Wellness & Fitness

Why you should not lose sleep to win the rat race


Qn. “I have lately developed a condition that keeps me worried, especially on my free time weekends. I can lately sleep for 15 hours comfortably and deeply. At first, I thought it was all about fatigue because of my demanding job but I am now getting concerned. Could this be condition to worry about?”

Let us start with the good news. You have a demanding job that you probably enjoy, many are looking for such a career. You do not tell us how many hours you work each day but it is possible that if what you say is true, you go through a period of relative sleep deprivation during the week, and at weekends, the body demands that you repay the “sleep debt” that you have accumulated.

If that is the case, then you have nothing to worry about beyond the fact that you are missing out on a great deal of fun that others who work more sensibly are enjoying.

Last year, a man missed his nephew’s wedding because he was fast asleep on the Saturday of the wedding. The man worked as a surgeon in a big hospital and was “on-call” frequently because he was building his career.

Years earlier, he had graduated at the top of his class, had obtained his master’s degree in the prescribed time and had gone on to subspecialise in record time.

On account of his newly acquired surgical skills, he was in great demand.

All the hospitals in the city had him on the duty rota, and he runs a very busy clinic, where he saw many patients daily. He was often to be found in his office up to midnight and his operating time started promptly at 6am.

Miraculously, his wife stayed by his side but neither she nor the children could remember what he looked like during the day. If any of the children wanted to see their father, they were woken up at 4.30am. Weekends were no better, as he was busy at the hospital all the time because the lazy doctors were all resting.

To keep busy, his wife had joined all the church activities that existed. Daily Holy Communion was followed by a variety of fellowships that took most of her days including Saturdays and Sundays. She stayed sane by keeping away from home. The church was her refuge.

The three children were left to the care of the semiliterate house help who liked cartoons. All their waking time, the children watched TV and had little or no wish to see their parent’s. Life assumed a kind of equilibrium until the man’s favourite nephew got married.

The now very prominent doctor was to speak on behalf of the clan. He had been excused from all the pre-wedding arrangements, including all the ceremonies at which he should have been present.

The entire family excused and understood him because of his busy schedule.

He did, however, promise to be there on the day his nephew got married. After all, he was the Godfather and this was to be both a duty and honour for him.

To make sure he was ready for the day, he had planned his schedule in such a way that he would not work on Friday evening to make sure he was fresh the following day.

The wife made a special meal the night before the wedding and the children saw their father who seemed happy but tired. It was a strange feeling for the family to eat together.

He went to bed “before the 9pm news” but was woken up two hours later to attend to an emergency. He went back to the hospital, saved a life and was back home at 3am.

The wife and children left him in bed at 9am and asked the house help to wake him up at 11am, in time for the 1pm wedding.

sleep debt

The man woke up at 5pm, found nobody in the house and went back to the blankets to pay the sleep debt! The body was demanding its share of sleep.

In the meantime, the wedding was a spectacular success. Nobody seemed to notice his absence. He had missed so many family functions that both his wife and other family members assumed he was at yet another emergency. He had become irrelevant in the family.

A member of the church was asked to speak on behalf of the boy’s uncle and all were in awe at the man’s speech. The churchman seemed to know the surgeon’s family a great deal. He thanked the surgeon’s wife for the invitation.

The following day he woke up to realise that life could and did go on without him. The wedding day had come and gone without him.

I hope you are not headed in the surgeon’s footsteps. He paid his sleep debt and missed the wedding. What are you missing during these weekends? Work is important but as the surgeon discovered, family and friends could write you off!