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William C. Dement MD PhD (born 1928), is a pioneering US sleep researcher, and founder of the Sleep Research Center, the world's first sleep laboratory, at Stanford University. He is a leading authority on sleep, sleep deprivation, and the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and narcolepsy.

In the 1950s as a medical student, he was the first to intensively study the connection between rapid eye movement and dreaming, after his fellow student Eugene Aserinsky mentioned to him that "Dr. Kleitman and I think these eye movements might be related to dreaming". Aserinsky, along with his and Dement's adviser Nathaniel Kleitman) had previously noticed the connection but as physiologists, hadn't considered it very interesting. Dement had an interest in psychiatry, which in those days considered dreams to be important, so he was excited by the discovery and was eager to pursue it. He began his work in sleep deprivation at Mount Sinai Hospital in the late 1950s – the early 1960s. He was among the first researchers to study sleeping subjects with the electroencephalogram (EEG), and he wrote "I believe that the study of sleep became a true scientific field in 1953, when I finally was able to make all-night, continuous recordings of brain and eye activity during sleep." From studying these recordings, he discovered and named the five stages of sleep.[1]

Each year from 1971 until 2003 (when he retired) he taught the popular "Sleep and Dreams" course at Stanford University. He has come out of retirement for three of the four years from 2003 to 2007 to teach the class again. At the conclusion of the 2006 class he handed out t-shirts with his resemblance on the front and "drowsiness is Red Alert" on the back.[2] Dement has been spending a great deal of time focusing on spreading information about the danger of driving when drowsy and obstructive sleep apnea.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

In 1975 he launched the American Sleep Disorders Association, now known as the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and served as president for its first twelve years. In that same year he and Mary Carskadon invented the Multiple Sleep Latency Test used to measure sleepiness, a test of how quickly people fall asleep, sleep latency, during several daytime opportunities.

He was also chairman of the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research, whose final report led directly to the creation of a new agency within the National Institutes of Health, the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research.

Dement is the author of numerous books, including The Promise of Sleep[1] and The Sleepwatchers, and has written the first undergraduate textbook in the field.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Before beginning his academic career, he was a jazz musician who played with Quincy Jones.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

He lives with his family in northern California.

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 Dement, William C.; and Christopher Vaughan (1999). The Promise of Sleep: A Pioneer in Sleep Medicine Explores the Vital Connection Between Health, Happiness, and a Good Night's Sleep, Dell Trade Paperbacks. ISBN 0-440-50901-7. pp. 35-38.
  2. Holt, Chris (May 1, 2006), "The Big Sleep and Dreams", The Stanford Daily: 1 

External linksEdit

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