For a long time, managers boasted that they only slept a few hours a night. Sleep disorders were considered moods and naps were reserved for seniors or young children.
Things have changed. Sleep is now an integral part of self-optimization.
The big health promise of the sleep industry
More and more apps, gadgets and even smart mattresses allow us to measure, interpret and optimize our sleep. Our nights have given birth to a real industry. But is sleep really that important for our health? And is the attention it now enjoys justified or is it just a fad that will soon die out?
For sleep medicine, it’s the beginning of a new era
What many see as a fad responds to the fact that, everywhere in the world, people sleep poorly. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between 10 and 30% of people suffer from insomnia. The Sanitas Health Forecast 2022 study found thatstruggle to close their eyes.
The reasons? We don’t move enough, consume too much alcohol and nicotine, go to bed with our electronic devices, a source of blue light that interferes with sleep; not to mention the stress and worry caused by a performance-driven society and multiplied by the pandemic.
The WHO has just reacted. In 2022, it included for the first time circadian rhythm disorders in its international classification of diseases. “Let’s not be afraid to say that a new era is beginning for sleep medicine,” says Dieter Kunz, chief physician of the Clinic for Sleep and Chronomedicine at St. Hedwig’s Hospital in Berlin. He explains that the disorders treated by sleep medicine are now recognized internationally; they can be diagnosed and treated.
Stress and worries rob us of sleep
Smart mattresses to measure our sleep
In view of this development, the “sleep health market” has more and more players. The offers, especially in the digital field, are increasing day by day. Technological programs and gadgets are becoming more and more advanced. Take for example the Pzizz app. It combines hypnotherapy and psychoacoustic processes in over one hundred billion sound sequences.
Smart mattresses like Intellibed’s Sleep Genius, first developed for astronauts, incorporate technologies such as sleep tracking, automatically adapt to the positions we sleep in and change their temperature themselves. Thanks to its Emma Motion smart mattress, the Frankfurt-based company Emma has seen its turnover increase by 170% during the pandemic, to around 420 million euros.
Classes to learn to sleep
On Instagram, sleep influencers like Alex Shannon and his Follow the Nap channel tell us how to travel the world without neglecting your nights. “Sleep consultants” take a more grounded approach. For example, the German start-up Schlafonaut advises its clients in its Sleep Performance Academy. And there are countless coaches in the field, such as Luxembourger Christine Hansen and her Sleep Like a Boss seminars.
But does it work? Do we need these tips and digital tools? And is all this attention given to our nights justified?
Yesterday was the back. Today is sleep
For Jens Georg Acker, chief physician of the Zurzach Care Sleep Medicine Clinic, these new technologies teach us a lot about our sleep. According to him, we are probably going to have to redefine certain sleep disorders.
He adds that this increased attention to the kingdom of Morpheus has a strong potential for prevention. Indeed, the world of research will thus learn more about the links between many mental disorders and sleep problems. Companies have also understood this well. “Yesterday was the back. Today is sleep,” says Dr. Acker. He adds that sleep is now integrated into the health management of many companies.
Sleep and needs are very individual
For the sleep expert, things are clear: measurement devices such as smartphones and health apps are now an integral part of our daily lives. Unified quality standards are therefore essential. “The main challenge is to derive real medical added value from this health data and to make these devices useful beyond their lifestyle aspect”, he specifies. Especially since the importance of sleep goes far beyond measuring devices; the offer adapts and extends to other aspects of our daily lives (see below).
Björn Rasch, sleep researcher at the University of Fribourg, finds nothing wrong with these new methods of measuring sleep. “But let’s not forget that sleep and needs are very individual.” Recommendations on its duration are therefore only relevant if they take personal differences into account.
Quality sleep depends a lot on a healthy, varied and happy daily life
For Professor Rasch, it is also essential to adopt a global approach to the thing: “Quality sleep depends a lot on a healthy, varied and happy daily life. In the medium term, it may therefore be wiser to strengthen your social network and go out late at night rather than absolutely going to bed at the recommended time and feeling isolated,” concludes the researcher. Ideally, we should not give too much importance to our sleep, but without reducing it voluntarily.
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The Sanitas Health Forecast is an annual study conducted since 2020 on behalf of the health insurer Sanitas with the aim of better understanding and sharing the health concerns, questions, trends and assumptions of the Swiss population.
Positive words for better sleep
Researchers from the University of Friborg have found that hearing terms with positive connotations before falling asleep and during sleep leads to better rest. If we hear positive words, our deep sleep phase lasts longer and the share of waves recorded by the electroencephalogram is higher. These waves are essential for restful sleep. Apps, like Hypnopedia, broadcast positive affirmations while we sleep.
Take a nap in a bar
Sleep experts recommend taking a nap during the day. NASA studies have shown that after a 30-minute nap, pilots were twice as attentive during tests as their colleagues who had not rested. Companies have sniffed out a good deal: there are places dedicated to siestas in more and more Western cities, such as Nap York in New York or the Parisian bar ZZZen.
Urban planning for better sleep
Bad Kissingen, a health resort in Bavaria, wants to become the world’s first “ChronoCity”. Together with the University of Groningen, he develops flexible school and working hours, adapted to various biological rhythms, as well as new lighting concepts. His goal? To ensure that its population is better rested in the long term. By giving back its true value to sleep, this “chronobiological urbanism” aims to stimulate performance at work, and therefore the economy.