While we once wore our deprivation like badges of honour, existing on minimal sleep has firmly fallen out of favour. The uncontrollable need to proclaim how ‘busy’ we are all the time may not have budged, but a good night’s sleep is no longer stigmatised with the label of laziness. In fact, it has a spawned a booming new industry.
Those smugly bragging about functioning on five hours have long been silenced by scores of studies linking lack of sleep with everything from diabetes to depression, Alzheimer's to obesity, low sperm count to cancer. Most recently, we’ve learned being tired is akin to being drunk and that it can actually change our bodies on molecular levels. And as the truth comes out, high flyers are busting myths about sleep and success – the likes of Arianna Huffington, Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos and even the Dalai Lama have spoken out about their need for a good eight hours. We’ve come a long way from the theory of the ‘sleepless elite’ (blame Mozart, Winston Churchill and Donald Trump for that one).
Despite all this, the UK still isn’t getting enough rest. The average Brit heads to bed just after 11pm, and only gets around six and a half hours sleep per night – falling short of the recommended seven to nine hours most adults need. Dubbed a ‘sleep epidemic’, our collective lack of snoozing costs the British economy some £40 billion a year in NHS fees and lack of productivity. It’s clear that knowing we need more sleep isn’t enough to help us drift off. In fact, worrying about sleep deprivation only serves to make insomnia worse.
Sleep specialists like neuroscientist Matthew Walker are campaigning for change – urging companies to incentivise sleep, schools to start later, doctors to prescribe sleep instead of sleeping pills. Here, he hits the nail on the head about why we’re not nodding off: “The porous borders between when you start and finish [work]… longer commuter times, too. No one wants to give up time with their family or entertainment, so they give up sleep instead.” Walker says anxiety also plays a part, that we’re a “lonelier, more depressed society” using alcohol and caffeine to alter our moods.
Brits spent almost £3 billion on their caffeine fix in coffee shops last year – but a mounting crop of brands are trying to turn the tables on the less-sleep-more-coffee philosophy. After all, if we’re putting time and money into healthy meals and gym memberships, why shouldn’t we treat sleep the same way too? It’s a concept the wellness world has fully embraced, and with ‘clean sleeping’ almost as rife as ‘clean eating, it’s no wonder the obsession has spilled over to other sectors. Thanks to fashion, beauty and tech, sleep isn’t just essential – now it’s actually cool.
From sleep monitoring apps and bedtime ‘alarm clocks’ with wind-down reminders, to lavender-scented eye masks and pillow sprays, sleep is big business across the board. Liberty has just launched Art of Sleep; a collection of decadent silk sleepwear designed to be worn around the clock, while Céline and Balenciaga made the case for blankets-as-accessories and huge duvet coats for AW17.
When we’ve already subscribed to hygge, have bought the luxe loungewear and long-since ditched the shame of discussing how much Netflix we’re really watching – making an art of actually hitting the hay seems like the logical next step…
Want in on the action? Check out our pick of the coolest sleep accessories…