CEM Seminar - Charles Nunn

CEM lecture series: Charles Nunn, Duke University—Is human sleep unique among primates?

Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology and Global Health, and Director of the Triangle Center for Evolutionary Medicine (TriCEM)
Duke University
Is human sleep unique among primates?  An evolutionary perspective on “normal” 

Scientists have made substantial progress in understanding the evolution of sleep across the Tree of Life, including in primates.  Remarkably, the specifics of sleep along the human lineage have been slow to emerge, which is surprising given our unique mental and behavioral capacity, and the importance of sleep for cognitive performance and health.  Based on new phylogenetic analyses to investigate evolution along a single branch, I identify several unique features of human sleep, and discuss their relevance to the concept of “normal” sleep and sleep disorders. 

Charles Nunn is an evolutionary anthropologist with interests in evolutionary approaches to understand and improve human health.  He and his research group investigate the ecology and evolution of infectious disease, drivers of variation in sleep, and the links between ecology, evolution and global health.  Charlie addresses these questions using phylogenetic methods, mathematical modeling, and through fieldwork in Madagascar, Kenya and other locations.  He is the author of Infectious Diseases of Primates: Behavior, Ecology and Evolution and The Comparative Approach in Evolutionary Anthropology and Biology.  Charlie received his undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College in 1991 and his Ph.D. from Duke University in 1999.  He has held positions at Harvard University, University of California Berkeley and Davis, the Max Planck Institute, and University of Virginia.  Currently, he is a Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology and Global Health at Duke.