Effects of long term sleep deprivation?

This is a serious question for those of you that have been in the industry for a while (or just generally don't get very much sleep for whatever reason). Have you started feelings the effects (or believe there will be effects) of long term sleep deprivation? Not talking about a couple weeks where you get crushed but more just being in finance for several years.

I've been working in the industry for a couple years now consistently getting ~5-6 hours a night on the weekdays, and I wouldn't call those hours quality sleep either. To give you a sense of my schedule these days:

- Wake up and snooze from ~7-8:30AM (usually wake up around 7 to check emails real quick and then go back to sleep if nothing urgent).
- In office ~9AM
- Get off work anywhere between 10PM - 1AM
- Couple times a week, I'll go to the gym after work (~11PM - 1AM)
- Sleep around 2AM - 3AM
- I usually sleep quite a bit on the weekends to recover from the week but I don't think that's necessarily a great solution

As you can see, not exactly a great quality of sleep. I think part of it is waking up intermittently to check emails, and I think exercising before bed may be compounding the poor sleep quality problem as well. In any case, I've been feeling like my memory is getting progressively worse, new concepts don't "click" as easily as they used to (and it's harder to remember them later), have a hard time focusing, etc.

I know the obvious answer is of course poor sleep is going to lead to these symptoms. If you pull an all nighter (or a couple in a row), your brain just can't frankly function correctly. But at the same time, how much sleep are people really consistently getting a night? I don't think we live in a world where 7 or 8 hours is the norm, especially in banking or even most buyside jobs (macro traders...good luck).

I am starting to feel concerned about my mental health. I wasn't the smartest guy in college, but I do feel a significant deterioration in my brain's ability to learn and retain new information compared to before. This wasn't an issue when during my first year analyst banking days. I was sleeping closer to 4-5 hours and the thought of "losing" my brain never even crossed my mind. Curious if anyone else has experienced similar effects of being in the industry for a while.

Comments (54)

Apr 12, 2014

Only done banking for 4 months so can't comment on long-term...but I regularly (always) get 5 or fewer hours of sleep per night, and one thing that helps me a lot is exercising in the morning before work rather than at the end of the night. I have heard a lot of people say exercising after work messes with their sleep and exercising before really helps.

Apr 13, 2014

I definitely haven't worked as long hours as you have worked (or that others in your field generally work), however I have done the lack of sleep, late nights etc. For about 1 or 2 years I was averaging around 4 - 5 hrs a night during the week (sometimes going out for several months, returning home at 4am, then back to work at 9am). Overall, the damage wasn't immediate, but generally this stuff does age a person and I forgot about that when I was doing it!

However I found a miracle cure to this disgusting ageing early so now it's cool so I can forget about my silly late nights in the past.

Best thing to do is try and get to bed around 12am every night and long term that's alright in my opinion. Sleep long on the weekend and make up for the hours lost and that's good.

Btw, in 7 years of work I have only taken one day sick leave (plus leave for swine flu which was an epidemic so that doesn't count)..so I think I have authority to say that sleeping at 12am is about the latest generally you can do without feeling it later on :)

Hope this helps

Apr 13, 2014

Someone already mentioned this, but I think you need to start working out in the mornings. You are already not getting any real sleep from 7-8:30, so just get up and work out during that time. Then you get to go to bed earlier and don't have exercise conflicting with trying to go to sleep.

Apr 14, 2014

I second that. Start working out in the mornings rather than at night, so you get to bed earlier. You mentioned that you wake up at 7, then snooze to 8 or 8.30. Rather get some quality sleep between 12am until 7, then check your mails and go to the gym. This will get you 7 or at least 6 hours of sleep which should be enough.

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Apr 13, 2014

I'd be ecstatic to get 5 or 6 hours a night, I don't think I've consistently done more than 4 since 2008. If that constitutes poor sleep, then I don't think the effects of long-term deprivation are all that bad (unless I'm missing a few screws... which is likely).

Apr 13, 2014
BlackHat:

I don't think I've consistently done more than 4 since 2008

Wow. Why do you sleep so little?

Apr 14, 2014
Going Concern:
BlackHat:

I don't think I've consistently done more than 4 since 2008

Wow. Why do you sleep so little?

Being in a market-centric role on the West Coast will do that to you. Doesn't help when you're a neurotic junior PM way over your head in an uncomfortably volatile market :P

Apr 15, 2014

I really want to be able to do that. How to manage that type of ability to be able to stay awake 20 hours a day ?
I sleep 5-6 hours, and if I sleep less during the day, usually afternoon, I am about to fall asleep at my desk.
Please give a few tips how to be able to do that.
Thanks,

Apr 15, 2014
SYRYMFLASH:

I really want to be able to do that. How to manage that type of ability to be able to stay awake 20 hours a day ?

I sleep 5-6 hours, and if I sleep less during the day, usually afternoon, I am about to fall asleep at my desk.

Please give a few tips how to be able to do that.

Thanks,

Eat right. More specifically, eat fruit.

Apr 13, 2014

I recall reading somewhere that it takes years off your life and you don't get them back, no matter how much sleep you get later in life. I've resigned myself to that.

Apr 13, 2014

I barely sleep. The time I have to myself is way too precious. I just zone out mid-convo whenever I have to talk to plebeians. That's prime opportunity to re-charge. With that said, I feel perfectly fine!

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Apr 14, 2014

Unless your family is old, old establishment many generations back, you and your ilk (my ilk too) are all plebs.

Apr 16, 2014

deleted

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Apr 15, 2014

She probably goes to UVA, where it is considered cool to use the term "plebeian" as a description for people believed to be of a lower class and lesser worth.

I think she was also attempting sarcasm.

Apr 14, 2014

each person has a defined sleeping hours required. For an average 20-29 year old male, you can get away with 6hours of sleep and have no effect.

Furthermore, it sounds like most posters here have a double whammy, late night + heavy drinking/partying lifestyle. Those compound and you will inevitably damage your body and mind more.

Google sleep debt, that is when you have missed out on your necessary amount of sleep per debt and owe your body. Most people make it up over the weekends but this is not a long term strategy.

Apr 14, 2014

Prolonged sleep deprivation causes irreversible, permanent brain damage, so you probably are getting less intelligent:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/melaniehaiken/2014/03/...

The unfortunate thing is, sleep deprivation also ruins a person's reasoning skills, so in all likelihood you don't currently have the cognitive ability to make the choice to get a healthy amount of sleep.

Apr 16, 2014

deleted

Apr 15, 2014

Apples to oranges....this is bad journalism. The average mouse needs 13-14 hours a day of sleep. The average human "needs" 7-8 hours a night? If you were to compare the sleeping habits fairly it would be roughly 2 hours of sleep a day..which would only merit one full 90 minute REM cycle and would be impossible to sustain.

I'm not arguing with the study's results of memory deterioration for mice it's probably true, but fallaciously comparing a human and a mouse's sleep patterns is ridiculous.

Whenever you hear arguments about studies that involve mice especially with substances (diet coke, sugar ,etc) look into the facts because a lot of the time scientists will use outrageous inputs that don't resemble anything remotely close to reality for a human.

Apr 14, 2014

Hard to standardize I have friends who function near 100pc with 4hours of sleep, I'm useless below 7 and avg around 8 a night nowadays.

Apr 15, 2014

OK, there always will be people shouting 'I have no time to sleep so much' or 'I can get away with 4-5 hr a day'.

For you guys:

No time to sleep 7-8 hours a day? No problem, just accept the fact that you are 5 times more likely to die before turning 40.

I even won't try to find a proof link. Because those of you who do not care will not bother themselves believing this even with proof. Others will just go and sleep.

2 topicstarter: I would like to thank you for starting this topic! It is something that everybody knows but still so few actually understand the meaning of. So it is never odd to discuss it again.

BR,
Mark

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Apr 15, 2014

Based on your schedule you provided, why don't you reduce the gym sessions to ~45 minutes of all out exercise rather than 2 hours? This will probably be more beneficial to you in terms of workout and give you extra sleep at night.

Apr 15, 2014

I dont think sleep deprivation as in less hours of sleeping a night is a problem, it is the quality of the sleep that matters. I've read a lot into this and found that if you can follow your sleep cycles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep#Physiology), determine when to sleep to start the cycle at the right time, how to get to deep sleep, and waking up exactly when two cycles finishes, you can feel perfectly refreshed waking up after 2 sleep cycles (approx 4.5 hours - I use this to calculate my sleep cycle and when to sleep or wake up http://sleepyti.me/ ). That's how most successful people who were severely sleep deprived can maintain their talent e.g. Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein. Its important to have at least two deep sleep cycle a day for the brain to recharge and short 5 minutes naps during the days for the eyes to relax. What really helped me was short naps in the toilet. I can do 4-5 hours at night everyday but I MUST have my short naps during the day.

Apr 15, 2014

I really need 7-8 hours a night otherwise I feel like shit. Don't know how I managed to constantly stay up late (with a shitty diet and little exercise) in college.

Apr 15, 2014

I'm not sure why but typically, regardless of when I go to bed (granted, not past 1am), I can wake up earlier in the morning and actually feel better rested. When I don't have to get up early and hit the snooze and wake up anytime past 7am or so, it's really difficult to get up.

Apr 15, 2014

I've found drinking myself to sleep helps.

Apr 15, 2014

Quite the opposite for me, drinking severely reduces my sleep time and quality.

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Apr 15, 2014

LOL yes, I was being sarcastic.

Apr 15, 2014

ITT: exaggerators

happy to give advice; no asking for referrals please

Apr 15, 2014

"Most importantly, however, I want to stress how willing I am to do "anything for the team." I realize the possibility of long hours exists in such a position, and I am ready to work as hard as necessary. I have been practicing staring at a computer monitor for extended hours, I can currently sit motionless in front of a screen for 28 hours, and I am improving daily."

Apr 15, 2014

I just can tell my experience with sleep deprivation over periods of months (11 to be exact) without weekend recovery (I was getting excited about working on private projects soon as I got off at work on fridays and pulled allnighters as often as I just physically coudl) was : fading creativity, focus, intelligence and overall calmness, very mild forms of paranoia, depression and frequent severe episodes of headaches. The more focused you get on work and are worn down the less you take your sports activities serious and after that you start losing your focus on nutrition, since everything starts making you fat. I would say, if there is really something in for you, try to never do highly attentive work for more than 16 hours a day and do your exercise and get your sleep.

Apr 15, 2014

gotta listen to your body. if you feel sleep deprived, feel tired + like shit, and don't watch your diet and exercise, you're only kidding yourself if you don't think long term damage is being done. is it really worth it working that hard if you're not gonna be around to enjoy it? well, that depends, just be honest w yourself.

Apr 15, 2014

It's an attitude thing. Henry Ford said, "If you think you can, you can. If you think you can't, you can't." If you stay aloof from your fatigue, you should be able to maintain fairly well. And the workouts in the morning work wonders. I'll wake up at 430 and swim from 530 to 7 and I can go to bed at midnight and feel fine.

Apr 15, 2014

I need to get on your level.

Apr 15, 2014

work out in the mornings.

Apr 16, 2014

Reading this in the middle of the night is kind of depressing ...

Apr 16, 2014

1. sleep early makes it easier to wake up in the morning
2. proper diet + exercise

This works for me

Apr 16, 2014

Work out in the mornings. It will wake you up.
Question: Do you guys drink caffeine through out the day? Or worse...
I tried modafinil to help with the sleep deprivation and it was garbage.

Apr 16, 2014
Big Swinging Chimp:

I tried modafinil to help with the sleep deprivation and it was garbage.

You bite your tongue

Apr 18, 2014

Read an interesting article claiming that there's no reason a person needs more than 6.5 hours of sleep. I'll post the link if anyone's interested. The study analyzed millions of people long term.

Apr 20, 2014
L.A. Finance Guy:

Read an interesting article claiming that there's no reason a person needs more than 6.5 hours of sleep. I'll post the link if anyone's interested. The study analyzed millions of people long term.

The military figured this out centuries ago. There's an important caveat. Keeping people on the minimum viable sleep level creates compliant slaves, regardless of aggression leve....your brain is not running at peak.

If you're comfortable with that state of mind, great. If you want real power over yourself and your mind's capabilities, consider that great minds like Franklin made it an absolute point to sleep well AND take naps. There are rare exceptions, insomniacs like Tesla, but you have to consider the mindset that you will approach life from....slave, or master of yourself.

Apr 19, 2014

I'm bad for eating horrifically as soon as I've worked late

OP don't be checking emails as soon as you wake up/have barely woken, it messes with you - use an alarm and keep your phone out of reach and check them once you've showered or something

Apr 20, 2014

If you're willing to turn yourself into a chemistry experiment, hell, who needs sleep, get a caffeine IV drip

If you have any desire for a lucid life experince, start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Segmented_sleep

Everyone is different. I changed jobs after deciding to prioritize sleep and health. Only you know you

Cold hard fact is that the more you fight your biology, the worse you perform and the earlier you will die

Before you make any changes.....sleep on it.

Apr 20, 2014

Very long story short, being well rested gives you better control of your mental facualties. Imagine lifting weights without consuming protein....you aren't providing the building blocks needed to build muscle and are wasting effort. So it is with sleep. You can go for a while running on fumes, and there is a time and place to burn the candle at both ends, but know when enough is enough.

Just because you can survive such a state of mind does not mean you are operating anywhere near your peak potential. I lived on 5/6 hours of sleep for years and one day realized: this is bullshit and it's killing me. What you do is your choice, but I'd urge you to consider how much more you can accomplish with your mental facualties intact than you would half zombified.

Think of it this way: work smarter, not harder. Look at the top 20 in Forbes and they all OWN their shit. They aren't slaves, they are in control of their minds and by extension their assets.

Pick a path. Self imposed slave, or master of your own mind. You get one shot at life....make it count.

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Apr 20, 2014

Long term effects of sleep deprivation includes higher likelihood of stroke, diabetes, heart failure/disease, and depression.

Apr 20, 2014

Gym'ing before sleep wont do it much good. An efficient workout in the morning before work is ideal. One thing I live by now is running. I played college football and being being a lineman, I wasn't really inclined to run much. Now a quick 15-20 minute jog during a workout and it helps to fight fatigue.

Other key things for me include drinking plenty of water. I probably drink around 4+ litres a day. I don't drink coffee. Keeping hydrated for me is vital. I also eat fruit like no tomorrow. Two bananas a day (as my teacher described it in HS, they are nature's candy bar), an apple, 3/4 mandarins/clementines. I also keep an assortment of nuts in my draw to snack on.

Finally, if I'm really feeling the strain, I tend to sneak away to an isolated little meeting room to catch a 20 minute power nap.

Apr 20, 2014

Lots of interesting commentary. I agree, the am gym session is a great start to the day; however, the copious amounts of caffeine often leads to a crash.

Also, I often find that my mind almost feels fragmented (foggy/not clear). I hear that many never really grow accustomed to it, they're basically just sleep walking.

Apr 20, 2014

I come from a different industry transitioning into finance. Without going into too much detail, the hours were basically what people made of it. I got less sleep than what people in finance do, but it was my choice. Being sleep deprived shouldn't have a long term mental effect on someone unless they're a mentally weak person. Yes sleep deprivation can be seen in the day to day if say you've been up 72-96 hours continuously for example, humans aren't meant to do this and still operate at full capacity during that time. If long term sleep deprivation causes your brain to function at a lower level even after recovering then you are probably not capable of doing so, and should reconsider what it is that you are doing and whether or not that's okay. (i.e. is auto-piloting acceptable for your role, as it wasn't for mine.)

Really I believe what it all comes down to is whether or not you are hungry for the work you are doing. If you are working in a long hour high stress environment in finance you are most likely a mentally strong person. The negative effects of sleep deprivation may come from a lack of hunger in what you are doing. Perhaps you loved what you did a year ago and don't anymore. That will have a much larger impact on how your brain functions on the job than your physical stamina/mental toughness. Basically, put up or shut up.

I see these sleep threads all the time and while the vast majority of people way overestimate how many hours they work on a consistent long term basis, (and additionally how mentally difficult the work actually is) the truth is that people knew what the hours would be like when they chose to enter the industry. If you can't handle it anymore then get out, there should be no room for complaining about an issue like this. A more reasonable complaint would be whether or not you chose the right industry or role to begin with given the expectation of what might happen to yourself in the future. If you chose wrong, you messed up and made a mistake and should accept it. It's a worthy complaint given you initially weighed the risk/reward before coming to this realization, and are now stuck with quite a difficult decision having potentially wasted time building what you thought would be your career trajectory only to now make a large deviation.

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Apr 20, 2014

I've had serious sleeping issues since high school. I would give almost anything to be able to consistently do 7 hours a night.

Large swaths of my life have passed by in a kind of sleepy daze (hence the name), and I know I'd be able to achieve a significant bit more operating with extra ~50% of my brain that the sleep deprivation takes from me. There are a lot of ways to survive with sleep deprivation (e.g. in a lot of my classes i was too tried to figure out what was going on but i found my brain automatically just memorizing words/formulas), but nothing compares to just getting a reasonable amount of sleep.

I think this only becomes more important in decision making roles (e.g. investing PM) relative to transactional ones (e.g. IB analyst).

Also: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-26630647

Apr 21, 2014

Recently read an article saying that poor sleep can cause brain damage over time. I guess the brain doesn't repair itself and sleep is thought to be the way your brain flushes out certain toxins.

That said, everything has to do with genetics. You might be the exception to the rule.

Apr 21, 2014
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Apr 21, 2014
Apr 24, 2014
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happy to give advice; no asking for referrals please