Mapping the Darkness

The Visionary Scientists Who Unlocked the Mysteries of Sleep

New Release


By Kenneth Miller

Formats and Prices




$41.00 CAD


  1. Hardcover $32.50 $41.00 CAD
  2. ebook $16.99
  3. Audiobook Download (Unabridged)

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 3, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

"Miller's narration of the subject is commanding, bright and deft. His prose cuts and flows through the last century of impossibly complex stop-start progress in measuring and quantifying sleep–why we do it, and how. None of it is simple and all of it is captivating."The New York Times

"Mapping the Darkness offers two narratives at once: a sweeping journey of discovery about dreams, sleep and the terra incognita of unconsciousness; and a wake-up call about the dangers of chronic exhaustion. It’s time, Mr. Miller tells us, to take our sleep back."The Wall Street Journal

From award-winning journalist Kenneth Miller comes the definitive story of the scientists who set out to answer two questions: “Why do we sleep?” and "How can we sleep better?”

A century ago, sleep was considered a state of nothingness—even a primitive habit that we could learn to overcome. Then, an immigrant scientist and his assistant spent a month in the depths of a Kentucky cave, making nationwide headlines and thrusting sleep science to the forefront of our consciousness.

In the 1920s, Nathaniel Kleitman founded the world’s first dedicated sleep lab at the University of Chicago, where he subjected research participants (including himself) to a dizzying array of tests and tortures. But the tipping point came in 1938, when his cave experiment awakened the general public to the unknown—and vital—world of sleep. Kleitman went on to mentor the talented but troubled Eugene Aserinsky, whose discovery of REM sleep revealed the astonishing activity of the dreaming brain, and William Dement, a jazz-bass playing revolutionary who became known as the father of sleep medicine. Dement, in turn, mentored the brilliant maverick Mary Carskadon, who uncovered an epidemic of sleep deprivation among teenagers, and launched a global movement to fight it.

Award-winning journalist Kenneth Miller weaves together science and history to tell the story of four outsider scientists who took sleep science from fringe discipline to mainstream obsession through spectacular experiments, technological innovation, and single-minded commitment. Readers will walk away with a comprehensive understanding of sleep and why it affects so much of our lives.




By the time Pesea Kleitman became pregnant with her first child, her husband was too weak to make it through another Russian winter. Tuberculosis was rotting his lungs and wasting his body, tormenting him with chest pain and fevers; no medication could provide a cure. The young cloth merchant’s only hope of recovery, doctors said, was several months of complete rest in a warm, dry climate. So the couple decamped to Egypt, a week’s journey from their small town in the province of Bessarabia (now the republic of Moldova): by rail to Odessa; by ship across the Black Sea and the Mediterranean; and again by rail from Alexandria to Cairo.1

Soon after their arrival, however, the sick man took his last breath. Pesea, a widow at twenty, made the long return trip alone. With her due date looming, she moved in with her parents and four younger siblings in Kishinev, the provincial capital. On April 26, 1895, she gave birth to a boy and named him after his late father.2

From an early age, Nathaniel Kleitman showed signs of the extraordinary intelligence that would someday fuel his fame. The family spoke Yiddish at home, but he learned the Russian alphabet in a single day when he was two and a half years old. By the time he started heder (religious school) at four, he could solve complex arithmetic problems in his head. Pesea remarried two years later, to a widowed fabric store owner with children of his own. Her son remained for a time with his grandparents, Leyb and Leya Galanter, who may also have been in the textile business—and who sent him to the best private elementary school they could find. When Leyb died two years after that, Leya set aside a portion of the estate to fund the precocious child’s further education.3

Although their house lacked indoor plumbing, like all but the grandest local residences, the Galanters belonged to the upper-middle class of Kishinev’s Jewish community—one of the largest in Europe. These Ashkenazim, whose ancestors had migrated from Germany and France during the Middle Ages, comprised nearly half of the municipality’s 125,000 residents. They were laborers and factory owners, shopkeepers and tobacco growers, rabbis and blacksmiths, bankers and beggars. And as elsewhere in the czarist empire, they lived under a deepening shadow of persecution.4

Anti-Semitism was nothing new in Russia, where Jews had long been restricted to residence in the cluster of territories known as the Pale of Settlement, banned from various trades, and forbidden to wear traditional dress. Young males faced an added threat: conscription by the Imperial Army, which demanded punitive numbers of Jewish recruits and subjected them to discrimination, abuse, and often forcible conversion. (According to family lore, Kleitman’s father contracted tuberculosis after starving himself to avoid the draft.) But conditions worsened sharply in the 1880s, after the assassination of Czar Alexander II, which was widely blamed on an imagined Jewish plot. An outbreak of pogroms swept the land. New laws barred Jews from living in towns of fewer than ten thousand people, from voting in municipal elections, and from professions including teaching and the law. Authorities reduced already stringent quotas for Jewish students in secondary and higher education.5

In Kishinev, the atmosphere grew dangerously volatile around the turn of the twentieth century, when the city’s government-subsidized newspaper began printing lurid accusations of Jewish perfidy on a daily basis. The explosion came in April 1903, after a Christian boy was murdered in a nearby village (by a relative, investigators later found) and a Christian girl died of self-inflicted poisoning in a Jewish hospital. The paper’s editor “laid both tragedies at the doors of the Jews,” according to a contemporary account, “declaring emphatically that both were murders committed for ritual purposes.” He described the purported atrocities in gruesome detail and called for vengeance.6

The two-day rampage, beginning on Easter Sunday—shortly before Kleitman’s eighth birthday—was the bloodiest pogrom yet. Nearly 50 Jews were killed, 600 injured, and dozens of women raped; 600 businesses were looted, 1,350 dwellings destroyed. No record remains of how the boy’s household escaped the onslaught; as in some other cases, the mob may have found the gate to the family compound too difficult to break down. What is known is that Kleitman’s uncle Benzion Galanter was among the dead, leaving behind a widow and six children. He’d tried to protect them by brandishing a pistol loaded with blank cartridges at the attackers—who tackled him, gouged out his eyes, and tore out his tongue.7

As an adult, Kleitman told his children that the murder had shaken him deeply, though with characteristic reticence, he never spoke of it in public. “He couldn’t remember his father’s death, but losing his uncle was a real blow,” his daughter Hortense said, her own memory of the story undimmed as she neared ninety. “It’s interesting,” she added, “how many people who went on to do a lot had that kind of early trauma.”8

The massacre sparked international outrage—especially in the United States, where thousands signed a petition of protest to the czar. It helped turn countless young Russian Jews into militant Zionists or revolutionary leftists. And along with subsequent bloodbaths—including a second one in Kishinev, in 1905—it accelerated an ongoing wave of emigration. Between 1880 and 1914, more than two million Jews fled Russia, the vast majority to America.9

Kleitman’s trajectory, by contrast, followed his lust for learning. After graduating in 1912 from a private Realschule (a German-style high school emphasizing science and math), he knew the quota system offered little hope of admission to a Russian university. Instead, he set his sights on an elite engineering school in Paris. On an investigative visit, however, he learned that his odds of passing the specialized entrance exam were slim. Swiftly adjusting his ambitions, he decided to try for the American-run Syrian Protestant College in Lebanon (now the American University of Beirut), with the eventual aim of practicing medicine in Palestine.10

Kleitman and his mother, Pesea, in 1912. Courtesy of the Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

In 1914, having taught himself English with a learn-at-home manual, the nineteen-year-old set out on his personal exodus. A snapshot from the time shows a slim youth with a mop of dark hair, a strong nose, a sensitive mouth, and an air of passionate seriousness. As a draft-age Jewish male, Kleitman was legally prohibited from obtaining a passport, so he took the train to Odessa and bought a fake one on the black market. Or, rather, half of one: The document was for two Lithuanian brothers. (Russian passports at the time required neither photo nor signature.) On August 1—with his older “sibling,” whom he’d never previously met—Kleitman boarded a steamer bound for the Levant.11

A few hours later, Germany declared hostilities against Russia, and the conflict that would become known as World War I erupted. The next day, after stopping in Constantinople, the vessel hurried back to Odessa to avoid attack by enemy destroyers. Because his fictitious brother, who had first dibs on the passport, opted to return home, Kleitman no longer possessed travel documents. Undeterred, he switched to a Turkish steamer, which bore him across the Sea of Marmara, through the Dardanelles, along the shores of Asia Minor, and down the coast of Syria. When the ship reached Beirut, a fellow refugee snuck off and returned with two more false passports—one for himself, the other for Kleitman.12

Kleitman spent the next few weeks cramming for the exam to enter Syrian Protestant College’s medical school, at a local rooming house where several other Kishinev boys were staying. He passed easily and began taking basic courses in physiology, anatomy, and other subjects. But that October, the Ottoman Empire—which controlled Lebanon—allied itself with Germany, and the school’s Russian students became prisoners of war. Kleitman and his compatriots were officially confined to the campus, though enforcement was lax enough that they could make surreptitious forays into town. Toward the end of the school year, the situation grew more ominous: Word arrived that enemy aliens would soon be sent to concentration camps in the Syrian desert, where massacres of Armenians were already underway. With all local ports under blockade, escape by passenger ship was no longer possible.13

The last hope of rescue lay with the American government, which was still neutral. The college’s administration made a desperate plea to the US ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau Sr., whose horror at the nascent genocide (and, perhaps, his background as a German-born Jew) helped stir his sympathy for the students’ plight. Morgenthau arranged for the cruiser Des Moines to evacuate them from Beirut, along with hundreds of other foreign civilians. To save face, Ottoman officials declared that they were expelling the aliens rather than bowing to diplomatic pressure; Kleitman and his classmates had to sign papers promising never to return. The ship was authorized to transport them only to the nearest port of safety.14

In July 1915, the Des Moines deposited the refugees on the Greek island of Rhodes. From there, Kleitman hopped a steamer to Athens, where he seized the opportunity to tour the ruins of the Acropolis. Then he boarded the King Constantine, an ocean liner heading to New York City. The crossing, in steerage, took two weeks.15

Kleitman landed at Ellis Island—then the nation’s principal port of entry—on August 23. He faced an uncertain welcome. At the time, US immigration policy was in the midst of a long slide from the openness embodied in the Statue of Liberty’s inscription (“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses”) to the exclusiveness enshrined in the Immigration Act of 1924, whose quotas based on national origins were designed to shut out people of his ilk along with a range of other ethnic groups.16

The restrictionists often regarded eastern European Jews as especially objectionable. Madison Grant, the genteel founder of the New York Zoological Society and a champion of the growing eugenics movement (which aimed to prevent reproduction by those deemed genetically unfit), described these immigrants as “half-Asiatic mongrels” and “a curse . . . draining into the country [from] the great swamp” of their benighted homelands. A turn-of-the-century newspaper cartoon, captioned THE STRANGER AT OUR GATE, depicts a hook-nosed, bearded man in filthy rags, carrying baggage labeled poverty, disease, superstition, sabbath desecration, and anarchy. Uncle Sam stands before him, holding his own nose to ward off the stench, beneath a sign reading, “United States of America: Admittance Free.” The stranger asks, “Can I come in?” The gatekeeper replies, “I s’pose you can, there’s no law to keep you out.”17

Although ethnically targeted bans had not yet progressed beyond those directed at the Chinese in the 1880s, rules barring other types of undesirables had multiplied by the time of Kleitman’s arrival. Entry was denied to anarchists and polygamists, as well as any alien likely to become a “public charge” (most often applied to paupers and the physically handicapped). Also inadmissible was anyone exhibiting “moral turpitude,” or suffering from epilepsy, “lunacy,” “feeblemindedness,” or a “loathsome or contagious disease.”18

Still, the admissions process was strikingly less onerous than it is today. “No passport, visa, or other identification was required,” Kleitman recalled decades later, perhaps conscious that his own forged papers might not have passed close scrutiny. Officials performed a brief examination of his mental and physical fitness. They counted the cash in his wallet, which had been thinned by loans to several shipmates who lacked the recommended $25 minimum (worth about $650 today) to prove solvency. They asked whether he advocated the overthrow of the established order; he answered in the negative. And with that, they ushered him through the golden door.19

After a ferry ride to Manhattan, Kleitman checked in to a dormitory operated by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society on the Lower East Side.20 He was twenty years old, just one more greenhorn dragging a battered trunk. But within a decade, despite his vow to the immigration agents, he would begin setting the stage for a revolution that neither they nor he could have imagined.



W hen Kleitman landed on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the summer of 1915, he had little interest in sleep other than finding a comfortable place to do it. After a short stint at the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society shelter, followed by a few nights in a rented room on Rivington Street, he located family friends from Kishinev who lived close by—a Mrs. Reisher, her son, and two daughters—and began boarding with them.1

With over half a million residents packed into one and a half square miles, the Lower East Side was one of the most crowded communities in the world. A multiethnic enclave, 60 percent Jewish, its tenements teemed with escapees from every hardscrabble corner of Europe; its streets were jammed with peddlers, pushcarts, horse-drawn wagons, and soot-belching Model Ts. Although the neighborhood was one of the poorest in the city, it was also among the most vibrant—home to swaggering gangsters and crusading political activists, grand synagogues and garlicky delicatessens, thriving Yiddish theaters and some of the first movie houses in New York. It held dozens of garment-industry sweatshops, too, as well as a raucous red-light district. On average, immigrants spent fifteen years there before finding their way to more genteel precincts. Kleitman, however, aimed to stay no longer than was absolutely necessary.2

At first, he hoped to revive the plan he’d envisioned before leaving Russia: to become a doctor, preferably in Palestine. He figured he would wait out the war, then return to medical school in Europe or the Near East. In the meantime, he worked odd jobs, earning about a dollar a day, of which ten cents was budgeted for the subway and ten cents for lunch. But by 1916, something had shifted. Perhaps he’d realized that the shooting wasn’t stopping anytime soon—or perhaps he’d sensed that America offered him another way forward. That autumn, he found a job as a laboratory helper at the Rockefeller Institute (now Rockefeller University), rented a room nearby on East Sixty-Eighth Street, and enrolled in night classes at the College of the City of New York in West Harlem.3

Founded in 1847, City College was the oldest free public institution of higher learning in the United States. Known as the “poor man’s Harvard” for its distinguished faculty and demanding admission standards, it would graduate more Nobel Prize winners than any other public college—thirteen at last count. By the time Kleitman signed on, alumni included such luminaries as Henry Morgenthau Sr. (the ambassador who’d rescued him from Lebanon), George Washington Goethals (chief engineer on the Panama Canal), and Bernard Baruch (economic adviser to Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt).4 Thanks to courses he’d taken in Kishinev and Beirut, Kleitman entered with advanced standing. After two semesters, he switched to day classes, focusing on physics, biology, and chemistry. Evenings, he worked as a cashier at a pastry shop.5

As a resident alien, Kleitman wasn’t subject to the draft when the United States entered the war in 1917. But the following year, along with more than a thousand other City College students, he volunteered for the Student Army Training Corps, a program initiated by the War Department on campuses across the country. Cadets were housed in barrack dormitories, performed daily military drills, and received a stipend of $30 a month. In the mess hall, Kleitman tasted bacon for the first time and loved it—an event that he, like many immigrant Jews who’d kept kosher in the old country, later recalled as a turning point in his Americanization. Soon afterward, he decided to exercise his right as a soldier to expedited US citizenship. His application was granted on November 2, 1918, nine days before the Armistice.6

Kleitman graduated in 1919 with a BS in chemistry and a Phi Beta Kappa key for outstanding grades. That autumn, he moved on to Columbia University to study for a master’s in physiology. (To pay the rent, he worked as a teaching fellow at City College.) By then, he’d determined that his interests lay in research and education rather than in practicing medicine. But he had not yet discovered the topic that would obsess him for seven decades.7 His master’s thesis was entitled “Sugar in the Blood of the Frog.”8

After receiving his MA in 1920, Kleitman faced a quandary.9 To pursue his calling, he would have to earn a PhD; meanwhile, he needed to earn a living. His options in both areas, however, were constrained by his ethnicity. Nativism and anti-Semitism were gaining momentum across the country, driven in part by widespread fears of contagion from Europe’s burgeoning radical movements. (Many conservatives attributed Bolshevism, newly ascendant in Russia, to a Jewish-led conspiracy.) A resurgent Ku Klux Klan targeted Jews as well as Blacks for cross burning, though far less often for lynching; eugenics advocates urged that both groups be encouraged—through sterilization or other means—to die out. Quieter forms of prejudice persisted as well: In polite Gentile society, even well-assimilated Jews were commonly disdained as pushy, moneygrubbing, clannish, and venal. They were excluded from the best clubs, the best neighborhoods, and many of the best jobs.10

In academia, a tidal wave of Jewish undergraduates at northeastern schools was spurring a backlash among “native” American students, faculty, and administrators. Most of the newcomers were the children of eastern European immigrants, who saw education as the surest way to succeed in their adopted country. By 1920, the student body at City College was 90 percent Hebraic (as Jews were often labeled); at Columbia, the figure was 40 percent; at Harvard, 20 percent. A college song reflected the casual bigotry of the era:

Oh, Harvard’s run by millionaires,

And Yale is run by booze,

Cornell is run by farmers’ sons,

Columbia’s run by Jews.

So give a cheer for Baxter Street,

Another one for Pell,

And when the little sheenies die,

Their souls will go to hell.11

Several leading universities—including Columbia, Harvard, and Yale—imposed informal quotas on Jewish admissions in the early 1920s, sharply reducing their numbers. (Boards of trustees often voted down proposals for explicit strictures, preferring a more discreet approach.)12 Likewise, Jews who sought academic jobs faced steep obstacles. When Kleitman completed his master’s, the number of Jews in the liberal arts or sciences faculties of US colleges and universities was probably under one hundred.13

Yet the barriers to entry were not impassable. For an aspirant of suspect pedigree, a key step toward securing a post was backing by a sponsor—often a faculty member of similar heritage who’d made it past the gate-keepers. Such an ally “would testify to the authorities,” as the sociologist Lewis S. Feuer put it, “that this man, though a Jew or an immigrant or from the working class, was not insisting on his Jewishness, was devoid of ‘pushing’ traits, was courteous, and quiet in disposition.”14 (Women professors were growing more numerous, but they remained a small enough minority to justify Feuer’s use of the masculine noun.15 African Americans, by contrast, were almost never admitted to faculty positions outside historically Black colleges and universities.)16

Kleitman’s first sponsor was City College biology professor Abraham Goldfarb, who volunteered for the role without being asked. It happened in a roundabout way as these things often did. Goldfarb was approached by William Salant, a fellow Columbia alumnus—and Russian Jewish immigrant—who’d recently been appointed as a professor of pharmacology at the Medical College of Georgia. At fifty, Salant was a decade older and considerably more eminent; he’d previously served as chief of the pharmacological laboratory at the US Department of Agriculture and as a senior scientist at the National Bureau of Standards.17 Now, he told Goldfarb, he needed to hire an instructor in physiology and pharmacology. Whatever qualifications may have been discussed, both men likely understood—given their own backgrounds and those of most students at City College—that a candidate who faced certain disadvantages would be preferred. At Goldfarb’s urging, Salant wrote to Kleitman, offering him the job.18

Soon afterward, the twenty-five-year-old stepped off a train in Augusta, where he rented a room in the private home where Salant was staying. The professor and his underling shared meals at a nearby boardinghouse, developing a friendship despite their differences in age and status. Kleitman spent the next two semesters teaching medical students material that he’d only recently learned, and he did well enough that Salant made him promise to return in the autumn of 1921.19

That June, to earn credits toward a doctorate, Kleitman headed north for summer courses at the University of Chicago. Although its Oxonian buildings and elm-shaded quadrangles gave it an air of antiquity, the school had been founded only three decades before; thanks largely to a generous endowment from oilman John D. Rockefeller, it was already among the nation’s premier research institutions. There, Kleitman found his next sponsor—another fellow immigrant, though from a diametrically different background.20

This one would help him discover his path.

Anton Julius Carlson, chair of the University of Chicago’s physiology department, was one of the leading figures of his field, renowned for his research on the peripheral nervous system. Square-jawed and powerfully built, with steel-rimmed glasses and a thatch of graying hair, Carlson radiated physical as well as intellectual energy. Originally from Sweden, he’d made his way to Illinois at age sixteen; working ten-hour days as a carpenter’s helper, he saved enough cash to attend a Lutheran college. After graduating, he served a brief stretch as a minister, then lost his faith and headed to Stanford to study science. A groundbreaking paper on cardiac rhythms landed him a teaching position at Chicago in 1904—and within a decade, he’d taken over the department. When he first encountered Kleitman, Carlson was forty-six, and he may have seen the brilliant and driven young man as a version of himself twenty years earlier.21

At the end of the summer session, Carlson offered Kleitman an assistantship, which would enable him to earn a salary and a PhD simultaneously. Conscience-stricken, Kleitman declined, citing his vow to his employer in Georgia. When he told Salant about his decision, the professor called him a “damn fool.” In the spring of 1922, after teaching two more semesters, he accepted Carlson’s standing invitation and relocated to Chicago.22

Before Kleitman could begin his studies in earnest, he had to choose an area of concentration. Again, his origins placed some routes off-limits—and, perhaps, spurred him to seek out uncharted territory. Jewish scholars were unwelcome in many long-entrenched disciplines. “Apart from a few appointments to teach Jewish or Semitic studies,” Lewis Feuer observed, “the Jews aspiring to academic work tended toward subjects that were new, not already the preserve of some academic establishment, or to such as mathematics where the most objective standards might tend to prevail. . . . Novel intellectual capital or intelligence, when it is precluded by monopolistic channels of intellectual investment, will then be directed into non-traditional, high risk, and still open fields.” This dynamic, historians have suggested, helps account for the high concentration of Jews in the era’s cutting-edge sciences, such as psychiatry, biochemistry, and immunology.23

It’s also possible, of course, that Kleitman was simply drawn to terra incognita by the same questing impulses that had propelled the earliest stages of his journey, from Kishinev to Beirut to Ellis Island. In any case, Carlson gave him a gift that no one else had ever offered: enough time and space to explore the existing literature and discover what called to him. Kleitman found it later that year, in Henri Piéron’s book, Le Problème Physiologique du Sommeil (in English, The Physiological Problem of Sleep)—the most comprehensive monograph on the topic then available.24 Published in 1913, Piéron’s 520-page masterwork provided an encyclopedic overview of sleep science’s evolution since its birth just a few decades earlier.25

Although Western thinkers had pondered the mechanics of sleep since ancient Greece—Aristotle thought it was triggered by vapors rising from the stomach to the heart during digestion—no one had studied the topic seriously until the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Two main forces fueled the surge in interest. The first was the drive for labor efficiency, which spurred researchers to investigate the capacities and limits of the human body in all its functions. Because sleep affected not only a worker’s fitness but the timing of the workday, understanding its dynamics was essential. The second impetus was the rise of insomnia—an epidemic that emerged with the arrival of cheap and plentiful artificial lighting, which enabled millions to hitch their routines to the alarm clock and shift-change whistle rather than the rhythms of dawn and dusk. As the disorder grew more common, questions about how sleep worked (or didn’t) became increasingly urgent.26


  • "Miller's narration of the subject is commanding, bright and deft. His prose cuts and flows through the last century of impossibly complex stop-start progress in measuring and quantifying sleep--why we do it, and how. None of it is simple and all of it is captivating."—The New York Times
  • "Mapping the Darkness offers two narratives at once: a sweeping journey of discovery about dreams, sleep and the terra incognita of unconsciousness; and a wake-up call about the dangers of chronic exhaustion. It’s time, Mr. Miller tells us, to take our sleep back."—The Wall Street Journal
  • "Is there anyone who hasn't—somewhere in the middle of a lost night—pondered the stubborn mystery of sleep? You'll find some of the best answers to that riddle here in Kenneth Miller's book, Mapping the Darkness: an addictively readable history of the scientists who changed our thinking about the nature and necessity of rest itself."—Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Poison Squad: One Chemist's Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
  • “This book is a delight to read! Combining the best of science writing and biography, Kenneth Miller spins a gripping story of how we have come to understand sleep from its basic biology to its impact on personal and public health. I read this book and started going to bed with an entirely new appreciation for what my brain and body do without my assistance.”—Daisy Hernández, PEN/Jean Stein Book Award-winning author of The Kissing Bug: A True Story of a Family, an Insect and a Nation’s Neglect of a Deadly Disease
  • "By profiling the daring pioneers of sleep science, this fascinating, magisterially researched, and brilliantly written book pulls back the covers on one of the great mysteries of being human: why we spend a full third of our lives engaged in an activity that scientists are only beginning to understand. You'll never think about something you do every night the same way again."—Steve Silberman, New York Times bestselling author of Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity
  • “In a highly engaging style, Kenneth Miller follows the key researchers who unlocked sleep’s secrets, clarifying the complex science of sleep and its maladies—insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, and narcolepsy to name a few. Thoroughly researched and admirably rendered, Mapping the Darkness is a must-read for anyone who has thought about sleep or the lack thereof.”—Charlotte D. Jacobs, author of Jonas Salk: A Life
  • “In Mapping the Darkness, Kenneth Miller reveals the captivating story of how a quartet of scientists invented sleep science and set the stage for today’s revolt against the epidemic of sleep deprivation caused by school schedules, thirty-hour medical shifts, and the irresistible glowing rectangles we keep on our nightstands. Don’t start reading this book right before bed, or you will be so engrossed you may stay up all night—which can be dangerous to your health.”—Laura J. Snyder, author of The Philosophical Breakfast Club: Four Remarkable Friends Who Transformed Science and Changed the World
  • “The biographical background humanizes the scientific history, and Miller excels at drawing out the real-world implications of the research…Readers will have no problem staying alert through this fascinating scientific history.”—Publisher's Weekly
  • "... an interesting examination of an issue that affects us all. Miller shows us how a good night’s sleep came to be recognized as critical for health and development."—Kirkus Reviews

On Sale
Oct 3, 2023
Page Count
432 pages
Hachette Books

Kenneth Miller

About the Author

Kenneth Miller is a contributing editor for Discover, and his work has appeared in Time, Life, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, Aeon, and many other publications. His honors include the John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism, the ASJA Award for Best Science Writing, and the June Roth Memorial Award for Medical Writing. He lives in Los Angeles.

Learn more about this author


October 2023

  • Wisconsin Book Festival

    Wisconsin Book Festival in partnership with the Wisconsin Science Festival hosts Kenneth Miller for a conversation about his new book.

    Madison Public Library | Madison, WI

    More Information