CHENNAI: Asha Mahendran* hasn’t woken up feeling refreshed ever since she started working three years back. She blames it on “work pressure and stress”. But, through daily moments of reflection, she realised that it wasn’t as much the cause that was the problem, but rather the means she was using to tackle it that was posing an obstacle.
“I come back from work feeling completely drained,” says the 27-year-old software professional. “I used to lie down in bed and binge-watch shows online because it was an escape from my reality. I could tune out from my world completely and just enjoy myself. After that, I used to spend time on Instagram. One doesn’t realise how addictive scrolling can be and how much time one can waste just aimlessly scrolling. Before I know it, the clock strikes three and I force myself to sleep because I would have to wake up at 8 am to get to work by 10 am.”
hat started off as a harmless way to beat her stress became a habit that she couldn’t quite rid herself of. What came as the turning point though was when she tracked her app usage on her phone.
“I did it out of curiosity. I just wanted to know how much time I was spending on each app in a day. What I saw then was shocking! I found that one day I spent eight hours on Instagram. Even though, there were intervals, it is a lot of time to spend scrolling through what essentially is of no consequence to me. That’s when I decided to monitor my app usage and try and alter my sleep pattern,” she says.
‘Rest’ is history
According to the International Classification of Sleep Disorders most sleep disorders are marked by one of these symptoms — excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, or abnormal movements, behaviours and sensations occurring during sleep. The cumulative effects of sleep loss and disorders have been associated with a wide range of deleterious health consequences including an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.
How do you expect your body to function without giving it any rest?” asks a doctor working for a private hospital on the condition of anonymity. “Eight hours of sleep is essential, but I have patients who say they barely sleep four to five hours. That’s unacceptable. They’re overworked and underslept. They work till late, watch movies and shows till the wee hours of the morning and then expect to function with four hours of sleep. Your body will wear out. Add to this, the terrible diet that most people have. Everyone is in a rush with no time to spare for their health.”
Doctors say that technology is one of the main issues, apart from challenging work conditions, that is leading to sleep deprivation. Many have started realising that their excessive dependence on technology is harming their sleep and daily interactions too.
“I have been working for nine years now and it is ridiculous how people expect you to work at any given hour,” says a risk analyst working at a private bank. “WhatsApp has made it so easy for people to hound you long after working hours. Since I handle a lot of foreign clients as well, I got messages and emails in the wee hours. Earlier, I used to reply because everyone wants a prompt answer. But in the bargain, I realised I was not getting a time out from work. So now, I switch off my phone and go to bed. I have a landline, and friends and family know they can get in touch with me on that, if required.”
R Nitin, who recently began working in an automobile company, realised that it was affecting his mental health. He used to stay up at nights looking at party pictures, only to wake up the next day feeling low about not having gone on the Euro trip that his classmates from school went on or finding a girlfriend like his cousin did.
“I stopped feeling the need to go out and meet people,” he says. “I started living my life online. I commented on people’s posts and pictures, spent so much time comparing and feeling terrible about my life. It began taking a toll on me mentally because I started feeling like my life was nowhere near as rosy as my friends’. But it took a friend, who I thought was leading the perfect life, to spill the beans about his problems for me to realise that everyone was only posting the best version of themselves.”
Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is a term millennials use liberally and psychologists say it is a reality of our times today. Everyone has a virtual persona, which often is a facade. Social media experts say it is better to be aware and not compare oneself to another as it can lead to low self-worth, low self-esteem, loneliness, depression and feelings of exclusion from the group.
Stay off screens
Doctors told CE that switching off the phone or keeping it away is a great way to get sleep. “I follow two simple steps that have helped me get over my insomnia,” says 25-year-old Meghna R who works at a boutique in the city. “I was addicted to Instagram. I could spend hours looking at clothes and celebrity looks. I thought it was harmless but as I started using it at night, I realised I woke up groggy and cranky. It began affecting my work. So now, I don’t check Instagram after 10 pm. I try to read and that has worked like a charm. I am fast asleep by 11 pm and I’m able to wake up and get to the gym as well. I can see that my productivity has increased in the process.”