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The Secret World of Sleep: The Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest (MacSci) Hardcover – August 27, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0230107595 ISBN-10: 0230107591 Edition: 1st

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The Secret World of Sleep: The Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest (MacSci) + Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep + The Secret Life of Sleep
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Product Details

  • Series: MacSci
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade; 1 edition (August 27, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230107591
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230107595
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #599,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Most of us have some vague impression of the scientific explanations for sleep—resting, reorganizing our thoughts, etc.—but probably no real idea of why or how these things work; luckily Lewis is able to fill in the gaps in her concise and accessible book. As director of Sleep and Memory Lab at the University of Manchester, she is an authority in field and presents her research in an easy-to-read manner. The book starts with the basics: what is sleep? Lewis offers a working "loose definition," is that it's "an inactive time during which an organism responds less than usual when poked or disturbed, but from which it can be roused if danger threatens." From there she explores several possible "reasons" for sleep, including the way the sleeping brain bolsters our ability to remember things (like someone's name, or the way to a friend's house) by something called "memory rehearsal," a reenactment of the information at the "neural level." Lewis also confirms a truth we may have known intuitively, if perhaps had yet to see confirmed by scientific study: "sleep-deprived people are more easily frustrated, intolerant, unforgiving, uncaring, and self-absorbed than they would be if they were properly rested." (Sept.)


“There is much to fascinate in this nippy primer on the biology and behaviour associated with snoozing…from the latest on narcolepsy to the sleep-inhibiting qualities of smoked meat, this is wide-awake science” —Nature

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Customer Reviews

This is a short book but an interesting one.
For example, the author attempted to illustrate a situation with negative emotions by inviting the reader to imagine a bleeding little girl dying in the reader's arms.
L. Anderson
I have found this book to be very informative and enlightening.
Kevin D. Gunning

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tom Sales on September 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Just completed this book and read some of the disappointed reviews others have posted about it. This book may be disappointing to some who have previously done serious research on sleep. And there may be many such people frantically driven to do so to solve their personal sleep problems.

I have a different perspective on the book, which makes Penelope Lewis' first book an important contribution as scientists learn more about sleep and this knowledge filters down to those many people with sleep deprivation. I had originally read and reviewed David Randall's "Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep" as research when interviewing for a training manager job at a mattress retailer. I wanted to learn what I could about why people struggle with insomnia, aches and pains, sleep apnea and assorted sleep problems. Randall is a journalist and professional writer, and his book was a good read.

I got that job and for the last year have been exposed to many mattress customers in-person and through their survey feedback after purchasing from us. There is clearly ... clearly a general and intense lack of knowledge about sleep. Customers think they're looking for a magic mattress that will solve all their sleep problems. For many people, there is a great need out there for books like Randall's and now Lewis' "The Secret World of Sleep." Ironically, I had spent the three days leading up to Lewis' NPR interview listening to a sleep doctor we brought in to educate our sales force on why consumers struggle with sleep and the lack of support. Many of the points Terry Gross and Lewis were discussing in that interview were in line with what our sleep doctor had discussed, and so I was excited to get and read the book.
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36 of 48 people found the following review helpful By L. Anderson on September 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Someday, someone will write a great book about sleep and memory. This is not it. If this book represented the best information about the science of sleep, sleep research would be in dismal disarray.

I pre-ordered this book based on someone telling me about the author's interview on NPR Fresh Air's Terry Gross interview. Perhaps if I were not a medical professional, or had listened to the interview myself (it is still available as a podcast), my expectations would have been lower, but I was under the impression that it would reveal some dramatic new facts about sleep and memory in a clear and concise way. Perhaps my expectations were too high because I am currently reading Frank Wilczek & Betsy Devine's amazingly well written Longing for the Harmonies: Themes and Variations from Modern Physics, the epitome of style and scientific content. However, even discounting for perhaps unrealistic expectations, "The Secret World of Sleep" was a huge disappointment and the first time I actually considered investigating's new book return policy.

According to the paper book cover, the author's sole qualifications are that Ms. Lewis is a "neuroscientist" and "runs" the Sleep and Memory lab at the University of Manchester. While writing this review, I did a quick google and the only biographical information I could find is from the publisher's website which gives no more information than the book cover.

The content is disjointed. By page 8 we are knee deep in EEG wave forms and sleep stages, yet the author only much later decides that it is necessary to tell us about brain nerve cell anatomy and function (p. 25+) which cause these waves.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C.R. Hurst TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 30, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Why do we sleep? What do our brains actually do when we sleep? How do our memories shape our dreams? Why do we so easily forget our dreams upon waking? Are our emotions, both positive and negative, influenced by sleep? How can we get the most out of our sleep? These are the types of questions asked and answered in Penelope A. Lewis's The Secret World of Sleep, where she provides a lively and worthwhile look at the mysteries of sleep and the human brain.

In the book Lewis reviews current research in the field of neuroscience with an engaging voice. In many ways she reminds me of some of my favorite science professors who with humor could enliven a dry subject. Throughout she salts and peppers with ironic spice. For instance, when citing the ability of the brain to spring clean during sleep, she remarks, "Sure, you may have saved every yogurt container and rubber band that ever came your way, but excessive clutter almost always means it will be harder to find the things you really want when you want them. This general principle is equally true for the brain." This use of analogy helps the reader understand the more technical aspects of research she examines. Unfortunately Lewis can often take the professorial persona too far. I found the neuroscience jargon overwhelming at times. In addition she unnecessarily adds review summaries at the end of each chapter, making me feel as though I should be taking notes for the exam next week!

However despite these minor flaws, I found the research she reviews and her speculations concerning the research thoroughly documented and absolutely fascinating. For example, did you know that your mother's advice to "sleep on" tough decisions is good advice? We can indeed make more intelligent and perceptive decisions after a good night's sleep.
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