We tend to think of sleep as a private concern, a night-time retreat from the physical world into the realm of the subconscious. Yet sleep also has a public side; it has been the focal point of religious ritual, philosophic speculation, political debate, psychological research, and more recently, neuroscientific investigation and medical practice.
In this first ever history of sleep research, Kenton Kroker draws on a wide range of material to present the story of how an investigative field – at one time dominated by the study of dreams – slowly morphed into a laboratory-based discipline. The result of this transformation, Kroker argues, has changed the very meaning of sleep from its earlier conception to an issue for public health and biomedical intervention.
Examining a vast historical period of 2500 years, Kroker separates the problems associated with the history of dreaming from those associated with sleep itself and charts sleep-related diseases such as narcolepsy, insomnia, and sleep apnea. He describes the discovery of rapid eye movement – REM – during the 1950s, and shows how this discovery initiated the creation of 'dream laboratories' that later emerged as centres for sleep research during the 1960s and 1970s. Kroker's work is unique in subject and scope and will be enormously useful for both sleep researchers, medical historians, and anybody who's ever lost a night's sleep.
‘Anyone wanting to understand the development of the science and medicine of sleep will need to read Kenton Kroker’s The Sleep of Others ... An exemplary case study of the development of a new field of medicine, and one that should be of broad interest in the history of medicine.’
‘A magisterial study which exposes once again the myth that sleep is ever solely or simply a ‘private’ matter or a non-event.’
‘This book should be of intense interest to those who are interested in gaining insight and reflecting on how our individual specialty fields have evolved.’
‘It is a testament to the quality of this book that it can spark such fundamental issues for the history of science/medicine while providing the first authoritative account of the history of human understanding of sleep.’
‘Unique and enlightening … Kroker shows how sleep has moved from the domain of religion to dogma to being the subject of scientific study.’