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A story about the commodity of sleep

The value of a thing is determined by its monetary price. That is the way the world works, right? Before long, every good idea — every single good thing — is commodified.

That being the case, it’s perhaps unsurprising that sleep — an intangible state of being — is being bought and sold. That’s right, just like a can of Coke or a pair of Nike shoes, you can now purchase sleep.

Sleep is, in terms of economic worth, what writer Stephen Poole calls “a standing affront to capitalism”. Because, you know, capitalism needs workers and labour and production to run — sleep may aid one’s ability to do all those, but it doesn’t allow them to actually do it.

As Jonathan Crary states in his book on the relationship between capitalism and sleep, 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep:

“The stunning, inconceivable reality is that nothing of value can be extracted from it.”

Of monetary worth, sure. But if you consider that we need sleep to provide all those goods that capitalism thrives on, well, not so much. We all know how horrible it feels to chuck an all-nighter.

Crary explains that as capitalism as evolved, sleep has declined. In the 20th century, adults slept an average of 10 hours each night; a generation ago it was eight. Now the average adult night’s sleep is six-and-a-half hours.

Casper, the company responsible for the international boxed-mattress sensation, understands this sleep/value phenomena. The company has come to the realisation that money can be made outside of selling mattresses. They’ve entered the business of sleep.

Enter The Dreamery.

Located in Soho, New York, it’s a dedicated space where you can book a 45-minute nap on a Casper mattress. You even get your own private pod to do so — all for just $US 25.

But you don’t just get the bed for that price. Casper provides complimentary drinks, pyjamas, and a special relaxing audio experience. On their website, Casper explains that you can even take time to “wind down in the lounge” with a coffee before going back into the world.

The concept is an intriguing one, but it almost feels like the goodie bags are a thinly veiled attempt to distract you from the ridiculous reality that you are paying someone to sleep. Do we really want to live in a world where we pay $25 for a nanna nap, instead of allowing ourselves proper sleep at night?

There are further pearls of wisdom in Crary’s prophetic book:

“All of the encroachments on [sleep] create the insomniac conditions in which sleep must be bought.”

Encroachments that include the constant compulsion to be active — Instagram, Twitter and online news websites all make it too easy to be constantly connected.

So what’s to be done? Well, that is ultimately up to you. One option is to research how to best ‘switch off’ at night and try harder to place more personal value on the human necessity to get enough sleep.

The other is to sit tight and hope that Casper’s planned extensions for The Dreamery reach your city.

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