‘Smart wake up’and ‘binaural beats’: sleep apps and the acoustic modulation of sleep-wake rhythms

Bjorn Nansen, Christopher O'Neill

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperOtherpeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research, 2019
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes
Event21th Annual Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers: Trust in the System - Technological University Dublin, Maynooth University and University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 29 Oct 202031 Oct 2020


Conference21th Annual Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers

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