The Neoliberalization of Sleep

A Discursive and Materialist Analysis of Sleep Technologies

Keywords: critical discourse analysis, new materialism, sleep apps, autoethnography, neoliberalism, biopower


This article explores the implications of sleep apps which are sociologically significant in that they represent an attempt to colonize, exploit, and make profitable one of the last vestiges of the human lifeworld through discourses of self-subjectification, authenticity, and self-improvement. I assess the websites of two sleep tracking apps (Pillow and Sleep Score) using critical discourse analysis (CDA), new materialism, and autoethnography. I make the case that the neoliberal values associated with the use of these apps perpetuate the logic that a better sleep makes for a more productive worker, better citizen, and ideal consumer subject. I also demonstrate how these apps function to open new sites of potential profit and reproduce a form of embodied neoliberal subjectivity generated by intra-active entanglements between identities, technologies, and discourses. Finally, I take up the issue of marginalization and intersecting subject positions as it relates to inequalities that these sleep trackers might exacerbate.

Author Biography

Tina Sikka, Newcastle University

Tina Sikka is a Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at Newcastle University. Her research draws on critical and feminist studies of science and technology to examine climate change and health/nutrition science. She also does work in the areas of critical race theory, sexuality studies, and social theory. Her most recent book, published with Springer Press, is titled “Climate Technology, Gender, and Justice: The Standpoint of the Vulnerable” (2019). Her forthcoming book with Edinburgh University Press, “Sex, Consent and Justice: A New Feminist Framework”, in late 2021.

How to Cite
Sikka, Tina. 2021. “The Neoliberalization of Sleep: A Discursive and Materialist Analysis of Sleep Technologies”. Swiss Journal of Sociocultural Anthropology 26 (June):105-21.