getting paid to sleep

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Getting Paid to Sleep

The importance of getting enough sleep and the value of fitness tracking

I recently heard about a health insurance company named Aetna has introduced a program that pays its employees to sleep.

Sounds like a really awesome idea, these are the details: for every 20 nights that you get 7 or more hours of sleep, the company will pay you $25, with a yearly cap of $300.

You can either manually enter your sleep stats into the company system, or sync a device like a Fitbit, which tracks your sleep, to automatically enter your logs. Sounds simple enough, but since this news broke I’ve heard a million suggestions for loopholes, everything from getting your kid to wear your tracker for you, or straight up lying when you enter your logs.

For everyone complaining about the lack of rigor in the system or coming up with ways to cheat it, I think you’re missing the whole point. This company is paying you to do something that you should be doing anyways! How cool is that?! For his part, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini is perfectly fine with the honor system, his belief is that having well rested employees, rather than working them 24/7, will boost the company’s bottom line, and I think he’s right.

aetna ceo

Personally as an engineering student or when working as an engineer, there is really no end to the work that needs to be done, that’s also definitely true in entrepreneurship, and I know this is also the case for all sorts of other people and professions. The temptation to squeeze a couple of extra hours out of the day by cutting a couple of hours of sleep is huge, and necessary on occasion, but it’s not a sustainable long term strategy. I do know some people who just seem to be fine regularly pulling all-nighters or staying up until 2 or 3 am. I don’t know how they do it, maybe they’re young, maybe they’re mutants, whatever it is, more power to them, but I can really feel the difference between a 6 and a half hour night versus a 7 and a half hour night, so I’m a big believer in the value of a good night’s sleep.

The only real problem I have with this program overall is the idea of tracking sleep, and actually, tracking things in general. Smart phones, fitness trackers, smart watches and other devices are making it possible to track and quantify more and more things, how many steps you take, how long you stand, how long you sit, what you eat, your heart rate, the list goes on, and it’s growing. This idea of using technology to track our lives is referred to in tech circles as the “quantified self.”

There are definite advantages to this information, used correctly it can really be beneficial for your health. My Apple Watch tells me when I’ve been sitting to long, and I love that. The problem is that I think it may not be good to attach a number to everything, it can start creating a lot of pressure, and may end up hurting health instead of helping it. Sleep, especially, is a lot trickier than counting steps (which is something a lot of trackers don’t even do very well by the way), and if your tracker tells you that you aren’t getting enough or high quality sleep, that could just stress you out further.

I definitely think fitness tracking is a good thing, but I wonder whether it is universally a good thing, and how far it should go. Seems to me this could vary a lot person to person. My mom has become a lot more conscious about her health since she started wearing a fitness tracker, which is good, but she also gets down if she has a few days in a row with low scores, which may or may not be a good thing. We will probably find out more about the usefulness of such tracking as more and more people start wearing them, and once people have worn them over a period of many years.

This is all very interesting stuff, I’m curious to see what the future of fitness tracking is, and if more companies will start taking this sort of approach towards their employees’ health. In the meantime, if you’re upset that your employer isn’t paying you to sleep, Google will pay you 20 bucks an hour to “drive” its self-driving cars. It may not be as good as getting paid to sleep, but getting paid to do “nothing” is probably a close second!

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