Anthropology of Sleep

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I haven’t had much time for reading lately, but the other day I was able to indulge for an hour and dive back into Yuendumu Everyday. The chapter I began was about sleep and the rituals that surround sleep. Musharbash (2008, p.95) records that at Yuendumu ‘sleep is socio-culturally organised in terms of space, gender, protection, ritualisation and forth’. The ‘acts of preparing for sleep and re-entering waking life are ritualised’ (Musharbash, 2008, p. 95). Sleep and the rituals surrounding sleep at Yuendumu lead to a much more intimate knowledge of each other than we have of our families and close friends. The sleeping arrangements communicate aspects of self and ways of being.

There are many rituals surrounding sleep. I always have to have a glass of milk before bed (except when I’m too drunk) and without fail (drunk or not) I will always take off my make-up and brush my teeth. Though we did try to fight against it, we have our own ‘sides of the bed’. I most certainly need my space when sleeping, you won’t find me wanting to ‘spoon’ very often. On waking up it has now (I‘m ashamed to admit) become ritual to check my email, facebook and twitter on my iPhone before getting out of bed – my way of re-entering waking life. What are your sleep rituals?

Musharbash, Y. 2008 Yuendumu Everyday: Contemporary life in remote Aboriginal Australia, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra.

Sleep Model: Sir Elton


  1. Since moving in with my Girlfriend my "side of the bed" has completely changed which is something I thought I'd never give up.

    Outside of the usual pre-sleep rituals I usually lie on top of the covers (regardless of the season) until my body has cooled to a temperature that will let me sleep - sometimes this takes seconds, other times hours, sometimes I spend the whole night above covers.

    We have a really funny ritual in the morning. The closest power point is on my side of the bed and my girlfriend plugs her phone in to charge every night. Every morning the alarm on her phone goes off at 6 and without openign my eyes I pick it up, unplug it and hand it to my girlfriend who then presses "snooze" and places it on her bedside table. Every morning. Odd.

  2. Odd. Potential solutions:
    1. You could purchase an extension cord and powerboard and then your lovely girlfriend could charge the phone on her side
    2. You could switch sides
    3. Leave your cute ritual as is


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