Sep 26: MHS Hot Topics: Benjamin Reiss “Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World”

Tuesday, September 26th 1:00-2:30pm, Sarratt 216/220

Across history and among the world’s cultures, human sleep is practiced in an astonishing variety of ways.  Yet contemporary Western society has developed a rigid set of rules for sleeping: seven to eight hours in one straight shot, sealed off in private bedrooms, at most two consenting adults sharing a bed, children apart from parents (and each other), everyone on a rigid, developmentally appropriate schedule that is more or less invariant across the seasons.  For most of human history, practically no one slept in any of these ways,  yet today failure to sleep according to the rules is a sign of either a medical disorder or a social failure.  The result is that deviant sleep has been subjected to intense medical concern, micromanagement, and pervasive anxiety.  This lecture uncovers some of the historical causes and economic, psychological, racial, and environmental consequences of our peculiar manner of attempting to manipulate and standardize sleep.

Sponsored by the Center for Medicine, Health, & Society and the English Department.