One notable casualty of the recent 6.0 magnitude earthquake in northern California, which struck at 3.20am on 24 August, was the sleep of residents in the vicinity of the epicentre in Napa County. Extrapolating from data collected by Californians wearing activity trackers, scientists have estimated that over one million hours of sleep were lost in Napa alone.
A piece from The Guardian in which Oliver Burkeman reflects on the potential for modern anti-insomnia advice -- particularly guidance about good "sleep hygiene" in the bedroom -- to backfire by producing excessive self-consciousness over the business of going to sleep.
Last year we we provided a brief overview of the evolution of the "sleepless world genre" in recent science fiction. 2014 has witnessed the publication of a very smart and thought-provoking addition to this genre, Karen Russell's futuristic novella Sleep Donation, in which an epidemic of insomnia breaks out in the US and soon begins to spread worldwide. The development of technology for "donating" sleep creates hope for the victims of this epidemic -- but sleep-transfusion technology also creates lucrative possibilities for the commodification of human slumber. The nightmare of world-wide insomnia is thus envisioned by Russell as a dream come true for techno-capitalism.
(PS: Those who believe that there is a causal relationship between modern technology and insomnia will be intrigued to know that Sleep Donation is, as yet, available only on e-readers.)
An article in the Guardian on one person's experience of "delayed sleep phase syndrome" and its impact on her education, employment prospects and relationships.
In 1984 a special number of the Revue des Sciences Humaines appeared under the title Visages du sommeil. Opening with a short preface in which Michel Covin bemoans the absence of any serious philosophical attention to sommeil lent -- that is, to non-REM sleep -- the volume contains eleven pieces that aim to address this curious gap in our intellectual culture. Visages du sommeil includes essays on sleep in literary fiction, sleep in Christian art, sleep on trains, the sleep of soldiers, and sleep in monastic communities; it also contains a number of striking black and white photographs of sleepers.
Research by scientists at Harvard Medical School, reported in today's Telegraph, shows that astronauts "suffer serious levels of sleep deprivation," averaging in the region of six hours per night (the average American adult gets seven). The effects of microgravity, and the fact that astronauts orbiting the earth will see the sun rise sixteen times per "day," are among the chief culprits for this poor sleep quality. And it has to be said that onboard sleeping conditions can hardly be conducive to the kind of sleep that astronauts might enjoy on terra firma. Here is footage of the Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield (famed for his rendition of Bowie's "Space Oddity" on the International Space Station in May 2013) securing himself in his "sleep pod" -- a sort of man-sized baby-grow suspended in what looks like a padded confessional -- and "floating/in a most peculiar way."
A report by Patrick Levy on a recent roundtable on sleep, agency and activity at the University of Durham. Of particular interest, for readers of Sleep Cultures, will be Cressida Heyes' notion of sleep as a form of "anaesthetic time".
The Daily Telegraph reports the discovery, by scientists working at the Centre for Applied Genomics in Philadelphia, that people carrying the gene variant "p.Tyr362His" are able to function on fewer than five hours' sleep per night. This variant has already been christened the "Thatcher gene", in honour of the former British PM's reputed ability to get by on just four hours' sleep per night. The article also quotes Charles Moore, Thatcher's authorized biographer, on the mythology that has grown up around her sleeping habits: "she wanted to show she didn't need much sleep. In fact she needed more than she said. It was part of her desire...to beat the men."