Can't sleep during lockdown? You're not alone. But a $76bn industry trying to help us get more shut-eye could actually be making things worseby Barbara Speed / May 5, 2020 / Leave a comment
There is an old trick of which I used to be a master: half waking up, then snoozing my alarm and pushing myself back down into sleep for another five, 10, 50 minutes. Suddenly, though, it has become a lot harder. I now need to sink back into the Land of Nod fast enough to avoid remembering the existence of the global pandemic—only then am I free to return to dreams of normal life, populated by a dizzying array of people in buildings that aren’t my own home.
I recently ordered a new alarm clock so I could move the mobile phone that had been doing this job away from my bed, believing that the distance from the news apps and the climbing death tolls could allow me to sleep more deeply—escape more thoroughly. When the clock arrived, I assembled it, but realised that I didn’t seem to be able to snooze it. I downloaded a manual in many different languages, squinting at diagrams to find the button that would allow me to earn, like a rat tapping at a lever in a Skinner box, my hit of pandemic-free slumber, all the sweeter because I was almost pulled out of it.
At the heart of my fixation is that golden number: eight hours, a figure that has little basis in science, but which has embedded itself culturally as the optimum amount of sleep for adults, regardless of age or temperament. I sleep deeply once I manage to, but often lie awake for hours first, pushing back my alarm, or snoozing as long as I possibly can in the morning to get closer to the magic eight.
Sleep is disrupted by stress, obviously, and there is an abundance of that right now, as well as a controlling fixation on our daily routines, because this is a time when so much that matters is out of our hands. However, we had steadily become obsessed with sleep long before lockdown. Google searches in the UK for “can’t sleep” have been climbing over the past 15 years (since, perhaps not coincidentally, roughly the time when Googling became a daily activity for people other than…