Google Naps is a new crowd-sourced application that enables users to share recommendations for favourite sleeping spots in their areas. The app is the brainchild of the Dutch creative agencies Kakhiel and Venour, who describe it as an affectionate "parody" of Google Maps. Whether Google Maps will tolerate the existence of this cheeky impersonator remains to be seen, but it is nevertheless tempting to discern, in Kakhiel and Venour's mischievous project, some of the possibilities that there might be for harnessing digital technology to the pleasures of sleep rather than the demands of hyper-alert productivity.
A new article by Siobhan Phillips on the Poetry Foundation website offers a brief, eloquent meditation on the "politics of sleep" in the poetry of Lyn Hejinian, Walt Whitman and Bernadette Mayer. "Our pursuit of sleep is languidly compulsive," she writes, "the desired phenomenon shimmering as it does between object and (inactive) activity."
One theme that crops up from time to time on this blog is the peculiar visibility, and vulnerability, of sleep on public transport (see our posts here and here). Buses, trains and planes are some of the only places in which sleepers regularly entrust themselves to the care, or at least the benign indifference, of people they've never met. Discussions of sleep on public transport typically focus on the relationships of trust and responsibility between sleeping and non-sleeping passengers. But what does the transport system think of the somnolent bodies that it conveys from place to place? Here is what Michael O'Leary, the famously outspoken CEO of the low-cost airline Ryanair, thinks about sleeping on planes: "You don't take a flight to contemplate your life in silence. Our services are not cathedral-like sanctuaries. Anyone who looks like sleeping, we wake them up to sell them things."
An article in today's New York Times about ongoing efforts in Columbia, MO and elsewhere to start the school day later. Jilly Dos Santos is a "sleep-deprived teenager turned into a sleep activist" who helped persuade her local school board to scupper plans for an earlier start time. "During puberty, teenagers have a later release of the 'sleep' hormone melatonin, which means they tend not to feel drowsy until around 11 p.m." Moreover, researchers at the University of Minnesota have just released a study suggesting "the later a school's start time, the better off the students were on many measures, including mental health, car crash rates, attendance and, in some schools, grades and standardized test scores." For an earlier post on sleep and teenage students, click here.
"Seize the siesta!" is the rallying cry of a brief, inspiring book, The Art of the Siesta, in which Thierry Paquot champions the daytime nap as a practice in which we reclaim our own time from the clockwork routines of industrial capitalism. Along the way, Paquot castigates modern architecture for its "absurd and restrictive division of an apartment into day use and night use." By way of alternative, he wonders whether architects will ever "invent a new room, the 'siestoir', in the same way that Georges Perec in Species of Space imagines a Mondoir, Tuesdoir -- a room for each day of the week? Will they endow factories and office blocks with 'siesterias' right next to the cafeterias?". The "siestoir" and the "siesteria" are whimsical utopian fantasies in Paquot's anti-capitalist polemic, yet they bear a suspicious resemblance to the "sleep pods" that were installed on the 24th floor of the Empire State Building in 2004 -- hi tech beds in which New Yorkers could enjoy a 20-minute nap for $14. These eye-wateringly expensive sleep pods are now defunct, but it seems fair to assume that capitalism has lost none of its desire to "seize the siesta" for its own ends.