The quantity – and quality – of sleep we get has been eroded over the past few decades, due almost exclusively to the increasingly frantic pace at which we live our lives. The internet, social media and technology that enables us to be available 24/7 means most of us are desperate for more hours in the day; and for many, it’s sleep that gets sacrificed.
The research into the consequences of long-term sleep deprivation makes alarming reading. While sleeping between seven and nine hours a night has been recommended by the World Health Organisation and ratified by the US’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a 2013 study by the National Sleep Foundation (an American education and advocacy group) showed that the average adult in the UK is getting by on 6hr 49min of sleep per night in the week.
People in Japan and the US fared even worse, on 6hr 22 min and 6hr 31 min respectively. Meanwhile, the Chinese are the world’s best sleepers, achieving a little more than nine hours on average.
Many people are consistently underslept. Research from non-profit scientific organisation RAND [Research and Development] in 2016 found that sleep deprivation costs the UK economy up to £37bn a year, or 1.86% of GDP, a figure calculated with data from employers, employees and information about sleep duration. They found that increasing nightly sleep from under six hours to between six and seven hours could add £22bn to the UK economy.
Meanwhile, it’s about more than productivity or GDP. Many researchers believe that enough sleep is quite simply the difference between life or early death. More than 20 large-scale epidemiological studies reported the same clear relationship: the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.
In reaction to this, Hobbs, Dunne et al are part of a growing band of young people – mostly millennial and, anecdotally, women – who observe a night-time regime of going to bed extremely early. Aided by data mostly gleaned from fitness trackers, these people focus on achieving “clean sleep” – often to the detriment of their social lives and relationships – because they believe it will make them look and feel more healthy, and be more productive at work.
It’s no wonder a good night’s sleep has evolved into the new status symbol. While bragging rights used to be attached to being a member of the macho “sleepless elite” – think Margaret Thatcher’s four hours a night and fashion designer Tom Ford’s purported three – today the wealthy and privileged boast about being well-slept. It’s a lifestyle encouraged by the Silicon Valley set, many of whom are spending millions of dollars – and hours – designing data-capturing devices to help people quantify how much rest they are getting and, ironically, missing out on rest themselves to do it.
Being able to prioritize sleep over a never ending night-time to-do list, anxieties about finances or workaday stresses is a luxury it seems money can buy. Almost overnight, the most basic of human functions has become aspirational. Researchers have even come up with a term to describe this obsession with sleep: “orthosomnia”. Aided by technology and encouraged by big business, sleep is becoming something we feel we can control.
And the best way to reduce sleep disturbance and snoring is to sleep with sleepQ+ on your lips.
Updated 21st January 2018
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