A Tired Lot: Why Do Millennials (Like My Child) Have Sleep Issues?

Sleep inertia is defined as a period of impaired cognitive function that starts immediately after waking up.

4 min read
One person’s perfect morning is another person’s hell.
A Tired Lot: Why Do Millennials (Like My Child) Have Sleep Issues?

It’s 8.30 in the morning, I hear my daughter’s phone ringing and then her groggy pissed-off voice saying, “Why are you calling me now, I am still sleeping”.

I feel sorry for the person at the other end of the line. They have no idea that my daughter belongs to the majority of today’s youth for whom the day starts at noon. My neighbour periodically complains,

I hardly ever see my son in spite of living in the same house! When I leave for office, he is still sleeping and when I am about to go to sleep he returns from office. It’s been ages since we sat down and had a real conversation. On Sundays and holidays, he sleeps till noon. He wakes up, has lunch and again retreats to his room for another nap. Evening comes and he heads out with his friends, has dinner outside and comes back home late at night. Aisa hi din chalta hai. Kya karoon, bolne se bhi kuchh nahi badalta.(Nowadays, it’s like this only. What can I do, even if I remonstrate, nothing changes).

This is the story I hear from all mothers – particularly women who are mothers to 20-30-year-olds. My daughter categorically tells me, “There is nothing virtuous about early to bed and early to rise. That motto belonged to your generation. I am most productive after midnight. When the rest of the world becomes silent, I work and create.”

My counter arguments that staying up late until the wee hours is something I expect her to grow out of and that becoming an adult is embracing early mornings, fall on deaf ears.

Their Own Body Clocks

The current generation (with some exceptions I am sure) seems to go about their business at their own sweet time. Their schedules are new and their body clocks have adjusted to them. Scientists argue that their circadian rhythms must be offset due to the prevailing environmental and some genetic factors. They can neither control when their bodies get tired nor can they control the time that they wake up.

The good old days of alarm clocks are long gone. The youth of today prefer their mobile phones. Stored by the bedside, always within arm’s reach, it serves a dual purpose. Firstly – quick access to all the late night chatter on social media platforms, (one definitely has to be up to date on these). Secondly, they set their alarms on their mobiles. Today’s smart phones can morph into alarm clocks, displaying a clock face during the charging mode.

For those who’d like to know, surveys indicate the alarm clock on mobile devices is one of the most popular functions. So users can select from a range of sounds – from bird calls to barking dogs.

(Some) Millennials and Sleep Inertia

Therefore, on a working day, as various alarms go off at five minute intervals, my daughter slowly opens her eyes, picks crud out of them, and kind of bends her body out of her bed (but not before checking out the inevitable messages on her mobile).

In those moments or rather, for the first hour after she wakes up, she prefers not to be talked to. Initially, I was alarmed at this behaviour, but then – on looking it up – I found that this morning grogginess has a scientific name: sleep inertia.

Sleep inertia is defined as a period of impaired cognitive function that starts immediately after waking up. I’ve kind of resigned myself to this, though a secret part of me lives in everlasting hope that someday she’ll spring out of bed in the morning, greet me with a smile – less grouchy Garfield, more happy Tigger.

Tigger: Come on, Rabbit. Let’s you and me bounce, huh?

Garfield: If people were meant to pop out of bed, we’d all sleep in toasters.

Perhaps she’s another Winston Churchill, who rose at 7.30 am but stayed in bed until 11 am, reading newspapers and eating breakfast – then bathed, took a walk, drank a whisky and soda, and only then started work. Or Proust, who is said to have smoked opium powders before breakfast.

When I told my daughter that her idol Lady Gaga has said that she does five minutes of meditation every morning, she looked at me pityingly and said, “If I tried that, I’d be snoozing by minute two”.

My big lesson, learnt from all the articles on wake-up science, is that one person’s perfect morning is another person’s hell. As Mark Twain once wrote, “I have tried getting up early, and I have tried getting up late – and the latter agrees with me best.”

Don’t worry Mark, today’s youth are totally with you.


(The author is a fifty-plus academician who's worked in schools for 24 years but has given it up to pursue her passion of travelling and writing. She has always been called the 'cool Ma'am' and now the ‘cool Aunty’. She hopes it's true. Tweet to her @sumitaatimus)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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