Call me a grandma (many people do) but my ideal evening involves a combination of marshmallows, slippers, hot chocolate and a bed, in no particular order. I have turned down an invitation to Kasbah many times – so far away! – to hunker down with a hot beverage and a book, or Netflix, or no entertainment at all but sleep. And, try as I might, I don’t feel guilty. I don’t even experience FOMO, something I am not a stranger to on other occasions. In fact, I feel pretty sanctimonious as I spend precisely no money for the pleasure of warmth, rest and a hangover-free day.
Now it turns out I am not alone. A new study by Ergoflex, a company making memory foam mattresses (I’m feeling sleepy already), has found that 82% of 18-30 year olds regularly cancel plans with friends in favour of an early night. Their reasons for doing so? Not feeling like socialising; wanting or needing a good night’s sleep; watching TV or a film; not wanting a hangover; and the completely relatable excuse that they’d already gotten too comfortable in bed. So there we have it. Millennials are a generation of grandmas.
In the rush and constant stimulation of our busy lives, an evening passed doing nothing by yourself is a welcome (re)treat, a chance to focus on ourselves and recharge
As all early night aficionados will tell you, this bodes well for the health and happiness of young people. Sleep is chronically under-valued in our society – think of Margaret Thatcher’s now infamous boast that she only needed four hours a night – but, according to neuroscientist Matthew Walker in his book Why We Sleep, it is the cornerstone of our health. Without eight hours of sleep a night, the components of a healthy lifestyle which we talk about regularly – a good diet and exercise – become not only more difficult to achieve, but almost irrelevant.
Our wellbeing will benefit as well not just from more sleep, but from time spent quietly alone. In the rush and constant stimulation of our busy lives, an evening passed doing nothing by yourself is a welcome (re)treat, a chance to focus on ourselves and recharge. Millennials snuggled up early are allowing themselves the time, even if they don’t realise it, to contemplate their lives and to relax.
But as we lie in bed at 8pm, perhaps a moment of reflection is due. What has brought about young people’s sudden appreciation for an early night? Could this be yet another example of the pervasive influence of social media? Able to connect to everyone instantaneously, maybe we have ceased to value in the same way the face-to-face contact that is the sustenance of healthy relationships. When we could just text or Snapchat them instead, going out to see people can seem an unnecessary effort, and something easily avoided.
I’ve found myself making some hot chocolate, my bed is calling, and I just can’t refuse
Ergoflex’s study will also not be welcomed by the night-time industry. The decline of pubs, clubs, and bars is not new: the number of pubs in the UK has fallen by 17% since 2000, and they continue to close at a rate of 18 per week. Even more surprisingly, alcohol consumption amongst 18-24 year-olds is also declining. 29% of 16-24 year-olds in 2015 said they didn’t drink, up from 18% in 2005. These trends mean the night-time economy will have to innovate to continue to attract young people who have rediscovered the joys of a cosy night in.
I had plans to meet some friends tonight and discuss over a drink these structural problems of the UK economy, but unfortunately, I’ve had to cancel. I’ve found myself making some hot chocolate, my bed is calling, and I just can’t refuse.