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Why you are the worst person to guesstimate your sleep

02-08-2014

Why you are the worst person to guesstimate your sleep

So you probably think that you are the person most qualified to guesstimate how much sleep you are getting right? Not surprising, but actually you are not.

Are you the best person to keep track of your sleep?

What is interesting is that often people are their own worst enemies, they have an idea of how much sleep they are getting and whether that is meeting their needs, but this is often not the same as how much they are actually getting and how much they really need. We are terrible at guessing how much sleep we get.

The police don’t think so!

As you may have heard, the police do not take witnesses at their word, EVER. Why? Because even the most honest and reliable person can woefully misrepresent a situation, memory is faulty as is our perception of events. Often eye witness accounts will be discovered to be laughably off when incontrovertible proof, say a video of the event, is later found.

Neither does your boss

It seems that not only are people terrible witnesses for the police but they are equally bad monitoring their own lives. It turns out that people rarely work as many hours as they think they do. Yes, there is a large difference between the number of hours that people will estimate they have worked and the actual amount that they really do, especially for those people who work longer than average hours. Studies have shown that people who keep a log book will discover that their estimated work hours were way off. In fact, the average person who reported working 40 hours was actually only working 37; however, the big discrepancy occurs with people who worked much longer than average, with people who thought they were working 75 hours actually only working 50.

Why you are so bad at keeping track of yourself

In the same way humans are terrible at monitoring their own sleep situation. It is not really surprising, if we are that bad as witnesses for the police and that bad at keeping track of our own working hours then it is hardly surprising that we are not great at monitoring our own sleep. A Gallup report asked people who much they “usually” slept and found that the average American thought they were getting about 6.8 hours of sleep a night. This is the person’s ‘estimate’. This is off when you compare this to the US  Labor Department’s 2012 American Time Use Survey, which found that the average was 8.7 hours. While the former is a guesstimate, the latter is based on a day-after time diary. In other words, we think that we are getting less sleep than we rarely are.

What does this tell us?

The conclusion is fairly clear here. If you want to know how much sleep you are getting you should keep a sleep journal for a few weeks. That will give you the hard data you need to make a correct deduction. Simply guessing may leave you out by an hour or two!! That hour or two can make a crucial difference.


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