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Most adults in the industrialized world spend more time sleeping than they do in any other single activity. In spite of his fact, most people probably spend less time thinking about how and when they sleep than they do about any number of other things which make up a much smaller portion of their lives. For example, while the standard work week on the United States is (nominally) 40 hours, the average adult spends less than 40 hours per week on all free time activities combined (reading, television, computer, religious practice, and so on), and about 55 hours per week asleep(1). Time spent with children and personal care activities other than sleeping each get an even smaller slice of time.

Perhaps the most striking contrast is with food. There are many similarities between food and sleep: both are biological urges, both can affect mood and health, and both eating and sleeping are activities most people do every single day. Food, however, is a $1.5 trillion industry in the US alone. Some of the difference is understandable, since eating is both consumptive and social in ways that sleeping is not. The fact remains, however, that while the average person spends 4-5 times as much of their life sleeping as eating, the time and money spent thinking about, planning for, and preparing to eat vastly outweighs that for sleep.

Perhaps we feel that we can get by doing what comes naturally. After all, that seems to have worked for a long time, right? The difficulty is that, as is true of food, our sleep related circumstances have changed dramatically in the last hundred years or so. Electric lighting allows us to essentially ignore the seasonal difference in day length, and in fact to largely ignore the difference between day and night. Globalization takes advantage of this; one may have to work nighttime hours to keep track of what colleagues are doing on the other side of the world. Time zones and daylight savings further disassociate us from local solar time, and we have alarm clocks to enforce our unnatural schedules. Many businesses operate continuously, from the convenience store which is open 24 hours a day to the factory with three full shifts of workers. Late nights and early mornings encourage us to use stimulants such as caffeine to wake up in the morning and pick ourselves up in the afternoon, and then stress, light, and activity push many toward depressants to wind down at night. Stimulants and depressants have been around longer than the other innovations mentioned here, but are still fairly new on evolutionary timescales.

The point here is that we have already moved out of a natural sleep rhythm; our sleep has become as regimented and industrialized as any other aspect of our society. And it has largely done so in response to the demands of other aspects of our lives, essentially without purpose or planning.

The time has come for us to reclaim our sleep. While there is much about sleep that we don’t understand, we know enough to enable us to conciously craft our sleep habits; to be architects of our sleep. Hence the term hypnotecture. Just as architecture is not merely construction engineering, but also incorporates ideas about design for aesthetics — form as well as function — so too hypnotecture is more than simply sleep design. Sleep should not only serve its biological purposes, but can provide add enjoyment, depth, and richness to life.

Our mission, then, is to

  1. understand the function and mechanism of sleep,
  2. develop strategies for designing sleep habits optimized around function, and
  3. tweak those habits to maximize their sleep aesthetic.

We welcome those who wish to join us in our journey.

(1) See, for example, Bianchi et al. (2007). Changing Rhythms of American Family Life. Russell Sage Foundation Publications.