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Sleep, health and the dynamics of biomedicine

Moreira, T.



This paper examines the relationship between sleep and health from a sociological perspective. Two interrelated case studies are explored: the emergence of the category of obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome, nowadays the most commonly diagnosed sleep disorder, and the shaping of continuous positive airway pressure, the therapy of choice for sleep apnoea in contemporary clinical practice. Data were gathered through a historical review of relevant literature and observation of online patient discussion groups. The examples analysed show that although the social organisation of the relationship between sleep and health can be understood as a process of medicalisation, this framework is insufficient for understanding how researchers, clinicians and patients interactively deploy the knowledge, techniques and technologies through which different ‘sleep problems’ are understood and managed. By exploring the generative aspects of those processes of contestation and divergence within biomedicine it is possible to initiate a re-evaluation of the role of patients’ identity in the transformation of sleep medicine and associated health technologies.


Moreira, T. (2006). Sleep, health and the dynamics of biomedicine. Social Science & Medicine, 63(1), 54-63.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2006-07
Deposit Date Mar 21, 2007
Journal Social science and medicine
Print ISSN 0277-9536
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 63
Issue 1
Pages 54-63
Keywords Sleep medicine, Obstructive sleep apnoea, Continuous positive airways pressure, Medicalisation, Biomedical knowledge.