The following is an excerpt from my book, Macho Men: How Toxic Masculinity Hurts Us All and What to Do About It.
“Manhood is not bluff, pretense or loneliness. It involves the courage to do the right thing and face the consequences whether it is in social, political or other matters. It is contained in deeds not in words.Mahatma Gandhi
America’s masculine society embraces the idea that sleep is for the weak. For example, former President Donald Trump claims to get less than four hours of sleep per night and regularly ridicules his political opponents, including President Biden.
The term “sleep machismo” refers to people who sleep less and are seen as more masculine than those who get enough sleep.
Kristen Fuller, writing in psychology today, Says, “The culture of ‘sleep machismo’ normalizes and glorifies a lack of sleep as a sign of mental strength, ambition, and dedication. It’s not uncommon to have a business leader who decides to stick to a healthy sleep routine in his or her own way. Makes employees sleep hard and embarrasses them.”
A study by Patrick Finnan of Johns Hopkins University showed that 32% of leaders who were considered “successful” slept 5-6 hours or less per night, which was significantly less than the standard 7-8 hours. .
The masculine sleep-deprived culture in business is dangerous for companies, Dr. Charles A. Seissler has said in an interview Harvard Business Review. Czeisler argued that “contemporary work and social culture glorify sleep the way we once glorified those who could hold their wine.”
Political and business leaders alike boast about their need for less sleep, implying in some way that it could be a contributor to their success. Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Bill Clinton, and many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are all known for sleeping less and being proud of it.
Former President Bill Clinton bragged in his first presidential campaign of requiring only four hours of sleep per night. Alonemusk was reported to work 120 hours per week at times. That’s about 17 hours a day, which leaves the rest of the time to do everything they need in their lives, including sleeping whenever possible.
The early corporate cultures of Microsoft and Apple exalted sleepless programmers who were known to sleep at or under their desks for a few hours before starting work.
Mahowald, director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center, says of sleep machismo: “It is seen as a sign of weakness, instead of treating it as a real health problem, we are tired as a character flaw. Look forward to seeing you. Take a nap during the day, and you’re lazy, aspiring business leaders are told. Yawn during conversation, and you’re rude to needing more sleep. Putting people to sleep at work. Granted. We don’t fire them for asthma — we see it as a disability.”
Sleep deprivation is one of the leading causes of accidents on American roads. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that at least 100,000 accidents each year can be traced back to drivers who fell asleep at the wheel. In addition, the NHTSA says that sleep-deprived drivers can cause 1,500 deaths and 40,000 injuries. And the vast majority of truck drivers are men.
If those figures aren’t alarming enough, a study by the Sleep Medicine Division of the Harvard School of Medicine reported that 250,000 people fall asleep while driving each day of the year. And, with regard to semi-truck drivers as a separate group – about 50% admitted to actually ‘driving’ while driving the long-distance route, according to the study.
The National Sleep Foundation released a survey that examines the sleep of transportation workers. The results show transportation workers in the US struggling to get enough sleep – and the most sleepy pilots have been challenged with:
- 23 percent of the pilots surveyed reported that sleep deprivation in the past week had affected their job performance.
- 20 percent of pilots said they had made a “serious” error due to lack of sleep.
- 50 percent of pilots reported rarely or never getting enough sleep on work nights
- 37 percent said their work schedule did not include time for adequate sleep.
- Only 6 percent of the pilots surveyed work on the same schedule every day.
The consequences of sleep deprivation in doctors are real and serious, according to the National Sleep Foundation:
- According to research, surgical complications increase when attending surgeons have less than six hours to sleep between their last evening procedure and their first procedure the next day.
- In one study extended-duration shifts among medical interns were associated with a significantly increased risk of errors. Interns who worked five or more extended-duration shifts a month reported 300% more preventable errors involving fatigue, which resulted in death.
- The residents in this study were 22 percent more likely to make medical errors when they were sleep deprived.
Therefore, professions populated by mostly men are not untouched by the belief that they are invincible and do not need sleep, another sign of hyper-masculinity.