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Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep Hardcover – August 13, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0393080209 ISBN-10: 039308020X Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (August 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039308020X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393080209
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #340,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2012: Forget about outer space and deep-ocean trenches. There are scientific mysteries far closer to home. In our bedrooms each night, something odd happens--we try to fall asleep. No one knows exactly why. What happens if we don't sleep? Do men sleep differently than women? Why is it so hard to put children to sleep? And if Freud was wrong about dreams, then why do we dream? In Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep, David K. Randall answers these questions and more. He takes us through the history of human thinking about sleep, all the way up to the latest rest techniques used by Olympic athletes. You'll sleep better having read this book. --Benjamin Moebius


“Starred review. This fabulous book is likely to address any and all questions you might have about sleep.... There’s plenty of practical information, like how to overcome insomnia without drugs, how to combat snoring, how to encourage young children to get to sleep and, perhaps most useful, how to bet successfully on professional football games: our circadian rhythms favor West Coast teams over East Coast teams on Monday nights. This is one book that will not put you to sleep.” (Publishers Weekly)

“...Randall emphasizes the too-often neglected common-sense realization that sleep is no void; rather, it is perhaps one-third of the puzzle to living well. The author also notes that sleep is not an undifferentiated continuum; the most restful sleep arrives in five stages of about 90 minutes each. A welcome study of an element of life that is often "forgotten, overlooked, and postponed."” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Though he doesn’t go into minute detail, Randall provides a comprehensive and accessible introduction to a mystifying but necessary part of life.” (Booklist)

“A lively overview of recent research into sleep.” (Maureen Corrigan - NPR's Fresh Air)

“An accessible and well-researched guide to a fascinating subject.” (New Scientist)

“The most diverting and consistently fascinating book on the topic ever... but you couldn’t find a more charming guide to what we do know than Dreamland.” (Laura Miller - Salon.com)

“Randall’s wit and curiosity make him a comforting guide.” (Boston Globe)

“Randall has done a lot of good reporting, writes clearly and makes even the scientific aspects of his subject easily accessible... The result is an enjoyable, edifying book that goes down easy... The one thing Dreamland will not do—sorry, insomniacs—is put you to sleep. The topic and the treatment are both too interesting.” (Daniel Akst - Newsday)

More About the Author

David K. Randall is a senior reporter at Reuters and has also written for the New York Times, Forbes, and New York. He is an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Customer Reviews

The book didn't seem to come to any conclusion though.
Ed Hott
It is these discoveries that writer David K. Randall explores in his new book 'Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep'.
A. D. Thibeault
This is simply a FUN read, too; lots of interesting information.
H. Haverkamp

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

183 of 190 people found the following review helpful By las cosas on August 5, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
The author awoke one night having painfully sleepwalked into a wall. After incurring what must have been a substantial medical bill for a series of tests to determine the cause, he is assured that he is fine. The author knew very well that sleepwalking into walls isn't fine at all. He then set out to become an expert on the various aspects of sleep. The result is this rather quirky book consisting of thirteen chapters, each devoted to a different aspect of the issue, ranging from apnea machines to whether your baby should sleep with you.

The book can generally be divided into two parts: the ludicrousness of ignoring sleep's importance, and sleep taken so seriously it has become big business. While the reader is provided information that may be of help in understanding any sleep related problem he or she suffers from, this is not the purpose of the book. Instead, the book is a very enthusiastic ramble (pilgrimage?) through the various facets of sleep, a subject rarely studied until recently. "This is not your typical advice book filled with ten easy steps to perfect sleep. But you will come away with a new understanding of all that goes on in your body while you are sleeping and what happens when you neglect sleep for too long."

Each chapter follows a similar arc. Following a catchy chapter heading like Between the Sheets is a stock photo somewhat related to the chapter, in this case a picture of two sets of feet...between the sheets. Definite points off for these inexcusably lame photos that add absolutely nothing to the book. After the photo we are given a vignette, usually of a person, with a dilemma or quest. For example, how a professional baseball trainer decides that sleep deprivation is a problem for his pitchers and what he can do about it (naps!).
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54 of 59 people found the following review helpful By A. D. Thibeault on August 9, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

The main argument: We spend up to a third of our lives sleeping, and yet, unless we are not getting enough of it, or are experiencing a sleeping disorder of some kind, most of us hardly ever give our sleep a second thought (other than to rue over how much precious time it takes up). Science too largely neglected sleep for the longest time, treating it mainly as a static condition during which the brain was not doing much of anything interesting. However, ever since rapid eye movement (REM) was discovered in the 1950's the science of sleep has really taken off, and the discoveries that have come out of it go to show that this unconscious period is more interesting than we ever could have imagined. It is these discoveries that writer David K. Randall explores in his new book 'Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep'.

The book is split into 13 chapters, with each chapter (outside of the introduction and conclusion) exploring a separate topic in the world of sleep. In the book we learn about such basics as REM sleep and the 5 stage sleep cycle, as well as the benefits of sleep and the harmful effects of sleep deprivation. It turns out that sleep is instrumental in such things as muscle regeneration, long-term memory formation, skills acquisition, problem-solving, emotional control, and creativity. Dreaming, we find, plays an important role in many of these benefits, thus making it seem far less likely that Freud was correct in thinking that dreams are actually a manifestation of subconscious wish fulfillment.

We also learn that our natural sleeping pattern is set by our circadian clock, and that many of our routines in the modern world run somewhat against this natural pattern.
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66 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Yavelow on August 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book (at full price!) based on an interview with the author on Fresh Air. The book is a big disappointment. The writing is long-winded and cutesy, and there is not much actual information about sleep in the book. Mostly, it's a series of meandering essays regarding self-evident topics like, "why it's important to sleep if you're in a war." Very basic stuff, non-compellingly presented. The only new info I learned was that humans' natural sleep pattern is split into two periods -- and I learned all about that in the radio interview. I found this book a waste of my money and time.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Tom Sales on August 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm pretty consumed with the upcoming election and watch a lot of political television and read a lot of political books. Lately, the books that look interesting have become a bit repetitive. So when I watched a segment this week on Morning Joe entitled "The Science of Sleep," it struck me how little I've ever read or thought about sleep. Of course, Joe, Mika and Willie who host Morning Joe at 5:00 AM were interested because they have to get up so early, but why should the rest of us worry about it if we don't have any major sleep disorders? And some of the Amazon reviews were a little negative that there really isn't a book here that's worth reading.

Having just completed it, I have to say that it was well worth the effort. I had read "Resilience" recently, which reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell's writing approach, and--being in that mood--"Dreamland" seemed that it did as well. Like Gladwell's use of seemingly disconnected sociological stories and anecdotes that come together to make a point, so too does David K. Randall search far afield for a variety of interesting stories that look at sleep from a variety of perspectives. But Gladwell was writing about topics that seem of greater importance and interest -- why trends take off in "The Tipping Point," how we make decisions quickly in "Blink" and how people succeed in "Outliers." The real issue is whether sleep is so connected to what we try to accomplish during our waking hours and to our overall physical and mental wellness that a book will appeal to enough readers. Randall points out up-front that this is NOT an advice book on how to sleep better, so why read it?

The other reviews get pretty detailed about some of the "factoids" that Randall strings together in his chapters, so I won't repeat them here.
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