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"I am not a speed reader. I am a speed understander."
- Isaac Asimov

Cold-Sleep  
  A form of induced suspended animation, in which a person enters a state like hibernation.  

This is a very early reference to this idea as a way to travel between the stars. It is a seminal concept; most stories of space travel beyond the moon or mars make use of this idea.

People have probably been fascinated with the idea of hibernation-like states for millennia; recent research on a variety of animals (including amphibians as well as mammals) provides interesting benefits in the areas of sleep disturbance in humans.

During the first week out the senior surgeon announced that any who wished could avail themselves of cold-sleep. Within a day or two the bunkroom was half deserted, the missing passengers having been drugged and chilled and stowed in sleep tanks aft, there to dream away the long weeks ahead.
From Between Planets, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1951
Additional resources -

I've been able to confirm that this term appears earlier, in the 1941 version of Heinlein's Methuselah's Children; here's the quote:

They put up with it only long enough to rig for cold-sleep... Somnolents require only about one percent the living room required by active, functioning humans...

Biomechanicians have worked out complex empirical formulas describing body deterioration and the measures that must be taken to offset under various conditions of impressed acceleration, ambient temperature, drugs used, and other factors such as metabolic age, body mass, sex and so on...

There were a number of earlier mentions of the idea of freezing a person for a journey through time. For example, in Louis Boussenard's Dix mille ans dans un bloc de glace (1889; translated as 10,000 Years in a Block of Ice, 1898), the "deep sleep" actually resembled a primitive form of cryonic suspension. H.G. Wells created the first machine for suspended animation, in When the Sleeper Awakes (1898), to freeze his travelers time travel. Philip Francis Nowlan sends Buck Rogers to the 25th century in "Armageddon 2419" (Amazing, 1928) by putting him in a frozen or suspended state. (See Time Travel Literature by John L. Flynn for more details.

The essential problem solved by cold sleep is that of consumables; there is no way to carry (or launch) enough for the length of long voyages below light speed.

Cryogenics solves a different kind of problem; see corpsicle.

See also the frigorific process from the 1879 story The Senator's Daughter, by Edward Page Mitchell.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Between Planets
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Heinlein
  Tech news articles related to Between Planets
  Tech news articles related to works by Robert Heinlein

Cold-Sleep-related news articles:
  - HetaCool - Your Personal Antifreeze?
  - Suspended Animation Works in Lab (With Nematodes)

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