Tiredness, Exhaustion and Burnout
The city never sleeps and neither, it seems, does its workers. Long hours are now a staple of the glamorous city life, with many films and TV shows depicting its protagonists in late-night office scenarios, sporting crystal glasses of whiskey and wearing £5000 suits.
For those that live this lifestyle however the truth is that 90 hour weeks only promise prestige and riches in the future, if you forego your personal life now, mortgaging your future.
Abstaining from social life is one thing but the exhaustion of such unforgiving hours at the office is far more concerning and would have most asking “is this really worth it?”
Aiming for three to four hours sleep a night has become the norm for many, especially in the banking and technology sectors where there are enough sub-30- year-old millionaires to keep a steady flow of interest from the young talent following suit. But what if you aren’t actually getting three to four hours of restorative, Stage 4 non-REM and REM sleep?
We are told that on average the partner of a snorer loses 90 minutes of sleep per night. So that equates to a maximum of two and half hours restorative sleep if you happen to share your bed with a snorer.
If you are the one snoring and working on this time schedule, even two and a half hours of restorative sleep a night is optimistic and therefore incredibly dangerous.
The sufferer is building a continuous backlog of sleep debt which becomes impossible to repay, blindly passing through days on end without getting sufficient rest.
The health risks involved will be highlighted shortly but it is amazing that businesses that operate like this don’t address this problem. The raw facts are that their people will get less done, less effectively and need more time to do it if they are exhausted. This quickly becomes what is now widely recognized as “burnout”.
What do top companies want from their people? Why would they want to create a population that without proper sleep are guaranteed to have slower reaction times, reduced accuracy, cognitive impairment, become irritable easily and experience serious lapses in memory, even suffering permanent memory loss? This method is clearly unsustainable for all involved as the employee struggles and the employer is destined to lose good people.
Remember that the epidemic, and it is becoming just that, of burnout in the professional considers only those who are aiming to get two to three hours of restorative sleep per night. If you are a snorer the available time to fall into deep mental sleep repair is significantly decreased.
Using the survival mantra of the three 3s, one cannot survive for longer than:
•3 minutes without air
•3 days without water
•3 weeks without food
With respect to sleep, there have been numerous cases and indeed challenges to measure the extremes in time a subject is able to stay awake, some reaching the outer limits of a full week. Whilst the subjects did not die in these cases, science tells us that after 72 hours the body will start to display irreparable side effects, and a complete absence of sleep will ultimately kill you.
On Thursday 15 August 2013 the body of Mortiz Erhardt, a 21-year-old intern for Merrill Lynch, was found in the shower at home after a 72-hour straight stint at his City of London placement. In order to impress his employer, as is expected for competitive jobs in finance, he had worked day and night for three days, following what has become known as “The Magic Roundabout” regime.
Graduates on this regime hail taxis back to their apartments from the office around 5am each morning. The taxi driver waits outside whilst the intern washes and changes clothes and then drives them immediately back to the office at dawn. An inquest revealed that Erhardt died from a seizure thought to be induced by exhaustion.
Clearly, extreme lack of sleep is highly dangerous and undesirable, however the effects of seemingly little loss of sleep must also not be underestimated. Sufficient stage 4 non-REM and REM sleep is key to longevity.