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  • Writer's pictureSarah Dresser

"Tired and Wired": How the Modern-Day World Sets Us Up to Lose Sleep

The phenomenon of "tired but wired" is becoming more and more prevalent the world over. Just as we cannot separate the mind from the body, we cannot separate a person from their environment, to paraphrase Dr Gabor Mate.

Tired But Wired; How Modern Day Living Sets Us Up to Lose Sleep

While individual life events, trauma and biological imbalances most certainly can cause insomnia, the world around us also affects the mind-body state. So how does modern-day living contribute to our stressed days and sleepless nights?

Fast-Paced Living

As we all no doubt know, we live in a more demanding world, at a faster pace and with greater and greater demands: demands on our attention, our time, and our energy. It can be insidious, building over time as we feel compelled to go faster, to do more, learn more, BE more. It can feel like being on a treadmill but as if someone else, not you, keeps pressing the acceleration button.

We are tired and wired as we are expected to work harder and faster

Longer Work Days and Irregular Work Hours

Working longer days is becoming the norm. It is no longer enough to work; employees must be shown to be loyal too. And loyalty is oftentimes defined in number of hours in many countries.

We also live in an increasingly global culture, in overlapping or sometimes opposite timezones with colleagues.

Finishing work late at night, irregular work hours, and shift work all mean that it is even more challenging to get a regular habit of sleep.

And since the pandemic, more and more people are working from home which makes it even harder to set boundaries between work and personal time.

Blurred Boundaries Between Work and Personal Life

With longer hours and greater difficulty in setting boundaries, exacerbated by employer pressure and, I'd add, a greater sense of identifying as one's job as part of a sense of self, it becomes even harder to set limits. Even if there is a separate work space away from home, we have access to work (and work has access to us) through our smartphones.

I was heartened to read that Portugal recently introduced penalties for companies who contacted employees outside of work hours(1). but there are cultural expectations in many countries that employees need to show loyalty by responding to employers on evenings and weekends.

We are valued by companies for what we produce or create: our output, and this can overshadow the value of WHO we are.

Information Overload

As we move through the day faster and faster, we are also subject to greater sensory input which stimulates the brain even more. Other than it being a means to remain in touch with work, the smartphone also brings with it an endless supply of images, sounds and videos.

The endless scroll makes it feel that we can never keep up

I fully believe in the good that the resources of social media can bring and I believe it can be incredibly empowering at its best. It is the main way I am able to reach so many and provide my own work at no cost.

But I do also believe that almost every social media platform is designed for distraction rather than focused attention. Jump from one 15 second video to a post, then a meme...It never ends. The endless scroll can create the sense that we can never keep up, all adding to individual and collective anxiety.

Urbanization and Sound Pollution

Our smartphones are not the only source of sensory overload. Even if we practice the discipline of limiting screen time, there are ads on every street, sides of buses, music in supermarkets and stores, the never-ending low rumble of traffic, and blasts of horns and sirens as traffic flows 24/7. Sound pollution is now recognized as having a negative impact on mental health(2).

Noise pollution negative impact on mental health

Since 2018, more than 50% of the world population now lives in suburban and urban areas and the trend continues year-over-year as more and more people move out of rural areas(3).

Culture of Limited Vacation

When we do have time to take off, many feel unable to do so. Why? A survey taken before the pandemic indicated that almost 40% of Americans will not take off their full number of vacation days(4). Some of the reasons for not taking time off include:

  • fear related to job insecurity;

  • fear that work will simply pile up, requiring even longer work days on return to the office;

  • feeling guilty for taking time off.

The US is also the only first world country that does not have federal laws that guarantee paid vacation for workers.

America has no guaranteed vacation pay

Not enough sleep, not taking time off owed, and working harder, faster and for longer all contributes to a state of anxiety that becomes the new normal.

And you may find that even when you take time off, it is harder to remember and return to a state of relaxation. Anxiety has become a habitual state. And up to 90% of our lives are governed by habits in all forms: habits of thoughts, habits of emotions and habitual behaviour.

Greater Isolation

"A problem shared is a problem halved". Although life demands are greater, support mechanisms may be weaker. Recent world events imposed an even greater isolation on so many. Alcohol consumption spiked in response to the loneliness and separateness(5).

There is also a rise in the number of single person households in the majority of countries the world over(6). This is not necessarily a concern in and of itself, as being able to live alone allows for autonomy, safety and security. But living alone may also come with loneliness, especially for older generations.

We are wired to connect. As just one example of the power of connection, human touch has been proven to reduce the sensation of physical pain, as several studies have shown(7) (8).

Human touch has been proven to have analgesic (pain reducing) effects

This is why I often use guided imagery of a loved one or a caring touch as part of both physical and emotional pain reduction in my sleep hypnosis and meditations and medical healing hypnosis sessions.

But without a friendly face or voice, the lack of human connection can make it feel that our pain and worries are even greater when faced alone.

The Result: Chronic Anxiety and Insomnia

Greater demands on us to fulfill multiple roles, to work faster, harder, a never-ending flow of infotainment, sensory overload, and weak boundaries between work and life, weakened further by corporations that message that you ARE your job, all contribute to an overwhelming level of constant anxiety. We were never designed to live this way.

My History of Insomnia

I can speak to the effect of having spent 17 years previously working in Information Technology (IT). The effect of, not just long work hours, but an intense pace of work, almost impossible project deadlines and corporate cultures of fear all contributed to my own anxiety and over a decade of insomnia.

As just one example, I worked for several months as senior project manager of a data conversion project that would transfer a portfolio of financial assets from from one financial institution to another. After months of preparation, I worked 40 hours straight to manage the final data conversion over a weekend. In those 40 hours, the sale of financial assets boosted the bottom line of the company I worked for by over $1.2 billion. As compensation for the months of unpaid overtime and also the final 40 hour shift, I received a $100 gift card. And, of course, I was back to work on Monday morning.

Having felt trapped in never-ending stress, I felt I had no solution except to cope with my insomnia until I tried hypnotherapy as a last resort. From the very first session I started to experience a positive change. It had taken me 10 years to discover the solution. After just 4 sessions I could sleep regularly again.

But not everyone can afford $100 or more per private session. So I have made it my mission to provide low-cost and no-cost support for all. You can read more about my journey here.

Individual and Collective Changes

While I cannot change the world, I hope and intend to help at least one or more people. I believe that as each person lowers their individual anxiety, steps out of fear, takes a look at the own life after a good night's sleep, each person can start to make conscious as well as subconscious changes to improve their own wellbeing.

And individual change all becomes part of a greater collective shift. We were never designed to live at such a pace and I do believe we have the power to make changes for the better.

Never forget that you are important to the world, and you are important to yourself.

Connect With Me

Do any of the societal pressures mentioned in this article resonate with you? Let me know in the comments on my Facebook post here. I aim to respond to as many comments as possible.

Donate to Support My Work

If you have found my work beneficial, you can also support me to produce more work by a one-time donation here or through Paypal. I reply to each and every person who donates to me.

Sleep Playlist

You can listen to over 35 sleep hypnosis and meditation sessions below. There's no need to try to quiet your mind as hypnotherapy works WITH your mind, not against it. Each session has very different techniques so find the one that works for you. Sleep well...

Explore more on my channel for other challenges such as anxiety, panic attacks and stress relief.

You'll find over 200 hypnotherapy and meditation sessions, organized by topics on the Playlists tab here



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