Millennial Voices

Singaporeans Working Too Much And Sleeping Too Little – Maybe We Should Just Chill Out

Study hard.

Get a good job (whatever that means).

Work hard to make money.

So you can work harder to make more money.

Buy expensive shit so you can impress people at work.

Retire when you’re too old to physically go to work or enjoy the money you’ve made.

Die.

Ah, the Singaporean dream. Isn’t it a doozy?

You snooze you lose

An article recently published by The Straits Times revealed that, according to a study by SingHealth Polyclinics, more than 40% of Singaporeans are not clocking enough sleep on weekdays.

I’m sorry, is anyone actually surprised by these findings?

No shit, Sherlock. It’s hard to get enough sleep when so many of us are raging workaholics.

We spend over 9 hours at work, not including overtime, spend an hour squeezing through train stations, then try to stretch our leisure time at home in a futile attempt at maintaining our sanity before finally collapsing into bed, only to slam the alarm clock the next morning and repeat the whole process again. Not too far off the mark, am I? You’re not the only one.

“I’m not a workaholic! I like to take a break now and then.”

Bullshit. You can be an alcoholic without drinking 24/7.

We are constantly conditioned by corporations to work hard and play hard, to make more money and spend more money. We have been inducted by advertising into the belief that the more we consume, the happier we’ll be, so we sacrifice everything at the altar of greed and ‘career’. Our sleep, our health, our relationships, our ideals. We convince ourselves that we need to work and work and work some more to reach that fleeting feeling of satisfaction when we fill our lives momentarily with the next smartphone or pre-scheduled holiday or expensive bag.

Our neoliberal greed-is-good economy has driven our society collectively insane, to the point where, as a certain famous movie character once said, “We buy shit we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t know.”

We believe that economic growth is a necessity, that hyper-consumerism is the path to progress. We think that the only way to fulfil any sort of purpose in life is to work, buy stuff, and work some more.

What if we’re wrong? What if the Singaporean Dream is bullshit? Maybe we should all just take a step back, and chill the f*ck out.

Embrace Boredom

“My father used to say that only boring people get bored. I used to think it’s only boring people who don’t feel boredom, so cannot conceive of it in others.”

Aside from money, much of our motivation to pursue a life of relentless workaholism comes from our aversion to being bored. I’ve heard people say that if they stay at home and don’t work, they’d go crazy from the boredom, as if just being alive is such a chore that they need constant work to distract from the emptiness of existence.

I’d submit that maybe the way to combat our rampant overworking and sleep deprivation is to simply open our minds to the idea of being bored.

Boredom, ironically, is the mark of an interesting person, because he/she has the presence of mind and depth of thought to constantly seek more stimulating things. A boring person is never bored, because he/she absorbs himself in work and play, obsessing over unimportant things, never seeking anything new.

Companies love boring people. They work intently all day, never allowing distractions from anything or anyone. They work longer hours than is required of them, and even continue working at home. They are so afraid of having nothing to do that they cling obsessively to their jobs like a sort of lifeboat saving them from the ocean of purposelessness.

But when your job becomes your life, you leave little space for anything else, including your health.

How can you go to sleep when you constantly think and talk about work and co-workers and KPIs, even when out of work? You try to distract yourself with video games and shows and social media, but all these only engage your mind further and drive your melatonin levels lower and lower, keeping you awake until you fall asleep out of sheer exhaustion, and wake up 4 hours later to your phone alarm blaring on repeat. Then you go to work with a hot cup of drugs a.k.a. caffeine in your hand and complain about how you didn’t get enough sleep and you’re sooo tired.

Of course, some people genuinely have sleep disorders that prevent them from getting enough sleep, but not every sleepless workaholic is also a diagnosed insomniac. Many of us are just terrible at controlling our obsession with work and taking care of ourselves.

Work-life balance

We hear the term “work-life balance” thrown around a lot, but how many of us actually do enough to achieve it?

According to Singhealth Polyclinics, less than 60% of us.

If you’re one of the 40%, stressed, overworked, and sleep-deprived as all hell, perhaps try easing your grip a little. Start to understand that we may have more control over the stresses in our lives than we think, and just learn to switch off.

Ignore work messages on your off days. Leave the office on time and go home early for dinner with your loved ones. Have unfinished work? Leave it for tomorrow. Deadlines can be postponed; assignments can wait; taking care of your health cannot.

You can get a second job. You can’t get a second life.

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