We spend a third of our lives asleep—why would we do this? The meaning of sleep is one of sciences’ most enduring and lingering questions. In this class, we’ll tackle it head-on. We’ll explore what sleep does for the body, the brain, and the mind. We’ll learn how much sleep we should get, and what happens when we don’t get enough. Finally, we will learn where dreams come from, what meaning they may have, and what this all might mean for the future of artificial intelligence.
Sleep is so fundamental to human existence that studying it requires a “cross-disciplinary” approach. This course, therefore, combines the biology, psychology, neuroscience, and sociology of sleep and dreams. The course combines traditional lecture-style teaching with both secondary and primary source reading, small discussions, and a culminating project.
A key aspect of the course is using the primary scientific literature on sleep to both support the lectures and to aid students in interacting with science, and the scientific process more broadly. Students will read a collection of state-of-the-art primary scientific articles, capturing the energy of this rapidly changing field. In addition to their content, emphasis is placed on how experiments are conducted and what they tell us. Students are encouraged to think critically about scientific data and pose their own questions and experimental hypotheses. Students will 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. Past examples have included sleep and dream inspired comic books, artwork, musical presentations, and poetry. 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 onward beyond class.
By the end of this course students will be able to communicate:
• Who sleeps? When do they sleep? For how long?
• What does sleep do for the brain and for the body?
• What happens if we don't get enough sleep?
• How does sleep become disordered and how can we treat it?
• What are dreams? Where do they come from? Do they have meaning?
Prerequisites: 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.
STEM for Rising 9th and 10th Graders
Two-week, non-credit residential program focused on STEM subjects and taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 8-9 by June 2020; minimum age of 14 and maximum age of 15 by the start of the program.Visit Program Page Learn How to Apply