Dr Robert Meadows, Department of Sociology, University of Surrey will be giving this talk.
In his classic text Some Must Watch Whilst Some Must Sleep, the eminent sleep scientist William C. Dement suggested that the “anthropological and sociological implications of sleep are vast and complex” (1972: 2). This presentation seeks to evidence this claim, whilst also highlighting one of the key challenges it presents (at least for me).
The talk will begin by looking at ‘sleep in contemporary UK society’. Analysis of the UK Understanding Society Survey will be presented to illustrate current sleeping practices, whilst recent developments in wearable technologies will be used to engage with current attitudes toward sleep.
We then move to look at ‘why we sleep in this way’. Here I will borrow from historians such as Roger Ekirch and Tom Crook, as well as sociologists such as Elias, Kroker and Weber, to highlight some of the shifting norms, rules, values, trends and transformations which surround sleep. How, where, and when we sleep are all embodied and embedded in the social world.
The challenge this poses relates to ideas of ‘inequalities in sleep’. Whilst it is common place to discuss inequalities in health – something which the current Government is also discussing – we rarely hear about ‘inequalities in sleep’. The presentation therefore ends by asking what happens to normative statements once we accept that the norms and rules surrounding sleep are historically and socio-culturally variable.
This is part of the seminer series delivered by the Centre for Medical History, for more information about the centre click here