Casper's Sleep Symposium

Last week we headed over to New York City to attend Casper's Sleep Symposium, featuring a roster of diverse speakers who had come together to draw attention to our culture of sleep. From Arianna Huffington (kicking off the conversation with an introduction to her latest book, The Sleep Revolution) to Dr. Michael Breus (discussing good sleep practices), to the much-too-sympathized-with sleep zingers of Reggie Watts, it was encouraging to be surrounded by a variety of journalists, artists and medical professionals who were just as passionate about improving the quality of our sleep.
The panels drew attention to a number of issues, ranging from harmful evening habits, to the effects of sleep deprivation on health and creativity, to the impact of an environment on our sleep. Some of the highlights included a resounding agreement on the inefficiency of snoozing alarms. To shock your body again and again into awareness, rather than allowing for more uninterrupted rest by setting an alarm for the last possible moment to wake, was a particularly (and hilariously) sore topic for multiple speakers.
The effects of light on our circadian cycles was also a recurring theme. Encouraged practices to counter its effects included being conscious of our bodies’ exposure to light; particularly receiving plenty of sunlight shortly after waking up (to increase energy and alertness) and avoiding blue light up to one hour before going to bed. Even wearing orange glasses during that time could drastically improve our sleep. Also discussed was the importance of built environments on our sleep, both in the bedroom and in our daily settings (such as the workplace). Of particular interest was the fascinating work of Delos, a Wellness Real Estate company committed to creating indoor environments that focus particularly on improving our health and well-being.
Throughout the wide range of discussions by the panels, there was a resounding consensus that the lack of 7–9 hours of sleep every night not only impacts productivity and creativity, but is also associated with health complications such as anxiety, depression, memory loss and weight gain (to name a few). Conversations throughout the day underscored the importance of taking individual actions to become self-aware. They highlighted the health benefits we gain when we take active measures to improve our sleeping habits and subsequently our health.
While personal goals and practices are certainly important, there remains another daunting task in this endeavour. That is the task of challenging the environments that encourage and demand these unhealthy habits for many of us. For instance, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is particularly difficult in jobs where lack of sleep is institutionalized and back-to-back shifts are standard practice. Or, in socio-economic situations that force people into juggling 2–3 jobs, where food and stability trump a well-rested night. While it’s important to not neglect the demands of our environments, it’s encouraging to see a growing awareness in the importance of sleep and our personal responsibilities. Keeping these conversations alive will help ensure that better sleep practices become a part of our education and a lasting practice.