Recently, there have been some scientific studies suggesting that lack of sleep may shave some years off your life.  I have no concerns with the methods they used to reach their conclusions.  It is very likely that the data do indeed prove their hypothesis.

However, this brings me to a key question.  Are we simply trying to maximize the number of years that we remain on earth, or are we trying to maximize the amount of “living” we do?  I am going to take a look at our post college years.  Let’s assume this would span from age 22 to 82.  40 of the years will be in the workforce and 20 years will be in retirement.

In phase 1, we are going to be busy with work, family, and household chores.  If we sleep 9 hours, this might leave 2 hours for pure leisure during the  week and perhaps 7 hours on Saturday and Sunday, if we’re lucky.  That’s 24 leisure hours in a week, along with 63 sleep hours and 40 work hours.  The remaining 41 hours are spent eating, commuting, shopping, mowing lawn, paying bills, etc.  24 leisure hours X 52 weeks X 40 years = 49,920 leisure hours during our working years.

After retirement, we gain a bit more control over our lives, although advancing age eventually sneaks up and grabs your leisure time.  Let’s says that, on average, you can spend 8 hours per day on leisure activities during your retirement years.  That’s 56 hours per week.  56 X 52 weeks X 20 years = 58,240 leisure hours during our retirement years.

If we add  these two numbers, we get a total of 108,160 leisure hours during our post-collegiate years.  This is an average of 1803 leisure hours per years.  Let’s call this chunk of fun time a “leisure year”.

Now let’s assuming that we reduce our sleeping hours from 9 hours per night to 6.  We further assume that we do this with no short term impacts, just the long term impact of dying sooner.  This is likely to be a somewhat flawed assumption, but there are a lot of people who function at very high levels on 6 hours of sleep.

If we reduce sleep by 3 hours per day, we should increase leisure by the same amount.  3 hours X 7 days X 52 weeks X 60 years =   65,520 extra leisure hours, or 36 extra “leisure years”.  In essence, we gain the “fun part” of 36 extra years.

Would you trade a few years at the end of your life for 65,000 extra leisure hours spread out over your adult years?


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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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