Matthew Wolf-Meyer talks sleep and stress with Standard Living NYC
In The Slumbering Masses, you discuss the relatively new concept of eight hours of "consolidated sleep". Do you think this new sleep pattern has affected the stress levels among Americans in one way or another?
There’s at least two ways that contemporary American sleep patterns cause stress: the ﬁrst is fairly straightforward, in that as we get tired, we’re more likely to get edgy with those around us or to be easily frustrated by difﬁcult tasks or unfortunate events. But being able to take a nap midday to refresh ourselves might lead to less stressful interactions throughout the day. More profoundly, for many sleepers who don’t sleep in a consolidated fashion, trying to achieve a night of consolidated sleep can be an immensely stressful thing – if you want an example of this, Gayle Green’s Insomniac is a pretty in- depth memoir of an incurable insomniac. But, like many of the disorderly sleepers that I talk about in The Slumbering Masses, many of us seek out medical treatment precisely to bring us in alignment with normal, consolidated sleep. Being undiagnosed and knowing that you have some kind of disorderly sleep – either because of what others tell you or because you just can’t adjust to society’s expectations – can be stressful, and lead people to all sorts of decisions. Sometimes this means seeking out medical interventions, and like I talk about in the book, sometimes it means ﬁnding other ways to live one’s life – like pursuing a career with ﬂexible work time, or late hours for late risers.