Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) launched a major tweetstorm this week in response to a campaign email from presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in which he detailed the “significant sacrifice” he has made to run for President.
"Health and sleep are limited: Fighting morning and night for the future of our country ensures long nights and early mornings resulting in little to no sleep,” the email read.
In closing the email, Cruz assured supporters, “Let me be clear. I’m willing to make these sacrifices -- despite the high cost.”
Warren didn’t buy it. She had a few things to say about those “sacrifices,” which she shared via Twitter:
Politics aside, sleep experts might find some common ground buried in the argument. Both Cruz and Warren agree that a lack of sleep, no matter who you are, is damaging. And between them, they illustrate two very real ways sleep deprivation affects our society:
1. Not sleeping your way to the top is way too common
There’s a plethora of research that shows not enough sleep, even for just a few nights, makes you less focused, more forgetful, and more likely to get sick. And there’s plenty more research that finds a lot of nights of not enough sleep increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and some cancers. Yet forgoing sleep to clock a few more hours on the job is what some say is the only way to the top.
Confidants and advisors reported that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher regularly pulled late nights and early mornings. Her former press secretary Sir Bernard Ingham told the BBC that Thatcher slept four hours a night on weekdays. Fashion designer Tom Ford told Harper’s Bazaar he typically gets out of bed around 4:30 a.m. and hits the pillow around midnight. And PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi told Fortune she sleeps about four hours a night, too.
In an interview with HuffPost earlier this year, Marriott chief executive Arne Sorenson said there’s an idolization of business leaders who barely get rest.
“Particularly in American society today, but maybe business society generally, you’ve got a glorification of folks who say, ‘Oh, I only sleep three to four hours a night’ -- which is dead wrong,” Sorenson said. “That’s the wrong philosophy.”
We’re sorry for your sleep loss, Sen. Cruz, but maybe leading by example and getting a few extra winks a night would do both you and society a favor.
2. Being poor hurts your sleep
Whether or not Cruz would agree, Warren’s claim that people who are financially vulnerable sleep less and have worse quality sleep is spot on.
A 2006 study found showed race, sex, and socioeconomic status are all strongly correlated to how long people sleep and how well they sleep. Study participants wore actigraphs -- bracelets that measure time in bed, how long you sleep and how quickly you fall asleep -- to objectively measure sleep for the research.
“People with less income took significantly longer to fall asleep and slept less despite similar or more time spent in bed,” that study reported. Individuals in the lowest income bracket in the study (those earning less than $16,000 per year) took more than twice as long to fall asleep at night compared with those earning $50,000 or more per year. And those in the highest income bracket in the study (earning $100,000 or more) slept about an hour longer per night, on average, than those earning less than $16,000 a year.
“We found that people with more education got more sleep and people with higher incomes got more sleep,” one of the study’s co-authors, Diane Lauderdale, told Freakonomics Radio. “Some of the difference has to do with economic and education factors.”
Another study that analyzed survey data from more than 159,000 Americans also found lower socioeconomic status was linked to higher rates of sleep complaints.
Yet another survey from Britain’s Sleep Council found that people who earned upwards of $116,000 a year were 20 percent more likely to get adequate sleep on any given evening than lower wage earners, regardless of all other factors. As the findings come from adults in the U.K., perhaps they don't include the exact low wage earners Warren was referring to, but the data illustrates a concerning trend.
Sen. Warren, your argument stands.
Sarah DiGiulio is The Huffington Post’s sleep reporter. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.