You may have heard that 20 of the 23 candidates for the 2020 Democratic nomination for President of the United States are having their first debates this week. In the run-up to the debates The New York Times asked 21 of the 23 candidates running the same 18 questions. You can watch all the videos of their answers here. My favorite question was number seven, “How many hours of sleep do you get a night?”
Why was that one my favorite? Probably because for the past five years I’ve regularly been asking my leadership keynote audiences to raise their hands if they get at least seven hours of sleep a night. Why seven hours? Because the research shows that 95 percent of human beings need at least seven hours of sleep a night to, in the short run, be fully functional the next day and, in the long run, to avoid the chronic illnesses that will shorten their life expectancy. The five percent of people who can get by with less than seven hours have a rare genetic mutation that enables them to do that. On average, around 20 percent of my audience members raise their hands for seven or more hours of sleep. After I share the 95/5 percent breakdown, I point out to the 80 percent the audience members who didn’t raise their hands that there’s no way they’re all in the five percent of people who can perform well and live long with less than seven hours.
Apparently, I need to start working on the Democratic candidates as well. After watching them all answer the sleep question for the Times videos, my count is only five of the 21 say they regularly get seven or more hours of sleep each night. Eleven of the 21 answered “Not enough” or some version of “It depends.” One candidate clocks in at four hours a night but said he is shooting for four and a half. Another is getting around five hours a night and three are getting about six hours. Just about all of those folks either made a joke of how little sleep they get or seemed to take a perverse pride in it.
On the other hand, the five who are getting seven or more a night seemed, from their tone of voice and gaze in responding to the question, to understand that getting enough sleep is critical to their performance, health and well-being. Of course they’re right about how much sleep they need and have organized their lives to make sure they get it. There’s a 95 percent chance you should too.
And, in case you’re wondering, the five candidates who said they’re getting seven or more hours of sleep a night were John Delaney, John Hickenlooper, Kirsten Gillibrand, Tim Ryan and Elizabeth Warren. I’m not suggesting you vote for one of them solely because they get enough sleep, but, everything else being equal (and they never are), wouldn’t you want a President who does?
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