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Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival Paperback – March 1, 2001

155 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This fascinating, thought-provoking study discusses the central role of sleep in our lives. After probing the scientific literature, Wiley and Formby, researchers at the Sansum Medical Research Institute, conclude that "the disastrous slide in the health of the American people corresponds to the increase in light-generating night activities and the carbohydrate consumption that follows." Our internal clocks are governed by seasonal variations in light and dark; extending daylight artificially leads to a craving for sugar, especially concentrated, refined carbohydrates that, in turn, cause obesity. More seriously, lack of sleep inhibits the production of prolactin and melatonin--deranging our immune systems and causing depression, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. The authors prescribe sleeping at least nine and a half hours in total darkness in the fall and winter and switching to a diet low in carbohydrates and high in protein, vegetables, and healthy fats. They support their arguments with 100 pages of notes and by tracing the progression of disease from hunter-gatherers to our high-tech society. Despite its somewhat strident, all-knowing tone, this illuminating work is highly recommended for academic and public libraries.
---Ilse Heidmann, San Marcos, TX
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

The lightbulb put us out of sync with nature. Way back when, people spent the summer sleeping less and eating heavily in preparation for winter because light triggers the hunger for carbohydrates. Now, with light available 24 hours a day, we gulp down food all year long. So, Wiley and Formby assert, it is light, not what we eat or whether we exercise, that causes obesity--and diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Indeed, eating bacon, ham, butter, and eggs for breakfast doesn't impair health, and exercise can make you fat. If we considered our waking periods as equivalent to the long days of summer and the short ones of winter, we would avoid those health problems. Wiley and Formby offer three steps for improvement, but they aren't optimistic, because the light-driven speed and intensity of contemporary life may be too much to overcome. Still, try, first, plugging the leaks in your psyche; then, because you will have lost weight, resisting carbohydrates; and, finally, swallowing a few pills and helpful foods. William Beatty --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books (March 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671038680
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671038687
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

203 of 213 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth Stuart VINE VOICE on July 7, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have to agree exactly with Leslie of Texas' review below.
The basic information and premise of the book - that staying up late decreases production of melatonin in our bodies, and messes up our hormone system's balance in other ways as well - is potentially crucial to our health. That is why I give this book 4 stars, despite the terrible writing.
The author has a writing style that I believe comes from not really understanding much of what she is writing - I was particularly struck by the sentence in the Acknowledgements thanking her daughter for spending "countless hours explaining physics, chemistry and math to her old mom". This was a surprising admission, considering that a good portion of the book attempts to lecture the reader about a variety of unrelated topics that are not really understood by the author (or any other pop science writers) - including chaos theory and many other recent areas of scientific thought, taken wildly out of context.
The important information to get out of the book, is that 10 years of research at the National Institute of Health have confirmed that modern man's tendency to go to sleep much later than sunset disrupts the body's natural cycles, and this causes a variety of health problems due to the effects on the critical hormone system of the human body. Levels of melatonin, prolaction, leptin, cortisol, insulin, dopamine and serotonin are all affected.
The essential recommendation of the book is - during fall and winter - to try and get at least 9.5 hours of sleep by going to sleep as soon as possible after sunset (ie by 9 or 10 pm), and the rest of the year to also try and get to sleep as soon as possible after sunset.
The other recommendations are the same as can be found in the books by Drs.
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217 of 229 people found the following review helpful By horse chestnut on September 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
Lights Out had the potential to be a great book.

I agree with the main point of the book that it's healthier NOT to stay up late with artificial lights, TV, and the internet. I also agree that the healthiest diet is a diet low in carbohydrates (and especially low in sugar) with generous quantities of animal proteins and fats. I like the advice to go to sleep after the sun sets and to seal all light out of the bedroom. It's great that someone is exploring the topic of humans sleeping out of synch with the natural night.

BUT I have to say that T.S. Wiley is one of the worst writers I've ever read, not to mention that she's a total crackpot nut case. The writing is completely disorganized, contradictory, and sensationalist with lots of black and white thinking and lots of false information.

Why couldn't she have just stuck to the very important information about sleep, light, and carbohydrates and skipped all of her nutty, self-indulgent, provincial biases?

Her tone is often unnecessarily offensive: "Think of fat as a condom for your carbs," (page 173).

She contradicts herself constantly and gives completely false information: "The Aztecs had corn oil as a fat source, the Greeks had olives, and the Chinese had the soybean," (page 178), and then: "Think about the world we're really from. There were no machines, and therefore there was no corn oil," (page 180).

Just so no one is left confused by Wiley's misinformation, the Aztecs, who existed no later than the 16th century, did NOT eat corn oil, which was invented around the turn of the 20th century. Similarly, soybeans were NOT the source of fat for the Chinese.
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102 of 105 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As many other readers have reported, the editing in this book is just simply awful. There's the mention of an appendix that doesn't exist, the lack of footnotes, mispellings...and then there's that little side trip into paranoia and conspiracy theory in the very last chapter that had me wondering just what kind of kooks these people were! As far as the editorial errors go, well, I'll just assume that was the publisher's fault, but the rest?
But the truth is, I do believe they're onto something. I've successfully incorporated many of their suggestions into my own lifestyle after long years of low-fat, high carb eating. And although I do try, at this point in my life its VERY difficult for me to get nine hours of uninterrupted pitch-dark sleep from September to April.
I bought and read this book shortly after it came out earlier this year. I've tried a number of times to find out anything else about these authors, but have come up with almost nothing. While a fair number of people are reading the book, it appears to have gotten almost no attention past initial reviews shortly after it was published. This is frustrating since I would like nothing better than to see their ideas verified--or at least challenged. ...
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166 of 183 people found the following review helpful By Ester Klien on February 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If anything, Lights Out is done a disservice by it's own publicity. From the cover and the following reviews, I thought it was yet another wanna-be fad diet, only this one was reffered to as "the drool on your pillow diet." Ouch. I'm not one for diet books or self help. I only read it in the first place because I couldn't get my mother to stop reading it out-loud. Actually, to my grate surprise, Lights Out is a thoughtful, and provacative treatment of evolutionary biology. It explains how we work on a molecular level, and explains why we're the way we are from cave men on down. It explains things as as pragmatic as why you should go to bed, and why dieting always makes people fat and crabby. As well as overwhelming things, such as why the so-called diseases of civilization have singled us out, why we're speeding our own end as a species THROUGH medical advances, and basicly why evolution sucks. At first the theories seem no less than brillient, but once read, take on an erie quality of common sense, leaving the reader wondering why no one else knows any of this. That's when the book gets scary- apparently everyone knows (the FDA, the Surgon General, everybody) and the rest of us haven't been told for some seriously sick reasons. It reads like a mystery novel, so I don't wanna give too much away. But the bottom line is my mother can't be everywhere, reading out-loud at everyone, so it's up to you to go check it out for yourselves. It's well worth the trip.
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