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Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  704 ratings  ·  82 reviews
When it comes to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and depression, everything you believe is a lie.

With research gleaned from the National Institutes of Health, T.S. Wiley and Bent Formby deliver staggering findings: Americans really are sick from being tired. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and depression are rising in our population. We’re literally dying for a
Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 1st 2001 by Atria Books (first published January 21st 2000)
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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Jun 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
I heard about this book from reading Robb Wolf's "Paleo Solution" -- and some of this is nothing new. Firemen, factory workers, nurses, doctors and others who work night shifts are more likely to get cancer, diabetes, and other diseases. I had heard of this -- why I never knew exactly why. Now I know too much.

Pediatricians tell parents children need 9 to 10 hours of sleep a night because they grow when they sleep. Well I had heard this too -- and have tried valiantly to get my kids to sleep the
Sep 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Forget the haters, this is the ONLY book you will need for advice on leading a healthy lifestyle.

There's HEAPS of gems in here but the best I have found are:

- Get at least 9.5 hours of DARK sleep every night (i.e. when you wake up it should be dark, or dawn. Never sunny. yes, this means you have to go to sleep at like 9. But it is worth it.)

- Cut out all sugar from your diet.

- Cut out all vegetable oils from your diet. Use coconut oil, butter and olive oil instead. Canola (vegetable) oil is to
Mar 15, 2009 added it
Recommends it for: Everybody
Get in your cave. Now.
Jun 07, 2009 rated it liked it
This is one of those books that I wish I could give more stars to. It is fascinating, enlightening. The authors make a lot of valid points, which seem to be backed by a lot of research. There are nearly 100 pages of references listed in the endnotes. That is almost half of the total length of the actual body of work. (Add the suggested reading/bibliography and glossary to the endnotes, and the actual body of work really is only half of the entire book.) There were a couple of instances in which ...more
Diana Sandberg
Jun 21, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: oh-blech
A very frustrating book to read. The author tends to ramble; he also makes a great many statements that he doesn’t support with anything other than the power of his own assertion. But then, he does also provide references for some statements. I should say that he does have quite a lot of end notes after the text, grouped by chapter. There are, in fact, pages of them for each chapter. They are not, however, connected by footnote or in any other way to specific remarks in the text, so it’s actuall ...more
Caterina Fake
Read on the recommendation of my friend Linda Stone, a polemical book about how the government in by both endorsing a high carb, low fat diet (you know the famous "food pyramid"?) and hiding the truth about sleep (we need a minimum of 9.5 hours of sleep for 7 months of the year) has made America the fattest, unhealthiest and richest society in the world. ...more
Carrie Kellenberger
Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival was one of the first books I read about the power of sleep. I read it when it first came out in 2002 after it was suggested to me by a friend. I finished it again recently and the information in this book is still as relevant as it was back then.

This was the book that hammered home how important sleep is and how sick the majority of people are from being exhausted. We are dying for sleep. I've read countless books since reading this book in my own personal
Jessica Kuzmier
I was disappointed in this book. There was a lot of speculation, diversions, and distractions that made up the body of material. I wound up scanning half the book and found myself reading the same exact premises twenty pages later.

The book’s one strength was its original postulation, which suggested all the artificial light that comprises our modern lifestyle has made us hopelessly out of sync with human physiology’s natural circadian rhythms and we should sleep as much as possible once the s
Oct 27, 2018 added it
I can't say I read the whole book, but I read enough. I flipped it open at random in the middle of the night last night, and found myself in the chapter that deals with cancer. The author writes that wild animals don't get cancer. Granted, this book was written about 20 years ago, but even then I think they knew that wild animals do get cancer. I went on to skim the last two chapters and the first chapters, but I think that was plenty.

So for scientific credibility, T.S. Wiley ad Brent Formby ste
Gerardo Avelar
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
The scientific evidence that sleep and circadian rhythms are very important to keep or improve human health, is overwhelming, that is a fact, nevertheless, this book fails at the attempt of bringing to the public the big picture on this matter.

The authors made up a "fantasy" story about circadian/food patterns and human health, by forcing some scientific/historical facts on their own distorted version of the "real story"; made up a "fantastical story" is not bad "per se", actually is a pretty c
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science, nutrition
there are a lot of problems with this book. it sits very squarely on the scare-tactics-and-hyperbole side of pop-health writing. it's hyperbolic, overconfident, imprecise. the authors ruthlessly hate on veg*ns, and while i actually think they're mostly right about their reasoning there, they present it in such a way that it will only ever appeal to people who already agree with them and don't care about even attempting to persuade or compromise, only to bludgeon. the X-phile backdrop and the dat ...more
Sep 19, 2011 rated it liked it
The lightbulb is why you're fat.

The lightbulb creates an artificial summer in our minds and fools our bodies into believing it's summer, which means we think we need to eat lots of food, even if we're not hungry, in anticipation of the upcoming winter.

Our obesity is killing us, but it's also nature's plan in that we're supposed to die off because of population growth. This scare-tactic book offers tons in the way of fear-mongering but very little of what I call "practical advice." For example,
This was a really interesting book, though some of the underlying philosophy (as opposed to the actual science) is alarmist, bordering on tinfoil-hat squad conspiracy theory fervency.

As a rule, people who have electricity don't get enough sleep. What sleep we do get is generally of poor quality, and can easily be disrupted by things both obvious (excess light in the room, unpredictable schedules, caffeine, too much screen time late at night, eating too soon before bedtime) and less obvious (the
May 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I gave this book 5 stars because it has really made me think about the way I'm treating my body. You always hear from people that you should get more sleep but I'm willing to bet most people have just a rough understanding of why. A couple reasons why this book might be tough to read:

- The writing style has been commented on by other readers, the author can sometimes be offensive or crude but honestly I think that everyone should be able to look past this. It could have been done a different way
Mar 09, 2007 rated it liked it
Lights out addresses the subject of the harm Americans are doing to their health by sleeping too little, sleeping in incomplete darkness, and eating as if summer went on all year long. It is not a pretty picture. Because the body is complex, it is also a rather complex picture. The authors give a great deal of scientific evidence to back up their assertions (half the book is bibliography) and they make a good case for getting more sleep in a well-darkened room. My strongest reason for not giving ...more
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I liked this book a lot till my husband pointed out T.S. Wiley is a fraud (which he did as soon as I finished this 300+ page book)! However, there are nuggets of useful suggestions in this book like we all need to get more sleep and staying away from lighted computer screens/tvs before going to bed help us sleep. But some of the stuff she says sounds extremely wacky- stay up all day in the summer and sleep all winter? Sure that may have been the lifestyle of some European pre-historic peoples bu ...more
Oct 06, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up
Ugh. I have a high tolerance for bad writing and typically finish every book that I start, but this one was so terrible that I gave up. I kept hoping that Wiley would present a clear claim at some point and then review the research supporting and contradicting it, but that still hadn't happened a quarter of the way in, and flipping ahead didn't give me hope that it ever would. Instead, I got a stream of paragraphs jumping from Thomas Edison to stress hormones to Daisyworld to string theory and s ...more
Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book makes so much sense. I am disturbed by how much sense it makes. Sleeping more is so obvious it should be common sense. Yet, when we are tired we drink coffee and eat sweets to stay up, but when we come home we don't sleep. Then we lament about how tired we are. This book goes in depth with the effects of sleep on our health. It also addresses seasonality, which I have not seen in a health book before. The second to last chapter gives information on what you can do. The rest of the chap ...more
Mar 27, 2007 rated it it was ok
This book makes an overwhelming case that modern technology is disrupting humanity's sleep. They really flog it way beyond necessity. I can sum their arguments as such:
- If you need an alarm to wake up in the morning, then what you really need is more sleep.
- Sleep somewhere that's as dark and quiet as possible.
- Try to limit your exposure to strong lighting before you go to bed.
- Some people need more sleep, some less. Get as much as your body needs, don't rely on some other made-up statistic t
Dane Findley
Apr 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
It seems this book did not get the respect it deserved. It's one of the few books on fat loss and health-improvement that truly contains new information. My sense was that the book's findings -- with its hard-to-hear research and uneasy answers -- are why it wasn't a bigger bestseller. Still, I found it very helpful. ...more
Sergei Moska
May 21, 2011 rated it did not like it
Utter, utter crap. One of the worst books I have ever read on any subject. It's a shame, because the thesis is interesting. The problem is the writing. You need to read it to appreciate how annoying it is. ...more
Grazyna Nawrocka
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
The sarcastic and humorous tone of the book is very unusual in science writing. It feels very personal, but also helps to read through boring details.

The authors claim that the main reason for cancer, heart attack, obesity, etc. is sleep depravation. The lack of sleep, brought about by electric light, causes hunger, which we satisfy eating carbohydrates. Our hormone production,operations of immune system, neurotransmitters' release, microbiome depend on and are regulated by light.

Although we ea
Jun 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
No book in recent memory has had such a profound impact on my daily habits. This book completely changed my relationship to sleep, light, and sugar. The premise is almost deceptively simple: as humans we're not designed to be exposed to endless light year round and such exposure sets off a cascade of hormonal reactions in our bodies which have a profound impact on our food cravings (sugar), immunity, mental health, and well-being. The pages are teaming with information (almost information overlo ...more
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: library-reads
The underlying points of this book and its emphasis on the importance of sleep were sound: "If you want to control your appetite, you must sleep as many hours as you would in nature according to seasonal light exposure". However, I was not a fan of its hyperbolic and sensationalistic tone - it may have been intended as humorous, but came off as condescending. It could have used further editing (I found a few spelling mistakes; the author's notes used the book's working title instead of the publi ...more
Alex Egg
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Unscientific empirical observations on the plague of modern life. Interesting arguments which can lead you to a more in depth exploration our habits which, the author argues are not natural, but rather are product of modern life. Things like the advent of indoor lighting, year-round produce and high sugar diets may cause your body to stay in a state of "perpetual summer" which the author posits can be an explanation for a lot of the woes of modern western life: diabetes, cancer, obesity. ...more
Brian R.
Jul 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The tone may be off putting to some, but I found it an enjoyable read. Obviously carbohydrates are killing us. That much is very clear. I hadn’t thought of the connection with artificial light before and it’s certainly interesting. Sleep is clearly important for health but I’m not 100% sold on the causal link to carbohydrate craving. That’s the one weak link I see in an otherwise fascinating and well-spun theory.
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was ahead of its time but the information applies well into the future if you add what 5G will accomplish towards destroying our health via technology. Modern disease is lnked to light, whether you want to believe it or not. Smart is dumb. Martin Pall and others are bringing this problem more to light, an appropriate pun.
Suzy Weiss
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating to incorporate anthropology with biology to understand nutrition and sleep and how they directly impact our hormones and in turn, health, happiness and disease. Extremely technical and scientific. Needed to take notes throughout to “digest” the material. Loved it. Am already reading their next book.
Taulant Ramabaja
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
I'm really torn on this. Plenty of very good reference research papers and documents. But it's pretty obvious that she makes assumptions well outside of her field of expertise (like quantum physics). Definitely a lot of New Age magic BS happening in the book. Go for the source papers instead. ...more
Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
The depth of my understanding of some hormones grew significantly thanks to this book. This book is convincing that we should not live in "endless summer."

A complaint I would mention in this book is the headings are a little bombastic with conspiracy-esque rhetoric.
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65 likes · 25 comments
“All of the diseases that modern medicine declares war on never seem to touch any of those ninety-year-old farmers who have lived on bacon and eggs and butter for almost a century. The media, following current low-fat medical wisdom, calls that a paradox. We don't.” 3 likes
“To understand why carbohydrates are the instrument of death, we need just a little science. Only recently have science and medicine begun to acknowledge a condition called chronic hyperinsulinemia. That's the term for chronic high insulin made in your own body. This can only occur when you chronically consume carbohydrates. You could never chronically consume carbohydrates in nature. Trees and plants fruit only in one season and flower in the other.” 2 likes
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