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© 2012 by Oxford University Press, Inc. All rights reserved. The purpose of this brief, introductory chapter is to "set the scene" for the handbook. We start by providing some historical context on the understanding of sleep across the ages, from ancient times through to more contemporary landmarks. From this we learn that sleep has always been a fascinating subject. It captivated the thinking of early philosophers and emerged as a subject of scientific interest in medieval times. However, many of the discoveries that have begun to unlock the mysteries of sleep have taken place within living memory. We also foreshadow the current status of sleep research and practice that forms the substance of the handbook. These are exciting times, not least for psychologists and cognitive behavioral scientists. A great deal of progress has been made in the characterization, assessment, and treatment of sleep disorders in recent years, and the new discipline of behavioral sleep medicine has grown out of this scientist-practitioner emphasis. The chapter concludes with an outline of the aims and scope of the handbook and an overview of its main sections. We also introduce each chapter and its author(s). We hope that you will find the handbook stimulating and helpful in your clinical and research practice.

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