On the beauty and horror of sleeplessness: Sleeplessness as a lived experience

Research output: ScientificChapter

Abstract

It’s in your body, in your mind. In the stomach, or forehead, or temple.
It’s the tired concentration, knowing, noticing the next day’s duties, feeling the tiredness behind the
eyes. Tiredness is dark blue, it’s black. It’s in contrast to the light of the sun. The light hurts.
Desperate, she knows the new day has started, although the day before this never ended. Where is
the limit between the days if you don’t sleep? How can you measure time, the days, nights, evenings?
What
is
a
morning?
It’s beautiful.
It’s horrible.
It’s yours, it’s all yours.

This is a fragment of a text I wrote in a workshop with the focus on essaying as method, chaired by writer and teacher David Carlin from Melbourne. The title of the text was “On the Beauty and Horror
of Sleeplessness”. In that essay, which was written in twenty minutes, based on about an hour’s processing, the emphasis was mostly on the horror side of sleeplessness: the uneasiness, awfulness,
the pain. After writing that text in Spring 2017, I have tried to find other perspectives than that, too.
Sleeplessness: it is personal and yet shared, embodied experience but affects the mind. It can make you crazy or push you to the limit. Sleeplessness can make you see the border between you and the
world, or loose the experience of that border. It can be a liminal state between real life and the unknown – it can be horrifying, and beautiful.
In this paper, I will present the findings of an ongoing research process about the embodied experience of sleeplessness. My presentation in European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry is a multiartistic
performance combining prose poems, songs, texts and ”letters to the Production group of my dreams”. The texts are based on autoethnographical notes and qualitative analyses of the
research materials. Most of the texts are written in writing workshops or in writing dates with colleagues, and they describe either my own or others’ embodied experiences about sleeplessness.
This paper concentrates on the theoretical and methodological background of the performance. The research is situated in the fields of cultural historical and sociocultural study of sleep.
There are many kinds of sleeplessness: it can be talked as chronical or as a one night stand, embodied experience, scary or oppressive, or as an experience which enables creativity and concentration. In this presentation, I try to figure different ways to approach this phenomenon. The presentation is interdisciplinary, combining historical and current knowledge, social sciences, cultural history and gender studies. Art is used both as a method of inquiry, a way of thinking, and as a result
of the research and a way to indicate the variety of the research material.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationECQI 2018 PROCEEDINGS Leuven, 6-9 Februari 2018
Subtitle of host publication SECOND EDITION – NOMADIC INQUIRY
EditorsKarin Hannes, Bernadette Dierckx de Casterlé, Ann Heylighen, Frederik Truyen
Place of PublicationLeuven
PublisherKU Leuven NQRL
Pages168-173
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9789067842082
ISBN (Print)-
StatePublished - 2018
MoEC publication typeB2 Part of a book or another research book