- 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: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #234,144 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)
“An accessible and well-researched guide to a fascinating subject.” (New Scientist)
“Randall’s wit and curiosity make him a comforting guide.” (Boston Globe)
“Randall has done a lot of good reporting, writes clearly and makes even the scientific aspects of his subject easily accessible... The result is an enjoyable, edifying book that goes down easy... The one thing Dreamland will not do―sorry, insomniacs―is put you to sleep. The topic and the treatment are both too interesting.” (Daniel Akst - Newsday)
“Starred review. 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)
“...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)
“Though he doesn’t go into minute detail, Randall provides a comprehensive and accessible introduction to a mystifying but necessary part of life.” (Booklist)
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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.
Perhaps the biggest sticking point for me was the poor writing. I felt the persistent desire to take a red pen to the book and submit my revised version to the publisher. It's hard for me to understand how such blatantly clunky (and in some cases just flat out grammatically incorrect) writing makes it to the printer.
Anyway, this was fun to read, and I learned at least a few facts that I will be sharing with others:
-Some scientists believe that humans naturally sleep in two chunks four-hour chunks with a period of wakeful relaxation in the middle.
-Sleeping pills "work" for some people only because they make those people forget that they didn't sleep very well.
-Test subjects are sometimes able to solve puzzles after a restful night of sleep. That's why when you spend all day playing a game, you sometimes see it in your dreams - your brain is trying to figure out how to do better next time.
1) The Secret World of Sleep: The Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest by Penelope A. Lewis
2) Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep by David K. Randall
3) Sleep: A Very Short Introduction by Steven W. Lockley
4) The Secret Life of Sleep by Kat Duff
I was looking mainly for scientific information, in conjunction, perhaps, with interesting anecdotes. Dreamland by David Randall was the closest to what I thought I was looking for and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in sleep. The Secret World of Sleep by Penelope Lewis and Sleep: A Very Short Introduction by Lockley were a little more purely scientific. However, among these two I strongly preferred the no-nonsense style of Sleep: A Very Short Introduction. By comparison, The Secret World of Sleep felt like an academic paper that had been hastily modified by a copy-editor to read like a popular science book. The result is not-very-exciting writing that is larded with "accessible" descriptions and analogies. The amygdala is referred to at least a dozen times by the epithet "almond shaped". The first time was fine, the fifth time was patronizing. But I powered through.
I cannot recommend Kat Duff's book, because of passages that give serious credence to the explanation that hypnogogic hallucinations are in fact visitations by evil spirits. See my review there for more details.
The best thing about Dreamland is that it responsibly covers the material while being written in an engaging and entertaining style. I suggest reading it along with (before or after) Sleep: A Very Short Introduction which is drier, but reads fast and provides a lot more detail about the science (if that's your thing).