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Wide Awake: What I Learned About Sleep from Doctors, Drug Companies, Dream Experts, and a Reindeer Herder in the Arctic Circle Hardcover – May 4, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; 1 edition (May 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038552224X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385522243
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,234,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Patricia Morrisroe on Wide Awake

When I told my sleep doctor that I’d decided to write a book about insomnia, he informed me that it was a "terrible, terrible idea" and begged me to reconsider. Except for downing a double espresso before bedtime, obsessing about sleep is the worst thing you can do if you’ve got insomnia. And writing a book is the ultimate obsession. The doctor had a good point, but there was one little problem: I already had a book contract. Wanting to please the sleep doctor but not wanting to alienate my editor, I began cataloguing my other health problems. Perhaps I could substitute thinning bones for insomnia? But I wasn’t particularly interested in bones. Bones aren’t mysterious. Bones don’t dream. You can see bones, even when they’re thinning, but sleep is everywhere and nowhere. It’s the great unsolved puzzle, the black hole in the scientific universe.

So I kept my book and left my sleep doctor, and then I struck out on my own, attending conferences, interviewing experts, trying every conceivable pill and therapy. One sleep psychologist described my journey as "Me-Search." It wasn’t meant as a compliment. He’d spent years studying the field and acquiring multiple degrees, while I was merely an insomniac in search of a good night’s sleep. But I wasn’t attempting to solve the mystery of sleep, merely the mystery of my sleep. And guess what?--I cracked the case. While I probably won’t win the Nobel Prize, I can honestly say that nobody knows my sleep better than I do. And that is totally empowering.

Sleep, I learned, doesn’t come from the outside; it doesn’t fly through the window like a lunar moth or Dracula. Your sleeping self is often a mirror image of your waking self. You are your own sleep. Once I grasped this hard-won insight, I started to sleep much better. Not perfectly, mind you. But what is that? My mother-in-law gets up in the middle of the night to read novels. My agent routinely rises at 2:30 a.m. to catch up on the Daily Show. My dental hygienist is using the time to re-paint her bathroom. Sometimes we sleep through the night, sometimes we don’t. It’s not always perfect. Like life, or love, or--bones.

From Publishers Weekly

Biographer and former magazine editor Morrisroe (Mapplethorpe: A Biography) considered herself a high-functioning, if acutely suffering, insomniac until she walked in front of a taxi one morning and was almost run down. Her subsequent, serious efforts to confront her sleep problems (which she envisions as a malevolent French aristrocrat played by John Malkovitch) included checking into a sleep laboratory (results: inconclusive) and trying antidepressants (she gets "weird psychedelic dreams"), but her condition seemed intractable. In her struggle, she traces the history of sleeplessness from Hippocrates to modern pharmaceuticals, including the infamous Halcion (known to cause "memory loss and violent behavior") and flavor-of-the-moment Ativan. Morrisroe makes the expected stops, including a convention (attendees introduce themselves with lists of sleep disorders: "Hi... I have narcolepsy, sleep apnea and rheumatoid arthritis. ...and spend two years in a psychiatric hospital because I was misdiagnosed. What are your sleep issues?") and the increasingly profitable sleep industry (featuring $60,000 luxury mattresses and urban napping franchises); fortunately, Morrisroe's sparkling writing carries her through. That her journey ends happily, with her discovery of Qigong, means readers will be as encouraged as well as informed, with as much on overcoming insomnia as avoiding snake-oil salesmen.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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She got the most satisfaction from hypnosis and meditation.
D. P. Birkett
I've already recommended the book to a number of my friends who either suffer from insomnia or who have freinds/ loved ones who are struggling with this malady.
Douglas Stern
Patricia Morrisroe provides historical and scientific data in a creative and humorous fashion.
R. Brasso

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Rosie S. on May 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As someone who has had insomnia for years, I've read almost every book on the subject, and this one is by far the best. It's informative without making your eyes glaze over. The author is extremely funny and her account of grappling with insomnia as a child is both touching and beautifully written. I found myself really rooting for her to find a good night's sleep. I read the book in one sitting,finishing it last night around 2 a.m. Apparently meditation helped her a lot and today I just enrolled in a course! She inspired me!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Janice Jones on October 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I was really disappointed in this book. It goes on for pages about staying at the Ice Hotel, testing out high end mattresses, what kind of vacation house suits her and her husband, shopping for lizard shoes, but it doesn't give me the kind of information I need to know. As an insomniac trying to find some way of living with this problem, I was looking for the kind of nuts and bolts information I found in Gayle Greene's book Insomniac, which I found incredibly helpful. Like her chpater on the pros and cons of the drugs on the market, so you know what you're getting when you take a sleeping pill, like the information about alternative treatments, how science views insomnia. This is what I wanted to know, not the author's taste in shoes.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Baxter on January 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
At first, I enjoyed this book - Patricia Morrisroe is a good writer, a good storyteller, and interviewed interesting people. I've been an insomniac for 23 years, and I'm always interested in other's experiences. I hoped for an interesting story of one insomniac and her research. However, she spends a lot of her time on extraneous detail that wasn't so interesting. One example of many is her long account of looking for a "country" house, the realtors, a friend's comments, the afterthoughts. As a memoir, I guess it's fine. But I wasn't that interested. I wanted more about her insomnia- more context, more information. It sometimes seems like collections of random comments from experts, without much depth. I did learn a few things

My standards and expectations had been raised by Gayle Greene's book, Insomniac , which is so much more than a memoir of the author and includes an incredible amount of research on topics Morrisroe barely touches. Greene also distills the experiences of many insomniacs (35 willing to be quoted, plus anonymae) A few examples (of many) of topics Greene covers in detail but Morrisroe discusses little,are - drug options, varying responses to all kinds of treatments and aids, how insomniacs feel and cope, what determines what research is done, how doctors feel about dealing with insomniacs, the business of sleep clinics, etc. etc. Greene's goals are larger, including wanting insomnia to be taken more seriously.

I was surprised by the fact that Morrisroe talks about waking up at night, not sleeping well, but never mentions how insomnia impacted her life, affected her daily life and choices, before she found what worked for her.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Yanksgal on May 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The memoir Wide Awake is both a poignant meditation on the meaning of sleep and a hilarious journey from the House of Punk Sleep to the Ice Hotel to a country house attacked by acorns all in an effort to get some rest. Patricia Morrisroe from childhood suffered from insomnia probably not helped by the horrible visions the nuns at her elementary school filled her head with, her mother couldn't sleep and her grandfather wrote reams of Shakespeare on toilet paper in a search for sleep. Clearly she had a compelling interest in the subject and her exploration of sleep strategies ranges from every sleeping pill known to man, visits to sleep conferences in Vegas, visits to scientists and researchers as well as any random expert who popped up including a sleep deprived psychic. She tries out beds, Uzbek bedspreads too fragile to use, visits to an ex-boyfriend all in an effort to find sleep. She is an exceedingly appealing writer and the reader empathizes even if they have never had trouble sleeping or staying asleep.

She tells an engaging story of a struggle it seems like millions of people have in a style that draws you in and makes you root for her to get some shut eye even in the Ice Hotel among the reindeer. I was actually rooting for a happy ending and although she went around the world seeking sleep she found her solution virtually around the corner.

I have purchased more than a few for my sleepless friends in the hopes that they too will get some rest. Strongly recommended for both good sleepers and as her mother would say punk sleepers. And for the record I fell right asleep after finishing it secure in the knowledge that she was asleep as well. A far more compelling journey than Eat, Pray, Love to me since it is more difficult to sleep than to gain fragmentary self-awareness.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By MK on June 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As an insomniac, I was curious to read Ms Morrisroe's journey to discover sleep relief. What I read was a charming memoir peppered with personal anecdotes and insights that had me chortling out loud, all the while sympathizing with her sleepless plight. The description of her husband's christmans eve order of reindeer, in an arctic ice hotel, for example, had me laughing out loud. The scope of her research into sleeplessness was adventurous and fascinating and thorough. The book was a veritable travel log covering sleep conferences, interviews and hopeful cures all around the world. Don't want to spoil the ending, but what Ms Morrisroe ultimately discovered is a gift for all of us insomniacs. And, the best part for me was that her quest for a good night sleep was such fun to read.
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