Hila Harary
Zeitgeist at your service

Future employers will award you for power-naps

After publishing the latest article on the age of anti-ambition, which describes how the white-collar people swapped mind-set with the blue-collar people, an unexpected thing happened – readers who related to the topic reached out to me, but since the topic is sensitive, they preferred to contact me privately. The issue is felt by most of us (if not everyone), and no one feels comfortable speaking out loud, so the burnout continues to seem like it is still just far-fetched headlines in the news. Most of us continue to act business as usual outwardly and experience it in solitude and quiet.
I started that post with a 1998 song by Berry Sakharov – “Slaves”, which opens with the words “We sat on the aspirin river” – even then we had to silence the headaches and keep dancing the machine dance. Several decades have passed since then and it is enough to see the commercial for Nurofen from February 2021 to understand how much the age of the machine still dominates us (although the vast majority of us have not worked on a production line for a long time): “We at Nurofen know that a busy lifestyle can cause headaches, but the headache should not change your agenda. That’s why we developed the Nurofen liquid capsule. In short, you will continue to make the most of your day, and we will pass on the headache.”
How surprising that the last sentence is part of a creative written in the middle of the pandemic …?!
Some of these headaches are due to the stresses and anxieties that have appeared or increased in the last two and a half years (depending on who you ask) and have also caused, among other things, an increase in insomnia (or vice versa ?!).
Lack of sleep for a long time is not just the domain of medical professionals who do 26-hour shifts in a row. The shortage of sleep hours is exacerbated by the modern way of life, and the World Health Organization has already defined it as an epidemic (which means we are already dealing with two invisible epidemics – burnout and lack of sleep, and please add Covid19 to count). Constraints that cause too many hours of work, sometimes slipping into the night, and trying to cram countless other activities – do not leave enough time for sleep.
Residents almost all over the world report a lack of sleep hours. In Israel, about half of the people do not reach the recommended sleep threshold and 28% feel that fatigue impairs their functioning. According to a 2017 CBS survey, about 7% of Israelis take prescription sleeping pills and about half of them do so almost every night. A quarter of Israelis often have difficulty falling asleep or sleeping continuously.
The following post was written in a large Facebook group: I’ve been having sleeping issues that just seem to be getting worse, I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a good night’s sleep. I’m exhausted all the time. I want to avoid taking prescription pills. Besides Valerian, which doesn’t help, I’d like to hear some suggestions.
One of the dozens of responses was: ” I never sleep through the night. Nothing helps. It’s 3 am now.”
Exclusive data from the HMOs reveal the enormous extent of the epidemic of sleeping pill addiction in Israel. There are good and safe alternatives for treating insomnia, but it is easier and cheaper to feed the public with medication.
Prof. Giora Pillar, director of the sleep clinics at Clalit HMO, explains in an interview with TheMarker that other ways may be to rebuild proper sleeping habits, such as adhering to a regular bedtime and avoiding naps, as well as cognitive-emotional therapies, guided imagery, meditation, hypnosis, or yoga. He adds that “in emotional therapy, there are no immediate results, and not all patients have patience. It is not like a pill, which is taken and immediately put you to sleep.” “A lot of people do not have the strength or money to go to appointments or trust their effectiveness, and the truth is I can not blame them because this field is not adequately subsidized in the drug basket and HMOs. The bottom line, taking a drug is much cheaper than going to a psychologist. So doctors don’t argue with the patients, and just give the pills without thinking too much.”
TheMarker magazine brought the story of Roni (pseudonym), 34, who works as a VP at a successful startup in Tel Aviv: “We were just preparing for another fundraising round and found myself working non-stop,” she says. “I worked until 4:00 in the morning, slept for three hours, and then I would immediately wake up to work again.” A month later, when the round was announced as a success, Ronny tried to go back to sleep, but something changed. She just could not fall asleep. “It was a nightmare. Sometimes it would take me five or six hours. Out of anger and frustration, I would wake my husband and start crying.”
After a month of insomnia, Roni started taking Bondoramine sleeping pills, prescribed by her family doctor. “It really helped me,” she says. “After a few days, I was able to sleep like I used to. But after a few more days I started to have muscle pain and weakness very often, and a month later I started to feel confused and forget data and facts that I used to pull out without thinking. I stopped taking the pills, and again I could not sleep. The family doctor suggested that I try other pills, but I was afraid to take another pill because I was afraid of the consequences.” She said at no point did the doctor suggest she try behavioral therapy.
(I’m not going to go into data here about the more serious effects such as mortality, psychiatric hospitalizations, or a discussion between doctors about whether or not those pills are addictive, but be aware that it does exist.)
Roni is not alone. In Japan, where particularly long working hours are a relatively common phenomenon, an extreme phenomenon known as “karoshi” has been defined – death from overwork. One of the most memorable cases in Japan occurred in 2013 when a young girl named Miwa Sado did 159 overtime hours in one month and died of a heart attack (heart failure).
The Japanese Sleep Research Association estimates that 71% of men sleep less than seven hours a night and many do not fall asleep without alcohol. In Japan, activities have begun to address the phenomenon, to encourage workplaces to ensure adequate sleep at night and even rest during the day, and companies can already be found paying their employees for a good night’s sleep (and even for a siesta) to increase their productivity (some of it done through apps that monitor hours of sleep and employees have to show that they crossed 6 hours of sleep a night for several consecutive days), and some offices have even started equipping themselves to allow power-nap during noontime.
The importance of good sleep (in quantity and quality) has not yet climbed in our priorities to the place it deserves (like health and fitness), and in the meantime, the result is that one in eight Israelis is taking sleeping pills. Data collected by TheMarker magazine from the four HMOs in Israel show that last year sleeping pills were issued to about 789,000 Israelis – about 8.5% of the general population, and about 12.7% of the adult population, and these numbers do not include prescriptions from private doctors. So the real rate is probably even greater. By comparison, among adult Americans, the corresponding figure was 8.2% in 2017-2018, according to a large-scale survey from 2019 conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States.
History repeats itself: Until about 150 years ago, people worked countless hours a day until the 1870s and 1880s demonstrations began in Canada and the United States demanding that the working day be limited to eight hours. The success of these demonstrations we commemorate to this day on the first of May – Labor Day.
I opened the current post with a link to a previous post about the swapped mindset between white-collar and blue-collar workers. The success of the Blues in reducing the working day to eight hours is enshrined today in the official labor laws in many Western countries. It seems that the blue-collar revolution has won and the real slaves today are us – the white-collar people (when the factor that confuses us is money, as usual – in this case, the level of wages), only this time we will not see the slaves take it to the streets, because the town square has been replaced by the social networks that are bubbling with posts that indicate employee burnout such as the viral tweets I quoted in the previous post:
“Sex is great, but have you ever left a job that ruined your mental health?” It was written in one tweet that already has more than 300,000 likes. Or: “I hope this email does not find you. I hope you ran away, that you are free.” 168 thousand likes.
Employers and authorities should wake up quickly and enforce the dry law also on white-collar workers, who are already voting with an unprecedented wave of resignations that has earned the name of The Great Resignation, indicating the desire of white-collar workers for a more sane and humane life, the sooner the better.
About the Author
Hila is a trendologist (future forecaster) @ Tectonic Shift & a social entrepreneur. In parallel to building her own venture, she's helping b2b companies, governments, and organizations with their biz dev and creative marketing strategies, using trends and content, and has a great specialization on the German market.

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