O Sleep! O gentle sleep!
Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frightened thee
That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down
And steep my senses in forgetfulness?
William Shakespeare, King Henry IV, Part II Act 3 Scene I, Lines 5-8 (1597)
All living beings sleep.
But twenty-first century men and women appear to have rejected this reality.
We all have a rudimentary sleep vocabulary, vague recollections from school; phrases like Rapid Eye Movement sleep and circadian rhythm, which we drag out from our subconscious when faced with a test of our knowledge and need to score points for our team, whether it’s during family games or at the local pub quiz. We may even carry around in our mind a loaded treasure trove of sleep anecdotes from family and friends – from the hilarious to the bizarre, scary and ridiculous – and a memory stocked with strange stories – from childhood fairy tales, to ghost-and-horror stories as adults; cinematic and literary creations guaranteed to keep us awake long into the night, or provide fuel for conversations with friends over dinner.
We know we’re supposed to get a good night’s sleep, although exactly what that means is unclear to many and ignored by most. We may even be hazily aware of the reported health benefits of sleep. We certainly know how awful we feel after a bad night’s sleep, and promise ourselves that we’ll get to bed earlier in the future.
But do we really give sleep much serious thought? Or, is it only when sleep is erased that we mourn its loss, having taken it for granted, thus fulfilling the saying that goes, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”?
All across the globe we are seeing a collapse in sleep and skyrocketing levels of sleep deprivation, putting our health, both mental and physical, on the line. Perhaps this is not surprising, since we are facing so many uncertainties and crises in our joined-up world, and because we are constantly bombarded with disruptive technologies, exposed to intoxicating media, beguiled by the 24/7 news cycle – itself the stuff of nightmares.
But modern man still needs sleep. Modernity cannot obliterate this fact. Sleep is foundational to good health, along with sunshine, good nutrition, exercise and good relationships. The reduction in quality sleep has led to a decline in our mental and physical health, concentration levels, memory, learning and performance. This in turn is having a detrimental impact in how we function in all areas of our lives; at school, college, work and at home.
It’s time to have a deeper look at sleep.
Whatever age you are, or stage in your career, your health and welfare are important and closely linked to your success at home, study, work, and in all the activities of daily life. Join us as we explore this and other health related topics, as they are published on our blog.