Sleep is a dominating and inescapable presence in our biological lives, our psychology, and in every human and animal culture on earth. It alters and challenges the way we experience the passage of time, and it is intimately tied to remembering and forgetting. Yet no one fully understands the mechanisms of sleep, or even why we sleep.
In this course we will study what is known about the biology of sleep and also examine in depth the closely related topic of biological rhythms. The emphasis will be on the biological processes that give rise to and control sleep and rhythmic behaviors. Therefore, part of the course will be a primer of brain structure and function.
The societal significance of rhythmic behaviors, including sleep, should not be underestimated. Sleep deprivation and rhythm disruption are sources of considerable suffering and mortality. They also play significant roles in disorders such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease. And then there is the mystery and romance of sleep and dreaming. We will touch on these various and cultural aspects of sleep throughout the semester to complement the biological discussions.
• Requirements will include two examinations, one or more short papers/presentations, and a final paper/project.
Moorcroft, W. H. and Belcher, P. (2003) Understanding Sleep and Dreaming New York: Plenum
Dunlap, J. C. et al. (2004) Chronobiology. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Press
Coe, Jonathan (1999) The House of Sleep. New York: Vintage Book