Let’s consider how you manage critical hardware running production infrastructure. You are carefully monitoring it (at least you should be), analyzing suspicious events and potentially replacing or adding new parts whenever necessary. To have the hardware performing efficiently all the time you are spending significant amount of time on maintenance. You will also spend time on your software project maintenance to make it usable for current and future customers. But what about your mobile? You are always aware of the battery level. I, at least, never forget to charge mine overnight (at least I have to when using a smartphone with most of the features enabled). You are also aware of your car fuel tank reserve and usually remember to refuel it on time.
Do you treat sleep in the same manner? Or do you consider sleep as wasted time? There are so many interesting projects, silly cat videos, rss reader unchecked news, not to mention gaining another few points on stackoverflow and answering just a few emails. And maybe you are the gaming type, only having time to play a few hours in the evening. The reality is we always have more things to do than time available. This combined with temptation to sacrifice one or two hours of sleep can lead to overall decreased productivity and even disastrous effects.
Partial sleep deprivation affects both your psyche and body. There are many resources among the web (some aggregated info you can find is, as always, on Wikipedia: Sleep, Sleep debt, Sleep deprivation) so I will mention only a few interesting facts to catch your attention and convince you as to the importance of the topic. One of the most important issues is decreased performance of higher-order cognitive brain processes. I do not need to emphasize how important they are in any software development related job. Other unfortunate side effects are very bad moods and lack of motivation. In one study, subjects were tested using a sustained-attention, reaction-timed task that measures the speed with which subjects respond to a visual stimulus (check out more: PVT). Different groups of people were tested with different sleep patterns for two weeks: 8 hours, 6 hours, 4 hours, and total sleep deprivation. It appeared that people who slept 6 hours a night for 10 days had similar results to those who were completely sleep deprived for 1 day. If you are sleeping this way, you are probably not even aware of how your brain processes are affected by sleep deprivation!
Your body is also highly affected. Lack of sleep leads to:
- headaches – how it influence your productivity and motivation,
- overall physical fatigue – same as above,
- your body healing abilities,
- aching muscles.
Your feeling of being tired everyday might be closely related to your sleep debt.
Up to this moment I hope I have fully convinced you that sleep is critical for anyone who treats their work and life seriously. If you feel that you might have problems with sleep deprivation do not hesitate to start tracking your sleep hours. You can do it manually by simply recording the data or by using one of the many Android/iOS applications available: Sleep as Android, Sleepbot (iOS) andSleepCycle (iOS/Android). Apps have many additional useful fancy features such as sleep stages and movement monitoring, automatic trends generation, graceful/gentle wake ups and many more. No matter how you track your sleep, keep in mind that you shouldn’t accumulate sleep debt as it will drastically lower your overall performance. If you are sleeping on average for less than 7 or 8 hours a day (US adult median has been about 8 hours per day for a few decades), it is just not worth it. You will spend that time much more productively by just sleeping.