- 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: #214,104 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
Top customer reviews
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!)
Randall begins by sharing his personal experiences as the client of a sleep laboratory, after an injury acquired in his sleep led him to seek answers. Through the delivery of his test results, he finds that there are still many missing pieces to the puzzle of understanding sleep. Randall resolves to do some research himself, to see what science has uncovered so far in hopes of improving his predicament.
After reviewing the importance of sleep to our survival and functioning, the author shares a history lesson on a topic few people have recently considered: what sleep was like before the industrial revolution. We’re so used to our current lifestyle, with cities that quite literally “never sleep”, that we’ve forgotten how new it is. As it turns out, human sleep patterns were quite different before the introduction of the night life. Prior to the invention of the light bulb, people never went out after dark. The natural sleep cycle of humans without the interruption of artificial light actually involved two separate, equal-length periods of sleep. In areas of the world where the luxury of electricity is not available, people still sleep this way – spending an hour or so in the middle of the night in a relaxed, meditative state before beginning their second session of sleep. While the invention of artificial light has given us more time in the day to accomplish things, it has brought with it a whole slew of health problems. Being nocturnal doesn’t appear to be very good for our bodies, yet with the way our modern economy works it is unlikely we will ever return to our natural sleep patterns.
In the first few chapters, Randall discusses the matter of sharing beds with partners and children. It may be surprising, but it makes sense – scientists have discovered that we actually get better quality sleep when we are alone in our beds. Still, even couples who are fully aware of this continue to share a bed, and have rated their sleep quality as higher when it is with a partner. It’s more complicated than just sleeping – it’s a part of their relationship, a bond and a comfort. Studies have shown that people like each other so much they don’t mind losing sleep to be next to one another; being kicked, cold-toed and snored at are just some of the things we do for love.
The next focus is on dreaming and how the field of dream research has evolved dramatically over the years. At first dreams were thought to have no purpose, but then Sigmund Freud examined possible deeper, hidden meanings. Today, scientists don’t look at them metaphorically as Freud did, but instead focus on the simpler messages we can make use of. The author also discusses the science behind instances where people make discoveries, write songs or even think up bestselling books in their dreams. Though he doesn’t discuss exactly how it works, Randall suggests that REM sleep is a time when our brains dump all of the extra clutter from the day and organize the important memories. When the extra information is removed, it is easier for us to make new connections between things that have been there all along. Creativity doesn’t have to be magic or genius; it’s actually a normal process of the brain.
In the final chapters, Randall covers a lot of ground, explaining how sleep affects multiple areas of our lives in ways people rarely consider. For example, sleep has been a deciding factor in whether entire battles are won or lost, and whether athletes are able to reach peak performance. When soldiers don’t get sleep, they are more prone to mistakes and violence. When sports teams travel to time zones later than their own, they are more likely to lose. The author also discusses a few controversial court cases concerning sleep walking murders, suicides, and other acts of the unconscious mind.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s style and the ease of acquiring a lot of new information on sleep in just one book, I wouldn't recommend it to students who have already studied sleep. For those who are new to it, however, this book provides an excellent springboard into areas of research that would be fun to explore further. The book is based almost entirely on the psychology and history of sleep and sleep disorders, with some light references to the biology behind them. A few things Randall does well explaining are the roles of the pineal gland and the suprachiasmatic nucleus and how the hormone melatonin is used in regulating sleep. In general, however, I believe the book could use more references to how areas of the brain communicate with one another during sleep. For example, the author shares that during sleep the body sends growth hormones to repair damaged muscles, which is important for professional athletes – yet he neglects to mention where in the body the growth hormones come from or how it knows where and when to send them out. While he makes many good points that are backed with research, a few claims are left too vague for my liking.
Overall, this book was enjoyable and thought provoking. I especially appreciated the way the author began with historical data and opinions and followed the evolution of the field of sleep from past to present. I also like that he makes it a point to let readers know how far the field still has to go, and how little scientists understand in the scheme of sleep. Perhaps the fun, interesting way that sleep science is presented in this book will inspire people to pursue the research of sleep further, and for that I give it 4 out of 5 stars.