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on 30 March 2017
A book that certainly packs a great deal of information into a short space, notably a great deal of information about what happens in the body and brain when we sleep and about sleep disorders and sleep and society (working shifts in a 24/7 world and the impact on sleep). The book contains some very interesting charts and graphs (how many animals sleep for how long, for example); and some helpful advice on how to sleep successfully (such as to wear bedsocks). It doesn't solve the question of why we sleep but does discuss a number of theories including the idea that this is about the consolidation of memory. And it doesn't really solve the question of how best to get young children to sleep through the night (the advice is of the kind that says 'do what works for you').

I learned quite a bit from this book, for example that fishes sleep with one side of the brain at a time, and that we are 20% more likely to have an accident on the Monday morning following the clocks going back and 5% more likely to have a heart attack in the three weeks after that event, than at other times (clocks going forward doesn't matter). Also that is you are a US baseball team, best not to travel across time zones, but if you do have to travel, better to travel West than East.

Overall, however, perhaps I had hoped for a little more enlightenment than the authors provide - and probably a little more enlightenment about sleep than it was appropriate to hope for from such a book.
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on 5 January 2014
Sleep takes up about one third of our lives. Therefore it is important to understand sleep and its pathologies. This book fully meets this requirement and is therefore recommended to all who want to gain some insight into a hidden but crucial part of being a human.
As frankly stated in the book, many features of sleep and the factors shaping it are not really understood. A definition of sleep fitting comparable phenomena in all forms of life is lacking. And, most important of all, "The reasons why we sleep remain frustratingly unresolved" (p. 40). But some of the essential functions of human sleep are known. These include many biological ones. On the mental level, "In humans, procedurial learning, declarative learning, and even higher-level "insights" - the process of mental restructing in the brain, that leads to a sudden gain of understandilgn or explicit knowledge - have been shown to depend on sleep" (p. 52). Also, "sleep helps our brains find creative solutions" (p.1).

All the more serious are the consequences of sleep deprivation and disturbances, as caused by a variety of pathologies; shift work; disruption of the natural day-night cycle which is hardwired into humans by its evolutionary history, caused by modern 24 hour active, noisy and brightly lightened modern societies; and personal neglect of sleep requirements.
This leads to a very important issue, not discussed in the book, namely the potentially serious consequences of sleep deprivation and disturbances by high level decision makers. The work schedule of political leaders increases the dangers of serious and sometimes catastrophic errors, especially in crisis situations. This is also the case when traveling through time zones, rushing from continent to continent for important meetings.
Matters are made even worse because of unawareness of lack of sleep consequences."While there are individual differences in how sleep deficiency affects alertness and performance, no-one is immune....Unfortunately, our sleepy brain cannot judge our own abilities, and as a result we are sometimes blissfully, and dangerously, unaware of our impaired performance" (p. 91). And, again, "the sleepy brain cannot evaluate itself and often underestimates how sleepy we are" (p. 105).
Fatigue-reducing drugs are only helpful for short periods and then produce aggravated mental capacity degradations. Therefore, essential is strict time management making sure that high level decision makers have enough time and suitable conditions for sleeping about six to seven hours daily, with few exceptions; and that they follow special regimes to reduce jet-lag problems and in crisis situations. But, my studies of quite a number of heads of governments around the world show that when critical issues are faced sleep deprivation is the rule, with more than a few dismal consequences. It would be very interesting to learn if this played a role in "sleepwalking" into the catastrophe of World War One 100 years ago, but in the various books being published on this episode contain no information on the sleep rationing of the critical decision makers, such data being usually unavailable..
I wish the authors had taken up the problem of sleep deprivation by senior decision makers, which can easily cause much more damage than drowsy driving as discussed by them (pp. 103-107), however tragic.
All the more so this book is strongly recommended to all, including top level decision makers. I will include it in the recommended reading list of my next book on required qualities of political leadership.
Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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on 13 August 2014
This is a great series of introductory books and this is a particularly well-written and comprehensive one. Gets a bit technical in places but it's not laboured and the basic concepts are well explained and give an excellent overview of something we do a lot of, but on the whole don't understand that much.
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on 9 October 2016
A must read for anyone interested in health, wellness and lifestyle, awesome read.
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on 29 January 2015
exactly what you expect. not in depth but a quick place to start
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on 24 December 2012
This is a small but dense book on the subject of sleep. Lots of useful science and information. I learned a lot about the hormones that facilitate and control sleep.
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on 17 October 2015
Really interesting!
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on 5 May 2013
This is series is perfect for getting up to speed quickly on any subject, and this is another good book in the series.
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on 26 July 2012
This book provides most information about sleep that you may want to know. Accessible to the general readers, it presents a useful account of the science of sleep, the reasons for sleep, common sleep disorders, sleep and health as well as the 24-hour society.

Sleep is more than a passive state of unconsciousness as there are many activities taking place during sleep. Depending on the duration of sleep, we may experience on average 4-5 (NREM - REM) sleep cycles per night. We need exposure to the 24-hour light and dark pattern in order to synchronize the biological and environment rhythms. Our sleep patterns change with age. The changes in sleeping patterns throughout life may also be associated with sleep disorders. Although sleep may be critical for the consolidation of learning and memory, it cannot be the sole reason why a state of sleep evolved in the animal world.

The most common sleep disorder is insomnia (inability to sleep) which is also a common symptom in psychiatric disorders. We should not take Insomnia or insufficient sleep lightly because they are associated with increased risk of heart disease, stroke and depression. Parasomnias (e.g. sleepwalking, sleep eating or sleep paralysis) is a more serious sleep disorder that involves undesirable events with sleep.

Apart from sleep problems, fatigue, poor performance and memory, shift-workers have increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some types of cancer. Jetlag is essentially the same problem as shift-work because they arise from the mismatch of circadian rhythms with the environmental light-dark cycle. By minimizing the sleep disruption and the mismatch between circadian clock and light-dark cycle, it is possible to manage jetlag and shift-work effectively. We should be wary of serious health hazards associated with the 24-hour society we increasingly live in. To be healthy, we should take more sleep and have regular sleep-wake schedule each day!
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on 1 October 2012
I have read several of the books in this series, and the later titles have really got into their stride. The two authors true experts in the field, and have managed to pack a lot of at times dense information into the book. The highly technical sections are kept brief for those readers who lack a background in, for example neuroscience, and there is clear guidance for those seeking a strong evidence base for approaches that can help ameliorate various sleep disorders. The book is well-laid out, and manages to strike a good balance between the risk of over-condensation versus simplistic brevity.
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