'It was 4.23am but Lydia Wheatley was wide awake. As usual, anxious thoughts were catapulting through her mind as she prepared to face yet another day of exhaustion, dizziness and stress.
But it wasn’t woes about her marriage or money that kept Lydia fraught and unable to switch off. It was her smartphone, nestled under her pillow, which was tracking how well she was – or rather was not – sleeping. A few months earlier, she had downloaded an app designed to help improve sleep by monitoring users’ movements while in bed. It would tell her exactly how long, and how deeply, she had slumbered. Useful, thought Lydia. After all, sleeping well is a pillar of good health – not getting eight hours a night raises the risk of a host of problems, from heart disease and stroke to dementia.
But having been ‘a pretty good sleeper’ beforehand, the app had actually triggered her insomnia. Gazing up at the ceiling at night, eyes stinging with tiredness, the irony of all this was momentarily lost on Lydia. Today, though, the 39-year-old mother-of-three says: ‘I know it sounds bizarre, but I only downloaded the app out of curiosity. After only two weeks, I became fixated with the quality of my sleep – so much so that it started to play on my mind all night.
‘I was so anxious I couldn’t drift off and ended up getting about four hours a night. I was hyper-aware that my sleep was being tracked, so the slightest thing would wake me. I started getting up in the night to check my phone and see if I was entering the correct sleep phase.
‘With hindsight, it seems so clear. But at the time, ridiculously, I didn’t put two and two together – I didn’t realise that it was the worry about sleeping well that was actually keeping me up.’
And Lydia, it would seem, is not alone. In fact, she was suffering from a newly recognised condition experts call orthosomnia – an obsession with sleeping correctly.
Similar to the recently recognised eating disorder orthorexia – an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating – the condition is said to be a product of an obsessional desire to be our healthiest, ‘best’ self.
Some of those at risk of orthosomnia already suffer from mental-health problems and sleep difficulties. Consumed with worry about sleeping patterns, sufferers end up with extreme anxiety and depression. But researchers say they are seeing more and more patients who, like Lydia, admit sleep-tracking gadgets that claim to monitor and improve our quality and quantity of sleep actually triggered their problems.'
Read more: Why the sleep tracker craze is CAUSING your insomnia, not curing it: Mother, 39, went from a blissful EIGHT hours a night to just FOUR after buying a movement tracking app
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