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A wake-up call for a sleep-deprived nation

March 18 2023: World Sleep Day is an annual event organised by the non-profit World Sleep Society, to celebrate sleep and address sleep disorders.
Held on the Friday before the Spring Vernal Equinox, it falls on March 17  in 2023 -- and this year’s theme was: ‘Sleep is Essential for health’. Just like eating well and exercising.
Sleep experts in over 70 countries are organizing local activities to promote sleep. In India, there are multiple events  listed on the World Sleep Day  portal.
Why should Indians lose sleep (pardon the pun!)  over sleep issues?
Because,   just before Covid, in 2019, we ranked among the most sleep-deprived nations in the world – only Japan was worse – according to a survey by  health wearables  company Fitbit reported in FirstPost. 
The results, released this week of another  survey  entitled  “How India sleeps”,  by the community social media platform, Local Circles,  show that 55 percent of Indians polled across over 300 districts  reported  less  than 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep after Covid;  21 percent slept for less than 4 hours.
How much sleep do you actually need?  The Frequently Asked Questions section at the World Sleep Day site quotes experts to suggest that the average sleep duration for an adult should be between 7 and 8 hours, which could go up to 10 hours. Anything less is sleep deprivation – and 93 percent of Indians are sleep-deprived
Sleep disorders
Sleep related problems and disorders include snoring (which can  usually be cured by avoiding nasal congestion or a simple change of sleeping position)  -- and the  potentially serious  Sleep Apnea (the Greek word for ‘breathless’) which is  a disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts while sleeping.  Treatment may include lifestyle changes like low-calorie diet, avoidance of sleeping pills and alcohol, or devices like nasal dilators or positive airway pressure inducers.
Among the more common sleep therapy machines is  CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) which sends a constant flow of airway pressure to your throat to so that your airway stays open during sleep, effectively treating the spontaneous pauses in breath associated with sleep apnea.  Philips has been among leading providers of sleep apnea solutions – like the CPAP DreamStation, clinical research for which was done at the Philips Innovation Centre in Bangalore.
To  sleep,  perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub (Shakespeare, Hamlet)
Dreaming is a normal part of sleep says the
Sleep Foundation, and either a reflection of or a contributor to quality sleep. However, not all dreams are created equal. 
When a bad dream causes an awakening from sleep, it can be considered a nightmare. Most people have a bad dream or nightmare every once in a while, with no notable impact on their sleep quality.
Most of us can’t remember our dreams once we wake up. But experts say people who remember their dreams often show higher levels of creativity.
Sleep, sleep, I couldn’t sleep tonight / Not for all the jewels in the crown (Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady)
Insomnia, the inability to sleep afflicts one in three persons at least intermittently.  It can lead to problems with fatigue, attention or concentration memory. New studies have shown link between lack of sleep and systemic hypertension and diabetes.
Rather than taking medication  doctors suggest that one  eat lighter meals at night and at least two hours before bed. Stay active, and  keep exercises for  earlier in the day. Take a hot shower at the end of your day and avoid nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol.
But sometimes sleep problems could be self-induced. The  annual “Great Indian Sleep Scorecard” for  sponsored by  mattress and furniture company Wakefit and  released on the eve of World Sleep Day 2023,  finds that  87 percent of Indians use their phones just before going to bed  which can often be unsettling -- and this dovetails with 38 percent who  lose sleep because of worries about the future.
Sleeptech is here
How do we know if we are sleeping well – and if not,  what can we do about it? Here is where   technology is increasingly playing a role:
Almost all wrist-wearable health bands or smart watches with  fitness functions have a sleep tracking mode which provides useful data  if you do have a sleep disorder.
Or do they?   Medical opinion is divided.  A  June 2021  report by analysts McKinsey entitled “Sleep on it: Addressing the sleep-loss epidemic through technology”  asks: “Sleep deprivation has become a global problem. Can the burgeoning sleep-tech industry provide solutions?”.
It repeats the health wearable industry pitch: “Remote monitoring via wearables could become a helpful tool for physicians seeking to better understand sleep disorders”.
But it balances this with quotes by experts like Dr. Colin Espie, professor of sleep medicine at the University of Oxford who says “Claims that sleep-monitoring wearables can aid sleep disorders have yet to be validated in large-scale randomized control trials, especially with regard to debilitating health issues, like insomnia and comorbidity.”
Katherine Dudley, MD, writes in a Harvard Medical School blog: “Between different brands, or even different devices within a brand, the software code, and therefore sleep interpretation, could vary..  I counsel my patients to review their sleep data with a grain of salt. The devices probably do give us a rough sense of the time we’re spending in bed (which may or may not equal sleep time).
But in non- critical situations consumer wearables could provide useful  data about sleep behaviour, such as whether individuals have regular bedtimes or sleep longer at weekends and could help people take  steps to improve their sleep.
And customers  seem to agree, making wearables a big part of the global sleep tech devices market that was estimated by Databridge Market Research to be worth over $ 30 billion by 2028,  driven by “urging volume of patients suffering from sleeping disorders and increasing prevalence of geriatric population across the globe”.
With a market like that, can Indian startups be out of the loop? Unlikely!
Indian sleeptech startups: it’s all about mattresses
The Most Important Third Of Your Life Is Spent Here. (slogan for a mattress brand)
A detailed look at the India sleep tech startup scene was last published in 2020 by the  tech media platform Inc42, with the catchy title: “As India struggles to sleep, Sleeptech startups rise up”.     Almost all the startups cited – they include MattressBox, Sleepy Cat, Wink & Nod, The White Willow, Wakefit and  Sunday --  are into mattress and pillow and  between them they pioneered the marketing of  such bed accessories online.
They compete with the established brands like Sleepwell, Kurlon, Duroflex, Restolex and new brands like The Sleep Company.
Shop for mattresses today (big discounts are being offered for World Sleep Day!) and you will see buzzwords like  memory foam,  open cells, no-motion-transfer, orthopaedic support, hybrid springs,visco-elastic, cooling gel and smart grid.   Most of the new generation mattresses  come with multiple layers of latex and foam – 6-10 inches thick, with  bamboo fabric covering.  
Rather than be overwhelmed by the jargon, canny buyers  tend to visit makers’ showrooms and  actually lie on the mattress to check them out for comfort.  The cost of a King size mattress (76 inches by 80 inches)  of these  all latex-and-foam mattresses range from Rs 30,000 to Rs 60,000.
But many Indian customers still swear by a layer of coir inside the mattress – and brands like Kurlon, Restolex and Duroflex still cater to this market segment that wants its mattresses  for below Rs 15,000.
Old timers may feel nostalgic for   mattresses stuffed with cotton which ruled for over 200 years ( with pillows filled with feathers)  till the late 1950s, when Dunlop brought the all-rubber Dunlopillo mattress to India – an instant hit with hotels for its zero maintenance.
Around the 1970s,  Kerala-based enterprises which could source both coir and rubber locally seized the market opportunity to combine the two in mattresses. They were a nationwide hit.
But cotton is still king for some – and a British company like Glencraft which has supplied cotton mattresses the royal family since 1843, still sells classic mattresses, with layers of cotton, horsehair and merino wool to some of the world’s top luxury hotels.
Whatever your personal choice – cotton or foam, coir or latex – a comfortable bed is perhaps the best device to ensure a good sound sleep, the very foundation of a healthy life.
Good night, then.  And for a sound sleep, turn off those  messaging  alerts on your phone for the next eight hours!
Images to illustrate this article can be found here
This article has been carried by Swarajya