The following is the introduction to the Stanford Sleep Book, the long-time textbook for Stanford Sleep and Dreams, currently in its 5th edition.
Written by Dr. William C. Dement
To the Reader
Far and away the major purpose of this book is to impart much needed sleep knowledge and to elevate sleep to a higher level of importance in your life and, to whatever extent possible, to persuade you to "put sleep first." You know many things that are vital to your life and health. Some are simple and totally ingrained. You do not run into a busy street without looking. You avoid hornets, black widow spiders, and uninsulated, high voltage cables. You want to know the contents of a bottle before you drink. In addition, you almost certainly possess lots of knowledge about nutrition, geography, human anatomy, physical fitness, and sports.
In stark contrast to such commonplace knowledge possessed by everyone is their near total lack of awareness about the important facts of sleep. During Winter, Spring, and Fall Quarters of 2005, I talked to students in sixteen different Stanford University residences. In the "all freshman" residences I did not encounter a single student who possessed even one iota of the knowledge about sleep that I now consider to be absolutely vital and essential for every person on earth. This ignorance exhibited by college students is surely representative of society as a whole.
The material in this book is not difficult. We are merely dispensing knowledge that everyone should possess, but, as far as I can tell, nearly everyone does not.
The goal is to impart this essential knowledge to as many people as possible. At the end of this book we hope you will be thoroughly familiar with the essentials, and we certainly hope you know yourselves better than you did when you were introduced to this book and the associated course. The most important thing in regard to the latter is that you will understand much more clearly the role your nightly sleep plays in determining the way you feel during the day and the way you perform your daily tasks. We hope you apply what you learn as often as possible for as long as you live.
I have taught "Sleep and Dreams" at Stanford University for 35 years [Kevin: Now 41 years, as of 2011], since the fall of 1970 when I was a resident fellow in Cedro House of the Wilbur Hall complex. This was a turbulent time. I decided to give a special seminar on sleep for all my freshman as a way of keeping them at home while waves of violent confrontation were engulfing the campus. Although I knew much less about sleep and sleep disorders than I do today, this first course was quite successful. Indeed, it was so successful that huge numbers of students from other residences wanted to crash the party. In order to avoid the possibility of yet another wave of campus turmoil right in our own living room, so to speak, I agreed to repeat the course in Winter Quarter of 1971 for any Stanford student who wished to register.
Amazingly, nearly 600 students signed up! As a professor in the Medical School, I was unfamiliar with undergraduate teaching. Accordingly, I had not thought about where I would teach this new course. I was very dismayed to discover that all the large lecture halls were taken and I would have to chop about 300 students from the roster. Back then, such an act could have precipitated a riot or a sit-in or other form of protest. Happily, Dean of the Chapel, Davie Napier came to my rescue and allowed me to teach Sleep and Dreams in the Stanford University Memorial Church. What an experience! I sometimes speculate that my evangelistic approach to teaching about sleep is because I somehow became infected by the hallowed atmosphere of this beautiful classroom. At any rate, presenting this course for undergraduates was so much fun and so rewarding that I have offered it each year, with one or two exceptions, ever since.
All that is left to say is "Welcome to the mysterious, exciting and sometimes worrisome world of sleep." As we pull back the curtain of the night, you will see many useful applications in your daily life as a student, and perhaps even exciting new horizons for your future.
~Dr. William Dement
For more information on the Stanford Sleep Book, please visit this page.
If you are interested in getting a copy of the Stanford Sleep Book, please visit this page.
Welcome! This site is continuously being created by students of Dr. William C. Dement's Sleep And Dreams course at Stanford University.
We made this site as a call to action for people all over the world to live healthier, happier, safer, and more productive lives by learning about their own sleep. We have faith that reading the information provided on this site will motivate you to be smart about your sleep deprivation and strategic about your alertness in order to live life to your fullest, most energetic potential.
In fact, we challenge you to do so! What do you say, are you up for the challenge?
Dr. Dement's pioneering textbook has been the core text for Sleep and Dreams since 1980, but it has just recently been made available to the wider public for the first time.
In it you'll find a more detailed account of the most important things you need to know about sleep, alertness, dreams, and sleep disorders. Studies, statistics, plus plenty of Dr. Dement's classic anecdotes painting the history of sleep medicine.
A revolution in personal sleep tracking, the Zeo is a wireless headband that transmits your brainwaves in realtime to a dock (pictured here) or your smartphone. The result? You can wake up and see exactly what stages of sleep you were in during the night! Unprecedented personalized sleep knowledge.
Ever woken up paralyzed? A surprising number of us have, believe it or not. But few know the actual causes of this phenomenon, and fewer still how to exert control over it. Dream researcher and sleep paralysis expert Ryan Hurd shares breakthrough insights into how to do just that.
The information found on this page and throughout this site is intended for general information purposes only. While it may prove useful and empowering, it is NOT intended as a substitute for the expertise and judgments of healthcare practitioners.
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