Yawn: Catching zzzz’s and the politics of sleep

This week’s news. We can’t get by on 6 hours sleep a night. If you say that, you’re just kidding yourself. Also, lack of sleep is causing heart disease and cancer and Alzheimers.

Grim news, right? I have a good weeks where I get 7+ hours of sleep each night but lately I’ve been struggling. Thanks menopause and hot flashes.

Often these stories in the news talk as if the problem with getting adequate amounts of sleep were universal and it’s true we all need sleep. However, it’s also true that who gets enough sleep and why is partly about about sexism, racism, the divisions of work in the home, and the gap in income between the rich and the poor. Sleep tracks privilege.

I’ve ranted before about rich, white people whining about lack of sleep when really the sleep gap is all about race and income.

It’s not just a little bit less sleep either. Black Americans get a lot less sleep than white Americans. In fact, the difference in sleep quantity between the two groups may be enough to explain the difference in life expectancy between the two groups.

“The racial inequalities in the US are stark, but none are more damaging than the health gap between blacks and whites. On average, blacks die at a significantly younger age than whites.”

Here is a recent report on sleep differences between black and white Americans, Nobody Sleeps Better Than White People, Says Study

Thursday we learned something truly astonishing: White people, unburdened by racism, sleep pretty damn well.

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 65 percent of Americans polled said they usually get at least seven hours of sleep per night, the benchmark recommendation. It’s self-reported data, not confirmed with any kind of tracking, but it’s fairly consistent with other estimates, the CDC says.

When the responses were broken down by race, they found that non-Hispanic whites had the highest rate of healthy sleep duration, at 66.8 percent. Close to 66 percent of Hispanics got seven-plus hours, as did 62.5 percent of Asians and 59.6 percent of Native Americans. Black people were at 54.2 percent, and multiracial people were at the bottom, with 53.6 percent. Overall, people who were employed and college-educated slept better, too.

Sleep and our lack of it is both anxiety producing and deeply connected to other kinds of oppression and injustice.

At the same time, we’re also in the midst of unbelievable sleep marketing aimed at the wealthy and the health conscious. I don’t mean to mock individuals but the imperative to sleep is commercialized in ways that target and discipline there anxious and the well off.

Do soul cycle spin classes, visit the yoga studio, see your personal trainer, and now be sure to schedule restful classes as well.

Tired after a long day the office and all that yoga? Try cocooning classes. Really.

Here’s one person’s description:

If I were to describe my ideal workout class, it would be one during which you get to just chill the f*ck out. In this dream class, people would be far more concerned with de-stressing than getting their heart rates up—it would be all about clearing your mind and reaching a meditative state of peace. In fact, you could almost take out the pesky workout part entirely. The AntiGravity Cocooning class at Crunch is pretty much that dream, realized.

Image result for cocooning classes

If cocooning still seems like too much work and not enough rest, you can even just skip the cocoon and go straight to napping class. Again, really. Napping classes.

That’s right, now you can pay for 15-minute stretching exercise followed by a 45-minute nap in an “ideal temperature” room full of strangers, and still call it “going to the gym.”The organizers call it “Nap-Ercise” and they say the class will: “reinvigorate the mind, improve moods, and even burn the odd calorie,” which is just abstract enough for it not to be false.

The sleep industry is big bucks these days.

So while some people are working two or three jobs or living in unstable arrangements and not getting enough sleep, other people are anxiously taking napping classes. Me, I’m still a fan of napping in hammocks while camping. Or on trains, planes, but not automobiles.

It’s a very weird world we’re living in.

The philosopher Cressida Heyes is thinking and writing about sleep these days. You can view her slide show of sleep images here. She writes, “My next project will be a series of essays on sleep. Stay tuned.” I’m looking forward to hearing what she has to say.

About Sam B

Philosopher, feminist, parent, and cyclist!

One thought on “Yawn: Catching zzzz’s and the politics of sleep

  1. Jean says:

    Aside from selling quality mattresses (which can be nearly $1,000 with the box spring also. We bought ours 7 yrs. ago and no regrets.) and right pillows (I found a wonderful pillow finally for $65.00 after getting headaches with neck muscle pull injury and headaches.), sleep tea, I wasn’t aware of these nap exercise sessions.

    For sure, income is a factor in sleep solutions. (But thank the Canadian health care system, I was able to see a sleep doctor with my problem…after family doctor referral.)

    Our digital communication /social media tendencies doesn’t help. Computer screen exposure is a no-no before going to bed.

    Like

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