Thursday, March 5, 2009

Losing Sleep Over the Economy

People are losing sleep over the economy. That’s something we’ve all heard about by now from someone we know, and now it’s confirmed by a study released this week by the National Sleep Foundation. In the survey of 1,000 U.S. adults, one third “are losing sleep over the state of the U.S. economy and other personal financial concerns.”

This is not good news — lack of sleep, among with its other problems, makes people unproductive, which can worsen the economic situation, both for an individual and for the world. As trite as it sounds, the economy will get better when people feel better, and no one feels very good if they haven’t been sleeping.

If you check with the National Sleep Foundation, their suggestion for sleep loss, to ask your doctor how you can get evaluated for potentially costly drugs or sleep therapy, is probably counterproductive if your sleep loss is the result of worry over your personal money situation or the direction of the economy. Better advice, actually grounded in science, can be found at Science Blog, which emphasizes that it’s better to know what’s going on than to worry about it.

It may surprise some people, given my dire warnings about one economic hazard after another, that I haven’t lost more than five minutes of sleep in the past year worrying about the economy. I don’t tend to worry a lot anyway, having been persuaded many years ago by Wayne Dyer that worry is not particularly useful, but I especially don’t worry about the economy because to me, there is little that is dark and mysterious about it. Knowledge defeats worry. The more you know, the harder it is to worry, because the more you know about any situation, the more you know about what you can do about it. Spend an evening reading a range of views on the state of the economy, and you are more likely to fall asleep exhausted than to stay up worrying.

Action is the other main way to overcome worry, and as I keep reminding people, challenging economic times call for massive action from everyone who cares to be involved in what’s going on. In uncertain times, the most important personal quality you can have is the ability to work, and that depends mostly on your state of health. If you are near your ideal weight, eating thoughtfully, exercising, staying hydrated, and, yes, sleeping well, you are ready to meet the demands of the day, and that is all the more important when you do not know what tomorrow may bring. It’s also true that there are other things that affect your ability to work, but health is so important that I don’t want to give you a list, at least not today. If you are among the 97 percent who are not as healthy as they could be, and you find yourself worrying about the economy, let that worry remind you of actions you can take right now to improve your health so that you are more ready for whatever comes your way tomorrow or next week.

With knowledge and action, it’s harder to worry, and you won’t be losing sleep. After a day of action, when you know what’s going on, you’re ready to go to sleep because you know there is more for you to do tomorrow. I hate to hear of people worried about the economy because there are so many things that can be done right now on every level to fix it, and worrying is not on that list.