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VINE VOICEon 8 September 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Some people have found this book a little "dry", but I absolutely loved it. As a psychology student I found The Secret World of Sleep fascinating, tying the neurological level of brain activity to the lived experience. The book is written for someone who has an interest in the *science* of sleep, and as such it can get quite technical with talk about neurotransmitters. However the writer makes no assumptions and explains everything from the ground up in a way that anyone with a scientific mind should be able to follow. Topics are also built up logically, starting with the foundations and building on these to explore the more complicated concepts. Each chapter ends with a useful summary which briefly recaps the content.

On the downside sometimes I felt that certain sections could have benefitted from explanatory diagrams, such as the description of neuronal firing. I also personally would have liked more coverage of sleep disorders, what was in there was quite sparse. The advanced readers edition that I received for review had a number of missing tables, diagrams, and the references to figures have the text "TK" instead of the figure numbers. I assume, however, that these have been corrected for the final edition. There were also some descriptions of experiments and studies which lacked references.

However these are minimal flaws in an otherwise excellent introduction to the neuropsychology of sleep. Definitely a book I would recommend to anyone interested in how sleep works in the brain, how it affects memory and mood, and to some extent how different drugs can affect sleep. A fantastic introductory book that has laid the foundations of understanding and left me thirsty to learn more! I'd definitely buy another book by this author!
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VINE VOICEon 11 September 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have to admit that my husband is a scientist and a sleep researcher at that, so I had a vested interest in this book. It explained to me lots of the concepts and ideas around sleep that are discussed daily in our household, many of which, as a non scientist do go over my head. I wondered if the tone was a little to familar and unchallenging at first, but persevered and found it delightfully inciteful. We all sleep, for a large proportion of our lives, but on the whole, know so little about it. The whys and hows and reasons, when things do go wrong, are so well explained. I feel that the clear speech and the inclusion of diagrams helped a lot. This is a bit like a Horizon programme in book form - really explains things without over complication, but gets the important data and points across. My husband has read it too, he feels a marvellous job was done in writing this. He doesn't think he could have explained things as simply as this without getting too "blue peter" - so congrats to the author, a really good piece of informative writing, which also makes fascinating reading.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a short book but an interesting one. It contains a lot of information about how the brain works during sleep, the different types of sleep and information about some of the research which has been carried out into what happens to the brain and the body during sleep. There are plenty of line drawings throughout the text which help to explain certain points.

The author looks at the efficacy of sleeping on a problem - it is quite effective. She also explains that when each individual wants to fall asleep and whether they function best in mornings or evenings is genetically programmed. Not that such information will impress my partner who firmly believes that I deliberately act like a zombie when I first wake up!

I thought the chapters on dreams and on whether sleep and dreaming can help sufferers with PTSD were the most interesting in the book. I also found the chapter on getting the most out of your sleep of use. There are notes on the text for anyone who wants to follow up any of the references. If you want a fairly straightforward book on sleep then I can recommend this one.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A book on sleep written by an expert in a very readable manner, and which actually communicates well with her audience. I was impressed by the excellent and logical structure of the chapters and how clear the explanations were, even though I only had a proof copy from Vine and not all the text tied up to the adjacent illustrations.

If you jump straight to the end chapter which has a set of very useful notes on improving your sleep, you might miss out on the understanding of our physiology and brain functionality showing why the simple improvements are so effective. The understanding is probably more important because it helps us modify our habits in a healthier way with real incentives, which is much better than just following the ideas in the notes by rote and then slipping back into the bad old ways as time passes.

It is technical in places, literally getting into the workings inside our skulls, and many people might well give up on it. And it is really only an introduction to a much bigger subject, as is shown by the extensive list of useful references at the end. But those who are persistent in working through the book, and thinking about it, and acting on it, will be rewarded.

I learnt a lot from it and have modified my sleep and exercise patterns to improve my health! A month on from first reading the book, and I have noticed the positive difference.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Considering how important sleep has always been to me I was glad of the chance to learn a bit more about it from an expert. Penelope A Lewis is the Director of the Sleep and Memory Laboratory at the university of Manchester. Her book is what I might call an academic production for non-academics. The style is not unduly formal, indeed it is downright chatty at times, so to that extent she is being helpful to the lay reader. On the other hand she does not gloss over the technicalities, so the earnest lay reader such as myself can expect to have to apply some concentration and work at it a bit. This is the standpoint from which I am reviewing the volume - anyone who already knows as much as the author does about sleep does not need the book, let alone a review, in the first place: curious non-experts presumably want to be told how helpful they will find it and how far they can trust it without having to labour through academic disputations. So far as I am concerned the author's eminence in the field earns her an act of faith from me. Like any scientific topic this area of research will develop over time. For the time being this book will provide a basis of information together with theory current in 2013.

In general the division of the chapters by topic is clear. Naturally a lot of space is devoted to dreaming, and I wondered occasionally whether Lewis was keeping this topic as distinct from sleep more generally as she ought, but a second reading may help when I get around to it. What I definitely sensed was that the book treats sleep almost entirely as a single 7-hour or 8-hour daily shift. Napping is addressed eventually, but as a bit of an afterthought, and this is just not the way sleep happens to older people. Lewis makes a laudable effort to relate the technical processes of sleep to our experiences of it, but my own particular experiences in important respects were not really discussed, whether because they are not generally shared (which I could only believe up to a point) or because they are not as significant to a scientist as they are to the `consumer' (so to say). In particular I could have done with more explanation of the relaxing effect of vivid dreams. This even includes nightmares so far as I am concerned. Even while still asleep I seem to know these as `friends' because I am going to wake relaxed.

On the other hand proper space is given to the matter of restorative vs non-restorative sleep more generally. A lot of discussion is also given, very properly, to the important topic of memory and how sleep affects and assists it. However memory is treated, as usual, as if it is some separate entity from knowledge. If we take `knowledge' in a broad sense as comprising stored data about facts, experiences, skills, sensations etc, then `remembering' seems to me to be just what Richard Robinson called it, viz `knowing and not forgetting'. The author explains how sleep helps with `remembering' in two ways - preventing deterioration of the stored data and preventing blocked access to it, both of which we might categorise as `forgetting'. Considering memory from a different angle, I also did not feel convinced by Lewis's frequent assumption that events re-enact themselves more or less exactly in dreams. I may of course be mistaken, but I don't think that in 70 years plus I have ever known that to be the case. What I am really accustomed to is dreams that associate totally unrelated persons and events with one another.

Give or take special considerations like these, this book seems to me to fulfil what I suppose to be its general purpose very well - i.e. to be a work of technical reference for the lay enquirer. One oddity is the way it ends. There is no summary: it just stops abruptly after a word or two on apnoea and snoring. There are, of course, a few pages of references answering to numbered points in the main text, and one can hardly imagine an academic production lacking this feature. There are numerous diagrams, but there probably should be more still and perhaps a reprint will expand their number. How comprehensive the study is from an academic point of view I of course can't say, but to be going on with I should imagine that what I take to be its target public will find easily enough for their purposes. Let me finally applaud one not especially scientific apercu on p178 - beds are for two things in my own life-view, and these do not include reading or eating.
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on 20 September 2013
Penelope Lewis has created an easy to read book on a complex subject of sleep and the brain in this well constructed book.

For any non medical person or non sleep researcher, the whole book will make sense, and Lewis has added to my knowledge and consolidated and confirmed what I teach.
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on 15 October 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I am not quite sure what the intended audience is for this book. Parts of it, particularly describing neurological experiments, are quite technical and I felt that better diagrams would have been helpful. However, the author's writing style suggests that it is intended for a general audience. It is best in the chapters describing the general function of the brain, which I thought were clear and well done. There is also a long and informative chapter on the neurophysiology of dreaming. I found the discussion of memory and the related role of processing emotions less clear and informative.

I got the impression that the book began life as a series of lecture notes and, if so, the lectures were probably excellent. However, a written text makes different demands and clearer editing might have helped. The style is often quite informal and the author's verbal mannerisms became a distraction. For example, the constant use of "scary", of "wake" as a noun describing the opposite state to sleep (wouldn't "wakefulness" be correct?), the euphemism "furry creatures" to describe lab rats and the adverb "Fascinatingly..." frequently used to begin a sentence. All fine once in a while, but irritating when repeated over the course of a short book.

I suspect that this book would be very helpful as a consolidating primer to students already studying the topic, but for the interested layman the pitch doesn't seem quite right. I also found the book poorly produced and illustrated for its price, although some of these drawbacks may have been corrected in the finished edition.
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VINE VOICEon 2 October 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
... but I found the book quite dry and hard to keep my attention. There was a lot of information about research and testing on rats so I'd think this title would be perfect for someone with an academic or medical interest in sleep research. For the interested layman there were some interesting facts scattered throughout the book. For example although it hasn't been proved that pleasant smells like lavender or jasmine can help you get to sleep, they have been proved to give you more pleasant dreams. There were also some fairly well known methods of helping people with sleep problems (sleeping in a completely dark room; associating your bedroom with pleasant experiences; staying away from TV and computers 3 hours before sleeping etc.)
Overall I'd suggest this was a great resource for the sleep researcher.
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VINE VOICEon 2 March 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Sleeping is something we all spend hours doing - even people famous for the small amount of sleep they need have still spent years of their life in bed. There must be a reason for all of this sleeping, and that's what Penelope Lewis attempts to explain in The Secret World of Sleep. What she explains is an interesting and insightful view of our brain processes as we sleep.

While a lot of this book was over my head, I could tell that the science was simplified for a common audience. She goes into some detail about which region of the brain does what and how they each communicate with each other, essentially drawing the conclusion that sleep is an essential part of processing our lives. People who don't get enough sleep struggle and feel increasingly negative because, in a simplistic sense, they haven't had the chance to process their experiences. There are also chapters about the mechanics of sleep and how it works and how to get the best sleep possible, which was nothing new but still worth reading if you're struggling.

I felt as though I learned a lot from this particular book and much of it was new to me. Definitely recommended if you're curious about how sleep works and interested in a few theories about why we do so much of it.
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on 8 October 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
PL is Director of the Sleep and Memory Lab at the University of Manchester. Her book is an easy to read introduction to current cutting edge reasearch into sleep. She provides a brief introduction to the anatomy of the brain and the working of nerve impulses and then explains what happens when we sleep and what she tells us is

Forget the idea that the brain just switches off and switches on when we awaken.On the contrary the brain is busy at work doing all sorts of useful things and the book is a must read to learn about them. The book is not primarily a selhelp book but the last chapter is devoted to advice and one can get tips throughout the text.

Throw away the sleeping pills and read this book.

Rating 5 out of 5
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