At a public meeting, a state legislator appeared almost drunk. His speech was slightly slurred and you could tell he was just giving automatic responses. He hadn’t been drinking but was exhausted from a lack of sleep. Utah has a part-time legislature with a 45-day legislative session. During that time, the legislature is extremely busy with committee meetings, general sessions, and reading through bills.
Curious as to how big of an issue this was, I asked a group of legislators at another public meeting if they were getting enough sleep and how it affected their ability to be an effective legislator. Everyone that answered said that they weren’t. One state senator explained how his extra duties keep him there from 7 am to 9 pm, and he lives about 45 minutes away. Several, including him, said that thinking and worrying about the issues they are voting on make it even harder to sleep. This state senator admitted though that as the session progresses he votes no more as he gets more ornery.
A state representative talked about the pressure real and it does take a toll on your health. Another state senator admitted he only got 3-4 hours a night during the session but thought he was just fine and then proceeded to say something that offended a colleague.
I was able to ask Congressman John Curtis the same question. He said that there is definitely a lack of sleep within Congress and that traveling across multiple time zones is an issue.
Congressman Ben McAdams, who is new to Washington DC, was excited to announce that he has his own little studio apartment with an inflatable mattress that his family can visit. He said that many members of Congress share apartments with roommates and he has heard around 100 sleep on cots in their offices because housing is so expensive.
According to the National Institutes of Health, “Sleep deprivation can noticeably affect people’s performance, including their ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. Sleep deprivation also affects mood, leading to irritability; problems with relationships” and “Sleep deprivation can also increase anxiety.”
Now just think about that for a little bit. How much does this affect how our elected officials vote on bills? How much does this affect fighting between individuals and parties?
Perhaps we should be encouraging our elected officials to get adequate sleep instead of condemning them for not doing enough. What a difference that could make.