How our sleep obsession has led to an anxiety-driven disorder
It is almost impossible, in the UK in 2018, to get through the day without reading something relating to sleep. Dominating advertisements, on our phones, on social media and even in day-today conversation, the fear-mongering that we aren’t getting enough is everywhere. Where once the advice was to have the standard 7-8 hours of shut-eye for good health, what’s great for wellbeing now varies between a huge selection, of ‘little and often’ sleeps and longer slumber sessions.
Inevitably, this has exploded into the launch of sleep trackers, which are easily accessed on our phones and devices for those of us desperate to find that perfect nights’ sleep. Just like finding the ideal fitness regime and nutritional programme, people are desperate to uncover the ideal sleep routine, and, with the concept being so widely-promoted, it is impossible to get away from. As a result of this, orthosomnia has developed – a new disorder which has arisen from the pursuit of a perfect night’s sleep, a concept published recently in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, Silentnight sleep expert, believes the disorder has risen because of the fast-paced lives we are now living. “Our lifestyles are so fast and the level of demand on us has risen so we need more sleep and rest to cope, and this has led to us become too fixated on how much sleep we are getting. I also think this new age of technology has meant we are now reliant on measurements to give us answers, and in this case, it is producing the wrong answers. As humans we have become ‘perfectionistic’ about our sleep, which is exactly the opposite of what will help us to get a good night’s kip.
“I think having more awareness of the need for good sleep can only be a positive thing – but this has led to unhealthy preoccupations with it. We must remember that the process of sleep is still a mystery, even to scientists, and there are times we may sleep badly for no reason at all. Expecting to get the perfect night’s shut-eye every evening is an unrealistic concept.
“In order to fight orthosomnia we need to have more awareness about the fact wearable devices do not always measure it accurately, as well as the fact that it is totally normal to occasionally have a restless night, and humans are equipped to deal with this. People also need to realise that we don’t just get our energy from sleeping, it comes from many other factors including how we breathe, eat, think, live and love. Sleep is important but not the only thing we need to consider.”
It might be time to go back to basics with sleep, putting trackers and apps to rest and instead look at traditional techniques to get you through. Rather than going back to counting sheep, head to The Sleep Show at The Old Truman Brewery in London on 13th-14th October to do just that and get expert advice, or go to interactive workshop and classes in a fun-filled family day out. Find out more and book tickets at somnexshow.com
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