- The Good: Extravagant stories of sleep disorder patients that help explain the science of sleep
- The Bad: Pacing in later chapters is slow; not a book designed to help you sleep
- The Literary: Homage to the style of Oliver Sacks
Dr. Guy Leschziner presents the extremes of sleep sicknesses in the vein of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Each compassionate chapter follows a patient or two, detailing their history, their condition, their treatment, and what modern neuroscience knows about sleep and their disorders.
Many of us have experienced insomnia at some point in our lives. Or we know someone with sleep apnea, sleepwalking, restless legs, or delayed sleep syndrome. But Dr. Leschziner’s patients struggle, some for decades, to live a life that does not completely revolve around their conditions. My favorites cases include:
- A tween who isn’t just a little hard to awaken in the morning. As adolescents, nearly everyone’s circadian rhythm shifts slightly, so it’s natural to stay up and wake up later. But nearly all humans have an internal clock that’s based on a 24 day. But when your personal clock is 25 hours long, you stay up an hour later every day, eventually sleeping entirely during the day, before slowly rotating around the clock again.
- A healthy woman who didn’t know about her own condition until a friend told her she saw her out at 2 am in the morning. She not only sleepwalks but performs complex tasks like changing clothes and driving. For years, she attempted more and more elaborate ways of hiding her keys, but now gives them to a neighbor every night before bed.
- A middle-aged man, overweight his entire life because of his habitual sleep-eating, a separate condition from his compulsive conscious nocturnal eating disorder. After emptying his kitchen of food, he once woke up in the middle of the night with his mouth full of coffee grounds.
- A teenager with the unfortunately nicknamed “Sleeping Beauty Syndrome”, in which he goes through month-long cycles of excessive unconsciousness, binge eating, and uncharacteristic displays of aggression and hyper-sexuality while awake. The disorder is so rare that no statistical studies exist that explain its cause, but there is a small chance he will grow out of it.
There isn’t a whole lot of new information about how to get a better nights sleep. Go to bed at the same time every day, take a warm bath, limit screens, don’t think about stressors, don’t drink alcohol, etc; but Dr. Leschziner does go into some of the neuroscience of why these actions impact our sleep. And getting a good night’s sleep is key to maintaining our physical health, our mental health, and our happiness.
Highly recommended as a for fans of Oliver Sacks!