schools versus sleep

Sleeping when studying - Nakhon Sawan, Thailand
Sleeping when studying - Nakhon Sawan, Thailand (Photo credit: Wikipedia, public domain)
Schools, built on a factory model, will have to change as we confront not only climate change but our threatened basic health. The way forward is to make our lives more supportive of our basic physiological and emotional needs: we must value sleep. Against the Grain provides a discussion with author Matthew Wolf-Meyer about sleep and the development of sleep treatments needed after industrialization of the workday.

Mon 11.05.12 | Sleep and Capitalism | Against the Grain: A Program about Politics, Society and Ideas: "Mon 11.05.12 | Sleep and Capitalism

Sleep is such an essential part of our lives. So it might come as a surprise to know that it has been radically changed over the last several hundred years. 

Anthropologist Matthew Wolf-Meyer suggests that we look to the rise of industrial capitalism to understand why we sleep—or don't sleep—as we do. He discusses how a solid eight hours of sleep came to be the norm, the sedative industry, and the stimulants that keep tired workers producing during the daytime."

Matthew Wolf-Meyer, The Slumbering Masses: Sleep, Medicine, and Modern American Life U. of Minnesota Press, 2012
  • The Nature of Sleep | Matthew Wolf-Meyer - "He went on to blame electric lighting for manyof the sleep problems in the United States --- including insomnia and advancedand delayed sleep phase disorders --- since it negatively affected biological impulses to sleep. Pym claimed that sleep disorders were “rare” in Nicaragua. He said most children there slept with their parents, who attended to their sleep problems as they happened, and so they did not develop into more acute patho-logical forms."
  • UMP | University of Minnesota Press Blog: On the evolution of sleep: "... I’m no hardline social constructionist by any means, but I’m sometimes concerned that evolutionary approaches to sleep can be fairly reductive. And one of the dangers of being biologically – and naturally – reductive is that we can come to accept things like American capitalism as the natural outgrowth of a particular pattern of human behavior (which I write about extensively in The Slumbering Masses). Some kind of middle road between biology and society is necessary to really see how sleep is shaped by social demands and how it impacts our biological well-being."
(host is Sasha Lilley) ... since we're a country of sleep-deprived people... dependent on stimulants to get through the day and often pharmaceuticals to get through the night ... a solid eight-hour sleep is but a distant hope for many. 

How did things get to this point? And how should we define normal sleep?Anthropologist Matthew Wolf-Meyer suggests that our notions of what sleep should be are deeply historical and have been profoundly shaped and altered by capitalism and the regimented workday.

So we've just seen Daylight Savings come to an end ... do you see underlying politics ... the debates around Daylight Savings are about a century old... mostly I think about how it really affects ... populations of sleepers ... kids really benefit when we change time and we all really suffer when we lose that time ... 

I really think we need to get to a point where we recognize that needing to sleep is something that's natural and not something that we should fight and so we need to think about structuring society and our social expectations and the idea that sleeping is a good thing to do. If we're sleeping in the middle of the day ... that there's nothing wrong with us taking a nap ....

~ 48: 50
and for kids that we really to think about more flexible school days ... we've accepted that adults need flexible work time but  ... we really give kids a hard time in having early school days... and making them ... inflexible school days ... so if students could come to school later and stay later ... if some schools ... started later ... we need to think about more flexible institutions ... flexible workdays and school days to accomodate our need to sleep ... it is really clear that the only people who benefit from the medicalization of sleep disorders is the pharmaceutical industries ... and stimulant producers ... we just need to exert institutional pressure in order to get schools and workplaces to recognize that.
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