The Pickwick Club- Charles Dicken's Conrtibution to Sleep Research

Florence Cardinal Health Guide
  • Every year, as the Christmas season rolls around, There are numerous and varied showings of "A Christmas Carol." I'm sure you're all familiar with the story of the three ghosts, Tiny Tim, and the original Scrooge. It was written by Charles Dickens.


    Another story by Charles Dickens is very appropriate to our topic of sleep disorders. It is entitled "The Pickwick Papers." From this story, the Pickwick Club emerged.


    Members of the Pickwick Club are individuals and organizations who are interested in furthering the public and professional education programs of the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Named after the society described in Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers, the Pickwick Club pays honor to those who have known intimately "a sensation of bodily weariness [that] in vain contends against an inability to sleep."

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    Since 1995, the Pickwick Postdoctoral Fellowship program has provided funds to enable young researchers to devote full-time professional effort to research related to the study of sleep or sleep disorders. Pickwick Fellows receive funding of $40,000 per year for one or two years. The second year of support is dependent upon satisfactory progress in the first year.


    In 1837, Charles Dickens produced a series of stories about the Pickwick Club. These were later published as a novel entitled "The Pickwick Papers." One of the characters in this book, "Fat Joe," was an obese fellow who constantly fell asleep during meetings and even when performing such simple tasks as knocking on a door. He also had the habit of disrupting meetings with his loud snoring.


    Sound familiar? This could describe some suffering from either sleep apnea or narcolepsy. There's no doubt he is the victim of some sleep disorder. With the problem of his obesity, I would vote for sleep apnea. Because of Dickens' novel, the disorder has become known as The Pickwickian Syndrome.


    Did Dickens actually know someone who suffered from this disorder? It's hard to say. Perhaps he himself was a victim. He did die of a stroke which is a death often related to sleep apnea.


    Or "Fat Joe" may have been a character created by Dickens' vivid imagination. But the name has stuck.


    And, while we are on the subject of sleep disorders, how about that other Christmas icon, Santa Claus, with his little round belly that shakes when he laughs like a bowl full of jelly? Sounds like he could be a candidate for sleep apnea, too. Let's hope he's well secured in that sleigh. It's a long way to the ground.

Published On: December 27, 2007