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The science and culture of sleep and sleeplessness

Past Event

Sleep is an enormous part of our lives and has fascinated scientists, artists and writers for centuries: Why do we sleep? And why do we sometimes struggle to sleep?

Join us for a day of informal talks – with perspectives on sleep and sleeplessness from biologists, historians, artists, medics and cultural critics – and continued discussion over drinks in the evening, alongside a unique DJ set of a sleep cycle.


Please note: this event is now fully booked, but tickets for the evening are still available here.

If you would like to join the waiting list for the daytime talks, please email info@freewordcentre.com or call 020 7324 2570. 


Professor Nick Franks

Professor Franks from Imperial College’s Department of Life Sciences is researching the question: What brain mechanisms make sleep inescapable? He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2011 for his pioneering research on anaesthetics and sleep.

Professor Matthew Beaumont

Professor Beaumont is a Professor of English at University College London and the author of Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London, among other books. He is currently writing a book on insomnia.

Dr Guy Meadows

Dr Guy Meadows is Co-Founder and Clinical Director of The Sleep School. He specialises in the non-drug based treatment of chronic insomnia and is the author of The Sleep Book: How to Sleep Well Every Night.

Kimberley Whitehead

Kimberley Whitehead is a Clinical Research Associate based in University College London’s Department of Neuroscience and has a special interest in rapid eye movement (dream) sleep and its role in early brain development.

Professor Simon Morgan Wortham

Professor Wortham is a Professor of English in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Kingston University. He is the author of The Poetics of Sleep: From Aristotle to Nancy, among other books.

Dr Fran Knight

Dr Fran Knight is a Lecturer at University College London’s Institute of Education. She is researching the effects of disturbed sleep on learning and behaviour in children.

Dr Anna Katharina Schaffner

Dr Schaffner is a Reader in Comparative Literature and Medical Humanities at the University of Kent. She researches the history of exhaustion from classical antiquity to the present day and is the author of Exhaustion: A History.

Dr Sasha Handley

Dr Handley is a Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at The University of Manchester. Her research explores practices relating to sleep in seventeenth and eighteenth-century English society and the ways in which they shaped sleep-quality. She is the author of Sleep in Early Modern England.

Andrew Carnie

Andrew Carnie is an artist who is currently working on a project about sleep and sleeplessness in collaboration with Kimberley Whitehead and Professor Matthew Beaumont. His work has been exhibited at the Science Museum in London, the Whitechapel Gallery in London and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Dr Sofia Eriksson

Dr Sofia Eriksson is a consultant neurologist with a special interest in sleep disorders at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London.

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