The 24 x 7 society…

Sleep deprivation in the 21st century & the way ahead

Excerpt – Research from multiple sources & Mastering Sleep, By Swami Subramaniam

Almost 30 percent of Americans do not get enough sleep. Making do with six or fewer hours of sleep every day. If we include people suffering from sleep deprivation, at least once a week, then the percentage would be much higher. Sleep deprivation is so common that it is viewed as the norm, something you can fix with coffee. Sleep is treated as a fungible commodity. Dispense with it during the workweek and catch up over the weekend. We might have left it at that, except for accumulating evidence that sleep deprivation has serious short term and long-term consequences for health and performance

Globalization has played a role in perpetuating sleep deprivation. Shifting US call centers to low-cost locations such as India, more than eight time zones away, means that when an American customer calls into a helpline at say 3 pm EST, it is a bleary-eyed Indian call center employee in Bangalore who responds at 1:30 am IST. Even though on one side the city is known for its dynamic growth and vibrant economy, there are also daily corrosive effects of globalization that take place, one of them being sleep deprivation. You see not only call center employees catching up with some much-needed shut-eye on their way to work in their office bus, but also school-going children as early as 8 am in the morning and other office goers doing the same.

It looks as if there is a sleep epidemic underway in the city which will be common to many other similar city hubs. This is however not surprising, as there are a whole host of distractions out there that compete with sleep. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said sleep is our competition. Advertisers hate sleep. They want your eyeballs all the time. Through your wide-open eyes, they want to insert messages into your brain, messages that drive you to consume, messages now delivered via the internet, 24 hours a day and very convenient to your handheld device and very soon via other virtual reality or augmented reality tools

The attack on sleep is given a tailwind from prevailing expectations about work. All the talk about work life balance has not led to work schedules that create space for the normal 8 hour sleeping period. Executives compete to stay ahead at work even as they struggle to maintain, and I party hard image within their social peers. Going to bed early is infra dig. Sleeping is lazy. Today’s office workers compress sleep time from both ends, going late to bed after late night socializing and then waking up early the next day for an office meeting.

How long can we go without sleep? Moreover, what happens to the body as time without sleep increases? We may never really know until we try it out ourselves. Until then it is important to remember that we should remain mindful of our own sleep and calibrate it as per our needs. There have been many dedicated scientists and researchers who have dedicated themselves to the study of sleep, such as the Russian, Maria Manasseine, through Berger, Hobson, Kleitman, Dement, Aschoff and Rechtshaffen to the 2017 Nobel Laureates in Medicine and the work on sleep science to understand sleep, in turn understand ourselves is only evolving more with time.

Today’s popular culture has at least started making sleep cool, celebrating the culture of wellness and there is a vast industry developing to cater to people’s insecurities about their sleep. The sleep industry is rushing headlong into inventing tools that can help you get sleep, from high tech mattresses that listen to you and your body movements, fitness bands that track each movement you make along with your heartbeat, apps to monitor everything and present colourful reports and so on. However, we must pause to reflect on the fact that none of these aids can beat the age-old recipe for good sleep, which is a day spent in hard work with a light conscience. Sleep indeed is the pleasantest of medicines and there are no side affects of sleep, no overdose of sleep and you do not need a doctor to tell you how much of sleep you need. We wish you a good night’s sleep, inner peace and that near perfect dream

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