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Community & Culture

Why Candidates Shouldn’t Neglect Sleep on Their Race to the White House

Happy Super Tuesday! For each of the candidates, it’s already been a long road – and there is still a long way to go. If you’re tired just following along, imagine how the candidates feel. Late nights, early mornings and constant traveling (jetlag a definite) – it has to be challenging for all of the presidential hopefuls to get the proper amount of sleep.

Sleep deprivation affects the body more than most people realize. In addition to the physical effects, being sleepy can take a toll on someone’s cognitive and mental health. From slowing down the thought process to impacting emotions, sleepiness can be detrimental in high-stress situations…like the race to become president. Based on their campaign schedules, it is highly unlikely that these candidates are getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night, so how can we trust that their cognitive and mental health is in a good place?

Scientists have found that sleepiness leads to lowered alertness and concentration. It is harder for people who are sleep deprived to stay focused and this causes them to be more easily confused. Sleepiness clouds the mind, which is where the feeling of “fogginess” originates, making it difficult to assess situations and reach appropriate conclusions. Even more alarming, most people who are sleep deprived do not notice that their cognitive functions are impaired. In this sleep study, participants who were consistently deprived of sleep thought their side effects lasted for a limited time and then wore off. In reality, their cognitive performances were getting worse and worse over a matter of several days. The negative effects of sleep deprivation last much longer than most of us think. We don’t know about the rest of America, but it doesn’t give us great confidence that the people we are considering as our next president could be sleep deprived.

Countering the negative effects sleep deprivation has on the body takes a conscious effort to catch up on sleep. A night with little sleep creates a sleep debt for these candidates. It takes more than one night of good sleep to recover from one restless night. Falling just a few hours short of sleep for a couple of nights can have the same effect on the body as pulling an all-nighter. Every little bit of extra sleep outside the nightly 7-9 hours will help pay back that sleep debt, whether it’s napping during the day or going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night. But that takes time and, clearly, time is something presidential candidates do not have. So maybe we need to go easy on the candidates when they repeat themselves during a debate or stumble over their words during a rally; maybe it’s really all due to their lack of sleep?

For today’s winners though, it’s only the beginning. This is both a marathon and a sprint, and they surely need to be storing their sleep hours. As exciting as Super Tuesday is for the direction of our country, a more accurate name is likely Sleepy Tuesday.

Now let’s all take a nap for the future of America!

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