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The Mysteries of Sleep: What Goes Bump in the Night?

Course enrollment will be available for this course once it is scheduled.

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Course Description

We spend a third of our lives asleep. Why would we do this? What function(s) does sleep serve for the body, the brain, or the mind? We will explore one of the unanswered questions of science: what is sleep for? We will examine its nature, its peculiarities and oddities, and what happens if you don't get enough. Join us at the intersection of biology and psychology where the secrets of sleep await.

The nature of sleep and dreams is one of science's long-standing unanswered questions. Every animal examined to date sleeps, yet only in the last half a century or so, have we begun to discover why this is. This course examines the biology, and neuropsychology of sleep and dreams, including a focus on the teenage years. Sleep science is state-of-the-art and ever changing. There is no "textbook" for sleep. Instead, students will have the opportunity to read a collection of the primary scientific literature focusing on sleep and dreams. Small group discussions throughout the course will guide students in how to read and interpret a scientific article--an invaluable skill for college-level science courses. Together with traditional lectures framed from this central theme of sleep and dreams, students will learn to think critically about scientific data and conclusions, and pose their own questions and experimental hypotheses. As the course progresses, students will have the opportunity to complete their own sleep and dream diary, offering the class an opportunity to learn insights from themselves as well as the material. The course culminates with a "sleep outreach" project, where students are tasked with communicating the importance of sleep to their peers and the general public in a creative way that is uniquely theirs. An "outreach expo" on the final day of class allows students to share their creations and educate each other on what they learned in the process so that they may carry the importance of sleep into their future endeavors.

By the end of this course students will be able to communicate:

  • Who sleeps? When do they sleep? For how long?
  • Is there such a thing as optimal sleep? How can we achieve it?
  • What does sleep look like in the body and in the brain?
  • What are dreams? Do they have meaning?
  • What does sleep do for us, and what happens when we don't get it?
  • How does sleep become disordered and how can we treat it?

This course is designed to be accessible to a wide-variety of students. Key concepts in psychology, biology, and neuroscience will be introduced within the context of the material, using the science of sleep and dreams as a framework to scaffold learning. While aimed to a wide audience, an interest in science or medicine as well as previous exposure to high school science classes (particularly biology, chemistry, or psychology) will aid students in more rapidly learning the material.

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