Written by Kevin Morton
“America is a vast reservoir of ignorance about sleep, sleep deprivation and sleep disorders.”
~Senator Mark Hatfield
This statement opens the preface to the Stanford Sleep Book, Dr. William Dement’s textbook for his now-legendary Sleep and Dreams course at Stanford University. It is also the sentiment that has driven his life’s mission to educate the American public about the mechanisms of sleep and sleep health that he helped to discover throughout the latter half of the 20th century.
More On Dr. Dement
From pioneering the field in the 1950s with the first all-night polysomnographic recordings, to the rush of discoveries that took place in the following decades, Dr. Dement has taken the field of sleep medicine from nonexistence to a force within modern medicine that’s also quickly making its way into the public consciousness.
You can read more about Dr. Dement’s story of scientific discovery and sleep medicine creation here.
Discoveries piled high in the field of sleep medicine during that period of time, as little had been done in the area before. Some ingenuity in experimentation laid the groundwork for understanding the actual physiological explanations for why we feel alert and fatigued at certain times, and that foundation soon led to an exploration of the disorders that hold us back from achieving the alertness we desire: sleep disorders.
It quickly became apparent that sleep disorders were massively prevalent, that people who suffered from them knew very little about them (including that they even existed), and that next to nothing in the healthcare system existed to treat them.
Armed and burdened by the knowledge from his discoveries, Dr. Dement embarked to change all that. In addition to founding the world’s first sleep disorders center, he crusaded to impart what he had been learning about sleep and alertness to the broader public. Part of that crusade included publishing a number of books–coalescences of his experiences–and you’ll find those books here on this page.
I wholeheartedly encourage you to give them a read–the writing style of each is story-packed and not as heavy as one might expect from books covering a scientific topic. Furthermore, the knowledge gleaned from any one of them will empower you to make strategic and educated decisions about the parts of your life that provide you with the all-important energy to be happy, healthy, and productive.
The Stanford Sleep Book
The Stanford Sleep Book has been the core textbook of Stanford Sleep and Dreams since 1980. Written by Dr. Dement, the pioneering father of sleep medicine, the text contains the discoveries and knowledge accumulated in the last six decades of sleep research, knowledge that can empower you to strategically achieve optimal alertness and sleep health in your life.
From the fundamental mechanisms that control your sleepiness and alertness, to sleep disorders, commentary on dream content and dream purpose, lucid dreaming, the ways sleep affects everyday life, the dangers of insufficient sleep, this text has everything you need to literally make yourself one of the most educated persons about sleep in the world.
What’s more is you get all of this information straight from the man who discovered much of it, and for whose energy is largely responsible for the existence of sleep medicine. The Stanford Sleep Book is sprinkled throughout with vignettes from Dr. Dement’s personal journey in sleep research, small stories that represent some of the most personally illuminating moments for the doctor, or that illustrate the principles being explained in an everyday context.
We have the privilege on this website to offer full transcriptions of the SSB Table of Contents, as well as Dr. Dement’s preface and introduction to the text, sincerely written personal reasons from the author for the urgency of sleep education. Links to each of those transcriptions are just below, but first, an excerpt from the text explaining how the SSB came to be:
The Creation Of The SSB, An Excerpt:
“This book had its genesis in the need created by my involvement with undergraduate teaching starting in the Fall of 1970 when I was a resident fellow and taught a course on sleep for the students in my dormitory. The course began to attract other students and because of this I decided to offer a formal presentation in Winter Quarter 1971 and I have offered a course on sleep annually up until Winter Quarter 2003. Sleep and Dreams was not offered in 2004 or 2005 but due to high student demand, we resurrected the course for the Winter Quarter 2006. Around 1980, the various handouts developed into a quasi-textbook and by the middle of the 90s, the first Stanford Sleep Book was born. The current volume is the 5th edition.”
~Dr. William C. Dement
Special preview of the SSB:
Dr. Dement has made the Preface, Introduction, and TOC of the Stanford Sleep Book freely available for all interested readers, exclusively on this site. Check them out:
The Promise Of Sleep
After the success of the Stanford Sleep Book in the classroom, Dr. Dement wanted a similar book he could share with the public at large. The Promise Of Sleep became that book.
The Promise of Sleep is the Stanford Sleep Book written for the more mainstream audience. It is less academic, less technical, and just as full of stories and practical knowledge.
The Promise of Sleep has achieved “National Bestseller” status, and a look at the reviews on Amazon will give you a good sense of how many people have had their lives positively changed, in a large and impacting way, as a result of this book.
When I was browsing the online availability of Dr. Dement’s other books, I was actually surprised to come across The Sleepwatchers, which I had never heard of before. That said, I don’t know anything about the book other than what is available on Amazon, but I’ll ask Dr. Dement about it the next time I see him and update this page with some more context then.