Medicalisation or customisation? Sleep, enterprise and enhancement in the 24/7 society

Soc Sci Med. 2013 Feb;79:40-7. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.07.017. Epub 2012 Aug 13.


This paper extends and problematises recent sociological research on the medicalisation of sleep, focussing on trends and transformations in the prospective 'customisation' of sleep in the 24/7 society. What exactly does customisation mean in this context; how does it relate to the medicalisation of sleep; and how salient or significant are these trends to date in the 24/7 society? These are the key questions this paper seeks to address, taking workplace napping and wakefulness promoting drugs amongst the 'healthy' as our comparative case studies. Both we argue, despite their apparent differences and embryonic status to date, provide alternative routes to broadly similar ends. Namely they customise our sleep patterns and practices to fit around the escalating temporal demands of daily life, thereby helping remedy the increasing misalignment between biological and social time. Each, moreover, seeks to improve or optimise safety, productivity and performance in late modern society, where alertness is prized, sleepiness is problematised and vigilance is valorised. The paper concludes with some further reflections on these matters, including relations between the biomedicalisation and the customisation of sleep and a research agenda on the biopolitics of sleep and wakefulness.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Medicalization*
  • Sleep*
  • Social Conditions / trends*
  • United Kingdom
  • Workload / statistics & numerical data*