Now on Sale: Sleep and Relaxation

On: September 19, 2016
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About Guido vanderMeer


 Sleep is an uncompromising interruption of the theft of time from us by capitalism (Crary, 10).

We seem to be living in a time that is known for sleep deprivation, and many other activities that are being linked to the erosion of our ability to rest (Lanaj,  Johnson and Barnes, 11; Crary, 11; Li, Lepp and Barkley; Montag et al.). Seeing this body of work on this topic,  it’s no wonder that apps that focus on sleep quality and meditation are booming. In the current top 20 of most sold apps in the health category,  8 of such apps can be found. But do these apps add to the quality of our sleep and relaxation time, or are they just a new way to keep the attention of the consumer on the smartphone.
For some time,  the domain of sleeping and relaxation was seen as one of the last ways to resist to the capitalist environments surrounding us.  As Jonathan Crary describes in his book,  sleep has been the only thing preventing 24/7 capitalism and consumerism (Crary 11). He describes how it can be expected that large companies will be trying to limit this currently existing down time.
Sleep poses the idea of a human need and interval of time that cannot becolonized and harnessed to a massive engine of profitability (Crary 10-11).
The arrival of meditation and sleep apps seem to be at the forefront of this development that has been expected by Crary. Because not only are we using our smartphones at times of relaxation,  we are also paying, for being able to relax, through our smartphone. Chances are that we are not only paying by the money that those apps cost but also by the data that can be sold to other companies,  as such apps register quite some information about us and our sleep patterns. For this essay I will look deeper into the apps Sleep Cycle and Buddhify.  A popular app that analyses your sleeping behaviour to be able to wake you up at the right moment. It can be imagined that this app can collect quite a fair share of data.  For example it knows about your sleeping game times,   but also it claims to be able to assess your sleep quality.
The question is what is being done with this data.  In their privacy policy,  Sleep cycle mentions only what they do with information that makes you identifiable as a person. Unless you agree to share this information they assure that the information remains within the sleep cycle company. They do inform that this could change in the event of a merger or something similar (“Privacy Policy”).  They never mention what they do with information that, even though it cannot be traced back to you,  tells something about the sleeping habits of groups of people. This points to the fact that persons will not be directly affected by information that is potentially being sold by Sleep Cycle. But this generalized data could be a way for companies to find out how to gain more money out of the time that people are showing, and in that way find a way to overcome the force of resistance that sleep is according to Crary.
Another app that should be showcased when looking at this subject is the app called Buddhify. This app promises to offer “Mindfulness & meditation for wherever you are” (Mindfullness Everywhere). This app is also a paid app, and has been around since 2015. It has acces to files on your phone, and some of your account details. The app offers guided meditations in various topics that people can choose. When looking at the privacy policy belonging to this app it is clearly stated that they will use general data that is not personal, for example when examining trends in the usage of their app and other types of inquiries. This way they can get information on the moments that people are looking for meditation or that they feel in need of relaxation (“Privacy Policy”).
These two short examples show that there is an emergence of paid apps that suggest to improve our sleep and relaxation time, while being able to collect and redistribute captured data. The question remains whether this development is problematic. When we look back at the body of work cited before it becomes clear that a continuous use of smartphone, and the constant availability have effects on the quality of relaxation by people. Even though these apps might be developed with an actual positive idea behind it, the fact that it is controlled by using the smartphones might at the same time downgrade the quality of relaxation. On the other hand, the sales of data could make it easier for capitalist companies to find new ways to keep reaching out to people even during time that is meant for sleeping or relaxation. It might be able to provide the missing links for capitalism as described by Crary in his book chapter.
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Crary, Jonathan. “Chapter One.” 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. London: Verso, 2014. 1–28. Print.
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Lanaj, Klodiana, Russell E. Johnson, and Christopher M. Barnes. “Beginning the Workday yet Already Depleted? Consequences of Late-Night Smartphone Use and Sleep.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 124.1 (2014): 11–23. CrossRef. Web.
Li, Jian, Andrew Lepp, and Jacob E. Barkley. “Locus of Control and Cell Phone Use: Implications for Sleep Quality, Academic Performance, and Subjective Well-Being.” Computers in Human Behavior 52 (2015): 450–457. CrossRef. Web.

Mindfullness Everywhere. “Buddhify – Mindfulness to Go – Android-Apps Op Google Play.” Google Play. N.p., 22 June 2015. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.

Montag, Christian et al. “Smartphone Usage in the 21st Century: Who Is Active on WhatsApp?” BMC Research Notes 8.1 (2015): n. pag. CrossRef. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.
Northcube AB. “Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock – Android-Apps Op Google Play.” Google Play. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.
“Privacy Policy.” buddhify. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.
“Privacy Policy.” Sleep Cycle alarm clock. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.

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