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Is sleep deprivation still seen as “manly”

Lack of sleep is well understood today to contribute to poor mental performance. Our sleeping habits have changed greatly over the last few hundred years starting with the transition from a double-sleep night to a single sleep night around the time that street lighting was first introduced. How ironic that Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb who got by on just four hours sleep at night believed all his employees should do the same.

Olga Khazan’s piece in the Atlantic makes for fascinating reading, with comments from Andy O’Connell in the HBR:

Sleep no more! Thomas Edison doth murder sleep. The inventor claimed he slept just four hours a night and apparently forced the same standard on his employees, who responded by falling asleep a lot. “At first the boys had some difficulty in keeping awake, and would go to sleep under stairways and in corners,” Edison said. “We employed watchers to bring them out, and in time they got used to it.” The no-sleep thing became part of the Edison mystique, Olga Khazan writes in The Atlantic, with biographies describing his 4 a.m. interviews of job candidates and his catnaps on lab benches between marathon work sessions. Sleep deprivation was seen as manly. Psychologists began promoting the idea that people didn’t really need much sleep after all. But I guess it’s logical that the inventor of the incandescent light bulb would consider sleep to be his ultimate competition. –Andy O’Connell

 

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