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This Class is No Snooze Current Advances in Psychological Science: Sleep, Health and Society, a Spring Term course taught by Ryan Brindle, explores the basics of sleep, why people need it, and the impacts of sleep deprivation.

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As a first-year student juggling the demands of college, Bryan Chung ’22 is the first to admit he isn’t getting enough sleep—and he’s been wondering how that might be impacting his overall health.

It’s a good thing Chung is enrolled in Current Advances in Psychological Science: Sleep, Health and Society, a Spring Term course taught by Ryan Brindle, assistant professor of cognitive and behavioral science. This timely course explores the basics of sleep, why people need it, and the effects of sleep deprivation at the societal level.

In Parmly Hall, Brindle has set up a laboratory complete with a “bedroom” and the latest in sleep-tracking technology. On May 2, he explained to students how the equipment works and how much the technology has advanced within the past few decades. “It’s a huge feat of engineering,” he said.

Chung volunteered to be hooked up to electrodes and a fingertip pulse oximeter before attempting to fall asleep. “I like to volunteer and get involved,” he said.

Next door, his classmates gathered around a computer screen that would display his brain waves, respiration, heart rate, eye movement and other muscle activity. Chung did fall asleep, allowing the professor and students to observe the lowering of his heart rate, slower and deeper breathing, eye twitches, sleep spindles (bursts of neural activity) and his transitions between sleep stages.

In addition to that experiment, students in the class keep a sleep journal and complete a final project that requires them to create campaigns to improve sleep on college campuses. Even if they can’t convince others to get more sleep, Brindle’s students usually leave his class convinced themselves.

“For the purpose of the lab demonstration, this is the only course where the professor won’t get upset with you for falling asleep in class,” Brindle said.

Click here to read more about W&L Spring Term courses.