Can We Please Not Turn Sleep into a Sport?

Playing catch-up with my newsfeeds this weekend, I stumbled across this gem from the New York Times. It’s on the rise of high performance bedding, particularly fitness sheets — sorry, Sheex — designed by athletic coaches, inspired by sportswear. Which would, I guess, be why the product website reads like the tag on a sports bra: wicking properties, precision fit, breathability, durability. Super.

Sheex likes to throw around words like “sleep-fit” and “performance fabric,” and so does does the story here. A few excerpts:

Ten years ago, [Susan Walvius, a Sheex co-creator] said, “as coaches, we were cotton purists. Then we saw the whole evolution of performance fabric. Now, you don’t train in anything but performance fabric, because of the moisture wicking and the temperature management. It just helps your body function better. We thought it would be great to take this technology and apply it to bedding.”

Ms. Marciniak, who was sharing the phone with her business partner, added: “Everybody needs sleep. Whether you’re a mom or an athlete, everybody has to perform the next day. We’re making a performance home story. We want to own the consumer from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.”

And let’s not forget this bit, too:

And beyond the so-called science, the notion of selling bedding products as athletic gear seems intuitive, tapping as it does into the American competitive spirit.

“We are hyper-competitive, even when it comes to stress and relaxation,” Ms. Salzman wrote recently in an e-mail, still at work at 9 p.m. “And we want to amp up our lives, to ensure we have and enjoy the very best, better than others. Thus, who wouldn’t spring for a few extra bucks for a better, more sporty sleep?”

She continued, “Seriously, we want everything in our worlds to be high-performance, including our beds, our pillows, our bolsters, to ensure an empowered snooze and also a better next morning, a wittier, faster, smoother day.”

Can we please not do this? I’m serious: we’ve already optimized our lives to excess. We’ve got high-performance toothbrushes and food, we’ve streamlined how we communicate, make friends, work, and play. Everything is just marvelously sporty and performance-enhanced and we are stressed the frick out. Don’t make sleep a competitive sport, too.

Now, these folks are absolutely right in that sleep is important. It is crucially important, to all of us, in so many ways. We work better, think better, feel better, live better, and look better when we get good, high-quality sleep. Which is why we shouldn’t complicate it, or pimp it up with fancy gadgetry, high-performance bedding (that, by the way, starts at $50 a pillowcase and runs up to $200 for a queen set) or, appallingly, take to using sleep power bars to get us through the night.

I’m not talking about people with serious sleep disorders (nor, come to think of it, am I talking about porn stars, who I think probably can justify moisture-wicking, high-performance bedding), but I am talking about the average person who would be way better off saving their money and trying — and I know I’m being radical here — cutting down in their pre-bed routine instead of fancypantsying up.

Try turning off the electronics and not checking email for a half-hour before bed. Stop working. Stop thinking about work. Make a nice cup of tea or something. Read a book (they’re still around, and really awesome). For thirty minutes just calm down, ignore the iPad/iPhone/iTunes/Jerry Bruckheimer movies for just a little while — and also, don’t go eat a meal fit for a Viking. That’ll screw up your chemical cycles a lot more than not having these sheets will.

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