Peter Fleming's new book, The Mythology of Work: How Capitalism Persists Despite Itself (Pluto Press, 2015), which examines the ways in which "neoliberal society uses the rituals of work...to maintain the late capitalist class order," looks like essential reading for sleep aficionados. Chapter titles include: "The Factory That Never Sleeps" and "Viral Capitalism in the Bedroom".
The BBC website reports on a study at Northwestern University, Chicago, in which a group of 40 people were assessed for their levels of sexual and racial bias, and then given "counter-bias training" accompanied by a series of distinctive sounds that were played again at low volume while they enjoyed an afternoon nap. The result was a reduction in their bias scores. Doubtless this experiment has important things to tell us about sleep, learning and cognition; but no less intriguing are the ethical questions it raises about power, manipulation and suggestibility. As one commentator notes, the experiment is uncomfortably reminiscent of the systematic brainwashing of sleeping children in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.
In a study of the lifestyle and working habits of 21,000 British workers, researchers at Rand Europe and the University of Cambridge found that "employees who slept for six hours or less a night were significantly less productive than those who slept for seven or eight".
The notion that sleep is the supreme productivity booster has acquired significant currency in recent years, not least among those firms where employees are encouraged to avail themselves of "nap rooms" and "sleep pods" during working hours. But an article on BBC website reveals that many bosses are increasingly sceptical of the virtues of workplace napping, with some arguing that it institutionalises a culture of procrastination and laziness. The solution, for one boss, was to re-name his "nap room" an 'innovation lounge" -- a re-branding that resulted in an instant restoration of productivity to "pre-nap room levels."