Now on Sale: Sleep and Relaxation
On: September 19, 2016
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.
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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