The Drift, Slate’s new blog about sleep.

Welcome to The Drift, A New Blog About Sleep

Welcome to The Drift, A New Blog About Sleep

The Drift
A blog about sleep.
Nov. 4 2015 10:00 AM

Welcome to The Drift

Drift off with us.

Painting by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, with additional illustrations by Lisa Larson-Walker.

There are few things in life better than drifting off to sleep. After a long day of toil and tribulation, retreating to the comfort of bed, and then to the sweet release of unconsciousness—perchance to dream?—is a blessing, one of the most natural joys human beings can experience. And yet, despite its apparent simplicity, sleep has become incredibly complicated. Many of us have difficulties getting to it, and others have trouble staying there. We constantly receive tips (usually unsolicited) on what’s ruining it or which props we should use to do it better, and the debate over how much of it we need never seems to end. Beyond mechanics, sleep continues to fascinate us with its mystery—what happens while the lights are out upstairs? Why do some people talk and walk when they should be still? Why do some of us wake up screaming? Sleep is such an important part of the human experience that it regularly creeps out into our culture, even our language. One thing is certain: You should never sleep on sleep.

The Drift, a pop-up blog that will run in Slate from now through early Decemeber, will be a space for considering sleep from as many vantage points as there are threads in a fine set of sheets. We’ll look at the latest science and health advice, but we’ll also examine sleep as it engages with our art and entertainment as well. We’ll look at products meant to help us sleep, and reevaluate etiquette meant to help us do it more politely. We’ll hear personal stories of the sandman’s strangest habits, and maybe even eavesdrop on a dream or two. The goal, overall, is not to cover all of sleep—there aren’t enough hours in the night—but simply to wallow in it for a bit. We hope you’ll join us in appreciating the profound ways in which sleep shapes our lives, both under the covers and beyond. 


Week One


Photo by Rune Johansen/Getty Images, with additional illustrations by Lisa Larson-Walker.

Down With Spooning! J. Bryan Lowder rails against the indignities of the pre-sleep horizontal embrace and advocates instead for concious cuddling, an approach to intimacy that's altogether more comfortable and dignified.

My 9-Year Love Affair with Melatonin Mark Joseph Stern reports from almost a decade of shut-eye with the help of the natural sleep aid. And while it was the quest for rest that got him started, it's the crazy dreams that keep him coming back.

A New Look at the Sleepless Brain Rachel Gross stays up late looking at the most current neuroscience research on why some people just can't get to sleep—and how their brains may differ from those who can.


Week Two


Photo by Сергей Хакимуллин/Thinkstock,with additional illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker.

“It’s Like When You Meet … The Creature! Laura Miller relates what it's like to come from a family of sleep walkers and talkers.

When Did People Start Moving Fast Enough to Experience Jet Lag? Joshua Keating looks at the history of traveling faster than time! ... or at least fast enough that sleep schedules get confused.

Don't Sleep on "Don't Sleep on." The Phrase Is Evidence of the War on Sleep Katy Waldman, Slate's words correspondent, explores the origins of the expression, which has shifted mightly in its meaning since the time of Henry VIII.


The Eight-Hour Sleep Session Is Not What You Need Gabriel Roth rouses us from the slumber of conventional wisdom, arguing that instead of a "full night's sleep" what we really need are a few extra hours in the day ... and a smarter sleep schedule.

Dreaming in the Cloud Greta Weber reports on attempts to record our dreams and make sense of the mysteries of the collective human unconcious. But can dreams really be translated into "big data?"

Week Three


Photo by clownbusiness/Shutterstock, with additional illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker.

What’s Actually Happening When Part of Your Body Falls Asleep? Claire Landsbaum explains the biological reasons for those pins-and-needles in your arm—and reveals whether "sleeping" body parts can become dead ones.


We Need to Talk About Our Dreams Amanda Hess takes on the taboo against talking about our dreams in public and argues that the reason we consider "dream talk" boring may have more to do with cultural conditioning than objective truth.

The Art of the Public Nap Ian Callahan brings us Eric Leleu's striking images of public snoozing in China, revealing a juxaposition of human vulnerability and common space rarely seen in the West.

Pubescent Boys Hear a Lot About Wet Dreams. But They’re Not As Common As You Think Mark Joseph Stern investigates a pillar of teenage male sexuality—and discovers that sticky sheets are hardly the universial experience we have been lead to believe.

In Search of the Perfect Podcast to Help You Fall Asleep Laura Miller guides us through the podcast shelves in pursuit of the most dulcet voice to carry us into dreamland.


Week Four


Photo bycarballo/Shutterstock, with additional illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker.

I Slept All Night in a Sensory Deprivation Tank. This Is My Story. Seth Stevenson embeds himself in a device that shuts out essentially all sensory stimuli. But does total peace and quiet really equal better sleep?

How Gross Is Your Mattress? Claire Landsbaum takes a magnifying glass to our mattresses to see if, after a few years, they are really as nasty as bedding purveyors claim. The answer? Shudder...

Down With Alarm Clocks! L.V. Anderson exposes alarm clocks for what they are: A capitalist trap designed to violently align our bodies with the demands of the marketplace. Is there any hope of returning to the organic risings of our agrarian forebearers? Don't count on it.


Sweet Dreams Are Made of This Slate staffers discuss the possible meanings of their recurring dreams. 

Bedroom Revelations: Things You Learn When You Sleep Next to Someone Couples and folks who have otherwise slept near each other reveal the wild and charming things we do while unconscious.

The Creepiest Book of the Year Imagines a World Without Sleep Dan Kois interviews Adrian Barnes, author of a novel about what might happen if all of humanity forgot how to sleep.

Week Five


Photo by Nick Clements/Getty Images, with additional illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker.

Should You Steep Before Sleep? J. Bryan Lowder dives into the steamy industry of so-called "sleepy teas"—herbal sachets that promise to help you nod off. But do they really work?

Sleep Trackers Promise to Improve Our Sleep. They Only Made Me Feel More Helpless. Josh Brogan considers the dubious promises of "sleep trackers," apps and tools designed to help you avoid the dreaded "sleep debt." He is not impressed.

Years Ago, We Decided That Young Doctors Need More Sleep. The Plan Might Have Backfired. Jordan Weissmann questions the seeming common sense that young doctors might perform better if their historically long shifts are limited to allow for more sleep.

The Last Bedtime Story You’ll Ever Need Lisa Wong Macabasco reveals the hypnotic power of The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep, a best-selling children's book that promises to knock out even the most trenchant bedtime fighters.

A Wet Awakening Jonathan L. Fischer often wakes up in a puddle of his own drool. This is his quest to understand why—and to keep it from happening again.

Week Six


Photo by Nenad Aksic/Shutterstock, with additional illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker.

Sonata-Allegro Snooze J. Bryan Lowder considers the widespread practice of using music (especially classical music) as a sleep aid. Is such a repurposing disrespectful? Or is it a valid use for art?

From Sleeper Cells to Sleeping Around: A Brief History of an Extremely Versatile Word Katy Waldman explores the wide and varied uses of the word sleep for things other than sleeping.

Should You Tell Your Friend You Dreamed About Them? An Interactive Adventure! Andrew Kahn and J. Bryan Lowder offer a little dream interpretation and advice in the form of a charming interactive game.

Watching People Live Stream Themselves Sleeping Can Be Dull, Creepy, and Strangely Sweet Willa Paskin watches the strange Internet video genre of sleep-streaming and finds it more engaging that you might expect.

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate associate editor and the editor of Outward. He covers life, culture, and LGBTQ issues.

Jessica Winter is Slate’s features editor and the author of the novel Break in Case of Emergency.