May 27, 2019
No matter the mode of transportation, the faster you go, the less control you have. If you’ve ever tried to turn on a dime when sprinting or swerve to avoid a squirrel while speeding down a sleepy boulevard, you know the feeling.
Changing direction at a top speed is difficult and it’s also a great way to get injured or cause an accident.
To make matters worse, the problem is not just that you have less control, but also that the potential for a bad outcome increases with speed. When driving slowly, swerving into a tree is annoying, but not fatal. Increase the speed to 50 miles per hour and outcomes get increasingly bad and potentially fatal.
Failing to slow down in our work is the same as speeding. When we don’t get enough rest, we’re taking the same risks. Arianna Huffington presents a particularly dramatic example of what can happen when we don’t slow down. In April 2007, sleep deprived and exhausted, she collapsed in a board meeting - her face hitting the table so hard that she broke her cheekbone. She turned it into a learning opportunity and has dedicated herself to building more sustainable workplaces for herself and her employees — but she almost didn’t have the chance.
Moreover, burn out and exhaustion do not need to be cinematic to do damage. When we’re sleep deprived and exhausted, our attention, working memory, mood, and cognitive function are all affected — and sleep’s the best medicine. As one paper put it:
Few countermeasures to the neurobehavioral effects of sleep deprivation have been identified, and there is no substitute for sleep when it comes to stable wakefulness. Sleep duration is the best predictor of daily recovery of neurobehavioral functioning.¹
When sleep deprived, the ability to perform tasks that require additional energy is impaired and the ability of the system to overcome the deficiencies caused by sleep loss is limited. Taking on tasks that require effort including school work, meal preparation, pulling off the road to nap when driving drowsy appear to be more challenging during sleep loss. Sleep loss impacts the effort-related choices we make and those choices may influence our health and safety.²
Racing through life despite the understanding that the faster we go, the more control we surrender and the greater the likelihood for a catastrophic outcome is foolish. It’s a dereliction of our duty to ourselves by failing to avoid the avoidable.
Written by Stephen Weiss who lives in Chicago with his wife, Kate, and dog, Finn. Follow him on Twitter!