Monday, November 5, 2012

Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep


Ah, sleep: one of my favorite topics (as expressed here in a quote from The Princess Bride):

Get some rest. If you haven't got your health, then you haven't got anything.~ Count Rugan

So true.

For folks who fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow and for folks who stay asleep through the night, you might think it's silly to worry about getting enough rest. But for those of us who are or have ever been afflicted with insomnia you will appreciate this book.

The author, David K. Randall, takes us from mundane to murderous, exploring various sleep scenarios and the beliefs, ethics and treatments surrounding our multiple issues with sleep (or lack there of).

Although sleep walking (and sleep eating, sleep driving, etc.) are interesting to me, it's the everyday topic of lack of sleep which is close to my heart. Randall does a great job of covering sleep deprivation whether by parenting, disease/genetics (think snoring and sleep apnea and the partners of those people), or employment (think military, doctors, pilots, truckers, etc.) - and the resulting lack of coherency. This is truly frightening. The military is starting to realize that many cases of "friendly fire" are strongly correlated to their troops lacking sleep. Also, sleep deprivation studies show an increasing inability to make good decisions the more sleep deprived we are.

I think one of the scariest things I read in this book is about a genetic anomaly which thankfully does not affect very many people. The anomaly is this: at about age 40 there are certain people who slowly lose the ability to sleep - at all. They do not feel tired and they do not lose coherency. According to Randall, every one of these people die within a year. This is what lack of sleep does to us.

It makes me wonder, for every hour of sleep we missed, are we shortening our life span?

One topic not covered in as much depth as I would have liked is the effect of yoga, meditation, and in particular, Yoga Nidra (not mentioned at all). Regardless, this book is worth a read. I highly recommend it.

Book's website: Norton Books
Author's website: David K. Randall
Reviews: NPR Review, Salon Review, NY Times Review

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