Indians seem to have taken the early to bed advice to heart as they hit a year of working from home since the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic in late 2019 changed the way we live and work.
According to the annual Great Indian Sleep Scorecard (GISS) 2021, published by sleep and home solutions company Wakefit ahead of World Sleep Day (19 March), there has been a 100% increase in the number of people going to bed before 10 pm since the 2020 survey. This trend is most notable among 18-year-olds, 50% of whom (as opposed to 22% in 2020) are going to bed before 10 pm now.
There is also a declining trend among post-midnight sleepers—from 28% last year to 26%. Interestingly, 24% people this year said they are afraid of insomnia as against 19% in GISS 2020.
These findings are based on data from 16,000 respondents, from the ages of 18 and 45, living in Indian cities, who were surveyed between March 2020 and February 2021. GISS was first launched in 2018 and has, in the last four years, gathered data from over one lakh respondents from across urban India about their sleep habits and hygiene.
Although Indians overall seem to be paying more attention to their sleep since the pandemic broke out—42% said a better quality of mattress would enhance their quality of sleep as opposed to 22% in last year’s survey—there are some conflicting trends, too.
Addiction to screens remains a lingering problem, with 92% saying they look at their devices before going to bed. One in three people in Bengaluru binge-watch shows into the wee hours, the same number of people in Chennai are hooked to social media way past their bedtime, while 42% people from Gurugram say work keeps them up till late every night—a 25% rise since last year. Mumbai has the largest number of late-night sleepers (43%), followed by Kolkata (38%).
However, working from home may have also allowed for some flexibility in wake-up times and better sleep quality. 38% of the men and 30% women said they woke up before 7 am now, while 33% people overall felt more rested in the mornings (as opposed to 25% in 2020).
At the same time, 77% said they felt sleepy during work hours between 1-3 times a week, in GISS 2020 and 2021. In 2021, 41% have woken up with back pains, with 35% people in Chennai claiming that they wake up feeling tired.
As a Mint Lounge cover story pointed out earlier this year, according to the Global Wellness Trends report 2020, one of the prime culprits of bad sleep in the 21st century is the growing menace of “lightmare”—that is, inappropriate exposure to blue light and darkness due to “light pollution”. Our 24x7 always-on lifestyle is playing havoc with our body clocks—or circadian rhythm, to use a scientific term—causing us to sleep, eat and exercise at the wrong hours.
Chaitanya Ramalinegowda, co-founder and director of Wakefit, pointed out some mixed messages that can be gleaned from GISS 2021. “The general sense we get is that there is a definite increase in awareness about sleep and its benefits,” he said, indicating a rising interest in ergonomic mattresses and furniture. “The demand for our sleep products went up by 70% during the pandemic,” he had told Mint Lounge earlier. “People are spending more time than ever at home these days, so conventional mattresses are simply not enough.”
However, as GISS 2021 shows, lifestyle and environmental factors, especially the challenges of working from home, can also prevent many people from following a healthy sleep routine and improving their quality of life.
“We are now at a stage where experts, coaches, and organizations need to pioneer cultural shifts that can help people create space and agency to prioritize sleep health in their lives,” Ramalingegowda added.