"Is it unethical to not rouse someone who is sleeping on the subway, and may therefore miss his or her stop? It seems like the proper thing to do, but the person may not want to be woken up". This question was recently posed in the 'Ethicist' section of the New York Times Magazine. The magazine's in-house ethicist, Chuck Klosterman, opens his reply by remarking that "It is difficult to imagine a reasonable situation wherein someone sleeping unintentionally on the subway would not want to be woken up". Comments in a lively follow-up thread cover the danger of antagonizing the sleeper with unwanted attention; perceived differences between subway sleepers in New York and Tokyo (cf our recent post on Sleep on Japanese trains); the ability of some subway sleepers to snap out of sleep as they approach their destination; the potential intrusiveness of public sleepers who snore or slump against fellow passengers; and different etiquettes surrounding sleep on subway as opposed to long-distance trains. One contributor also tells the (possibly apocryphal) story of the heart attack victim whose body was only discovered by transit workers at the end of the shift because his fellow passengers had thought he was simply asleep. All in all, this thread is a valuable reminder of how mass public transport confronts us with something we simply don't encounter in other contexts: the sleep of strangers. It also shows how the ethics of sleep is an area that merits serious further discussion in critical sleep studies. Consider, in this regard, Klosterman's references to the intentions and desires of the sleeper ("someone sleeping unintentionally on the subway would not want to be woken up"). Do sleepers have intentions and desires? If so, can a sleeper be an ethicist? Or should we think of intention, desire -- and ethics -- as belonging exclusively to the conscious, purposive, waking self?
According to recent research by Christopher M. Barnes of the University of Washington, sleep is a "master key for our ability to exert self-control". For Barnes, "self-control is replenished while you sleep", whilst poor sleep "predicts unethical behaviour the next day". Researchers from Florida International University have arrived at similar conclusions in a new study that links poor sleep with "low self-control and delinquency" in teenagers.
A New York Times article on recent research that suggests curing insomnia in people with depression greatly increases their likelihood of a full recovery. "Dr. Andrew Krystal ... called sleep 'this huge, still unexplored frontier of psychiatry. ... Our treatments are driven by convenience. We treat during the day and make little effort to find out what's happening at night.'"
Founded in Denmark in 2007, the "B-Society" is a group that campaigns for the rights of 'late chronotypes' -- or night owls, as they are more popularly known. The B-Society challenges the traditional association of early rising with virtuous productivity, and campaigns for a sympathetic and flexible approach to the needs of late risers.
The satirical newspaper The Onion, self-dubbed "America's Finest News Source," reports on new findings in evolutionary biology.
A new article by Brigitte Steger examines the unwritten rules governing behaviour -- especially sleeping behaviour -- on urban Japanese commuter trains. The discussion covers the gendering of inemuri ('sleep in a social situation that is not primarily meant for sleeping') and the functions of feigned sleep, or what in Japan is known as tanuki neiri ('raccoon-dog sleep'), on trains.
'Day Dreamers' is a collection of images of public napping in contemporary China taken by the Shanghai-based photographer Eric Leleu. These 'candid siestas' are described as revealing 'private life overflowing onto the sidewalk; privacy integrating with the wider community'.
A recent New York Times blog post on the latest research in chronobiology. One finding: "[L]ate chronotypes tended to have activity in genes that contribute to later sleep onset, offering further evidence that the urge to stay up late or to rise early is not a lifestyle choice but resides in our DNA."