History of Sleep – The Beginning

In the age of information, it can be difficult to find a comprehensive article about almost anything. Not many people are able to find the time to read about topics that interest and effect them, so the demand for easily digestable material is high.  Recently, an article appeared in the New Yorker by a person clearly interested in the history and study of sleep, Jerome Groopman.

His article discusses many fascinating aspects of sleep, ranging from the medical industry’s lack of knowledge about sleep to what happens to a person when they do sleep.  The theme of his article is much like what we’ve discussed on our blog – the necessity of sleep, and how it’s lack can be a severe detriment to a person’s daily life. At PDSM, we wanted to take a further look at the items discussed in Mr. Groopman’s article.  Gleaning information from his article and other sources, we were inspired to create this series in hopes of offering a more comprehensive look at sleep in general, and the things that can happen because – and in spite – of it.


“No one has been able to declare with certainty why all life forms need sleep”

-Meir Kryger


Though we now know that sleep is a very necessary part of a healthy lifestyle, it’s not always been a focus in the medical world.  Mr. Groopman states “in medical school, the subject [of sleep] had been covered in only the most cursory way.” In addition to the fact that sleep specialtiy is a relative newcomer to the medical world, there is also the shift work typical of medical residents.  It makes sense that new doctors have to work long hours to get used to the pressures of being a full-time doctor. However, it is also a scary idea – being the patient of a doctor that’s been awake for 24+ hours. Although it is well known that lack of sleep causes us to be ineffective, there is some interestingly contradicting cultural and historical information to discuss regarding what exactly may be considered proper sleep.


In the coming months, we will take you on the informative adventure.  We will learn more from Dr. Kryger, Mr. Benjamin Reiss and Mr. A.Roger Ekirch – three gentlemen that have quite a lot to say about sleep. We will discuss what we know, what we don’t know, theories surrounding what we don’t know, how our understanding has changed through the years, and what the future may hold.  


“Even God needed a seventh day to rest from all that he created.”

-Jerome Groopman

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