a key role in modern society, even if the price of success, if achieved, is extremely high for money to pay for it.

One of the currencies people who want to be successful do not normally value is health. Women decide not to have children, so they can climb the professional ladder earlier in life, so they can appear to be successful and independent to themselves and others.

Men, who die earlier and take on more dangerous lifestyles than women, both at work and generally in life, suffer even more the consequences of “being successful”.

Consulting with the pillow is not fashionable anymore

There are training courses for entrepreneurs that detail how many hours to devote to sleep, and recommendations that circulate on the Internet. They consist of sleeping three hours in a row and taking three naps of 20 minutes throughout the day.

It is a custom that is associated with job success. From Elon Musk to the top executives of most multinational companies, it is not uncommon for the success of executives to be attributed to the alleged virtue of squeezing out waking time to the fullest.

Science warns that stealing rest hours between sheets has a price for health: little sleep affects cognitive performance, behavior and metabolism. With this strategy, the price of success is health.

The relationship between sleep time and professional success is a product of a post-industrial society.

With electric light, the concept of sleeping eight hours in a row and the management of night work appears, but over time the idea also arose that the one who needs few hours of sleep is more productive.

Sleeping more is more productive

In practice, most people need good hours of sleep, between seven and eight hours, experts warn, and it cannot be said that this is spending time on an unproductive task.

One of the functions of sleep is to process and consolidate learning, attention and memory. Great geniuses have made great discoveries upon waking up after a good dream.

Sleeping means continuing to work because the brain cleans the bombardment of information accumulated during the day. Our biology is prepared for short periods of lack of sleep in stressful or urgent situations, but not in the long term.

Numerous studies have revealed that the habit of devoting a few hours to sleep reduces cognitive performance, causes a deficit in attention and loss of ability to make decisions, in addition to increasing states of stress, anxiety and depression.

Human beings are ‘circadian animals’, programmed for sleep-wake cycles lasting 24 hours. Sleeping a few hours is a type of physiological aggression to our body and, in particular, to the brain.

Sleeping less chronically alters the neurohormonal pattern, with cognitive and emotional problems that result in difficulties in acquiring new learning and causes problems to archive new information. In addition, there is an increase in nervousness and anxiety until the appearance of hallucinatory disorders, in the more extreme cases.

In the absence of sleep, more diseases will appear

Thinking that sleeping is wasting time has health consequences. Some, such as drowsiness and loss of attention, are noted the next day, while others do so in the long term, such as increasing the risk of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative disorders.

Some studies show that sleep function avoids toxic substances such as beta-amyloid protein, which if deposited excessively in the brain can become a mechanism that favors the appearance of Alzheimer’s disease.

Little sleep, in addition to creating drowsiness, lack of concentration and memory, increases the risk of hypertension and metabolic disorders, an increase in glucose levels that implies a higher risk of developing diabetes.

It also promotes appetite, which can lead to being overweight. Lack of sleep pushes you to peck or drink sugary or caffeinated drinks. And changing satiety management also disrupts sleep.

Another important issue is whether the health effects of little sleep also occur when you wake up very early.

During the REM and non-REM phases of sleep there is a great hormonal and neurophysiological seizure, necessary to repair the organism and the brain.

Getting up very early does not necessarily cause alterations, provided that sleep has been sufficiently restorative. It is very important that a complete sleep cycle is completed.

Each cycle lasts 80 minutes and we need to sleep five or six cycles every night. If we wake up without completing the cycle, we will have more chances of feeling tired, nervous and less cognitively effective.

In any case, and as much as we strive, the choice of sleep hours is not ours, but of the brain, a response of genetic programming.

In the hypothalamus, there is a sleep regulatory center, the zeitgeber, which synchronizes it to avoid a time lag that disrupts the wakefulness and sleep cycles.

Only a small percentage of the population can work well with a reduced number of hours of sleep, due to a mutation of inherited genes, Only about 3% of people can function well with less than six hours of sleep without seeing their health impaired.

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