The aim of a sociology of sleep, then, is to better understand this embodied negotiation: to identify, describe and explain the way in which physiological need and social constraint interact both within and between individuals and how the resulting sleep reality is (non) justified and explained. Through this, the discipline can then begin to offer both a sociology of sleep and a sociology for sleep.
Within his text Male Bodies: Health, Culture and Identity (2000), Watson develops a schema which may offer a framework for better understanding the embodied negotiated aspects of sleep. Analysing the accounts of a group of thirty men, aged between thirty and forty and living in North East Scotland, Watson seeks to explore whether or not masculinity is intrinsically damaging to men's health. He offers ‘being in shape’ as “an analytical concept – situated within the theoretical paradigm of embodiment – which provides an interpretation of how the men in these studies experienced and made sense of personal health” (Watson, 2000: 115).
Within Watson's analytical framework reside four modes of embodiment: namely normative, pragmatic, visceral and experiential. Normative embodiment is closely related to body ‘stereotypes’; however the former term is preferred as the images of healthy and unhealthy others offered to Watson were not lifeless representations. The unhealthy and healthy other was presented as ‘lived modes of construction’. That is respondent's narratives provided explanation as to how a particular body shape was achieved and maintained (2000: 117).
Pragmatic embodiment relates to the idea of having a ‘normal everyday body’ or to the notion of the ‘immediate everyday social body’ (Watson, 2000: 119). Here the emphasis is on ‘functional fitness’ and the praxis of ‘father’, ‘mate’ and ‘husband’. According to Watson, pragmatic embodiment is the means by which a man's masculinity and health is socially affirmed; as to be both male and ‘functionally fit’ is the measure of the degree to which one has ‘social fit’ (2000: 119).
Experiential and visceral embodiment relate more to the biological body. Experiential embodiment is the primary site for experiencing emotions (ibid) or the ‘blood tingling’ after a work out. It is the space in which the social and physical boundaries of the body touch. Visceral embodiment relates to the ‘unseen’, ‘body you are born with’. Here reside perceived ‘biological imperatives’ such as genes and ‘losing your hair’, or bodily behaviours you can do nothing about, and bodily warnings when its capabilities are exceeded (Watson, 2000: 119–120).
Although Watson does not discuss ‘negotiation’ between these four modes of embodiment, he does introduce the notion of ‘managing ambiguity’. Watson's respondents resisted the prevailing equation that ‘presentation (mesomorph)=masculine=health’: instead prioritising the pragmatic equation ‘function=masculine=‘fitness’ (2000: 121). Yet this did not correspond with discourses of health promotion or the respondent's own formula for assessing healthy and unhealthy others: behaviours=form=(un)healthy =(change behaviour). This ambiguity was managed through linking the embodied self-image of the pragmatic body to a younger ‘naturally healthy’ body via statements such as ‘before I became a dad and gave up football’. This pragmatic body can be aligned both with the healthy other and functional self (Watson, 2000: 122).
It is argued here, then, that this typology enables the investigation of the ways in which people negotiate sleep: offering a way of identifying which mode of embodiment is prioritised when people ‘engage’ with sleep, and the way in which this engagement is ‘managed’. Engagement and management are intrinsically linked to the individuals ‘negotiation context’ and the identification of relevant norms, the doing of ‘emotion work’ and understanding of how they ‘ought to feel’.
A theoretical framework of how the four modes of embodiment relate to sleep is outlined below. Despite the fact that Watson's (2000) original formulation derived from ‘informant conceptualizations’ of embodiment, where the research subjects were solely working age men, it will be argued that this model is also applicable to women.
Normative sleep embodiment
As related to sleep, key issues that fall within the mode of normative sleep embodiment are opinions and perceptions of ‘healthy’ sleep behaviour. More specifically, this includes vulnerability and issues of ‘safe sleep action’, appropriate sleeping places, the pliable body and issues of appropriate bodily control. In addition, it encompasses normal healthy sleep within the non stop, 24 hours a day seven days a week society (24/7), and the appropriate, healthy amount of sleep, and innovations/medicines and their appropriate healthy use.
Pragmatic sleep embodiment
For Watson pragmatic embodiment included explanatory accounts of being healthy in the context of a ‘normal everyday body’. Although normative modes of embodiment may be closely linked, the emphasis here is on function. For example, an individual who avoids alcohol at night because it damages sleep engages with the normative; whereas an individual who avoids alcohol at night because it damages sleep but this is seen as problematic because it disrupts everyday functions, such as being a parent, prioritises the pragmatic.
Engaging with sleep at the level of the pragmatic will not always result in sleep being prioritised because of function: sleep may also be negatively influenced by social roles. As Steger illustrates, within Japanese society commitment to a job is judged by the time and effort spent on it (2003: 181). This opens up the possibility of a conflict between what is seen as healthy sleep (normative) and what has to be done in practice. Emphasising the potential multifaceted relationship between the pragmatic and sleep, inemuri, or napping during working situations, can be seen as a subtle method of showing exhaustion and commitment to work. The extent to which this napping is accepted though, will depend, itself, on social roles and power relations between the napper and those defining whether napping is appropriate in that particular situation (Steger, 2000: 181).
Visceral sleep embodiment
Others or the self cannot perceive visceral embodiment, except when it surfaces through experiential embodiment or medical procedures. This is not to argue for genetic determinism. Watson's informants appeared to be stating that adopting a particular strategy may improve some facet of self, but could not significantly override ‘biological imperatives’ (2000: 120). Here views on the biological purpose of sleep, the physiological consequences of sleep (whether positive or negative) and perceived clinical sleep disorders are important.
For example, a recent article in the journal Sleep reported that part of a gene, Per3, can be shown to be linked to delayed sleep phase syndrome and a person's diurnal preference; that is whether they are a ‘morning’ or ‘evening’ type (see Archer et al., 2003). Thus, diurnal preference may be expressed by individuals as a ‘biological imperative’, residing within the domain of visceral embodiment.
Figure 1 illustrates diagrammatically the interaction of the four modes of embodiment. At any given time an individual will engage with sleep in a way which prioritises some modes of embodiment above the others. For example, a medical doctor, quoted in Coran, states that when “you are down on sleep, it is always the routine things that you find hardest to deal with. If the patient had started to go into crisis there would have been enough adrenaline to keep me awake and alert” (1996: 196–7). Coran's doctor is engaging with sleep in terms of pragmatic and visceral embodiment. Sleep is not being discussed in relation to abstract notions of healthy sleep (normative), but rather with respect to the ability to perform (pragmatic). The underlying biological body (visceral) ensures that ‘in times of crisis’, this functioning can continue.
Within Figure 2 a circle surrounds these four modes of embodiment. This represents the social context (or negotiation context) within which the negotiation is enacted. Material factors, for example, such as income and resources available (both in terms of money and time), can all have an impact on the negotiation context and, as a result, the form that negotiations, both with self and with others, take. Similarly, the ‘commodification of sleep’ may impact upon this negotiation context, as people are informed, for example, that ‘special beds’ are a benefit because ‘inferior’ beds can lead to orthopaedic problems (Williams and Boden, 2004).
Within figure 2 the life course is highlighted as a major factor influencing the negotiation context. This works on two levels: first, on a physiologically, the nature and depth of sleep changes with age (Dijk et al., 2000). As Whalley (2001: 97) suggests, poor sleep is amongst the most common complaints of old age. Older people claim that they sleep less, take longer to fall asleep, have difficulty remaining asleep and wake early. As a result, normative beliefs about sleep may change and the priority an individual affords their visceral and experiential may adapt accordingly. Secondly, even with biological universals accepted, ageing does not occur in uniform ways but is socially structured (Arber and Ginn, 1995). For example notions of masculinity, femininity and the presentation of self may all change (to differing degrees) across the lifecourse, possibly in differing ways depending, in turn, on class and ethnicity (see James et al., 1995 and Davidson et al., 2000 for discussion).
The impact of a partner is also emphasised within Figure 2, as where the sleeping environment is shared, whether this is husband, wife, or mother and child, sleep is negotiated directly with others. For those sharing sleeping environments the ‘negotiated’ night is arrived at through an interrelated, dialectical relationship between the individual's sleep desires (themselves negotiated through normative, visceral and experiential) and their social roles (pragmatic) as well as the sleep desires and social roles of others.
In essence embodied sleep negotiation is not static: it is intrinsically linked to time and place. Turner and Rojek (2001) remind us that embodiment is dependent on enselfment and emplacement. Changes over the life course are linked to enselfment, or rather the process of enselfment, (the process by which actors become self-reflexive, purposeful and individuated (Turner and Rojek, 2001: x) and emplacement (embodiment in a particular time and place).
To illustrate the generic applicability of this model and suggest how it may be used in practice to identify, discuss and explain the negotiated aspects of an individual's sleep reality and (non) justifications for the outcomes, the following section examines a case study of a male and female bed partner drawn from an indepth unstructured interview. The couple were interviewed together and asked about their sleep. Both are aged 30 and they had been living together for ten years at the time of the interview and had no children. For present purposes they will be referred to as Mike and Jean.