Sleep or Money?

How much is an hour of sleep worth to you?

To me, it’s worth quite a bit. There are probably some who share the same thoughts. On the other hand, I’m sure there are also many others who would say, “show me the money!”.

An short article I recently read, from The WSJ discusses a study that covers the topic of sleep vs. money. In it, there people are asked to choose between getting more sleep and less money, or more money and less sleep. Here were the actual choices:

  1. An $80,000 job that has work hours that are manageable, and you end up getting 7.5 hours of sleep a day
  2. A $140,000 job that has long work hours, and you end up getting 6 hours of sleep a day

Which would you choose?

I find this to be an interesting question – in terms of how this might be answered by everyone. There are some people that are very focused on health, balance, etc. Then, you have some people that are highly focused on making more money as the top priority.  In between, you have many of the rest of us, who don’t think the two are mutually exclusive.

A big help in the quest to be financially successful is the trait of perseverance. Often times, those who want something badly enough will work extra hard for it – and truly work extra hard. In the setting of a career, this might mean working super late hours and cutting into sleep. If you’re not doing it, inevitably someone else will. There is usually someone out there willing to outwork the next person.

I’ve been one of these people before, who have worked some incredibly late nights. I mean, we’re talking countless times working until well past midnight in the office, only to get up early the next day. Sometimes until 2am or later. There others who do that, and look at it like it’s some type of badge of honor.

Over time, I’ve moved more toward the side of trying to keep balance. I’ve learned that quality of life is important, and it’s important to take care of one’s health. If you do nothing but work, and view sleep as a waste of time, it will catch up to you. Sleep is not a waste of time, it’s really important.

The irony of it is that if people get more sleep, they might be more productive. Could it be possible, as discussed here before, that sleep can lead to wealth creation? Doesn’t that sound good?

Back to the question.  If I could reframe it a bit, and take out the dollar amounts – and focus on the relative percentages – I’d take less money and a proper night’s sleep. Continuing to get 20% less sleep than you need – whatever that exactly is for you – will take it’s toll over the long run.

I like the idea of getting the right amount of sleep and being well rested. Sounds more fun! Plus, you might be more productive and able to get more done in less time, when physically and mentally alert.

My Questions for You

Which would you choose from the options noted above – more money, less sleep – or proper sleep, less money?

Have you ever worked excessive hours like I have in the past?

Do you subscribe to the belief that increased sleep can lead to wealth creation, or do you think sleep is overrated?


  1. says

    I’ve definitely done the late night / little sleep thing. I think as long as it’s a rare occurance, it’s OK to do, but if you make a habit of it or make it your permanent sleep habits, you’re going to suffer in the end.

    • Squirrelers says

      MB – well said. I think it’s ok to do once in a while to overdeliver, but taking away from sleep to do that regularly is counterproductive for life effectiveness.

  2. says

    Interesting question. I am thinking of I-Bankers and Doctors (Nurses too) in my head – they pull incredible hours in the beginning of their careers in order to be placed in jobs with better balance later. Maybe it’s a ‘do it when you’re younger’ thing?

    Pretty funny though because from everything I’ve read the younger you are the more sleep you need.

    • Squirrelers says

      PKamp3 – yeah, I think that may be some sort of exception. Pay the price up front, then you’re in great shape with income later. What’s interesting (and alarming) to me is how doctors in residency might pull super long hours, and be expected to be effective. Makes me wonder just how effective they can be with patients.

    • Squirrelers says

      Amanda – 9 hours would be great! You know, I have to admit that I don’t remember off the top of my head the last time I got 9 hours of sleep. Maybe when sick :) But I do think that 7.5 to 8 hours is what does it for me. We’re all different. Maybe the 7.5 hour example in the question from that study would also be tough for you?

    • Squirrelers says

      Sam – yeah, I think we’ve traded comments on this in a few posts in the last 2 years. I know you’re lucky, and can see how 6 hours would be the choice for you.

      • says

        Blogging seriously makes it feel like Christmas every single morning. I can’t wait to see what the comments are, or who has e-mailed me what. I gotta believe you feel the same way a little too yeah?

        • Squirrelers says

          Absolutely Sam, it’s a blast and I know what you mean. That’s why I’m up way too late this evening (morning?) right now reading comments and responding to them :)

  3. says

    For me everything depends on the job/career. Work environment, managment team and would I have impact on the overall company. In other words, it is more than money for me.

    • Squirrelers says

      Ashley – yeah, enough sleep really helps. I’m going against my advice right now, as I type this. Tomorrow will be different though :)

  4. says

    I would take more money in a heart beat but only because can function off 5 hours of sleep lol. Also, I would take the big pay check and bank the rest in hopes to develop a 2nd or 3rd passive income stream in the process.

    • Squirrelers says

      YFS – oh, you’re another one of those lucky people like Financial Samurai :) It’s a gift, you can be more productive on average than the average person while getting enough sleep.

  5. says

    I’ve done the 4AM-midnight thing myself years ago and it wasn’t a good idea. I was tired and fortunately I didn’t get sick. I could last for few months only and then started having a better schedule.

    Now, I sleep 9 hours. NINE. Because I’m mostly on my computer running sites, working with clients etc. And I can’t help it, so I’m working a lot. But my sleep is important so, at 12, I’m in bed and sleep till 9. While some might think it’s a lot of sleep, it helps me rest well and I can put up with another 14 hour/work day :)

    • Squirrelers says

      dojo – hey, we’re all different. So if you need 9 hours, it’s good that you’re getting that. I maintain that our productivity can be impacted by regularly shortchanging ourselves.

  6. says

    When I was younger, I’d have gone for the $140K job with 6 hours of sleep. Now it’d definitely be the lower pay for more sleep.

    I wish I didn’t need as much (could get to my blogging goals faster), but it’s better to go slow and be healthier.

    That’s not to say there isn’t the occasional long hours but it’s not sustained.

    • Squirrelers says

      Kay Lynn – me too…I would have once taken the higher paying job and disregarded the health consequences, but no more!

    • Squirrelers says

      Nicole – I think that an analogy might be driving a car fast vs slowly. If you drive a car pedal to the metal, you’ll get from point A to point B quicker than you would if you drove the the speed limit. However, over the long run, the car will break down quicker by constantly flooring it. Same goes for pushing our minds and bodies to the extreme.

  7. says

    An interesting topic – sleep often comes up when I tell people some of the things I do, and I’ll admit I don’t get enough of it but I think there are some people that don’t require as much sleep as others. I know the science of the body says different but I’ve always felt great on say 6.5 hours or so, and feel groggy when I get a full 8 or more. I’m sure this changes with age too, but for me I’d rather take advantage of my body’s sleeping patterns right now and get as much done as possible – I’ll sleep when I’m old/rich :)

  8. says

    I slept for 4 hours last night from 12:30-4:30. That is fairly typical. I might get a few extra hours on the weekend. If I am on vacation and not doing a whole lot (like around Christmas time), I will often be unable to sleep at all.

  9. natharn says

    i love to make much money so i have to sleep less for a year after that i will work less and give something for my health.

  10. Dorothea Berg says

    I think it’s ok to do once in a while to overdeliver, but taking away from sleep to do that regularly is counterproductive for life effectiveness. Pay the price up front, then you’re in great shape with income later. I’m going against my advice right now, as I type this.

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