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An alarming 93 per cent of Indians are sleep-deprived and spend the nights watching sitcoms or on social media, and sleep at work, says a mattress company.

“That’s pathetic,” I said, lolling on my beanbag while binge-watching Netflix at 3am and keeping track of what people are trolling about on Twitter, while the ‘chowkidar’, the nightwatchman, goes by the window coughing and banging his stick on the ground to scare off robbers.

“This means only seven per cent of the population is fully awake and giving their 100 per cent at work,” I said to myself sleepily.

It’s nothing new, as people in government offices usually slept on the job even before the advent of social media such as Facebook or WhatsApp.

The person behind the desk would be offended when you insist he or she do their work, and when you looked closely you would see the person was sleeping with her eyes open, while pretending to read from a battered-looking file.

I tried that once in a newsroom in an Arab Gulf state on a lazy afternoon after a heavy lunch and with the temperature outside in the high 40s and 70 per cent humidity; I stared at the white screen of the desktop and zoned out, just like the health experts talk about how mindfulness, or mindlessness, should be.

For a few moments it was bliss, then my eyes started tearing up. A friend passing by did a double take and came back and asked, ‘what’s wrong’. “It’s nothing,” I said, “I just realised I love what I do, so much.”

(Actors do that when they wish to show emotion; they stare into nothingness without blinking, and tears of remorse, or joy, or whatever they wish them to be, start pouring out from their eyes and slowly drip down the cheeks).

Sleep deprivation

The study done by Nielsen, a data analytics company along with the mattress company, was done in 10 Indian cities, to understand the sleep patterns of people.

It was found that people from Hyderabad (same people who went gaga over Ikea opening in their city) were the most sleep-deprived. According to the newspaper, the survey titled, ‘In Search of Better Sleep’, was based on data from 1,524 people in Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Pune, Indore, Vizag, Bhubaneshwar, Chennai, Kochi, Ahmedabad and Raipur.

(Bengaluru now has sleep labs and people from across the globe come on a health tourism junket and sleep there).

A graphic in the newspaper, titled Sleepless in Hyderabad, showed a young man staring blankly from his pillow and there were a few figures to show you how terrible it is for people who do not get a good night’s sleep: About 51 per cent felt sleepy while on their way to work or on the way back home; 74 per cent had persistent backache or had back pain because of improper mattresses (that of course, was a plug from the mattress company, but people rarely sleep on a good mattress as these things are expensive and back and neck pain treatment is a huge medical industry here) and 75 per cent wake up about two times in the night.

Speaking of mattress, we had beds whose base was made of coir rope. As the months passed the rope would get loose and we would slowly at first, hang in mid-air and then nearly reach the ground.

When that happened, an expert was called who would tighten the coir and fluff up the cotton inside the mattresses with a harp-like twanging instrument, and it was back to blissful sleep once again.

Sleep deprivation is a huge issue across the globe and a Dubai doctor had advised me to shut off my smartphones, keep the bedroom dark and eat supper at least three hours before sleeping.

Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi.