Ahhh, sleep is an issue isn’t it? Vastly undermined as to how bad we actually feel after a bad night’s sleep, or run of them, or full blown insomnia, affecting mood, concentration, appetite, libido and serious health conditions both physical and mental. Affected focus and slower reflexes mean that lack of sleep can be as dangerous as alcohol when it comes to driving on a lack of sleep.
People spoke about their differing sleep problems, whether that was being unable to get to sleep, or falling asleep ok but then waking up and having a disturbed sleep, or only being able to sleep for a few short hours at a time. Some people also recognised that they can sleep too much and use sleep to escape from facing daily life; we know that sleep disturbance is one of the symptoms of depression.
Some of the reasons for being kept awake are internal such as worries, thoughts and processing the events of the day and problems. Other things are external such as noisy neighbours, children, seagulls or perhaps getting sucked into box sets! For some people it can be the anticipation of unwanted dreams or nightmares and it is the fear of that which keeps them awake. Some people spoke about feeling guilty for going to sleep when they needed to others view this as being lazy.
The discussion moved towards seeing our sleeping patterns as a cultural issue. We have a 24 hour society, people are expected to work late, having breaks can be frowned upon, and people are expected to respond quickly to work emails and messages. There is no space during the day to process what is happening. By the time we lie down at night to sleep, our brains can become very busy processing the day and keeping us awake.
We considered cultures where siestas are a natural part of the day, with an early start and a later finish but with a much more relaxed part of the day in the middle.
Other cultures, or business models recognise that not everyone is productive 9-5 and encourage people to finish when they are done and start when they are ready and this can achieve greater creativity and productivity. It was suggested that perhaps western society has informed our sleeping patterns due to the current business model and the layout of the working day; also industrialisation and digitialisation whereby we are further and further removed from our natural world and we are trying to fit our bodies into artificial schedules.
The group discussed that what might help better sleep is a more holistic approach; trying to find a sleep pattern where we can sleep when we need to-some people find power naps useful for example. Reducing stress overall would be helpful and what may assist this is creating space throughout the day, giving oneself time to process and reflect on the day’s events as they occur.
People gave their different experiences as to what has helped them to sleep, these included meditation, hypnosis, sleep apps and power naps. Interestingly, most people did not remember having difficulty sleeping as children.