Written by Robert Warden
One of Donald Trump’s prototypical habits was Tweeting obsessively during the middle of the night – angry and most often, crazy, delusional, manipulative tweets to feed raw anger to his base and make them more loyal, which earned him the nickname,
“Twittler” in some circles.
Fortunately, Trump has now been banned from both Twitter and Facebook. However, the damage done by his late-night communications with the outside world, continues to haunt us.
The question that I am addressing here, is how sleep deprivation affects a person’s mental well-being, and by extension, how Trump’s sleep deprivation in particular, has adversely affected our politics.
Relating to sleep deprivation, here are some basic facts:
1. Sleep is biologically required. A person who cannot sleep, literally dies because of that within a couple of years, which is known as Fatal Familial Insomnia;
2. Donald Trump appears to be chronically sleep-deprived, sleeping perhaps 3-4 hours per night;
3. Chronic sleep deprivation, even if it does not kill a person, has many adverse effects on a person’s physical and mental well-being (more on that in a bit);
4. Moreover, many politicians (and entrepreneurs) appear to be chronically sleep-deprived, although some may be blessed with a gene that allows them to remain alert, cheerful and fully functioning on relatively little sleep.
Although it is over 5 years old, I did find an article which addresses the problem of Donald Trump’s chronic sleep deprivation, by Sarah DiGiulio, published in the Huffington Post on June 6, 2016. Actually, I think the fact that it was published so early on is rather prescient, as the title refers to Trump as “a cranky baby” (https://www.huffpost.com/…/trump-cranky-baby_n…).
The article mentions that Trump only sleeps 3-4 hours per night (an amount which has probably continued to remain consistent), and according to many observers and sleep experts, is chronically exhausted. According to Washington State University psychology professor and sleep researcher Paul Whitney, “”There is evidence that lack of sleep decreases the ability to regulate emotion, so sleep-deprived individuals may experience greater emotional reactivity and impulsivity.” Whitney continues by mentioning that sleep deprivation decreases cognitive flexibility, which contributes to poor decision making and sometimes leads to catastrophic errors. So, there you have it; he just pretty much described Donald Trump’s delusional, cranky and impulsive mental state.
But wait… There is more. According to another sleep researcher, Christopher Barnes, who is a professor at the University of Washington, “”In general, sleep deprivation leads to irritability, hostility, prejudice, cognitive errors and bad judgment.” While this overlaps with the other statement about sleep deprivation’s effects, it adds hostility and prejudice to the mix.
Again, it is describing Donald Trump’s behavior with extraordinary accuracy. All of this information also comports with what I have learned over the years about sleep deprivation. By the way, Christopher Barnes said that he was trying to stay neutral regarding Donald Trump, but he really could not do so. He is severely sleep deprived, and this has nothing but bad effects.
While a very small percentage of the population can thrive on as little sleep as Donald Trump gets (Margaret Thatcher for example), this is rare even among politicians or business moguls. Donald Trump probably fancies himself as immune to the effects of sleep deprivation, but the evidence very clearly shows that he is not; he shows all the hallmark, detrimental effects of being chronically sleep deprived. Basically, it is driving him crazy. He is unable to control his anger or other negative emotions. He has developed a sense of trust in his “gut feelings,” which is certainly delusional, and his “gut feelings” are nothing more than self-serving emotional ploys, which unfortunately, his many supporters apparently relate well to, so they are very useful for him as tools that he uses to manipulate his base. However, because of the lack of cognitive flexibility that Trump exhibits, as exacerbated by his sleep deprivation, he is extraordinarily predictable in his reactions to events around him. Why people find him interesting, is baffling to me. If one understands his narcissism and emotional reactivity, there is really not much guesswork to predicting his behavior.
The advantage of sleep deprivation, especially for people such as politicians and entrepreneurs (of which Donald Trump is both), is that they can “outwork the competition.” While the “normal people” among us are sleeping, they can be hard at work, plotting, scheming, communicating with others, et cetera. In Donald Trump’s case, much of his sleepless night owl hours have, until his recent banishment from social media, been devoted to absorbing news reports about him, Tweeting and posting on Facebook, which in my opinion, has had truly tragic results for the United States as a whole. What people such as Donald Trump don’t realize, is that chronic sleep deprivation creates its own problems which outweigh the advantages of the extra “work hours.”
I am sure that many Americans have suffered stress and sleep deprivation because of Trump’s antics. Thankfully, he has been “unpresidented,” and his ability to communicate with the public has been limited. However, he remains a threat to national security as long as he continues to scheme about returning to power. We cannot let this happen. We cannot let him and his Republican cohorts continue to drive this nation’s political system crazy. Fortunately, there are more of us than there are of them, and we have (if we can keep it) the power of one vote per person.