- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (August 5, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393345866
- ISBN-13: 978-0393345865
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 139 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #402,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep 1st Edition
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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“A lively overview of recent research into sleep.”
- Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air
“A thoroughly enjoyable overview of a familiar yet remarkably foreign terrain.”
- Abigail Zuger, MD, New York Times
“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
“A page-turner for the science-minded.”
- Susannah Cahalan, New York Post
“'Small science' at its best, illuminating aspects of human biology and behavior that have powerful repercussions in our private and social lives.”
- Carol Tavris, Wall Street Journal
“Randall’s wit and curiosity make him a comforting guide.”
- Boston Globe
“An accessible and well-researched guide to a fascinating subject.”
- New Scientist
“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, starred review
“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
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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!). This personal interest component then leads to the subject matter of the chapter. Between the Sheets, for example, primarily examines whether people sleep better alone or with a partner. We are then given interesting factoids on the subject and too many tangents that feel like the publisher told him the book wasn't long enough and he needed to puff it out another 100 pages.
Despite these drawbacks, I recommend this book to anyone interested in, but clueless about, the science and business of sleep. If you are interested in the psychoanalytic aspects of sleep, and particularly dreams, this is definitely not the book for you. Stringing together research and comments by various scientists he thoroughly debunks Freudian ideas on the subject. A typical quote: "None of Freud's claims are true by any of our standards today." I have no idea whether this is entirely justified, just passing on what I read.
I certainly wouldn't want my review to keep you from reading the book, but for those with only a minor interest in the subject, here are my favorite sleep factoids from the book (and all are direct quotes):
- Depression rates were forty times higher for patients with insomnia than those without sleep problems.
- If sleep doesn't serve an absolutely vital function, it is the greatest mistake evolution ever made. That function is still a mystery.
- Sleep is made up of five distinct stages that the body cycles through over roughly ninety-minute periods.
- Before the discovery of rapid eye movements, our understanding of sleep hadn't undergone any dramatic revisions in more than two thousand years.
- By 2011 there were over seventy-five recognized sleep disorders, and the number continues to grow.
- Adult bodies are not built to sleep past noon.
- Architects and construction companies surveyed by the National Association of Home Builders predict that by 2016 more than half of all new custom-built homes in the United States will have separate master bedrooms.
- About one in fifteen parents [in the U.S.] admitted to sharing a bed with their child in a study published in 1993. By 2007, the number had grown to about one in three.
- Those who have lost their sight after they were toddlers continue to dream with images, for instance, while those who were blind from birth dream with sounds.
- If you can't get in a full night's sleep, you can still improve the ability of your brain to synthesize new information by taking a nap.
- In the Gulf War, one of every four American combat deaths was a result of fire from U.S. forces. [sleep deprivation being a major contributing cause]
- Almost all cases of sleep crime involve men.
- Somewhere inside the cells of most living things is what amounts to a fairly accurate twenty-four-hour clock, known as the circadian rhythm.
- Sleep, for instance, is the time when the body sends growth hormones to repair damaged muscles.
- Studies of teenagers around the globe have found that adolescent brains do not start releasing melatonin until around eleven o'clock at night and keep pumping out the hormone well past sunrise. Adults, meanwhile, have little-to-no melatonin in their bodies when they wake up.
- Sleep apnea was the cause of thirty-eight thousand fatal heart attacks and strokes in the United States each year.
- A study in 1994 found that about 10 percent of women, and 25 percent of men, have difficulties breathing in their sleep. These numbers climb as a person gets older, so that as many as one out of three elderly men have at least a mild case of sleep apnea. All told, about twenty million Americans have the disorder.
- Two of every five adults in the United States have problems falling and staying asleep that aren't related to a persistent sleep disorder.
- By 2010, about one in every four adults in the United States had a prescription sleeping pill in their medicine cabinets. But here's the twist. A number of studies have shown that drugs like Ambien and Lunesta offer no significant improvement in the quality of sleep that a person gets. They give only a tiny bit more in the quantity department, too.
- The best predictor of quality sleep was maintaining a room temperature in a narrow band between 60 and 66 degrees Fahrenheit.
This does not pretend to be a journal entry, but is nevertheless filled with worthwhile evidence and full notes which back up his explanation of why the brain does what it does while the rest of the body is resting.
This is fairly easy to read, and worthwhile to anyone interested in how their brain works and why they have the goofy, spooky, and unexplainable dreams they have.
It also lays to rest the old wive's tales of premonition, fortune telling. etc. most of us have heard. (Not to say you won't still wonder what the hell THAT was about when you wake up!)
Dreamland is centered upon over a dozen different topics of sleep and the idea that much is still not understood regarding sleep. Other areas of human anatomy and physiology are well understood, but sleeping has consistently been an area of study lagging behind. David K. Randall takes the reader on a tour of a variety of sleep-related topics, featuring many professional interviews, as well as case studies. Several of the topics explored in this book are somewhat shocking, including the idea of using sleepwalking as a court defense to be acquitted of murder. A man from Canada, Ken Parks, murdered his in-laws during his sleep and then was declared not guilty because he killed while sleepwalking. The book discusses multiple aspects of sleep, including the natural wiring of the body’s sleep cycle, which has been changed since the invention of the light bulb. Did you know that people used to have a first and second sleep during the night? This surprising fact is described in the book and later in this review. Often times, the author discusses the financial benefits of additional sleep to big companies, individuals, and the military. It is mentioned several times that sleep can be the biggest prognosticator of next day emotions and cognitive ability. This book will take the reader through the benefits of sleep while providing scientific reasoning without too much technical detail. David K. Randall primarily employs a style of writing that uses case studies and professionals’ interviews as the basis for explaining different aspects of sleep. He writes with a smooth style that plays to the average reader, not just one with a neuroscience background.
I was very impressed with the way Dreamland was able to blend the scientific aspects of sleep without ever reaching the point of becoming overly technical. This is why I described the book as an incredible search into a variety of topics of sleep for both those with or without a technical background. This is best shown on page 132-133 when Randall explains, “Once in the brain, [caffeine] blocks the absorption of adenosine, a nucleotide that slows down the nerve connections and makes you feel drowsy.” This example shows how the book caters to those without a technical background by describing how caffeine makes you feel drowsy and to those with a background in neuroscience by describing the exact mechanism used by caffeine to affect the brain. I found Dreamland to be extremely interesting as it provided a variety of insights into sleep that I had never even heard of before. I immediately felt the need to tell others when Randall mentioned how people in society before the light bulb was invented, slept until around midnight, then awoke for about an hour, and then slept again until the morning.
The only reason I gave this book four stars instead of five was because of the structure of chapters. Dreamland’s chapters seemed to jump from topic to topic without proper transitioning. The book abruptly jumps from family sleep dynamics to what people might dream about to how sleep can solve problems in one’s everyday life. The seemingly random organization of chapters does not detract much from Dreamland, however, as the intent of the book was to explore as many aspects of sleep as possible.
As I have mentioned multiple times, Dreamland is most impressive in its ability to appeal to a variety of people. David K. Randall provides an extremely interesting exploration into topics of sleep that most people have never thought about before. The topics, although at times seeming random, capture a reader’s interest throughout the entirety of the book. I would recommend Dreamland to any reader who wishes to learn more about the processes of sleeping and dreaming.