Fat, sleep, and Charles Dickens: literary and medical contributions to the understanding of sleep apnea

Clin Chest Med. 1985 Dec;6(4):555-62.


Although the relationship between breathing and sleep has only recently been "discovered" by the medical community, excellent literary descriptions of what we know to be the sleep apnea syndrome were made long ago. Although ancient Greek writings described probable sleep apnea, the most important literary contributions in this area are by Charles Dickens. His description of Joe the fat boy in the Pickwick Papers is an example of his brilliant skills of observation and description. It was not until about 140 years after Pickwick Papers was published that we understood what he was describing.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Drama
  • England
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Medicine in Literature*
  • Obesity / history*
  • Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome / history*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / history*
  • Sleep*

Personal name as subject

  • C Dickens