SEEMA MUNIZ traces the modern world’s fight with sleeplessness and suggests a host of remedies to help you grab a good night’s sleep

The modern world is always fighting: fighting against depression, both economic and mental, fighting against injustice, racism, gender inequality, obesity, and now insomnia. A 2001 movie, Prozac Nation captured the dilemma of teenagers, desperate to bring some kind of balance into their otherwise chaotic lives through potent drugs (25% of American youth is either on anti-anxiety, anti-psychiatric, anti-depressant or ADHD drugs). In the same vein, an earlier movie, You’ve got Mail also tackled the world of insomniacs. And to think, that was only the beginning of cyberspace communication! 

Now, with people hustling to grab attention on social media, the world of cyber communication has taken up new dimensions. So has insomnia! Believe it or not, the insomniacs’ guild has grown disproportionately in the last decade or so, owing not only to a demanding lifestyle, single parenting, workplace blues, but also to an individual’s need to keep up with social networking. 

Seema Muniz

It isn’t just an American problem. According to the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, 34 per cent of Australians experience episodes of insomnia at some point in their lives. Other sources state that approximately 25 per cent of the adult population suffers from sleep disorders. Another study conducted by the U.S. Institute of Sleep claims that people nowadays sleep 20 per cent less than they did a hundred years ago. More than 30 per cent of Americans are diagnosed with insomnia, and more than half of them lose sleep due to stress and anxiety. What’s more, approximately ten million people in the U.S. use prescription sleeping pills.

Pharmaceutical companies are reaping in profits as insomnia is donning on the form of an epidemic. Time magazine devoted an issue to people having `Sleepless in Seattle’ kind of issues. For example, there is the Muse headband, for $250, which trains the brain to cope with stress, and learn to relax. Noise-cancelling earbuds are yet another offering, which for upwards of $300 drown out the sounds of one’s immediate environment. Apple’s iPhone too has a Night Shift feature to reduce glare on your display. Add a musical alarm to this feature, and you could be a step closer to developing a healthier sleeping pattern.

Some more traditional methods to induce sleep include a glass of warm milk, a homeopathic chamomile-based supplement called `Calms Forte’, or half a tea-spoon of magnesium in lukewarm water. If you are not averse to foul smells, a supplement made with Valerian root has been used since medieval times to help the cause. A glass of beer or whisky, a common prescription to beat sleeplessness in the sixties has now taken a back seat due to its addictive properties. Or you could try massaging the soles of your feet with a herbal oil, something that lots of people endorse as the perfect remedy to help you drift off in restful sleep. 

I can’t help but smile as my mind races back to the construction site of our house a couple of years ago. I think of the labourers, snatching a power-nap, having their acupressure points pressed by a pile of pebbles, which served as their makeshift bed, and helped them switch to a `relax mode’. I wonder if hard physical labour and a pile of pebbles are ever going to make it to Timemagazine list. 

Seema Muniz, a feature writer with the Times of India group in the nineties, is an avid reader and educationist, who homeschooled her son until tenth grade, while drifting between New York and Alaska with her family. She is also an artist, with a few solo and group shows in Albany, NY, to her credit. 

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Featured picture by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels