Why don’t we sleep as well as we used to?
Most of our history as a species, we used to live in larger tribal groups, huddled together with others. Now most of us live alone or with one partner.
Most of our history, we lived by day and night cycles and basically woke up around sunrise and went to sleep around sunset. After the first artificial street lights appeared in Paris in 1667 and spread around the world’s cities over the decades to come, we broke that natural cycle and “conquered the night”, so to speak. Over time, it became more common to be awake later in the day, seek out night-time entertainment, meet friends, or enjoy the rapidly growing nightlife.
Around the time of the Industrial Revolution that made thinking in efficiency commonplace (“time is money”!), humans started to consider sleep and spending too much time in bed a waste of precious time.
- Stress and anxiety: From work, education, or simply concerns over financial stability, relationships, and the entire uncertain future, especially now around the Covid pandemic
- Noise and light pollution in the cities where most of us live
- Unstable sleep rhythms, when e.g. Friday night you’re out until 4am but Monday you need to be up and ready by 7am.
- Food and drinks, such as eating or consuming alcohol short before going to bed
- Lack of physical exercise: It used to be common to work in physical jobs, now most of us sit at an office all day – leaving our bodies to have surplus energy by evening which even a trip to the gym often won’t be enough to get rid of
- Performance anxiety: For many of us, sleep has become a “duty” that we feel we need to perform in, just like in everything else. If we don’t sleep well one night, we fear we’re not doing sleep right and face even more anxiety the next night.
That’s all logical, but is it really true that we don’t sleep as well as we used to?
Very much so, and for any number of reasons like the ones mentioned above.
The WHO (World Health Organisation) for example says that more than a quarter of people suffer from stress regularly, which is found to affect women more often than men.
The average sleep time has actually decreased in the past few decades alone, and is now clearly below 8 hours per night for both men and women.
It’s also evident that this decline in average sleep time affects people in education and working age more, as the average sleep time for them decreased more than for people 55+, which could indicate that stress in job and education as well as pressure to perform have something to do with it. That’s not to say that people 55+ don’t also sleep less than they used to (with most of them also still active in the workforce, of course).
The USA make a good example. There are US States where more than 40% of people sleep less than 7 hours per night, which is significantly below the WHO recommendation.
But even in the least affected US States, it’s still more than ¼ of people who sleep less than 7 hours per night on average.
But also other countries report similar statistics. For example in India, it is estimated that up to 1/3 of the population suffers from chronic insomnia (Source: National Library of Medicine, Paper published by Swapna Bhaskar, D. Hemavathy, Shankar Prasad).
Why is bad or insufficient sleep a problem?
- The immune system is affected by sleep. A lack of sleep actually reduces the immune system’s effectiveness. A part of the reason for this is that insufficient or bad sleep reduces the amount of Natural Killer Cells (NKC’s) in your body, which decreases the power of your body’s defense system.
- Memory and learning are affected by poor sleep. There’s a term called “synaptic pruning”, which is when during sleep your brain’s synapses shrink, get to rest, and prepare for the next awake cycle when they can grow stronger with new input. This process greatly helps learning and memory, and good sleep is essential for it to work effectively.
- REM Cycles. There’s a reason why sleep-tracking apps are popular: You really do want a good number of REM sleep cycles at night, since that’s when the entire learning and memory stimulating processes take place. The less and/or the worse you sleep, the fewer and less pronounced REM sleep cycles you will have.
- Diseases and medical conditions. It’s disputed how many chronic or other diseases and medical conditions are caused or affected by sleep, but what’s clear is – it’s probably more than you think. For example: Russell Foster is a professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford University, basically the science of the body’s inner clock. He claims in the BBC that over 30% of medical problems doctors are faced with stem directly or indirectly from sleep. However, sleep is largely ignored in medical training and very few centres actually study sleep.
Depression. This is naturally a bit of a chicken-or-egg question and it’s hard to come by reliable data, but since 90% of adults living with depression also report sleep problems – it’s likely that there is causality both ways around, i.e. while depression undoubtedly leads to sleep problems, it seems that sleep problems can also increase the risk of depression.
How does Comfy Sleep bring good sleep back?
We understood that sleep problems are devastating, yet with sleep being so complicated, there are very few reliable solutions that help to sleep better.
This is why we develop Comfy Sleep products in collaboration with sleep experts, based on any serious scientific studies we can get our hands on, and by bringing together knowledge from different specialist areas – from psychology and history all the way to materials science and product design.
If you want to know more about our company and approach, we explain this on the About page.
As for the Comfy Sleep Blanket: It’s the first product we launch because after a lot of research and development and testing, we are convinced that it genuinely helps to improve sleep.
Check Out Our Product Right Here: Comfy Sleep Blanket
How does the Comfy Sleep Blanket help sleep better?
“Proprioceptive input” is what your brain is looking for when it is constantly trying to determine the position of your body by itself, and in its surroundings. It’s probably an evolutionary safety feature, so to speak – it allows your brain to understand where you are and how you’re positioned even in the dark.
To put it short: This form of touch allows your body to switch from running primarily by the sympathetic nervous system to running by the parasympathetic nervous system. What this means is that the body switches from “fight or flight” mode into “rest and digest” mode, or from “alert” mode into “relax” mode. Relax mode is when your heart rate slows down, your muscles relax, and your circulation improves as endorphins are produced.
The alert mode has plenty of reasons to exist, and has been a survival mechanic in our evolution as a species. It’s what keeps you wary – but if you remain in this state for too long, it also makes you stressed and irritable.
Many people struggle to get from alert mode to relax mode in the evening. After a long day full of little and big struggles, challenges, and stressful situations that require you to be alert, it’s difficult to switch to feeling safe, comfortable, and allowing the brain to stop being on emergency mode all the time.
That’s where the Comfy Sleep Blanket comes in: It’s easier for your brain to collect proprioceptive input and switch to relax mode when your skin is touched permanently. This touch basically tells your brain that you’re safe and nothing has changed about your position. When your brain continuously gets proprioceptive information, it can worry less and calm down.
The act of stimulating the body by touch is called Deep Pressure Stimulation. It’s the same feeling you get when you feel calm and safe under a warm and preferably heavy blanket. Deep Pressure Stimulation applies touch to your body – and by doing so generates proprioceptive input.
Proprioceptive information plays a role in various therapy forms for children, including compression vests which basically work the same way as the Comfy Sleep Blanket does (only that of course compression vests are meant for therapy of often serious conditions). Common applications of Deep Pressure Stimulation are autism and various conditions where for example children suffer from sensory processing disorders – which often means they remain stuck in the sympathetic nervous system for long times, and even if they calm down it takes very little for their body to switch back to alert mode.