Essays

A Good Night’s Sleep is Now a Luxury Object of Desire

It’s surely not breaking news to you that sleep is the new sex amongst the global elites: people crave it, brag about how much they’re getting, keep running numerical tallies of their experiences, quietly seek instruction on how to get better at it, and secretly cannot manage to get enough of it to satisfy them.

The number of nightly hours of successful sleep one can achieve has become a “thing,” and a good night’s sleep has become a luxury item, to be lusted after and fetishized.

Best-selling books alert us to the fact that sleep is good for us. That we should try to get more of it. That if we don’t, we’re undermining our mental, spiritual and physical health.

The amount of literature published on the topic is daunting. Dr. James Maas, Cornell professor and renowned sleep researcher, is the prolific author of Power SleepSleep for SuccessSleep to Win!; and the forthcoming Sleep Made Simple. Rebecca Robbins of NYU Langone Medical Center has written extensively about workplace wellness programs and the importance of sleep for employee productivity. And surely you’ve heard of Arianna Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time.

This deluge of literature actually makes us more anxious, and less likely to be able to sleep (but maybe that’s just us.)

Doctors tell us that when we’re sleep-deprived our cortisol and epinephrine levels rise, which can lead to an increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, and higher blood sugar. But wait, there’s more: the bad chemicals that are supposed to be excreted from our brains while we sleep accumulate when we don’t get enough shut-eye, and that leads to brain sludge. Ick!

An extensive sleep study conducted last year in the UK by the University of Oxford and the Royal Society for Public Health found that a lack of sleep affects the body the same way drinking alcohol does. After 17 hours without sleep, our alertness is about the same as when we have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05%, which according to U.S. law is considered “impaired” on the legally drunk scale. So lack of sleep can make us stupid and sloppy.

It can also wreck our romantic lives. A study in the The Journal of Sexual Medicinesurveyed a group of college-aged women and found that for women in romantic relationships, each extra hour of sleep corresponded to higher levels of sexual desire, and a 14 percent increase in the likelihood of sexual activity the next day.

As if that’s not enough, too little sleep can also makes us gain weight. A doctor at the NYU Langone Sleep Center notes that when we have insufficient sleep, “leptin and ghrelin hormones go up and that makes you want to eat more.” A study published last year in the journal SLEEP suggests that the brain receptors that can lead the sleep-deprived to crave unnecessary food were the same as those activated by marijuana.

Yikes! No wonder sloth is the new industriousness. Despite the admonition by some to stay woke, the jet set is much more focused on falling asleep. It turns out that living the dream requires sleeping deeply enough to have actual dreams.

It’s reported that up to 20 percent of Americans suffer from sleep or wakefulness disorders. Fifty to 70 million U.S. adults have a chronic sleep disorder and one in three adults get less than seven hours of sleep a night according to the CDC. A Labor Department report issued last week reveals that in 2016, Americans spent more time working and less time sleeping than the year before.

Thus, a new global luxury category has been born, with new products, services and vendors to help us spend our funds and mental energy on achieving the best possible night’s sleep.

We here at Dandelion Chandelier are intrigued by all of this (thinking about it was keeping us up at night, actually). So we decided to take a nocturnal adventure into the world of sleep, to see what’s new and what’s worth paying for.

In the next few posts, we’ll look at luxury beds, mattresses, linens, sleepwear, and sleep aids. We’ll see what cutting-edge smart sleep is all about, and how technology can both prevent and facilitate sound slumber.

In the meantime, consider these low-tech techniques as you try to drift off this evening:

–The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep promises to put kids to sleep by the end of its pages—and not because it’s boring. The book was created by Swedish behavioral psychologist and linguist Carl-Johan Foreseen Ehrlin and uses tricky psychological and positive reinforcement techniques to lull children into sleep. Have your partner read it to you.

–Watch C-SPAN at a volume low enough to hear the endless drone of voices without becoming agitated by what they’re actually saying. Guaranteed to cause you to fall asleep.

–Listen to a Major League Baseball game on the radio. Even the sport’s most passionate fans feel that 3 hours and 8 minutes is a bit too long, and that the pace of play is a bit too slow – but how perfectly soporific for you! Silver lining, people.

–Watching a cricket match would work equally well.

–Call your cable provider, your airline, or the help line of your smart phone manufacturer – you’re guaranteed to end up on hold, and the hold music will lull you to sleep. And don’t worry, the voice of someone asking how they can help you will not rouse you from deep slumber – you’ll still be on hold when you wake up.

–If all else fails, call a friend or family member and ask them to tell you all about their night time dreams. This is a sure-fire way to zone out and fall asleep. Be sure to thank them in the morning.

And realize that you’re not alone in the eternal quest to enter the Land of Nod. It’s a global, ancient dilemma. In the immortal words of Hamlet: “To sleep, perchance to dream- ay, there’s the rub.” We want our blanky.

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