Try to take a break from the rat race

2018-07-01 06:26
Man struggling to sleep

Man struggling to sleep (Shutterstock)

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If you’re reading this while you’re on a midyear break, lucky you. If not, then it’s time for a midyear check-in – how is your year going and what’s the state of your mental health?

A friend recently posted a picture on Instagram with a caption that read: “I already want to take a nap tomorrow.” That just about sums up this year for me, and I’m not alone.

For many years, I’ve maintained that the unintended consequence of digitisation is that we now work 12 months in six months, and that midyear break – which used to be viewed as a luxury – now becomes a necessity. If you don’t take a midyear break, or at the very least a couple of long weekend escapes throughout the year, you’ll be crawling, drained and defeated, to the year’s finishing line.

The technological age is not for sissies. Since I started tracking digital addiction four years ago, and the different kind of burnout that comes with it, the service and self-help industry that has risen to stem the addiction has grown exponentially – but it seems it’s not making any difference.

No matter how many mindful meditation apps you have on your phone (oh, the irony), we seem to be unable to step away from our Black Mirror lives. And so a new digital affliction is raising its ugly head – sleep deprivation.

The combination of an ever faster pace of life, thanks to digitalisation, the new layers of stress this creates, as well as the side-effects of blue light from our devices, is killing our sleep patterns – and creating an entirely new industry: one that is focused on helping you sleep.

Sleep, it seems, has become the new luxury. Working single parents, in particular, know this, but now help is at hand and has come in some truly unexpected ways.

Ikea Dubai has created a multisensory magazine advertisement that allegedly helps to lull you to sleep. Yes, really.

The visual of the ad is a graphic circular pattern (a mosaic of different Ikea bed offerings) that mimics a vortex, which helps you relax and makes you want to put your head down. Once your head is down, the lavender ink used to print the ad emits a scent that calms you further. The ad also appears on the back of a United Arab Emirates magazine called Good, which allows for the ad to be charged by USB. Once charged, the ad emits white noise, which should put you to sleep.

However, if you’re in need of a nap during the day and don’t want to be caught napping at work (although some forward-thinking companies already have facilities to this end for their workforces), you can pop into a nap café like Nap York in New York City in the US.

This wellness club follows the trend of similar clubs popping up in Tokyo and Madrid.

At the club, you can book a sleep session in a private room, or simply take 40 winks in a pod chair. The rooms are designed for the master napper. They include soundproof curtains, plants, essential oil diffusers, ambient lighting and even twinkling stars to stare at. In summer, there are rooftop spaces with a garden and hammocks for napping if you’re more of an outdoorsy sleeper.

If you’d prefer to regress to your childhood and would like to try a group sleep experience, composer Max Richter has devised a rather unique concept. Sleep is an eight-hour symphony for 150 guests who desperately need sleep. In partnership with mattress brand Beautyrest, which provides branded beds, pillows, blankets and eye masks, guests are encouraged to wear comfy clothing or pyjamas and then crawl into a bed and be lulled to sleep while listening to the orchestra.

Richter consulted neuroscientists to research the mechanics of sleep before creating the work, as well as the concept, which was specifically launched to highlight the growing problem of sleeplessness and the impact it has on our lives.

Still can’t sleep? Perhaps you need to turn to sleep coaching – it’s now a thing. Sleep coaching was developed ostensibly as a means to improve or maintain the recuperation of professional athletes, but in an era when sleeplessness is rising, stressed out executives and new parents are signing up. Sleep coaches focus on heart-rate variability and how that affects your sleep. Just like a personal trainer, a sleep coach will embark on a behavioural, step-by-step programme that should provide incremental improvement in the quality and duration of your sleep by changing your daily lifestyle habits.

Once you’ve finally had a good night’s sleep, it’s good to know that’s it’s possible to catch up on “sleep debt” by sleeping for a few extra hours following a period of sleep deprivation. A study by the University of Calgary last year discovered that you can not only recover from sleep deprivation, but you can also “bank sleep” ahead of periods of expected sleep deprivation to improve physical and cognitive function.

It’s already (or only) July. I suddenly feel the need to bank a nap.

- Chang is the founder of Flux Trends. For more trends, visit


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