‘SMART WAKE UP’ AND ‘BINAURAL BEATS’: SLEEP APPS AND THE ACOUSTIC MODULATION OF SLEEP-WAKE RHYTHMS
Keywords:sleep, sleep apps, app features, self-tracking, mobile device, data, sound, optimisation
Sleep has become a site of daily monitoring via internet technologies, including mobile applications and wearable devices, as part of a wider normalisation of internet economies and cultural practices of self-tracking and datafication. This article contributes to the critical analysis of datafied sleep by analysing features in the most popular sleep apps.
This analysis revealed a diverse range of functions for tracking and analysing sleep patterns, as well as features to promote relaxation and rest. In doing so, sleep apps remediate the monitoring technologies of the sleep science lab – polysomnography, actigraphy – to make claims for accuracy and efficacy. Yet, the analysis also revealed how sleep apps go beyond simply monitoring sleep patterns by directly intervening in sleep-wake rhythms through two key acoustic features: the ‘smart wake up’ alarm function, and the ‘binaural beats’ sound frequency function. We show how these features operate to organise transitions between waking and sleeping states by directly intervening in and modulating sleep-wake rhythms. In doing so, we argue that these functions draw on histories of both sleep science and acoustic media in attempts to optimise the rhythms associated with sleeping bodies.