How Sleep (or Lack of It) Can Affect Your Bottom Line


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Sleep deprivation can skew your perspective of risk and drive up your coffee bill. It can also make you poorer. Find out more.

Money never sleeps. However, you should, especially if you want to keep your fiscal health.

Just one night’s lost sleep can cost you a bundle.

“You need good self-control to make good financial decisions and plans,” says Todd Kashdan, George Mason University psychology professor and co-author of “The Upside of Your Dark Side.” “Sleep hygiene helps you get there.”

Kashdan tells MoneyTalksNews.com that high-quality sleep is linked to better mental functioning, including self-control, a key to financial well-being.

He says self-control includes the ability to:

  • Delay gratification
  • Resist temptations
  • Conduct complex analyses
  • Alter or resist your emotions as needed in the short-term

“Each of these abilities will help you in making healthy financial decisions by considering the short-term and long-term view, by resisting the allure of immediate mood boosts and the pull to avoid anxiety-provoking situations,” he says.

Keeping control, maintaining your money

Unfortunately, you may be sabotaging your own sleep, warns Joel Anderson, instructor and lead researcher for a Utrecht University, Netherlands, study of bedtime procrastination.

Anderson says it is important to avoid bedtime procrastination. Bedtime procrastinators delay going to bed even though they expect their sleep-deprived selves to be worse off and don’t have a compelling reason for delaying rest, he says.

“A significant portion of sleep insufficiency is caused not by medical conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea, but by poor choice — everything from binge Netflix viewing to late-night knitting,” Anderson says.

Such procrastination can spark a “vicious downward spiral,” he says.

“Since resisting the tendency to procrastinate requires precisely the willpower resources that are undermined by not getting enough sleep, bedtime procrastination is likely to lead to even worse sleep deprivation, none of which is good for your decision-making, including financial decision-making,” he says.

A 2011 Duke University study revealed sleep deprivation not only impairs our ability to make decisions, but also leads us to be optimistic about financial decisions. Using a functional MRI on 29 participants who had to make gambling decisions, scientists showed that a night of lost sleep led to increased activity in brain regions that assess positive outcomes while decreasing activation in brain areas that process negative outcomes.

How much sleep do you need?

Last year, the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation revised its recommendations on how much sleep you should get.

An 18-member panel of experts spent nine months reviewing 10 years’ worth of research and voted on the appropriate amount of sleep for each age group. They focused on outcomes for memory, mood, performance and health conditions such as stroke and obesity while factoring in overall health and cognitive, physical and emotional health.

NSF recommended amounts of nightly sleep vary by age:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours (previously: 12-18 hours)
  • Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours (previously: 14-15 hours)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours (previously: 12-14 hours)
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours (previously: 11-13 hours)
  • School-age children (6-13 years): 9-11 hours (previously: 10-11 hours)
  • Teens (14-17 years): 8-10 hours (previously: 8½-9½ hours)
  • Young adults (18-25 years): 7-9 hours (new category)
  • Adults (26-64 years): 7-9 hours (no change)
  • Older adults (65+ years): 7-8 hours (new category)

5 sleep tips

Here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic to help you get a better night’s rest.

Manage stress: Start with the basics, such as getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Take a break when you need one. Share a good laugh with an old friend. Before bed, jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.

Stick to a schedule: Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends, holidays and days off. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle and helps promote better sleep at night.

Limit food and drink: Don’t go to bed either hungry or stuffed. Also, nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off and can wreak havoc on quality sleep. Alcohol might make you feel sleepy at first, but it can disrupt sleep later in the night.

Create a bedtime ritual: Do the same things each night to tell your body it’s time to wind down — taking a warm bath, reading a book, listening to soothing music — preferably with the lights dimmed.

Get comfortable: Create a room that’s ideal for sleeping. Consider room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs. Choose a mattress and pillow that feel most comfortable to you. If you share your bed, make sure there’s enough room for two. If you have children or pets, try to set limits on how often they sleep with you.

Do you have any other sleep tips? Share them in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

Stacy Johnson

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