Orthosomnia, or when the quest for perfect sleep turns into an obsession

In seeking sleep at all costs, we often end up not sleeping. A logic that the sleep industry has understood, offering all kinds of devices supposed to help us sleep. Connected devices and methods that sometimes lead to an obsession with perfect sleep, called orthosomnia.

Farea five minutes from meditation before sleeping, drink an infusion and spray a lavender spray on your pillow then press snooze in the morning: for many, our routine sleep is limited to that when trying to sleep well. But for some people, the obsession with perfect sleep is such that they come to… no longer sleep. A phenomenon called orthosomnia term that first appeared in 2017 in a report published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicineand that often leads to insomnia. A word chosen by the researchers “because the perfectionist quest for perfect sleep is similar to the unhealthy preoccupation with healthy eating, called orthorexia”. Or how the obsession with control and connected devices can turn us into zombies.

Does perfect sleep exist?

People who suffer from orthosomnia are looking fora perfect sleep, without insomnia, without nightmares, with regular cycles and ensuring its function of repair and regeneration of the organism” Explain Health passport. A dream that we would like to live every nights. But for orthosomniacs, this dream has turned into obsession, then quickly into a nightmare. According to one BuzzPress study on behalf of Qapa, the French are sleeping more and more badly : 55% of French people said they had poor quality sleep in 2018, compared to 72% in 2022, i.e. nearly three quarters of French people.

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Figures that make you dizzy and, above all, want to improve the quality of your sleep. The media Refinery29 explain how sleep quickly became an obsession for Indi29-year-old yoga teacher: “Every morning for the past three months, she has consulted her smart watch to find out how she had slept, which inevitably left her feeling frustrated and exhausted for the rest of the day. The stats on the screen made it clear to her that she had only slept four hours and 41 minutes of ‘sleep deep'”. As with many people, the more the quality of her sleep deteriorated, the more she sought to improve it, investing in connected objects and trying methods like meditation or more holistic ones like “valerian root supplements, CBD, moon milk.”

Sleep merchants are popular

One report published in 2017 believed that the sleep health industry had reached a value of 40 billion dollars, with growth of 8% per year. A turnover which progressed well, sincein 2021, it was estimated at 500 billion dollars according to Swissquote. And like any industry, orthosomniacs try a bunch of techniques that are supposed to help them improve their sleep and lead a healthier lifestyle. According to Health passporttoday there are more than 500 smartphone applications whose vocation is to improve our nights”. What to lose your head and invest in everything that comes to hand: in the United States, nearly 15% of adults have a show type Fitbit or Apple Watch that would allow them to track their sleep.

But these objects and applications are recent and are, for the most part, not medical devices. So how can we be sure that these devices can improve our sleep? If they are supposed to analyze the phases, duration and sleep qualitythey are generally motion sensors which are therefore “not able to distinguish each stage of sleep and to differentiate light sleep from deep sleep”, explains Health passport. Professor Dr Nicola Barclay, Senior Lecturer in Sleep Medicine at the University of Oxford, explains to Refinery29 the consequences of orthosomnia on people who have it: “If your tracker tells you that you have had poor quality sleep, chances are it is affecting your mood, your energy levels and your productivity for the day, even if it’s wrong. It is this addiction that creates a vicious circle and risks having a negative impact on your sleep.”.

What solution for a restful sleep?

The average sleep duration changed little: this is a little less than seven hours per night in France according to The world. Fixing for an average of eight hours is therefore not necessary “Most of us need six and a half to eight hours of sleep each night, but not everyone does,” says Dr. Barclay. “Some people can get away with four or five hours.”

It is therefore not necessary to impose a sleep rhythm to follow and monitor, the main thing is to establish an “evening routine– a bath, a story and a lullaby are classic examples,” says Dr. Julius Bourke, neuropsychiatry consultant at Re:Cognition Health. Whether we are six months old, sixteen years old or sixty, we remain big babies when it comes to sleep: dropping that sleep tracker and reading a book before bed could save a lot of insomnia!

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Orthosomnia, or when the quest for perfect sleep turns into an obsession

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