Slow living: A rethinking of sleep


Our daily lives are filled with constant expectations and pressure to perform better and faster than ever before - in every aspect of life. In fact, the pace has never been faster.

With smartphones, we are constantly battling the work-life balance by being online and available before we go to sleep and as the first thing when we wake up. Our office hours are becoming longer, often stretching far into night, and we are constantly exposed to a never-ending flow of information.

However, the main pressures are often the ones that we inflict on ourselves in order to live what we believe to be the perfect life.

If I could just exercise some more, eat healthier, be more productive at work and do things faster, then life will become perfect. Well, at least for a while before you eventually experience a burnout as a result of pursuing impossible perfection.

In Denmark, at least 300,000 people are registered to be struggling with severe stress symptoms on a daily base. This corresponds to 5 % of the Danish population. And it is predicted that the number will continue to increase in the future.

The slow movement

As the pace in society continues to rise, we are beginning to see a trending counter-reaction: the slow movement. The philosophy behind the slow movement is a radical re-evaluation of the pace in our lives. It is an acclaim to slowing down as opposed to rushing and pacing forward.

This may be a necessary acknowledgement of the health consequences of a fast lifestyle or a beginning acknowledgement of the value of letting go. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer spoke of this as early as in the mid-1800s and said that it was the only possible path to a good life.

According to Schopenhauer, the path to a happier life is prevented by mankind. Our lives are characterized by an aspiration and tendency to constantly replace our current achievements with new goals – a way of thinking that seems to have accelerated. However, perhaps redemption can be found within ourselves.

“It is difficult to find happiness within oneself, but it is impossible to find it anywhere else.”  - Arthur Schopenhauer.

Schopenhauer believes that our pursuit must abstain from the illusion that happiness shall be found somewhere out there. Instead of running blind, one should appreciate his presence and be reminded of the importance of being without any aspirations.

Sleep in a 24/7 society

Today, the modern man is beginning to look for time gaps. A place from where he can renounce his stress. But the solution may already exist: Sleep - The most accurate example of this redeeming condition and the most radical approach to slow living. Every night, sleep marks the end of the day. It gives us the opportunity to finally breathe and thus establishes a break that pauses the eternal endeavors of the days. The night is this pure state.

The silence. The calm breathing. The anticipation of sleep.

But sleep is a fragile space today. Nighttime is threatened by the restlessness of the waking hours, which means that people are sleeping worse than ever before. Even so, the bed industry has failed their obligation to sleep. With their elevation systems and built-in chargers, they offer beds that encourage us to stay awake and thereby bind humanity to the wheel of the 24/7 society.

The industry seems to continuously reinforce an approach to sleep where days have priority over nights. This idea is not a fleeting phase but rather rooted in the foundation of the capitalistic modernity, as the 19th century inventor Thomas A. Edison expressed:

“We are always hearing people talk about ”loss of sleep” as a calamity. They better call it loss of time, vitality and opportunities”.

Our knowledge about sleep has changed since the beginning of the modern era. However, when scientists today warn against the online presence or other melatonin-inhibitory activities, the importance of sleep is always mentioned as a recovering functionality of the active life. 

When the World Sleep Society in 2008 initiated “World Sleep Society” under the slogan "sleep well, live fully awake”, it revealed a significant aspect of the sleep discourse. The slogan it not necessarily wrong, it just emphasizes the counterpart of sleep - living "fully awake", which gives associations to the same vital lifestyle that Edison referred to, and so it becomes inevitably linked to modern demands for high performance.

It is as if we have forgotten that this interest in daytime is not only bounded to a structure defined by productivity and consumption, but to a structure which is leading our planet towards an insecure future and at the same time has limited sleep and eroded its cultural status in the 21st Century.


The search for less

The possible change of society's tremendous sleep problems is therefore - obviously - neither found in the development of further technological disturbances, nor the constant remarks about the physiological necessity of sleep. Not only does this obvious point, according to several experts, create a nervous pressure which works opposite to letting go, it also neglects the possibility to reevaluate the modern idea of sleep.

Today, scientists are yet to find a comprehensive explanation behind the purpose of sleep. The eight-hour recurring darkness remains one of life's great mysteries. But the lack of understanding is at the same time a potential changing of perspective. It is a potential moving towards a new recognition of a concept where sleep no longer is reduced to an instrumental principle. The beauty of sleep is to be found in its inherent value and the bed industry's most pressing challenge lies precisely in the emphasizing of this. Here begins the process of changing the de-prioritization of sleep, a process that starts by influencing our perception of the bed.

At the Re factory located in the Danish Lake Highlands, we regard our work as a tribute to sleep. We omit everything that seems superfluous by seeking the essence of the bed. A bed as simple and beautiful as sleep itself. No unnecessary ornaments. No embedded technological structures that deviate from its ascetic value. A bed is a bed - and has value by the virtue of it. As a beautiful object, it must bear its own purpose; it must stand as a frame of the night – this passive state – which no longer should be thought of as a preparation but a fulfillment.  

Alexander Brunsø