Sleep and Health: Clinical Conditions and Wellness


A key and often overlooked aspect of recharging is also one of the most obvious: getting enough sleep. There is nothing that negatively affects my productivity and efficiency more than lack of sleep. After years of burning the candle on both ends, my eyes have been opened to the value of getting some serious shuteye. —Arianna Huffington, Sarah Lawrence College Commencement Address, 2012

Sleep is an incredibly powerful piece of the human experience—one everyone does or does not do enough—that is often marginalized in contemporary culture. This class examines historical, developmental, physiological, and cultural perspectives on the construct of sleep and explores the role of sleep in psychopathology, relevant medical conditions, and wellness. How sleep impacts, and is impacted by, clinical conditions will be examined, along with Eastern and Western approaches to understanding the mysterious world of sleep. Nonclinical phenomena, such as innate sleep cycles and dreaming, will be considered, as well as gender differences in sleep behavior. The course will conclude with a look at the powerful benefits of sleeping well, including evidence from electroencephalogram (EEG) and neuroimaging data, as well as from the examination of cultures with exceptionally high levels of wellbeing. Weekly reading assignments will include literature in sleep science, developmental psychology, physiology, and clinical research; relevant case studies, essays, and memoir. Additionally, class members will follow the topic of sleep in popular media—including WNYC’s recent sleep project, Clock Your Sleep!—and will have the opportunity to monitor their own sleep patterns using popular sleep apps. Select film and documentary material will be included for class discussion. Conference work may include projects on clinical, developmental, physiological, and/or cultural aspects of sleep. Projects may also be focused on topics related to sleep, such as dreaming, memory/other cognitive functions, and/or mindfulness meditation. Students interested in developmental aspects of sleep in children may complete a weekly fieldwork placement at the Early Childhood Center.