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Sleep Demons: An Insomniac's Memoir Paperback – January 29, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; Reprint edition (January 29, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671028154
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671028152
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,252,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For as far back as he can remember, Hayes has had trouble sleeping. He'd wander his parents' house at night, "existing on nothing but the fumes of consciousness," jealously wondering how everyone else slipped into dreamland so easily. From these nocturnal ramblings grew an unblinking, lifelong fascination with sleep (or the absence of it), which Hayes has transmuted into a skilled and graceful debut that variously reads like a journey of scientific discovery, a personal memoir and a literary episode of Ripley's Believe It or Not. Hayes, a freelance writer from San Francisco, chronicles all his attempts to secure a good night's rest, from folk remedies to psychotherapy to sleeping pills (which failed to provide relief: "The difference between drugged and natural sleep eventually reveals itself," Hayes writes, "like the difference between an affair and true romance"). In charting the struggle of scientists and philosophers throughout history to understand insomnia, Hayes produces a bonanza of oddball trivia. We learn the longest verified period without sleep was 180 hours, achieved in 1957 by an amphetamine-driven researcher, and that the presence of an internal biological clock was proved in 1955 by flying a hive of bees from Paris to New York on a newfangled jet. Intertwined with all these anecdotes are Hayes's recollections of growing up Catholic and coming to terms with his homosexuality. Though these memories have little to do with his reflections on insomnia, Hayes is such a fluid, poetic and entertaining writer that it doesn't matter. The explanation of how a researcher discovered REM (rapid eye movement) sleep by studying his own son, for example, is just as gripping as Hayes's descriptions of how he helped his partner manage his AIDS symptoms. An intelligent, beautifully written book, Hayes's curious hybrid will delight readers who snore past dawn as well as those who pace away while the midnight oil burns. Agent, Wendy Weil.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Publishers Weekly (starred review) A skilled and graceful debut that variously reads like a journey of scientific discovery, a personal memoir, and a literary episode of Ripley's Believe It or Not....An intelligent, beautifully written book, Hayes' curious hybrid will delight readers who snore past dawn as well as those who pace away while the midnight oil burns. -- Review

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Though I've never had trouble sleeping, I found this book fascinating. I couldn't put it down, reading late and awaking early to enjoy its beautifully written passages. Hayes expertly weaves the scientific and historic aspects of sleep (and sleep disorders) with his own extremely personal revelations. The very specifity of his details triggered my own reflections on my relationship with sleep and with the world. Don't miss this remarkable debut from a wonderful wordsmith.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jody Grant-Gray on May 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As a sleep researcher myself, I appreciated how the author connected his personal sleep problems with ancient, historical, and current studies about sleep. Quoting a variety of sources from books, interviews and articles, the book presents the information in a very candid yet engaging manner. I wish the author a good night's rest, finally.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Pamela_reads on April 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
Sleep Demons is part memoir, part discussion of sleep and sleep disorders by Bill Hayes, a self-described agnostic gay insomniac. I found both the memoir and the sleep information intermittently interesting: Some of the scientific sections came off as dry and tedious to me, and I wasn't expecting to read so much about Hayes's active sexual life. Of particular interest to me were his childhood and family life, and then later years living in San Francisco with his partner, Steve, who was HIV-positive and later developed AIDS. The first-person narrative of their life at this time was intriguing and touching, and was what ultimately made me glad to have read Sleep Demons. I'd like to have given it 3 1/2 stars, but felt 4 was too high for my thoughts on the book. So 3 stars it is.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Truro Potter on March 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Sleep Demons is a beautiful, poetic book that masterfully weaves science with storytelling. Hayes is one of the most peotic writers of recent memory. He weaves the story of his life with the development and findings of sleep science. He is a lifetime insomniac and documents his struggle and ultimate understanding of the meaning of sleep and insomnia in his life. He grew up in Spokane and ultimately moves to San Francisco during the height of the AIDS epidemic. His experiences and description of San Francisco at that time is one of the most beautiful, true representations of that era. He brilliantly captures the emotional and very personal toll the AIDS epidemic has on an individual and a couple. The book is also a love story, describing the relationship he has with his longtime partner, Steve who has AIDS. Their relationship is inspirational. The book is many things all at once -- a primer on sleep, a memoir, a love story. And the book is at times, gut wrenchingly funny. Hayes has a great sense of humor and his keen, smart observations of the everyday are right-on and very funny. I laughed and cried reading this book. He has the rare ability to be simply descriptive and write moving, poetic prose at the same time. I can't remember a book that so succesfully combines genres so beautifully and succesfully. I couldn't put the book down and was sorry to see it end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A on April 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a book that cannot decide what wants to be. The parts that try to be a memoir deserve from two to five stars as the book proceeds. I don't really care to read about generic suburban childhoods - please stop including them in memoirs - but it is in his first-person accounts of life as a young gay man during the AIDS epidemic in the latter parts of the book where the author finds his voice. On the other hand, the parts that try to be a popular account of the history of sleep research are at best mildly interesting and deserve only two stars. Splitting the difference, it pains me to give it only three stars, because I really like the author and would like to see more of his work. (A recent essay of his in the New York Times, "A Year in Trees", had me in tears.) There is much that is mysterious, exciting, and illuminating about the modern science of sleep, but this book is not the place to read about it. In my opinion, the book would have worked better as a real memoir, with the theme of insomnia and sleep science perhaps limited to short epigraphs at the start of each chapter.
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By "blissengine" on April 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This fascinating memoir weaves in facts about sleep disorders (including insomnia and somnambulism) and the study of sleep all in with the story of Hayes's life. Each chapter uses aspects of his life as a springboard for a discussion of things related to sleep. Sometimes the details almost became monotonous or tedious, but Hayes's style kept me interested in the intriguing details and little known information. I learned so much in this book, as well as thoroughly enjoyed the various reminiscences of Hayes's life, like his apparently inherited insomnia, his partner Steve's battles with HIV, and his search for a "cure" for his insomnia. He ultimately doesn't find an absolute cure, but rather he must come to grips with his unique sleeping patterns. This is an amazing memoir sure to fascinate even those who enjoy a good night's sleep.
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More About the Author

"One of those rare authors who can tackle just about any subject in book form, and make you glad he did." -- San Francisco Chronicle.

www.bill-hayes.com

Bill Hayes is the author of three books--and is at work on a fourth--each of which deals with facets of the human body; this is the thread that runs through all of his writing. He is also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, and his work has appeared in The New York Review of Books, Salon, and The Threepenny Review, among other publications. He lives in New York.

In his first book, "Sleep Demons: An Insomniac's Memoir" (2001), Hayes explored sleep and sleeplessness from the perspective of a lifelong insomniac. Publisher's Weekly called Sleep Demons, "An intelligent, beautifully written book that variously reads like a journey of scientific discovery, a personal memoir, and a literary episode of 'Ripley's Believe It or Not.'"

In "Five Quarts: A Personal and Natural History of Blood" (2004), he wove together memoir and medical history in an examination of the five quarts of vital fluid that run through each of us. The Boston Globe called Five Quarts "playful and powerful...profoundly moving. Hayes writes with so much panache that reading this book is thrilling."

"The Anatomist," his most recent book (2008), is a narrative nonfiction account of the story behind the 19th-century classic revered by doctors and artists alike, Gray's Anatomy. "Hayes searches for the elusive man behind the great reference work and offers his own scalpel's-eye tour of the human body," noted The New York Times.

Hayes is now at work on a book in which he is exploring a largely overlooked chapter in the history of medicine: the development of exercise--a form of physical activity distinct from sport, play, or athletics. Titled "Sweat: A History of Exercise," the book will be published by Bloomsbury USA/UK.

In "Sweat," Hayes traces the origins of exercise in Western and Eastern traditions, and chronicles how exercise has evolved over time, both influenced by and exerting influence on changes in the larger culture. Whereas in "The Anatomist," he dealt with the literal dissection of the human body, in "Sweat" he is dissecting the dynamics of human movement. Plato, Galen, and the "Einstein of human perspiration," Japanese scientist Yas Kuno, among many others, appear in the book, but chief among the historical figures is Girolamo Mercuriale, a Renaissance-era physician and author who aimed to singlehandedly revive the ancient "art of exercising" through his book De arte Gymnastica (1569).

Hayes is also working on a collection of his essays and vignettes on life in New York, many of which have appeared in The New York Times. The book, titled "Insomniac City," will be published by Bloomsbury UK/USA.

New York Times essay, brief excerpt from "Sweat: A History of Exercise":
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/opinion/sunday/platos-body-and-mine.html?smid=pl-share

New York Times essay, brief excerpt from "Insomniac City":
http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/11/insomniac-city/?smid=pl-share



www.bill-hayes.com




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