The Secret Life of Sleep

The Secret Life of Sleep

Kat Duff’s book had its beginnings as a blog for the “sleepy, the sleepless and the curious” and that sets the tone for the book. The chapters are short, interesting, folksy and informative.

Have you ever been falling asleep and suddenly your whole body startles awake? There is actually a name for this- a Myoclonic Kick. As we wind down to sleep we pass through a state called hypnagogia where we slowly lose consciousness. Once asleep, our brain continues to function, but in a way that is healing. The author brings up many interesting possibilities and conjectures about different states of sleep. Some are scientific, some are cultural, all interwoven.

Chapters are devoted to dreams. An ancient Greek philosopher stated that the science of the soul would come to us through sleep. During the Dark Ages, dreams were denounced as works of the devil. The affects of dreams on memory and learning are addressed here from a more modern viewpoint.  The psychological aspects of this subject are looked at through a Jungian lens.

Another section is devoted to trying to get to sleep when one cannot do so. Within this is a detailed history of sleeping pills from Bromide to Barbiturates to Benzodiazepines. There is some rather interesting data on sleep tests and drugs. People do not necessarily sleep much longer with the help of sleeping pills, but they feel more rested.

A side note I found interesting was that the president who established a special committee to investigate drug dependence in 1962 regularly took Ritalin for energy, barbiturates for sleep, codeine for pain, and Librium for anxiety.

It is easy to read a couple chapters of this book before going to bed at night. And what better time to read a book about sleep?



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