Dr. William Dement, Leader in Sleep Disorder Research, Dies at 91
William Charles Dement was born on July 29, 1928, in Wenatchee, Wash., in the north-central a part of the state, and grew up additional south in Walla Walla. His father, Charles, was a tax agent and bookkeeper, and his mom, Kathryn (Severyns) Dement, was a homemaker.
After serving in the Army in postwar Japan, the place he edited a regiment newspaper, he earned a bachelor’s diploma in primary medical science at the University of Washington, Seattle, in 1951. He paid his means by working as a jazz bassist and hosted jam periods on his houseboat.
Dr. Dement’s fascination with sleep started in medical college at the University of Chicago. He turned intrigued with the work of Nathaniel Kleitman, a physiologist who was credited with doing pioneering analysis on sleep when the sector barely existed. Dr. Kleitman and a graduate pupil, Eugene Aserinsky, first reported the invention of fast eye motion, or REM, throughout sleep.
Dr. Dement’s fascination with sleep swelled when Mr. Aserinsky instructed him what the flickering eye actions meant.
“‘Dr. Kleitman and I think these movements might be related to dreaming,’” Dr. Dement recalled Mr. Aserinsky telling him. “For a student interested in psychiatry, this offhand comment was more stunning than if he had just offered me a winning lottery ticket.”
After becoming a member of Dr. Kleitman’s sleep laboratory, Dr. Dement filmed topics in REM sleep — one topic, who was learning at the college, was the longer term author, director and actress Elaine May — and studied the connection between REM sleep and desires.
In measuring the mind waves and eye actions of 9 sleeping topics in 1956, Dr. Dement and Dr. Kleitman discovered a excessive incidence of dream recall when topics had been woke up 5 to 15 minutes after REM sleep had begun.