Just a little over a year ago, every news outlets, wellness blogs, and online articles were pushing out content based upon the premise that modern life had piqued our stress levels beyond measure, and that the daily toll of working at a computer for eight or more hours, crawling through traffic jams, taking care of our bodies and brains, and making time for our loved ones – and a long list of other obligations – was taking it out of us faster than we could say ‘insomnia’.
The recommendations were wide and varied: block blue light, give yourself ‘screen time’, meditate, drink more water, walk everywhere, practise mindfulness, cut out coffee and alcohol, get a therapist, improve your breathing, and, of course, get enough sleep.
For the most part, these recommendations were all correct – promoting physical and mental well-being concurrently, and ensuring that the demands of modern life could be met by people who were, at least to some extent, prepared to meet them.
The trouble is, there is something almost primitive about those articles now. These days, and since the beginning of 2020, we have been struggling against an impossible tide, and taking control of those things that can be controlled feels a little like a drop in the ocean of the past 12 months. In the UK alone, 26% of adults surveyed felt stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, how has the landscape of health and wellness changed, and how are we managing one of the most common and potentially devastating modern afflictions – insomnia?
The rise of CBD
The ways in which CBD products have grown from relative obscurity – and, in some cases, damaging taboo – to the height of popularity within the wellness landscape is, in many ways, remarkable. As of yet, the exact health benefits of this natural ingredient remain largely hypothesised and anecdotal; but still, the list continues to grow, from applications in pain relief to the therapeutic treatment of some of the world’s most pressing health concerns like cancer, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, and addiction.
More research is needed before CBD providers can verify these claims, and researchers from around the world are working hard on doing just that. In turn, the public is following suit, as are the lawmakers who, until recently, remained largely opposed to wiping the stigma off CBD.
CBD has already garnered a strong reputation as a potential aid for anxiety, depression – both of which feed directly into our ability to get a proper night’s sleep – and insomnia itself. From the traditional smoking method to edibles and creating a home-made Rick Simpson Oil (click here for more on that), users and researchers alike are pooling knowledge to get the very most out of this new powerhouse in the two worlds of health and wellness, and medicine.
Cutting to the very heart of the issue may, for some, prove to be the right path forward. We all know how central a role melatonin plays in our ability to get a proper night’s sleep – and how easily modern habits, such as too much screen time, can knock our natural balance of melatonin off-kilter. Darkness is, it seems, increasingly hard to come by; then, when we do embrace it, it can take a long time for our natural melatonin levels to respond; a fact which translates to many hours each week spent tossing and turning on the mattress.
As a result, an increasing number of people are opting to augment their body’s waning levels with melatonin supplements. As a supplement rather than a medication, however, there remains significant variance between what is written on the label, and what is actually administered in a single dose.
Now more than ever before, the internal world of our homes has taken on a heavy significance within our lives. Both a haven and, in some ways, a scene of confinement, the relationship between inhabitants and their bedrooms is bound to have changed, particularly in smaller living spaces. So too has the relationship between ourselves and our bodies been rocked; for many, feeling concerned for our health to the same extent that defined 2020 and, thus far, 2021 was something brand new. We are, in many ways, now strangers to the internal workings of our bodies, and what we understood of our physical limitations no longer holds true when even a dash to the grocery store is a risk.
For this reason, many are choosing instead to alter the environment itself, rather than mind and body, in ways now known by the umbrella term ‘sleep hygiene’.
From bedside robots to wearable body trackers like the FitBit, which will offer plenty of insight into each and every night for which it is worn, playing the role of scientific observer to our own bodies during the night is proving popular for its own reasons.
The last year has taken a greater toll on every aspect of our physical and emotional well-being than any other year in living memory, and one of the areas in which many of us continue to struggle is sleep. The trouble is, mounting pressure from the state of the world has placed a greater demand on the solutions we pursue than ever before and with a little luck, at least one will prove invaluable as the world continues to change.
Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.