Carrie Lam

Carrie Lam needs to sleep more in 2018, for the sake of Hong Kong

Alice Wu says three hours of shut-eye or less, as the chief executive said she gets when the going gets tough, can induce brain fog, impaired judgment and health risks. With fresh challenges awaiting in 2018, being sleep-deprived is not an option

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 December, 2017, 12:34pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 December, 2017, 5:43pm

For 2018, there is only one resolution for me: sleep more. I’ve been inspired not by Arianna Huffington but by our first female chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. Lam recently said that she barely gets three hours of shut-eye when life gets tough and five hours on good days.

I believe Lam, not because she seems to be the hardworking type. I believe Lam because her words speak for themselves. Like many of you, I’m befuddled by how Lam can say some of the things she says. Her one-plus-one doesn’t add up to two. You can’t say “I am very careful about my health” and then say you’re on three hours of sleep.

Most of us have experienced the brain fog – incoherence – after pulling that last all-nighter. Brain fog would explain Lam’s curious take on Facebook. She reportedly said: “Facebook is actually very easy to use. It’s not a difficult thing to me.” Eh … yeah. “Easy” is the point and the key to Facebook’s success. But I now wonder if Lam is aware that blue light seriously messes with sleep quality.

Insisting on sleep deprivation is risky behaviour, hazardous not only to one’s own health but to the safety of others. Sleep deprivation seriously impairs judgment, and our chief executive needs full use of her mental faculties for good judgment. Anything less would be unacceptable and detrimental to the people she has vowed to serve. What Lam has openly claimed is chronic sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprived and under pressure: Carrie Lam discusses coping with life as Hong Kong’s leader

I don’t know how she does it, and that is not meant to be a compliment. Scientists running sleep deprivation tests on rats have found that the brain actually eats itself as a result. We know how prisoners are tortured with sleep deprivation, because it is a highly effective way to break their will.

We are talking about cognitive impairment, psychosis, damage to the immune system, and risk of heart defects and cardiovascular disease.

Watch: Arianna Huffington speaks about the power of sleep

Hongkongers are sleep-deprived overachievers. We know this because studies have reaffirmed that we are stressed, tired, and unhappy. A 2016 research ranked us last among the people of the entire Asia-Pacific when it came to healthy living.

Cancer, depression and obesity risks for night shift workers

One of the biggest reasons for that is we average just 6.5 hours of daily sleep. And yet, how many of us still buy into the crazy notion that loss of sleep is some sort of a badge of honour – as if high-functioning high-achievers can beat biology? How very arrogantly ignorant is that? And it is bad news for us if our chief executive buys into this sort of nonsense – that deliberate sleep deprivation is proof of achievement or capability, of stamina or strength. It isn’t. It is, at best, a disservice to the people she serves.

Admit it: 2017 was a horrible year. The world has gone absolutely mad. People are still trying to blow each other up. And there are some seriously scary people in power, making decisions and tweets that make us lose sleep at night.

Watch: Hong Kong in 2017 – the year that was

Winners and losers in another year of political upheaval for Hong Kong

Things keep taking that turn for the worse. Yes, we could be kinder. We definitely could consume less and save the world for the enjoyment of future generations. But almost every day in the past year, we have been reminded of how we’re dangerously on the verge of imploding. We are very much aware of the human potential, and capacity, for destroying ourselves.

And this is all the more reason to get rid of this seriously outdated and completely incorrect view of the unproductivity of sleep.

In today’s world, not clocking in the hours for rest is not humblebrag. It is a lack of discipline, a sign of poor judgment, and a recipe for disaster.

The year 2018 will present new challenges. Being sleep-deprived is not an option.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA