Labour, Self-Care and Respite: Neoliberal Rationalities in Sleep Crisis Rhetoric

New Formations - ISSN 0950-2378
Volume 2022 Number 106

Labour, Self-Care and Respite: Neoliberal Rationalities in Sleep Crisis Rhetoric
Diane Negra, Suzanne Leonard pages 43-59
DOI: 10.3898/NEWF:106.03.2022


This article tracks the emergence of sleep discourse in the past ten years in the USA, illustrating a democratisation of this rhetoric insofar as it has begun to interpellate populations beyond midlife women. Despite the sociological and demographic inequities associated with sleep deficits in marginalised populations, the much vaunted ‘sleep crisis’ is more widely appreciated as a distinct self-care frontier. Such behavioural scripts resonate with exaltations of the self as resilient entrepreneurial problem-solver and are linked to the broader positioning of self-care as salve for the injuries of neoliberalism. Beginning with sleep’s ties to women’s wellness and consumerist culture writ large, we apprehend sleep as an economy, one with staggering new commercial dimensions. Sleep remedies tend to be focused narrowly on the acquisition of products and technologies (sleep sprays, essential oils and melatonin gummies, blackout curtains, premium bedding, sleep apps, sound machines, adult sleep coaches), all of which come under consideration here. The investigation then turns to the heightened attention paid to the experience of sleep during COVID-19, discusses how sleep discourse articulates to and with a sense of ambivalent dispossession from work regimes and, finally, argues that the sleep crisis has been leveraged to intensify neoliberal brutalities.

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To cite this article
Diane Negra, Suzanne Leonard (2022) Labour, Self-Care and Respite: Neoliberal Rationalities in Sleep Crisis Rhetoric, New Formations, 2022(106), 43-59.

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