From The American Scholar, a "small but heartfelt elegy to the Sunday afternoon nap" by Brian Doyle.
A piece in the New Republic takes a dim view of CEOs and politicians who brag about being early risers. According to Ryan Kearney, self-congratulatory references to 4am starts are nothing more than acts of "sleep-shaming" that implicitly target those with less punishing sleep schedules.
The website for the Polyphasic Society is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in exploring the theory and practice of alternative sleep cycles. The site has a sizeable menu of non-standard sleep schedules ("segmented", "triphasic", "dual core", "dymaxion" and others) and offers detailed guidance on how to manage the shift from consolidated or monophasic sleeping habits into these exotic variants; it also has a lively forum in which polyphasic sleepers reflect on their attempts to re-boot their sleep lives. In these forum posts, we can witness something quite remarkable -- the emergence of a virtual community that has a fair claim to being the first subculture to be based around sleep.
October 2014 saw the launch of the Hubbub project, a two-year Wellcome Trust-funded investigation into the dynamics of rest and busyness in modern life. Research will be conducted by the Hubbub Group, an international team of scientists, humanists, clinicians, public health experts, broadcasters and public engagement professionals who will explore rest, noise, tumult, activity and work as they operate in mental health, neuroscience, the arts and the everyday. Readers of Sleep Cultures will want to check out the first blog posting on the Hubbub website, which contains a brief but fascinating discussion by the anthropologist Josh Berson of his work with the polyphasic sleeping community.
A team of researchers led by Dr Christoph Nissen of the University Medical Centre, Freiburg, have been studying sleeping patterns in a Stone Age-style environment. Five volunteers spent two months in a settlement in southern Germany, living in huts, gathering their own food, and sleeping on brushwood and furs. They had no electricity, phones, running water, torches or candles. According to data collected from their sleep-tracking armbands, the participants slept an average of 1.8 hours more each night than they ordinarily would have done. According to Nissen and his team, whose findings have now been published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, these observations provide "evidence for the long-held belief that the absence of modern living conditions is associated with an earlier sleep phase and prolonged sleep duration."
Sleeping Time is an online application that gives the approximate sleeping schedule of Twitter users, basing its calculations on their periods of downtime from the social networking site. A quick survey of some notable tweeters reveals that Barack Obama's sleep schedule is 1am-8am, Oprah Winfrey's is 12am-7am, whilst the Dalai Lama's is 9pm-5am. Are these approximations at all accurate? There's really no way of knowing, and in any case It probably doesn't matter. What's intriguing about the site is not the information -- or conjecture -- it contains, but rather the assumption underpinning it, which is that social networking now pervades our lives to the extent that "being on Twitter" has become synonymous with "being awake". If we are not tweeting (or Facebooking, or GooglePlusing) then we are "asleep" socially, if not biologically. Also intriguing is the question of whether high-profile Twitter users are at all conscious of the story that their online behaviour tells about their (virtual) sleeping habits. Given that the online presence of eminent politicians and celebrities is presumably managed and scripted by teams of proxies, it would be interesting to know how much thought these ghostwriters give to scripting an appropriate virtual "sleep life" for their illustrious employers. To take the examples given above, Obama's sleeping hours seem broadly appropriate for America's commander-in-chief. As for the Dalai Lama, his early bedtime is very much in keeping with his status as the world's most famous ascetic -- but it's good to see that he enjoys a full eight hours like the rest of us.
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.
In an earlier post, we discussed a recent New York Times article on sleep and brain cleansing. In a follow up to this article, Michael Gonchar invited students 13 and older to answer the question, "How Much of a Priority Do You Make Sleep?" As of this posting, the article has generated 53 comments, many of which attest both to sleep's importance and to impediments to getting enough rest. A comment by Alexis S. offers a case in point: "I think sleep is a huge deal and I agree that it’s extremely important to the growth, development, and maintenance of our minds. The problem here is that I don’t actually make sleeping a priority. Now, I know it sounds awful, but if you could only think of the other things I need to balance and prioritize, perhaps you’d understand: socialization, amusement, and –most importantly– school. I’d hate to blame school for my sleep deprivation… but in all honesty, I think the homework loads and studying that is expected to be done in order to receive favorable grades is quite contradicting to the message of 'you should sleep more'."
Scientists at the University of Surrey's Sleep Research Centre have have published new research on the "chrono-chaos" that shift work inflicts on the human body.