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19 September 2018updated 01 Jul 2021 5:30am

Leader: How modern life conspires to rob us of sleep

New term “orthosomnia” describes the insomnia brought on by paying too much attention to sleep-tracking apps.

By New Statesman

Shakespeare called sleep “the honey-heavy dew of slumber”, “nature’s soft nurse” and “the season of all natures” – a blissful, untroubled state all too easily disturbed by earthly worries or a guilty conscience. Four centuries later, however, a new threat to a good night’s rest has emerged. As Ian Leslie writes this week, many of us are consumed by the desire to measure and optimise the most intimate functions of our bodies. Our smartphones can track our diets, our menstrual cycles, even our digestive systems. But does this knowledge help us? Researchers have coined a new term, “orthosomnia”, to describe the insomnia brought on by paying too much attention to sleep-tracking apps.

The existence of a market for such apps is unsurprising: shift work, a long-hours culture and blue light from screens have conspired to rob many of us of sufficient rest. As the neuroscientist Matthew Walker’s best-selling book Why We Sleep has argued, this trend is linked to obesity, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. 

So do yourself a favour: put down your page-turning New Statesman at a decent hour tonight, and read something boring instead. We recommend the Guardian.

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This article appears in the 19 Sep 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Corbyn’s next war