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We all spend roughly one-third of our lives sleeping. But, because I write for Van Winkle's, I also devote my waking hours to that little neurobiological process we call sleep. Over the last two years, I've spent my days asking sleep researchers to break down studies, figuring out the finer points of Ambien etiquette and learning about the behavioral and medical significance of sleeping positions, recurring nightmares and bedtime snacks. I've explored sleep as an act of intimacy and refuge; as a diagnostic alarm bell and an economic indicator. Basically, I've kept close tabs on anything that might be relevant to our resting lives.

And, in the process, I've come across all sorts of people who've dedicated their careers and free time to illuminating and improving sleep, from scientists plugging away in labs to sleep-tainers using their creative energy to make people drowsy. There's no way to survey the sprawling sleep community and objectively choose the "Most Interesting People in Sleep." So I embraced the subjective nature of best-of lists and got in touch with the sleep experts and enthusiasts who've most changed the way I think about sleep. They bring diverse perspectives on hot topics in sleep, such as the meaning of “normal” sleep, the cultural relevance of dreams and the societal treatment of night owls. And every one of them has enhanced our collective knowledge of sleep or helped people get more, better sleep. 

Here are, in no particular order, the 15 Most Interesting People in Sleep.

1. The Time Master

Name: Till Roenneberg
Title: Chronobiologist at the Institute of Medical Psychology at Ludwig-Maximilian University 
Why they're interestingRevolutionized the study of biological rhythms and sleep-wake schedules  

Night owls have an ally in Till Roenneberg. The German chronobiologist has spent years dispelling the myth that people who like to sleep late are lazy. (Read more here)

2. The Ambassador

Name: Arianna Huffington
Title: CEO of Thrive Health and author of “The Sleep Revolution”
Why they're interestingMedia-and-wellness mogul who turned sleep into a mainstream conversation

Arianna Huffington is the most famous sleep obsessive in the country. (Read more here)

3. The Dream Collector

Name: Kelly Bulkeley
Title: Psychologist of religion specializing in dream research
Why they're interesting: Data-banking dreams to understand the waking world   
  

Kelly Bulkeley takes a big data approach to studying dreams. In 2009, he launched the Sleep and Dream Database, an online archive containing more than 30,000 dream reports. (Read more here)

4. The Health Reporter  

NameJames Hamblin
Title: Health Editor at The Atlantic and author of “If Our Bodies Could Talk”
Why they're interestingA doctor-turned-writer with a sleep obsession   

Only a few years ago, James Hamblin was a radiology resident, working 28-hour shifts and skimping on sleep. Then, after deciding to leave medicine, Hamblin became fanatical about getting his eight hours. (Read more here)

5. The Exorcist

Name: Baland Jalal
Title: Neuroscientist at The University of Cambridge
Why they're interesting: Invented a simple method for escaping sleep paralysis

In 2005, Baland Jalal woke up to the feeling of a ghost choking him and a vision of his legs swirling up and down. The hallucination, while terrifying, piqued his curiosity. (Read more here)

6. The Consultant 

Name: Cheri Mah
Title: Research Fellow at the UCSF Human Performance Center and UCSF School of Medicine and NBA sleep consultant
Why they're interesting: Pioneered the use of sleep optimization in pro sports 

Back in 2002, Cheri Mah was running a study on sleep and cognition at Stanford University. By chance, some of the Stanford swim team had enrolled in the study. (Read more here)

7. The Viral Star

Name: Maria 
Title: Youtube creator/ASMR-tist
Why they're interesting: Making videos that lull people to sleep 

Millions of people have made their way to the Gentle Whispering ASMR Youtube Channel. And thousands of them have left comments for Maria — the woman who creates and stars in every video. Their number-one request, Maria says, is videos to help them fall asleep. (Read more here)

8. The Revivalist

Name: Roger Ekirch
Title: Historian at Virginia Tech University
Why they're interesting: Reintroduced the long-lost practice of "segmented sleep" to the modern world

Thanks to Roger Ekirch, the 1800s are all the rage — in terms of sleep, at least. (Read more here

9. The Dean

NameBenjamin Reiss
Title: Professor and author of the book “Wild Nights: How taming sleep created our restless world.”
Why they're interesting: A cultural historian exploring the past and present through a prism of sleep

Benjamin Reiss, a professor at Emory University, is leading the effort to move sleep from the bedroom into the classroom. For years, Reiss says, sleep was ignored by academics. But it's finally caught the attention it deserves from historians, anthropologists, sociologists and literary scholars. (Read more here)

10. The Evolutionist

Name: David Samson
Title: Evolutionary biologist at The University of Toronto
Why they're interestingExamining how human sleep has changed since Homo erectus dozed in trees

A common refrain in the sleep conversation is that our modern-day rest is broken. But David Samson, who studies the evolution of human sleep, has a different take. (Read more here

11. The Storyteller

NameDrew Ackerman
Title: Host of the podcast “Sleep with Me” 
Why they're interesting: Responsible for making "adult bedtime stories" a thing  

Drew Ackerman tells dull, meandering stories on topics no one cares about. And that’s exactly why his weekly podcast has become such a hit. (Read more here)

12. The Sleep Deprivation Authority

Name: William “Scott” Killgore
Title: Director of the Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience Lab in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona
Why they're interesting: Figuring out how skipping sleep changes your perceptions, thought processes and behavior  

Why does sleep deprivation leave one person depressed but another person giggly? What happens to our ability to make decisions, evaluate risk and control our emotions when we don’t sleep? These are some of the questions at the center of Scott Killgore’s research. (Read more here)

13. The Relationship Expert

Name: Wendy Troxel
Title: Senior Behavioral and Social Scientist, RAND Corporation
Why they're interesting: Studying sleep in couples          

Sleep has traditionally been studied as a solo behavior. But most adults don’t actually sleep by themselves: More than 50 percent of us hit the sack next to our significant others. (Read more here)

14. The Equalizer

Name: Michael Grandner
Title: Director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona
Why they're interesting: Probing the relationship between sleep and socioeconomic inequality  

When we look at sleep as a public health concern, it's important to acknowledge that the people who are getting the worst shuteye are often the same people who have the least control over it. As Michael Grandner's work makes abundantly clear, sleep is a socioeconomic issue. (Read more here

15. The Sleuth

Name: Michel A. Cramer Bornemann
Title: Lead investigator - Sleep Forensics Associates
Why they're interesting: The world's foremost expert on crimes committed during sleep  

His job almost sounds fake: Michel A. Cramer Bornemann investigates sleep crimes. When a defendant claims they're not guilty because they broke the law in their sleep, the neurologist and former sleep-clinic director is called in to suss out the situation. (Read more here)

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