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Sleepfaring

We spend more than a third of our life sleeping but we know very little about it. How many times have we heard people ask questions like, “Am I sleeping enough?”, “Am I sleeping well?” or “How can I sleep less and still be as productive?”, and yet we have not tried to answer them. Jim Horne’s Sleepfaring has solutions for many of these problems and more. It is a compelling read for anyone wanting to learn about this mysterious subject.

The book is very informative, covering a wide range of topics and includes references for further reading. Jim clearly picks the most suitable studies to illustrate the points he makes. For example, it is commonly said in the media that since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, every year we have been sleeping fewer hours causing the modern society to develop a ‘sleep debt’. If that were true, then studies on the society’s ‘sleep debt’ from the 1990’s should show an increase in ‘sleep debt’ from the studies in the 1930’s, but that is not the case. The chapter on ‘crashing out’ gives an in-depth analysis of how sleep can often cause accidents, supported by the fact that one in five car accidents in the UK are due to lack of sleep. Jim also quotes interesting examples from other animal species. For example, did you know that dolphins sleep with only one side of their brain while the other stays active? And it’s not just dolphins but also ducks and other bird species that are able to perform this feat.

The book, with its great content, keeps the reader interested throughout, but sometimes the excessive referencing to other chapters within in the book could put the reader off. At many such places, instead of a reference to another chapter, a simple one line explanation would have been enough. Also, don’t be surprised to read 30-40 pages without a single illustration, which may occasionally make reading this very informative book monotonous. Yet, if you want to understand sleep, this is by far the best book around on the subject.

Akshat Rathi is a graduate student at Oxford University

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