When counting sheep is not enough
By Patricia Gerth van Wijk, Sales Director, SleepNet-BreatheNet
I remember the good old days when going to sleep was quite simple; brush teeth, PJ’s on, maybe read a few pages of your current book and then lights out and off to dreamland. Sleep was necessary and yet seemed uncomplicated.
Nowadays sleep is a hot topic. The New York Times says sleep is the new sex! And this new age of technology has identified the sleep industry as a growing market, estimating Americans spend more than $41 billion in sleep aids and remedies annually. There are dozens of apps that tell you when to sleep and how well you are sleeping. You can wear a watch that gathers your sleep info and sends it to your smartphone. There is even a smart mattress that can analyse your REM cycle and wake you up with a smart alarm when it detects that you are in a light stage of sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep there is a digital lamp designed to help rhythm you into sleep by projecting pulsating light onto your ceiling. Or you can purchase bedding that feels like your favourite worn t-shirt and sheets that are temperature regulated.
A recent USA consumer poll shows 27% of people struggle to fall asleep every night and 68% struggle with sleep at least 1 night a week. The American Association of Sleep Medicine has a published list of over 80 known sleep disorders. Closer to home, the South Africa Society of Sleep Medicine lists 29 sleep laboratories that will clinically analyse your sleep.
We know how important sleep is. Study upon study has shown how poor sleep weakens the immune system, impairs learning and memory, contribute to depression and mental disorders, as well as obesity, diabetes, cancer and even death.
It seems that sleep has now become complicated. So, what has changed?
A friend recently said to me “you sleep when you dead”! Is sleep now seen as an indulgence because for those 6-8 hours we are unproductive? And why the need to occupy our bedrooms with gadgets that invade the dark with blue light? Surely with global trends towards wellness, going green, organic eating and active living in our daytime hours, we should take the same approach to the time we spend asleep? Sleep should be the most natural act and yet we just can’t seem to get it right. Perhaps the author of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes is right in his aphorism “The sleep of a labourer is sweet, whether he eat little or much, but as for the rich man, his abundance permits him no sleep”.
Have we so enriched our lives with gadgets and “things” that our abundance permits us no sleep? Do we really need all these props to get a good night’s rest? Should we not be going back to basics with sleep, because, after all, is rest not a condition of the soul?
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