An investigation of the many mysteries of sleep, a subject that “opens a Pandora’s box of bigger questions of consciousness and unconsciousness, remembering and forgetting, body and soul, and reality itself.”
Though sleep has often been the subject of clinical studies and pharmaceutical research, its cultural history is rarely thoroughly explored. Mental health counselor Duff (The Alchemy of Illness, 1993) delves deep into the human experience of sleep to reach a better understanding of its causes and effects. Historically, it’s interesting to note that even basic sleep patterns have changed significantly since industrialization: Before time was managed so tightly in order to accommodate the modern workday, people slept in two chunks rather than one long sleep. As a result, more pressure is put on that overnight slumber—common wisdom today is that eight hours is the minimum required for an alert, productive morning—which, in turn, has led to widespread dependence on pharmaceutical sleep aids. The author weaves captivating anecdotes with scientific data, detailing how brain activity alters during sleep, relaxing reality-bound inhibitions and often leading to moments of great insight. Duff argues that everyone dreams, whether those experiences are remembered or not, and that these nocturnal mental adventures have a big effect on the decisions we make while awake. History is rife with narratives of breakthroughs occurring within dreams, further evidence of how profoundly sleep influences creativity. The author’s multidisciplinary approach and relatable writing is a breath of fresh air, and her enthusiasm for her subject echoes how many of us feel—we love to sleep. By understanding the mechanisms that make sleep possible, our symbiotic relationship with this nightly ritual has the potential to dramatically improve.
Full of unique insights and surprising facts, this book brings to the fore an entire world that exists behind closed eyes.