By: Michael Beiter
"The average North American adult now sleeps approximately 6.5 hours per night. Which is an erosion from 8 hours a generation ago and 10 hours in the early 20th century" says Jonathan Crary in his book 24/7.
This is a startling find. I will use this quote to support my stance that sleep is sacred and valuing it places you in the upper echelon of intelligence in what is otherwise an increasingly ignorant 'hustle' culture.
Much like the statistics for obesity which have ballooned since the beginning of the 20th century, sleep as part of a healthy lifestyle has taken a massive hit. A 35% reduction in that time span to be exact. What this does to our health and well being cannot be understated.
In 2018 the most important book I read was Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. He makes the most compelling case I've come across for protecting our absolute need for sleep and backs it up with current findings from the last 20 years of sleep research.
Crary does a lot of the same in his book in addition to pointing at capitalism as the culprit for our diminished value on sleep.
"The homogenizing force of capitalism is incompatible with any inherent structure of differentiation. Sacred - profane, carnival - workday, nature - culture, machine - organism, and so on. Thus any persisting notions of sleep as somehow natural are rendered unacceptable. Of course, people will continue to sleep, and even sprawling mega cities will still have nocturnal intervals and relative quiescence. Nonetheless, sleep is now an experience cut loose from notions of necessity or nature" writes Crary.
Having never been around for a culture not centered on consumption I can't disagree with experience. But I do remember youth without the internet, cell phones, and the hyper connected world we live in now. And that time seemed to me to be more peaceful. More conducive to rest. And less anxiety ridden.
"Everyone, we are told - not just businesses and institutions - needs an "online presence," needs 24/7 exposure, to avoid social irrelevance or professional failure. But the promotion of these alleged benefits is a cover for the transfer of most social relations into monetized and quantifiable forms. It is equally a shift of individual life to conditions in which privacy is impossible, and in which one becomes a permanent site of data harvesting and surveillance. One accumulates a patchwork of surrogate identities that subsist 24/7. Sleeplessly, continuously, as inanimate impersonations rather than extensions of the self" Crary says.
I can admit to feeling these pressures. I get nervous if I haven't interacted with my clients on our app. I feel as thought I'm not being effective if I'm not contributing a take to the noise of social media. I know I'm being monitored constantly by the companies whose services I choose to use on my tech but I don't care. Everyone is doing it. That was until it started affecting my sleep. I can thank Walker for creating a 'no go zone' there in my life. If anything I do with my tech affects my ability to lay down and get 8 hours of sleep I'm going to find a way to get rid of it. Because no professional success or amount of interaction on social media is worth my health - which we know is severely affected when sleep drops as low as the national average is now.
Crary makes a case for embracing the natural ebb and flow of the Earth. That which promotes plenty of sleep as a natural need for every person. Not something that can be sacrificed effectively in the name of capitalism. Have a read if you want more confidence to fight back against the push to be 24/7.