Young Professionals YP reporter Josh Hafner.

YP reporter Josh Hafner.

Josh Hafner: Sleep and the cliche of being ‘so busy’

Published on November 6th, 2013 | by Josh Hafner

The best night of sleep I ever had was on January 11, 2011. My head hit the pillow at 11:55 p.m. and I didn’t rouse until 9:25 a.m. with my deepest moment of sleep occurring around 3 a.m. It was glorious, I presume.

I remember it only because of Sleep Cycle, this app on my iPhone that I’ve used since college. The program tracks your slumbers using the hyper-sensitive accelerometer in a smartphone, the same one that knows when you tilt your the device sideways or move it a tiny degree or two in a compass app. You set the phone on your bed at night and the app measures the length and depth of your sleep based on body movements. The results are often disturbing.

Over 367 total nights of using the app my average time in bed is 5 hours and 23 minutes. I blame this on college, a four-year period of life where sleep is discouraged, all-nighters are bragworthy and snoozing at library desks at 2 p.m. is socially acceptable. When I graduated from college in 2011 and landed at the Register, I carried those habits with me, for better or worse.

A lot of successful, established people get very little sleep, it seems. Bankers Trust CEO Suku Radia, a mentor to many a YP, once told the Register he gets four hours of sleep a night. Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb and patron saint of night owls, worked for 72 hours straight and kept a cot in his office just for power naps. “I have got so much to do and life is so short,” he once told a friend. “I am going to hustle.”

Hustling is still all the rage, right? The coolest thing you can say in Des Moines’ YP scene or business scene or pretty much any scene when one asks how you’re doing is “Totally swamped” or “Sooooo busy bro” or “Seriously need a large coffee right now!”

I’m guilty of it, too. When you say you’re busy, I think: “Oh, that’s cute. Were you so busy that you only got 30 minutes  of sleep on  March 5, 2012? Yeah, get the sleep app and get back to me.”

If you’re finding a solid 8 hours of sleep a night, you are not, relatively speaking, all that busy. And that’s something to actually brag about: Sleeping well helps overcome creative blocks and promotes better health. A study in Science journal last month found that the brain cleanses itself during sleep, possibly reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s.

As the writer Meredith Fineman once said, it’d be encouraging to hear people brag about their excellent time management skills instead of their excellent being-swamped skills. Working harder should mean working smarter, not just longer. Sleep on it.

About the Author

covers young professionals for The Des Moines Register. Josh can be reached at or on Twitter via @joshhafner.

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