Writing the

Sleep Crisis

Exploring representations of
sleep in contemporary culture.

Picture credit: Insomnia. Stephen Magrath. CC0 1.0 Universal


This research project explores how sleep, and lack thereof, is represented in contemporary writings across fiction, non-fiction, and digital culture. It’s the first study to analyse cultural engagements with the sleep crisis, namely, the sense that contemporary society is profoundly sleep-deprived.

“Writing the Sleep Crisis” is led by Dr Diletta De Cristofaro. It is currently funded by Wellcome (Research Fellowship in Humanities and Social Science) and based at Northumbria University, UK. The project also involves collaborations with Politecnico di Milano, Italy, where it was based between September 2021 and August 2022 funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement 892459.

Understanding and Reimagining Sleep and Its Disorders

A creative workshop series and art exhibition exploring the lived experience of sleep

For this project, run in partnership with The Sleep Charity and funded by a Wellcome Trust public engagement grant, members of the public met with researchers and an artist to talk about the impact of sleep issues. Together, they discussed ways to increase awareness and improve the wellbeing of people who live with sleep disorders. They also produced creative responses about sleep, collected in an interactive online exhibition open to visitors’ submissions and in a physical exhibition at Newcastle’s City Library (14-28 March 2024).

Sleep Stories

An Exclusive Commission

Durham Book Festival 2021

Featured Talk

“Sleep” on Free Thinking, BBC Radio 3

Presented by Dr John Gallagher and featuring Dr Diletta De Cristofaro, Prof Sasha Handley, Kenneth Miller, and Dr Emily Scott Dearing. 


Dr Diletta De Cristofaro

Principal Investigator on “Writing the Sleep Crisis”

Prof Simona Chiodo

Full Professor of Philosophy at Politecnico di Milano

Prof Katy Shaw

Professor of Contemporary Writings at Northumbria University

Prof Jason Ellis

Professor in Psychology at Northumbria University

Featured Publication

‘How do you sleep at night knowing all this?’: Climate breakdown, Sleep, and Extractive Capitalism in Contemporary Literature and Culture

Textual Practice (2023)

Developing an intervention situated at the intersection of the environmental and the medical humanities, this article by Diletta De Cristofaro considers a range of contemporary texts (fictions, plays, and digital culture) to argue that cultural production draws attention to structural parallels between the climate crisis and the so-called sleep crisis. Both crises are the product of a necrogenic capitalist system geared towards continuous extraction—and exhaustion—of resources, from the Earth and human bodies.


Reimagining Sleep Exhibition Programme at City Library

Following our workshop series and online exhibition, we are delighted to announce that the Reimagini…

Visit the Reimagining Sleep Online Exhibition

We’re delighted to announce that the Reimagining Sleep exhibition is now live: you can view it…

“Sleep” on Free Thinking, BBC Radio 3

BBC Radio 3 “Free Thinking” devoted an episode to sleep on 25th October. Presented by Dr…

Follow the Project

Get in Touch

Email Dr Diletta De Cristofaro: