The Slumbering Masses
Sleep, Medicine, and Modern American Life
Publication Year: 2012
Americans spend billions of dollars every year on drugs, therapy, and other remedies trying to get a good night’s sleep. Anxieties about not getting enough sleep and the impact of sleeplessness on productivity, health, and happiness pervade medical opinion, the workplace, and popular culture. In The Slumbering Masses, Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer addresses the phenomenon of sleep and sleeplessness in the United States, tracing the influence of medicine and industrial capitalism on the sleeping habits of Americans from the nineteenth century to the present.
Before the introduction of factory shift work, Americans enjoyed a range of sleeping practices, most commonly two nightly periods of rest supplemented by daytime naps. The new sleeping regimen—eight uninterrupted hours of sleep at night—led to the pathologization of other ways of sleeping. Arguing that the current model of sleep is rooted not in biology but in industrial capitalism’s relentless need for productivity, The Slumbering Masses examines so-called Z-drugs that promote sleep, the use of both legal and illicit stimulants to combat sleepiness, and the contemporary politics of time. Wolf-Meyer concludes by exploring the extremes of sleep, from cases of perpetual sleeplessness and the use of the sleepwalking defense in criminal courts to military experiments with ultra-short periods of sleep.
Drawing on untapped archival sources and long-term ethnographic research with people who both experience and treat sleep abnormalities, Wolf-Meyer analyzes and sharply critiques how sleep and its supposed disorders are understood and treated. By recognizing the variety and limits of sleep, he contends, we can establish more flexible expectations about sleep and, ultimately, subvert the damage of sleep pathology and industrial control on our lives.
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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PREFACE: Sleep at the Turn of the Twenty-.rst Century
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Significant changes occurred in the ways that Ameri-cans conceived of and practiced sleep between 1996 and 2006. New pharmaceuticals were produced and introduced to control sleep and wakefulness, as well as a variety of other sleep complaints. New tech-niques were developed to confront daytime sleepiness at school and at work, namely, the alteration of start and end times and provisions for ...
INTRODUCTION: From the Lone Sleeper to the Slumbering Masses
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Why do we sleep the way we do? Thomas Edison, who was a titan of industry, shaping the twentieth century through his inventions, business practices, and beliefs, provides one answer to this question. Among his many claims to fame are his views on sleep, a Most people overeat 100 percent, and oversleep 100 percent, because they like it. That extra 100 percent makes them unhealthy and in-...
I. SLEEPING, PAST AND PRESENT
1. The Rise of American Sleep Medicine: Diagnosing and Misdiagnosing Sleep
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Definitions of sleep were plentiful in the nineteenth century. For instance, Henry Lyman begins his Insomnia and Other Disorders of Sleep, “Natural sleep is that condition of physiological repose in which the molecular movements of the brain are no longer fully and clearly projected upon the field of consciousness.” Lyman was adding precision to William Hammond’s definition, which he proposed in his ...
2. The Protestant Origins of American Sleep
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Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.A merican sleep has always been tied to conceptions of death and the virtuous life. Take, for example, the thought of Cotton Mather, with whom so many American attitudes are founded.In The Serviceable Man, Mather’s paean to the importance of earthly works Now, in general, here is work for us all. We ought every one of ...
3. Sleeping and Not Sleeping in the Clinic: How Medicine Is Remaking Biology and Society
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One of the most curious cases I witnessed at the MSDC—not for the symptoms, but for the solutions—was that of an eleven-year-old boy named Ted. The presenting physician described the boy as evidencing insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness, the lat-ter aﬀecting Ted only between 6:30 and 10:30 a.m. When left to his own devices, the boy would sleep until 10:30 and be fine for the rest of the day. ...
II. CULTURES OF SLEEP
4. Desiring a Good Night’s Sleep: Order and Disorder in Everyday Life
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In this chapter, I change my focus to examine the lives of individuals and families as they are aﬀected by disorderly sleep. I move from the disciplinary and institutional logics of sleep science and medicine and attend the forms of life that they produce, largely in the lives of individuals who see themselves in need of medical intervention. I am interested in the lives that individuals form for themselves and ...
5. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: Children’s Sleep and the Rise of the Solitary Sleeper
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Children’s literature that takes bedtime as its central narrative concern is expansive; among the dominant themes in the stories are naturalizing solitary sleep and rendering the bed and bedtime as anxiety free. In so doing, the tacit objective of much of children’s bed-time literature is forming normative spatiotemporal desires: early birds who catch worms and who internalize the need and means for sleep as ...
6. Pharmaceuticals and the Making of Modern Bodies and Rhythms
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In 2005, Sepracor launched a U.S. advertising campaign in the hundreds of millions of dollars to promote a sleep aid, Lunesta, reportedly spending up to forty-three million dollars in one month. Lunesta was developed as a commercial competitor of extant sleep aids that al-ready had the support of health insurance companies, most of which lacked the wherewithal to commit similar capital investments to adver-...
7. Early to Rise: Creating Well-Rested American Workers
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Other individuals have a circadian rhythm that is perpetually out of synch with that of the environment, making adjustment diﬃcult, or impossible. Individuals with the delayed sleep phase syndrome often present with sleep-onset insomnia, lying in bed unable to fall asleep The pamphlet PRACTICAL GUIDE TO TREATING INSOMNIA, in-tended for distribution to physicians by the National Sleep Founda-...
8. Chemical Consciousness
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My first introduction to the complexities of the de-sire for sleep and its various intimacies came early in my fieldwork at the MSDC. In my third month of fieldwork, Dr. MacTaggert, one of the staﬀ pediatricians, presented the case of a young girl who experi-enced severely disordered sleep, the result of which was a strained family life for her entire immediate family, which aﬀected her parents’ work ...
9. Sleeping on the Job: From Siestas to Workplace Naps
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From the 1970s through the 1990s, predictions of the way capitalism would “colonize” night were prolific, in both popu-lar culture and academic discourse. What happened in the course of the 1990s was an inching away from this colonization of night: rather than U.S. businesses staying open later, service industry jobs were sent overseas, thereby preserving a diurnal, consolidated sleeping scheme for ...
10. Take Back Your Time: Activism and Overworked Americans
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Abroad attempt to confront the causes of American sleep deprivation has come in the form of the Take Back Your Time (TBYT) movement, a loose network of academics and activists who have drawn attention to the persistent overworking of Americans. They take as their object of criticism the expansion of the American workday; to draw attention to the systematic overworking of Americans, they have ...
III. THE LIMITS OF SLEEP
11. Unconscious Criminality: Sleepwalking Murders, Drowsy Driving, and the Vigilance of the Law
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A London court yesterday sentenced a man to jail for having “will-fully disturbed” other persons by snoring in an air-raid shelter. . . .What is interesting is the court’s decision that the snoring in question was “willful.” In reaching this conclusion the magistrate overruled the oﬀender’s seemingly plausible plea that “I can’t help ...
12. The Extremes of Sleep: War, Sports, and Science
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Atlanta, May 12—First Lt. Gene Padgett of the 501st Parachute happy.” He made a leap last week, he says, and his “chute didn’t open.” He reached for the emergency rip-cord, and nothing hap-pened. Fumbling for the rip-cord, he was startled to find he did not have on his jump suit. “Landing on your feet is the correct way to ...
CONCLUSION: The Futures of Sleep
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Early in the twenty-first century, sleep captures Ameri-cans’ imaginations, with stories often published by Time, Newsweek,and the New York Times Magazine and aired by Dateline NBC. This focus is the result of sustained interest on the part of the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation, medical professionals, pharmaceutical companies, and various segments of American society who, each in particular ways, ...
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The debts incurred in writing my dissertation were many. Those incurred in its transformation from that state into its Thomas Wolfe, helped me move from dissertation to the first draft of the book; Jean, especially, continued to push me in my thinking about medicine and its social and somatic eﬀects. Faculty in the medical school at the University of Minnesota helped me understand sleep and its rich-...
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...1. The “Midwest Sleep Disorders Center” is a pseudonym, as are all the names of individuals encountered during my fieldwork and interview respondents. Demographic information is used in the text as provided by respondents.2. Allan Rechtschaﬀen and B. M. Bergmann, “Sleep Deprivation in the 1. Thomas A. Edison, The Diary and Sundry Observations of Thomas Alva ...
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About the Author
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MATTHEW J. WOLF- MEYER is assistant professor of anthropology at the ...
Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: A Quadrant Book