Ask someone in small talk how he or she is and you will often get the response, “Tired.” We all say it. I know I do. While the response seems to be age-dependent, we live a significant portion of our lives in this tired state. Why? Just why are we so tired?

I suppose the answer is really simple… it’s because we don’t get enough sleep. But we already knew that, so let me rephrase the question. Why do we choose not to get enough sleep?

I know there are a variety of reasons why people lose sleep that have little to do with choice. Sleep apnea, a snoring partner, hormonal changes, stress, etc. all can inhibit someone from getting a full night of sleep. But for many of us we simply choose to extend our waking hours. Be it the responsibilities of raising young children, working in a demanding job(s), being a student, or taking care of your parents, it may often feel like we don’t have the choice. Once the responsibilities are taken care of for the day or week surely it seems not just okay, but necessary, to enjoy one’s life through social activities, hobbies, or the like. This seems right. But we do have the choice. One less blog post from me and the world isn’t going to end (it may, in fact, be just the opposite). 30 minutes less on Facebook, one or two less video games, one fewer book read a month (or year?), and the sun will still come up tomorrow. Our lives will be just as enriched and meaningful. Why don’t we just go to bed?

It’s confusing to me because we know we need the sleep. If we don’t get enough of it, we become irritable, our memories and thinking abilities are impacted, and we are even at greater risk for many diseases. All of us are aware of and have experienced personally the first two, and I think the third is becoming more well-known. So why am I typing instead of sleeping right now?

I spent a bit of time looking for the psychological answer for this and couldn’t find one. That doesn’t mean it’s not out there, but my brief attempt didn’t reveal too much. It seems we just decide that it’s worth it. We’re hungry for social connections, information, and play, and we decide to take sleep-deprivation along with it. Interestingly, even though we’ve lived this movie over and over again, we often think that we can make up for it or catch up. We’re optimists that way, I guess.

Do you have any ideas as to why we continually make this choice? Do we convince ourselves that we don’t really have a choice? Or is there something much greater behind it?