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The Secret Life of Sleep

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  335 ratings  ·  73 reviews
What makes us cross the line from waking to slumber? According to Harvard scientists it's our 'sleep switch' - a cluster of neurons in the hypothalamus. For the ancient Greeks it was the god Hypnos, caressing you with his wings. For the Blackfeet Indians, a butterfly. And in European children's tales, the Sandman, sprinkling you with dust.

Why do we sleep? What happens in o
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 18th 2014 by Atria Books/Beyond Words (first published January 1st 2014)
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3.39  · 
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 ·  335 ratings  ·  73 reviews

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Dan Schwent
Nov 18, 2013 rated it liked it
The Secret Life of Sleep is about sleep.

I got this from Netgalley. Thank you, Netgalley!

While I don't suffer from sleep problems myself, I know a lot of people who do so I'm curious about the subject. When this popped up on Netgalley, I snapped it up.

The Science of Sleep covers are pretty wide range of topics.
- Sleep aids
- Sleep deprivation
- The way people's sleep habits have changed over human history
- Sleep disorders
- Different cultural beliefs about sleep

It has a lot of informative tidbits in
Judy Lesley
Feb 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
When I looked at the cover and title of this book I came to a wrong conclusion. I expected that I would find a discussion of sleep disorders and help in finding more information on those subjects which are fascinating to me. That was my misconception; the book never makes a claim like that. While it is true that some unusual sleep circumstances are discussed, such as insomnia, sleep paralysis, narcolepsy and sleepwalking along with others, those problems are not the purpose or focus of this book ...more
Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum
I borrowed The Secret Life of Sleep by Kat Duff from the library in order to read more about one of my favourite topics (sleep) and to find out why some people (like my husband) wake up before dawn and can't go back to sleep - even though they're tired.

The Secret Life of Sleep is a great read, and along the way I learned that the term for the sudden leg jerk that happens as you're falling asleep is called myoclonic kick or sleep start. We've all experienced this phenomenon: it feels like you're
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Falling asleep and waking up at "normal" hours has always been a struggle for me, so I thought a book on the intricacies of sleep might help me understand my body's inconvenient sleep cycle. I’m happy to say that "The Secret Life of Sleep" provides plenty of insight into how sleep works (including my sleeping problems) and I’ve gained a new appreciation for how sleep affects my body, mind and life.

The main topics covered are going to sleep, sleeping, and waking up, with many subtopics touched up
Rhiannon Johnson
Jul 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Did you sleep well last night? I did. But that isn't always the case. I've had sleep problems in the past and now have them occasionally. I know that my absolute minimum amount of sleep necessary for me to function the next day is 6 hours, but I really need 8-9 to feel well rested and not in need of a nap the next day. Everyone talks about their sleep patterns and studies show that plenty of people would sacrifice all sorts of other comforts in exchange for sleep. Too often sleep is sacrificed. ...more
Beth (bibliobeth)
From time to time I do enjoy a good non-fiction read, especially in the field of popular science as it relates to what I do for a living. When I saw this book in my local bookshop, I couldn't resist. Neuroscience is probably one of my favourite areas so I find anything that involves how our brain works fascinating and irresistible. I was pleased to see that the author covers a wide range of topics related to sleep, including dreams and their possible interpretations, sleep deprivation, sleep par ...more
Jan 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
*I received an advanced reading copy of this novel as part of the Goodreads First Reads program.*

While I feel as though I can't add any unique insight to the reviews for this book that has not already been covered by other reviewers, I have to say that "The Secret Life of Sleep" is a solid read overall. The book covers a whole range of subjects related to sleep, from sleep deprivation to the use of sleep aids, and even touches on the meaning of dreams.

While I liked the sections on sleep aids and
Jan 07, 2014 rated it liked it
I received an advanced reader's copy of this from the goodreads giveaway, and because anything remotely reminding me of yawning makes me yawn (there I go again), I ended up having to hide the front cover from myself. Well played, cover.

Overall I found this an easy, enjoyable read. I'm not sure I completely liked how the chapters were set up, or how much of the author's opinion went into the text (although it was clear while it was there). Some of the studies also I wished had been covered more i
Mar 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I read Dreamland in 2015 but apparently wanted to read another book about sleep. Probably because sleep can be so elusive. This was fine - but odd, in a way that just did not reach me. It was a confusing mix of myth and science and personal stories that were over used.
Oct 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: brain, dreams, health, science
A lot of material to wade through in order to get any useful information.

Much of the information presented was, in my opinion, incorrect, unscientific, biased and incomplete.

However, some of the information was excellent and extremely useful.

The problem is having the wisdom to separate fact from fiction. Despite the useful information buried within the book, I would not recommend this book to any of my friends. There is too much danger that they could misuse the information in the book to their
Sannidhi Jhala
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: blinkist
Understanding the science of sleep is key to solving today's common mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and emotional imbalance. I've seen first hand how getting good sleep can help with ideating, better moods and overall happiness.
In particular, I liked the concept of social jetlag that the author talks about. This book is for anyone who sleeps little, or sleeps late!
Haya Said
Oct 25, 2018 rated it liked it
I Found it very intriguing as a person who has a lot of questions about this topic. Very informative but couldn’t find the answers to everything I needed to know about. 3.5.
Alexia M.
Oct 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-and-math
It was enjoyable but at some point I wished the author would either veer away from the woo to focus on the science, or to set up the woo into its own chapter(s).
Anne Paschke
Oct 13, 2017 rated it liked it
This was an interesting collection of facts, but didn't feel particularly enlightening or entertaining beyond that.
Dec 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's really nice when you find a book that really speaks to you. Non-fiction, too! I like the sociological approach to this- liked the cross-cultural references like lullabies/words/customs from each culture, and how one stretch sleeping is a relatively new concept.

Like how the Industrial Age has created Clock Time where everybody adheres to a strict schedule. Sleep at the same time, wake at the same time, work in the day, rest at night. Like clockwork.

Lost steam towards the end but I enjoyed t
Brian Gordon
May 23, 2014 rated it did not like it
I received this book through Good Reads as part of an early release. This book tries to present a look at sleep. This is material that could be interesting if presenting well. Instead the author uses overly flowery language, a complete distortion of science, and a healthy dose of pseudo intellectual nonsense. The chapter structure is irrelevant, and each one is more a collection of single paragraphs than any real narrative cohesion. I would have given this book a zero rating if possible. You lea ...more
Jul 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
“It is an occurrence that is so common, so habitual, so ubiquitous, we barely notice. Like the air we breathe, it is something we become aware of only when its quality is deteriorating.”

I have always joked that my two favorite hobbies are eating and sleeping. In “The Secret Life of Sleep” the author says much about problems people have sleeping. All of this is new territory for me as I have never had a problem with sleeping. I go to sleep when my head hits the pillow and generally awaken easily.
Jenny Boyce
Jan 14, 2014 rated it really liked it

This was a rather interesting read. I'd never really thought much about sleep, just as something that everyone had to do to stay alive, this book really opened my eyes to the complex, magical realm that is sleep.

This book covers a wide variety of topics. Touching on everything from the stages of sleep (and why they're important) to Insomnia, and everything else that is even slightly related to sleep. I thought that the wide variety of topics was a really g
Jan 16, 2014 rated it liked it
I received an advance review copy of this book from Atria Books through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This book is a detailed examination of what scientists have discovered about sleep and its importance and effects on our lives. I was interested in reading this book, since I have always been a “night person”, and the rest of the world seems to expect everyone to be up and at work at a time in the morning when I’m just regaining consciousness, so I was curious as to what the author
Dec 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
I won this book as part of a Goodreads giveaway.

I was pleasantly entertained by this book. I was expecting the book to start with some dry scientific information that I would have to read through, instead I got a colorful history of sleep and how it relates, not only to us, but to other cultures. I was very interested in the history of sleep since it seems our society views it less important although our sleep issues increase. I seem to be the odd person out who likes to get that 7-8 hours a sle
Dec 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received this book for free through a Goodreads giveaway. Thank you! In no way did that influence my review.

I enjoyed Duff's look at the phases, perspectives and mysteries of sleep. The scientific and experimental evidence was easy to understand, and Duff didn't venture too far into her personal experiences, which is good. (In fact, I could've done without knowing about her dreams at all. If I can't trust memories of my own dreams, why should I trust hers?)

Though some of what I read here I alr
Carrie Terrell
Feb 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Being someone who has trouble falling and staying asleep, I was excited to read this book in hopes of finding some answers and helpful suggestions to cure my insomnia. What I did find was things I already knew and had conveniently forgotten….such as keeping regular hours, not doing mind stimulating things before attempting to drift off to sleep, not consuming caffeine or fluids just before bedtime. You know, things that totally make sense and especially if you have medical training in the subjec ...more
Ryan Dejonghe
Jan 29, 2014 rated it liked it
This isn’t what I thought it would be. I had just finished EAT MOVE SLEEP and was inspired to learn more about sleeping and the benefits of sleep (EAT MOVE SLEEP was incredibly motivational). When I read the description of THE SECRET LIFE OF SLEEP, I was intrigued and asked Atria Books to consider me for a review copy (thank you to Atria Books for granting this request and providing a copy to read). As I dug in, I felt off-track from what I was expecting.

Kat Duff goes into great detail talking a
Steve Anderson
Dec 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I received a free copy of this book from a GoodReads give-a-way.

When I got the book, I thought I was going to get all kinds of scientific information on sleep. I don’t always fall asleep quickly and was hoping for some tips to change that, so I was surprised in how much Duff went into the history of how people of many different cultures view sleep.

The book is very lyrical, bringing in different cultures views on sleep, ranging from the Greeks, to Rumi, to modern literary and scientific reference
Daniel R.
Jul 10, 2014 rated it liked it
A wide ranging exploration of sleep. The book reviews what is understood about the sleep cycle and delves into topics such as sleep medication, changes in child sleeping arrangements, artificial light, and dreaming. Each topic included good information and for me some new observations. Sleep medications do not restore healthy sleep they just hide disordered ones, perpetuating the problem. Norepinephrine, a kind of adrenaline, is lowered during REM sleep which may help explain the "overnight ther ...more
penny shima glanz
Mar 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs, ebook, netgalley
The Secret Life of Sleep covers every phase from falling asleep as an infant, through the challenges of waking when you’re older. She cohesively weaves together the details of sleep through personal recollections, discussion of folk remedies, historical and current research.

I found this a fascinating and approachable quick read into the mystery that is sleep. Duff struck the right balance between the technical and personal. I am one who definitely experiences sleep inertia and find it very diffi
Dec 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
It's probably not an exaggeration to say that my favourite hobby is sleeping, and that if you sit me down anywhere for a long period of time you'll almost certainly come back to find me napping, but I've never given much thought to what this all actually constitutes. I was therefore intrigued by a book about this (almost) daily process that we all go through - or try not to go through - that could tell me a little more about it.

This isn't the book to go to if you're already of a fairly scientifi
May 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Sleep and I have never been comfy bedfellows, so it was a very refreshing change to read a book that was more a look at the physiology and history of sleep than more tips on how to get a better night's sleep (although it has those too!). In a word where 6 hours of sleep is becoming the standard, it's very eye-opening to read about just how much our bodies are hardwired for a certain amount, tied to circadian rhythms despi
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rated-five-stars
I had read "The Alchemy of Illness" and thought it was a well-crafted, thoughtful, insightful work. This one is the same ....only more so. I have long been a hoarder of dreams....snippets and full remembered dreams riddle my journals. One theme is repeated over thirty years and seems to now have worked itself out and has receded from memory. This book explains it all: from dreams to the neuro-science of sleep to the spirituality and the cultural mythology around sleep to industrial revolution's ...more
Dec 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Secret Life of Sleep by Kat Duff is a free Goodreads First Reads advance reader copy of a paperback book I read during criminology class on Tax Day. Out of the recent fiction and non - fiction books I've received to review, I was looking forward to reading this one the most, due to its inclusion of anthropological and psychological findings.

The Secret Life of Sleep is a lot like a Mary Roach single - subject introspection with the qualities of a self - infused Michael Pollan book (yet withou
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Kat Duff is author of "The Alchemy of Illness" and the forthcoming "The Secret Life of Sleep." She lives in northern New Mexico, and works as a counselor and child forensic interviewer. Duff has been a fan of the essay form ever since reading Joan Didion's "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" in high school.
“By the time writing was invented, the Greeks and Egyptians had already learned to extract opium from poppies to facilitate sleep.” 0 likes
“we experience dream events as real in the moment. Neuroscientist Rodolfo Llinás went so far as to state that dreaming “is consciousness itself in the absence of input from the senses.”3” 0 likes
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