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An Early History of Sleep Studies

German physician Hans Berger invented the early EEG machine that in 1924 was used to document the first record of human brain activity. Over the next few years, he published his findings, including brain changes during sleep, and set off new areas of scientific study.

Scientists, inventors, and physicians built on Berger’s initial studies and by the 1950s, two University of Chicago researchers, Nathaniel Kleitman and his graduate student Eugene Aserinsky, made revolutionary discoveries that opened the floodgates for the scientific study of sleep. The two, in fact, were the first to recognize rapid eye movement or REM, the stage of sleep most associated with dreaming and with recordable brain activity similar to periods of wakefulness.

Kleitman, along with a growing community of colleagues, continued his sleep research to eventually conclude that the time of sleep stages and their lengths vary for an individual from night to night and is completely unique to the individual.

Steve Dingman, MD, is a Drug Safety Physician at the pharmaceutical company UCB, Inc., in Raleigh, North Carolina. Dr. Dingman works with the company’s Clinical Sub Team and Product Lifecycle Team for sleep and movement disorders.