Not only is modern life rubbish, it is killing us

Awake review: a programme that revealed the nightmare of our working lives shouldn’t be slept on

 

Performing their duty as the national broadcaster RTÉ responsibly decided to give everyone a true scare at bedtime with Awake – The Science of Sleep (RTÉ One, Wednesday, 9.35pm) where the ever-perky Dr Pixie McKenna went to great lengths to show how Ireland is rapidly turning into a nation of sleep-deprived monsters.

With its harrowing compilation of facts and figures zooming on to the screen, plus the endless montages of blood-drawing and test taking or the multiple mentions of cancer, the tone was akin to those horrific Public Information films from the 1970s or a scaremongering tabloid headline. Ensuring that if you weren’t already anxious about getting the required amount of rest, you would be a panicked insomniac by the end of it.

Not only is modern life rubbish, but it is in fact killing us. All our bedtime tweeting and Whatsapping, the constant blue illumination of mobile phones are turning as mind-scrambling as the latest late-night missives from Donald Trump.

Dr Pixie McKenna: informative, but offered few solutions
Dr Pixie McKenna: informative, but offered few solutions

If it’s not that, it’s our demanding stressful jobs, our children, our dependence on caffeine or nicotine to get us through the day or that relaxing wind-down bedtime glass of wine, they are all adding up to subtracting our much-needed sleep from us. We might as well throw ourselves at the mercy of Freddie Krueger come the witching hour. Which is the issue with documentaries of this ilk – as informative as they are, no real solutions are offered.

McKenna lightly refers to her time as a junior doctor working on the nightshift as she chats to two taxi drivers, admitting she struggled with it but the simple fact is living in a non-stop world of 24-hour convenience, the quarter of a million shift workers in Ireland know only too well that a permanent, consistent sleep routine is virtually impossible.

Most people are aware of what’s causing their sleep to suffer but there is little comfort given. Instead, there are interviews with harried parents whose children’s naps must be adapted or time spent following individuals with extreme disorders such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy.

The advice on offer – be conscious of your screen time, wake up at the same time every day, don’t oversleep on weekends and take Vitamin D supplements – are so obvious it could be have been cut-and pasted from a column in the back of Grazia.

The majority cannot live on Margaret Thatcher’s famed four hours a night as our reactions become slower and our minds fuzzier, which is evident from the rigorous testing a group of volunteers endured as they stayed awake for more than 24 hours.This constant battle is increasing the risk of serious illnesses such as Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease, which are important issues that should be highlighted.

Awake might be the jolt out of the groggy state some viewers need but perhaps it’s the nightmare of our working lives that is the real topic that shouldn’t be slept on.

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