In Memoriam: Allan Rechtschaffen, Ph.D.

Allan Rechtschaffen, Ph.D., a pioneer in the field of sleep research and medicine, passed away on November 29, 2021 at the age of 94 years at home with his wife Karen by his side. At the time of his death, he was Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago. He will be greatly missed by the sleep medicine and research communities for which he contributed foundational work and trained future leaders.

For the field of sleep medicine, he is best known for his work on “R&K” or the (Allan) Rechtschaffen and (Anthony) Kales: “A manual of standardized terminology, techniques and scoring system of sleep stages in human subjects.” This manual was used worldwide as the first publication for identifying and scoring stages of sleep, which enabled sleep specialists to uniformly characterize and quantify sleep.

For the field of sleep research, although he conducted research on various aspects of sleep and sleep disorders, he devoted most of his academic career studying the fundamental question: what is the function of sleep? To evaluate this question, his landmark studies on sleep deprivation in rats showed the lethality of the loss of NREM and REM sleep, and the effects of sleep deprivation on thermoregulation and metabolism.

But most importantly, he taught countless graduate students on the development and implementation of basic research studies in his sleep laboratory at the University of Chicago. Many of his students continued in sleep research, leaving a lasting legacy of his unparalleled support and mentorship.

If you would like to contribute to this memorial page, please email any remembrances, thoughts, and photos to the World Sleep Society at [email protected].