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The Sociology of sleep

Meadows, Robert, Williams, S, Gabe, J and Coveney, C (2010) The Sociology of sleep In: Sleep, Health and Society: From Aetiology to Public Health. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 275-299. ISBN 9780199566594

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Sleep, until recently, has been a neglected topic or issue within sociology and the social sciences and humanities in general. At first glance this may seem unsurprising given the predominant waking assumptions, concerns or preoccupations of these disciplines. Further reflection, however, reveals the shortcomings of any such neglect or dismissal of sleep as a topic worthy of sociological attention. Sleep is a socially, culturally and historically variable phenomenon. How we sleep, when we sleep, where we sleep, what meaning and value we accord sleep, let alone with whom we sleep, are all important topics of sociological investigation which do not simply vary around the world, both past and present, but within different segments of society and within and between cultures. The nature, quantity and quality of sleep, moreover, is clearly important both for the individual and society in terms of health and safety, productivity and performance, quality of life and well-being. In part a response to this past neglect, and in part a response to broader social trends and transformations regarding sleep, sociologists and others in the social sciences and humanities are now turning their attention to what might broadly be termed the ‘sleep and society’ agenda (Williams 2005; Williams 2008). Sleep, in this respect, is not simply a rich and fascinating sociological topic in its own right, but a valuable new window or way of approaching a range of existing sociological research agendas on issues as diverse as work, health, gender, ageing and family life. This work in turn opens up significant new opportunities to explore the dynamic interrelations between social and biological factors regarding sleep and sleep disruption across the life course. In these and many other ways then, a sociological approach to sleep is not simply long overdue, but a timely and valuable complement to work in related fields of inquiry such as sleep epidemiology and public health which, in similar fashion, take us far beyond the sleep laboratory or sleep clinic to broader issues concerning sleep, health and society. It is therefore to a further consideration and elaboration of this newly emerging sleep and society agenda within sociology that we now turn in this chapter. We outline several strands of recent sociological work - starting with some preliminary points regarding the very conceptualisation and measurement of ‘sleep’ as a methodological backdrop to the sociological themes and issues that follow.

Item Type: Book Section
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Sociology
Authors :
Williams, S
Gabe, J
Coveney, C
Editors :
Cappuccio, F
Miller, M
Lockley, S
Date : 2010
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 11 Jul 2013 13:14
Last Modified : 06 Jul 2019 05:12

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