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Counting Sheep: The Science and Pleasures of Sleep and Dreams Paperback – October 13, 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (October 13, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312327447
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312327446
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,348,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Scientist Martin (The Healing Mind) is on a mission to cure our "sleep-sick society" and convince us, for our own good, to start taking sleep more seriously. Pithy, wry and earthily humorous, this book is Martin's manifesto for a healthier society. He systematically critiques how our culture encourages us to skimp on sleep (usually so that we can work longer hours), and he rues the bad example of our befuddled, jet-lagged politicians. Applying scientific fact, theory and experiment, Martin demonstrates the similarity between sleeplessness and drunkenness; the links between the hours modern schoolchildren keep and ADHD; the role of sleeplessness in man-made disasters; and how sleeplessness and night shift work can contribute to serious illness. Martin highlights extreme abuses of sleep deprivation in torture and in warfare, while also celebrating sleep's creative power, telling of musicians who have woken up humming melodies and the scientists who benefited from the problem-solving qualities of deep REM sleep. When he discusses dreaming, Martin touches on the habits and beliefs of traditional societies as revealed by anthropologists, and neatly debunks Freud's interpretation of all dream imagery as sexual. A writer fully in command of his subject and his style, Martin reveals just how deeply and madly we pay for our collective indifference to the value of so simple a pleasure as a good night's sleep.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

As Martin catalogs what science has learned about sleep, he also exhibits a penchant for literary epigrams, cuing a discussion of insomnia or sleep's quality of escapism with a theme-setting quotation from Shakespeare, Milton, or Dickens. This arts-and-sciences combo lends fluidity to his presentation, as does his style of making a simple question (e.g., How much sleep do people need?) every subtopic's point of departure. Apparently urbanites are not getting enough sleep, and have not since the invention of electric lighting upset the dusk-to-dawn sleeping pattern of preindustrial societies. Martin chalks up the nefarious effects, including traffic and industrial accidents, impaired learning, and health problems. Our frenetic civilization also, Martin avers, deprives people of sleep's delights of restfulness and dreaming. In his synopses of sleep research, Martin exudes a sociable, we're-in-this-together demeanor that is appealing to readers, especially those willing to stand back and consider in detail how they fall asleep and dream. If in need of a popular-science introduction to slumbering, libraries can't go wrong with Martin's offering. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Despite the caveats, this is a very good book.
Joel M. Kauffman
Whether chosen as a leisure read or as a baseline for a sleep researcher, "Counting Sheep:.." is scientific, easy to digest, entertaining, and relevant.
Poor sleep contributes to poor health a good deal more than medical diagnoses suggest, but hospitals are designed in ways that hinder patients' sleep.
Peter McCluskey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
We spend about a third of our lives sleeping, but we don't like to admit it. We are likely to praise the person who skimps on sleep in order to get the duties of the rest of life, "real life," done. Scientific sleep research was not even considered until recent decades. Correcting this sort of neglect of a biological necessity is one of the purposes of _Counting Sheep: The Science and Pleasures of Sleep and Dreams_ (Thomas Dunne Books) by Paul Martin. The deliberate neglect of sleep manifests itself in many ways, as if, Martin writes, we all somehow "ceased to exist at night." There is an enormous literature about sleep, not just the scientific studies that have been conducted over the past five decades, but also poems, essays, and novels having to do with sleep and dreaming. Martin gives quotations from many authors (especially Shakespeare and Dickens) in epigraphs and also as illustrations within the text to show how universal the literary concern for slumber has been; his reading is obviously wide and rich, and his book is crammed with interesting facts about aspects of sleep that ought to convince anyone that sleeping is more important, and more virtuous, than we currently esteem it.

Sleep is universal, even among other animals besides humans. Humble insects and mollusks sleep. Fruit flies find a location where they can remain immobile for a couple of hours, around the same time of day, and if you keep them from sleeping, they catch up as soon as they can. What is sleep for? Nathaniel Kleitman, the founder of modern sleep research, dodged the question. He said he would explain the role of sleep once someone had explained the role of wakefulness.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Silva on November 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"The mere presence of an alarm clock implies sleep deprivation." What's the purpose of sleeping and dreaming? Some would just as well ask what's the purpose of wakefulness, or elegant dining, and I've been happily one of them since I was kid who early understood the delicious and miraculous sensuality of that mere third of our lives spent sleeping and dreaming. (Some of us wish it was an acceptably higher percentage.) With whimsical puns and humor appropriate to any lover of sleep ("Give sleep a chance." "Falling asleep again, what am I to do?"), Dr. Martin covers everything from the art of lucid dreaming to the history of beds -- and everything his delightful and agile mind can squeeze into 432 pages in between. No kidding. Despite the format that already feels like a sad "remainder," no self respecting sleep aficionado will be without this book on a nightstand (or coffee table, perchance to recruit other sleep and dream connoisseurs). Loaded with countless "aha" and "wow" current research facts and implications -- and plenty of encouragement to include the exquisite pleasures of sleeping and dreaming in daily life. Highly recommended educational material for the materially insane Western world. Zzzzzz.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Joel M. Kauffman on October 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A very good subtitle for this encyclopedic book, also the title of this review, which could have included the words "and everything that can go wrong with sleep and the lack of it". Easy to read, exhaustively referenced (but without numbered references), Martin's dry humor is sparse at the beginning, but expands nicely as the book progresses. There are no picures, tables or graphs. For my taste, too many myths, legends, personal anecdotes, and non-scientific thoughts including poetic fantasies detracted from the many experimental findings that were presented.

Every aspect of sleep was addressed: REM, NREM, deep-wave, insomnia, too little sleep with many warnings about its effect on driving and other activities, alcohol and sleep, falling asleep, snoring, apnea, dreaming, waking up, SIDS...everything! Some conclusions were not surprising - many people in industrialized countries are suffering from too litttle sleep or too little deep sleep, and wake up to alarm clocks, a stress. Many school children sleep through classes because of poor regular sleep.

Martin demonstrated a few lapses in content. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was said to have complex causes, including "malfunctioning immune reactions" (p21). Actually, it is proven that food allergies, especially grain allergies, are a common cause of CFS. People who get sleepy 90 minutes after eating a meal (p157) was not connected with hypogycemia from high-carbohydrate food. ADHD may well be caused by poor sleeping (p232), but no mention of its possible connection with diet was made (J. Am. Phys. Surg. 2003;8(2):58-60). Serum cholesterol levels were said to be a risk factor for heart disease (p263), which they are not when age is taken into account (see The Cholesterol Myths, Uffe Ravnskov).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Corianne on March 10, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book quite literally changed my life. It changed the way I think about sleep and dreaming--it made sleep something that is a joy to do, rather than something that is simply necessary. When I wake up and ponder the dreams I just had, I contemplate what kind of dream it is, besides just the plot or possible meanings.

This book is a bit difficult for the first third--when it's talking about sleep deprivation, but it's well-worth slogging through. I think this is required reading for everyone.
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