We are facing a sleep crisis. For the first time in history, sleeplessness is being recognised as a public health epidemic, wreaking havoc on our physical and mental health. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average amount of sleep has decreased from 8 hours per night in 1960 to 6.5 hours today. What could account for such a drastic shift? To what extent are designed products and technologies preventing us from sleeping? And how does design now enable people to ‘optimise’ their sleep? This paper explores how the economic and societal pressures of modern Western society appear to be shifting the context of sleep from natural restorative into a commodity and meticulously designed construct. Meanwhile, the market for sleeping aids reveals that design is largely battling the symptoms of sleep deficiency rather than the causes. More alarmingly, design may actually be contributing to our sleep deprivation.
Gradation project, 2016