Caren's Reviews > Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep

Dreamland by David K. Randall
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's review
Sep 07, 12

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bookshelves: adult-nonfiction
Read in September, 2012

This was a moderately interesting look at current research into sleep. There were a few things I hadn't read before, such as that the type of mattress you choose doesn't affect the quality of your sleep; you sleep best on the sort of mattress most familiar to you. I had already known that light affects your Circadian rhythm. While it is helpful to be exposed to natural light in the morning, shun blue screen light (TV, laptop, cell phone) at least an hour before bed. In fact, it is best to have soft light in your home in the evening. After 10 pm, melatonin is released in your body, causing your core body temperature to drop, so it is helpful to sleep in a cool (60-66 degrees Fahrenheit) room. Exercise promotes better sleep, but it doesn't have to be strenuous exercise. In fact, it is more important that your body thinks you have had a good workout than that you have run a marathon. The brain is also tricky when it comes to sleeping pills. They may work largely because they inhibit memory formation of any restless sleep; you may think you have slept better than you actually have, and that matters. The length of sleep gained is apparently not remarkable.
The author makes the provocative statement that people actually sleep better in separate beds. It is probably best to have a little canoodle, then toddle off to individual sleeping quarters for the best quality sleep. He also explores the sleep disruptions brought by a baby in the family. Should you let the infant cry it out, or is the family bed the answer?
We all know that teens prefer to stay up late and sleep in. The world probably functions to the level of people in their prime. At age forty, REM sleep begins to decline. This become noticeable at fifty and is set at age sixty-five. Anthropologists speculate that this was a survival mechanism left from ancient times. When people slept in groups, it was helpful to have someone sleeping lightly or awake, to guard against danger. Older people tend to fall asleep around 9 pm, waking in the wee hours, with less time spent in REM sleep. It makes sense that, as someone ages and slows down, he should sleep lightly in order to be better able to wake up quickly and escape danger.
There is also a sort of afternoon slump, at around 2 pm, conducive to napping. Some cultures have a long (usually two hour) lunch break to accommodate this natural rest cycle.
The author also looks at the dangers of sleep deprivation. For some professions, such as for soldiers or airline pilots, the issue of sleep is of life and death importance, but has only recently been recognized as such.
The author became interested in this topic as a result of his own sleep walking episode. He delves into examples of bizarre sleep walking behavior, such as murder. Is a person responsible for a murder committed while he was asleep? The responses of juries to that question are uneven.
My biggest problems with this book were the lack of an index and the quality of the editing/proofreading. Despite the fact that, in his acknowledgements, he credits two editors and a copyeditor, I found some really glaring errors. For example, on page 111: "Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, a Hungarian scientist who won a Noble Prize in 1937..." and on page 64: "But out of the more than thirty thousand studies he found that looked at human sleep, couples, or marriage, only nine breached the topic of sharing a mattress." These are shortcomings I attribute to the publisher, not the author.
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message 1: by Tina (new)

Tina Interesting info!

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