The Silicon Valley Voice

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Sleepworking

It’s bad enough that your company controls what you do when you’re at work. Now management wants to control what you do when you’re in bed. They don’t want to tuck you in, but they do want you to enjoy quality sleep around the clock so that you don’t start snoozing the next day when you’re on the clock.

So if you think you’re the only person who falls asleep in front of your computer, consider this your wake-up call.

According to a recent article by Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker, our country is suffering from a major sleep deficit. To be specific, “according to a 2011 poll, more than half of Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 experience a sleep problem every night, and nearly two-thirds complain that they are not getting enough rest during the week.”

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The consequences of the sleep gap are “as dangerous as they are annoying.” Kolbert cites a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which revealed “that almost five percent of adults acknowledge nodding off at the wheel at least once during the previous month.”

This is certainly a scary statistic, but it pales in comparison to the results of a study I conducted by scientifically hiding under the desks of my co-workers and listening for snoring. By my calculations, at least 99 percent of all knowledge workers nod off at their computers at least once every day. It’s a situation that is bad for the company and the economy and the workers who often are so deeply asleep that they miss lunch.

As for the causes of our sleep problems, Kolbert blames the invention of the light bulb, which eliminated “the forced idleness that used to begin at sunset.” Personally, I blame the invention of basic cable, which offers us riveting entertainment, such as “Duck Dynasty” and “Amish Mafia,” rendering it impossible for any sentient being to keep from falling asleep in front of the tube — at least until Downton Abbey comes on.

The result of our inability to get a good night’s sleep or do a good day’s work has come to the attention of management. David K. Randall, the author of “Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep,” predicts that “fatigue management officers will soon be as common at major corporations as accountants.”

This is rather ironic, since not even mainlining Ambien can put you to sleep as quickly as a five-second conversation with an accountant.

Another sleep writer, Professor Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer, suggests that our sleep problems are “largely the by-product of the industrial workday, which began as a dawn-to-dusk 12-to-16 hour stretch and shrank to an eight-hour period only at the turn of the twentieth century.”

Perhaps Professor Wolf-Meyer experiences a shrunken eight-hour day in his ivory tower, but in the real world, our nightmare economy has returned the dawn-to-dusk 12-to-16 hour stretch to a typical day at the office. Assuming, of course, that you have a really cushy position with plenty of job security and no competition from a global work force willing to take over your work for 10-cents on the dollar.

nother interesting finding Kolbert reports is that science can now divide people who naturally get up early, aka “larks,” from people who naturally like to stay up late, aka “owls.” There are probably elaborate scientific tests involving DNA analysis and gene sequencing to separate the larks from the owls, but you can just walk around your workplace any morning and see who is happily chirping away and who is acting like a character from “The Walking Dead.”

(My advice is to work only for owls. They won’t notice when you come in late, and they’ll be so busy being productive in the afternoon, they won’t notice you sneaking out the fire escape.)

And stop feeling guilty about dozing at your desk! Nothing cures insomnia faster than a big rush assignment staring you in the face. Besides, the more you sleep, the fewer mistakes you’ll make. And what could be better than getting paid for sleeping?

If you find it difficult to drop off to dreamland at work, or you don’t feel comfortable wearing your PJs and your bunny rabbit scuffies to the office, keep a nice fuzzy blanky in your file cabinet. You can wear it as an accent scarf or an ascot. If that doesn’t work, call over to accounting and have them send the CFO over to explain the company’s free cash flow.

Five seconds in, and it’s nighty-night — guaranteed.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.

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