This Was the Year of Getting Enough Sleep

As rates of insomnia rise, we turned to Oura Rings, Andrew Huberman, and sleep travel to help us catch the right amount of ZZZs.
This Was the Year of Getting Enough Sleep
GQ; Getty Images

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” The machismo mantra of overextended businessmen, early-morning exercisers, and late-night partiers has finally worn out its welcome. In 2023, sleep—and getting a lot of it—reigns supreme. Far from being just a biological necessity, sleep has become the ultimate symbol of self-care and an essential pillar of well-being, with those in the know waking up to the idea that productivity and vitality stem from a good night’s slumber.

While last year delivered us the best morning routines for deep work, this year was all about bedtime rituals that help us fall asleep—fast. From Andrew Huberman’s slew of supplements (coined a “sleep cocktail”) to Bryan Johnson’s gadget-laden sleep routine (which he says is the biggest priority in his life), purveyors of wellness captivated us with the promise of catching a few extra ZZZs to release some of the collective burnout that has been building since COVID-19. In a world that feels like it’s falling further and further out of our grasp, catching up on sleep is something we can control….right?

Maybe not. Regardless of whether we all want to get better sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one-third of U.S. adults report not achieving the recommended amount of shut-eye (more than seven hours). Meanwhile, a 2023 survey from U.S. News & World Reports found that 43 percent have experienced some level of insomnia this year, which can lead to greater rates of anxiety and depression. Sleep deficiency is also linked to chronic health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke, as well as an increased risk of injury. We can chalk our lack of sleep up to busy schedules, stress, general medical issues, or sleep disorders like sleep apnea, but the data is clear: Many people aren’t sleeping well, and we’ll take any help we can get to reap the benefits for our cognitive health, physical health, and exercise performance and recovery.

This year, as the conversation around sleep expanded beyond health circles, we’ve turned our eye away from traditional sleep pills that only provide temporary benefits and towards sleep trends and technologies for long-term relief. Armed with years of data on sleep research and a whole backlog of wellness podcasts about how to optimize it, social media got to work to spread the gospel of sleep. Mouth taping, a controversial concept first made popular by James Nestors’ Breath, which involves putting a light piece of tape over your mouth to encourage nose-breathing, exploded on TikTok, garnering 123 percent more search inquiries on Google than in 2022. While this trend sparked curiosity in many, it raised red flags among experts who warned that the dangers outweigh the rewards.

On the more harmless side, sleep syncing—a fancy word for adjusting your sleep cycle to your circadian rhythm and going to bed at the same time every night—emerged as a prevailing trend and was made even easier by the devices on our wrists, which recommend a bedtime based on your established routine. This form of sleep tracking, built into most advanced wearables like Whoop and the Oura Ring, uses heart-rate monitoring and temperature data to provide a comprehensive picture of the quality of your rest and how primed your body is for the day ahead. We can now know our resting heart rate, breathing patterns, and time spent awake, and the Eight Sleep smart mattress not only tracks these things but also adjusts the temperature with your sleep schedule and wakes you up with light vibrations rather than jarring noises.

But knowledge alone can’t help us get better sleep: The market has also become saturated with sleep products, like relaxation supplements and nighttime melatonin drinks, flavored like hot cocoa and white tea, that promise deep sleep. Many incorporate ingredients like magnesium and chamomile and nootropics like L-theanine, known for their calming effects. As the quest for better sleep continues, technology has moved beyond the individual and into the home to create an entire sleep ecosystem. Smart homes can change lighting levels to mimic natural patterns and promote healthy circadian rhythms or play white noise to reduce distractions and shut out external sounds.

Outside of the home, the call for better sleep became even more clear as this sleep revolution stretched far beyond our bedroom walls. Sleep became a focus during travel as the concept of sleep tourism gained momentum. Wellness retreats and resorts created holistic rest-based experiences instead of jam-packed adventure itineraries. Hotels, such as Six Senses and Park Hyatt, started offering specialized sleep suites, amenities, and access to sleep experts like hypnotherapists.

As the year draws to a close, the conversation around sleep remains at the forefront, calling for both personal sleep optimization and systemic changes. The American Association of Sleep Medicine is encouraging better education around sleep in both schools and healthcare settings, and advocates are calling for workplace interventions that prioritize employee well-being and recognize the impact of sufficient rest on productivity and mental health. Looking ahead, the hope isn’t just for fleeting trends like mouth-taping but a cultural shift to a society where sleep is celebrated, understood, and prioritized daily.