Sleep 101

by Judith Lindquist

Page 1 of 4

Mary CarskadonSleep. We all need it. We spend about a third of our lives doing it. We'd like to get by with less of it, and we worry about whether we're getting enough of it. Scientists aren't sure why it exists at all.

To Shakespeare's MacBeth, sleep is the "balm of hurt minds" and the "chief nourisher in life's feast." To Dr. Mary Carskadon '69, one of the pioneers of sleep research, "sleep is the center of the universe." For nearly four decades Carskadon's professional life has focused on unearthing the secrets of sleep.

In her office Carskadon proudly displays a Gettysburg College poster honoring her many professional accomplishments, but it was at Stanford University where she began her career as a research assistant in one of the world's first sleep laboratories. She regards her long career in research and teaching as a happy coincidence of life's circumstances. "I had no idea what I was going to do after college," Carskadon said, "I wasn't even sure what I would major in at Gettysburg."

What she was sure of was that she wanted to go to Gettysburg College. "It was the only college I applied to, which distressed my parents to no end," she said. "It was the right size for me. I grew up in a small town (Elizabethtown, Pa.), and I didn't want to go to a big school. I wanted a friendly campus with a good reputation. What probably topped it off was that my high school guidance counselor said, ‘Mary, it's too competitive. You won't get in.' I got in, and I think it was the perfect choice for me."

Without a specific career in mind, Carskadon began exploring the liberal arts -- sociology, religion, literature. She loved them all, but it was Professor Sam Mudd's History of Psychology course that drew her to psychology. "I also loved Mary Margaret Stewart's 18th-century English literature course. I loved her classes, but I thought psychology would allow me the most flexibility."

One semester Carskadon tried an 8.a.m. history of art course, but after one class she changed her mind. "After five minutes they turned the lights out to view slides, and I was a goner. Slept through the whole thing."

The 1960s
The late 1960s was a time of enormous change, and Carskadon and her friends witnessed much of that at Gettysburg. "When we arrived, the dorms had house mothers and curfews for women students. When we left, they were planning coed dorms."

After graduation, Carskadon and four friends rented a house in Washington, D.C. "It was an extraordinary time to live in Washington. Vietnam protests, civil rights rallies, all were bringing young people into the city. Friends would often stay with us while they participated in marches such as the Peace Moratorium, one of the largest demonstrations in U.S. history."

Summer Research Mellon Grants

Gettysburg College received a four-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activities for students. The grant supports research throughout the year by covering research expenses for individual students or classes, as well as the cost of students presenting their research at regional and national conferences.

The grant also supports faculty development related to mentoring students in research and developing curricula for research methodology courses. While the grant provides funding for projects in all academic programs, it is targeted toward students studying humanities, arts, and social sciences.

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