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Lavie, a sleep researcher and dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the Technion—Israel Institute of Technology, is clearly enthralled with his subject, and his enthusiasm shines through the sometimes stilted presentation. The author gives a brief history of the young field of sleep research—the first sleep recordings of brain-wave activity were conducted at Harvard in 1935, and the discovery of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the sleep of dreaming, was not made until 1953—describes what goes on in a sleep laboratory and outlines what science has learned about biological clocks, dreams, the sleep of animals, and sleep deprivation. Memorable facts emerge: The dolphin, it seems, sleeps with half its brain awake, and humans can go without food longer than without sleep. In the second half of the book Lavie concentrates on sleep disorders and their treatment. His discussion of insomnia includes a fascinating account of research conducted in Haifa during the Gulf War, which concluded that while people were afraid to go to sleep for fear of missing the warning alarm of a Scud missile attack, once they fell asleep, they slept normally. Lavie describes the use of phototherapy, or light therapy, in the treatment of jet lag and sleep timing disorders; mechanical solutions to the problems of sleep apnea, in which the sleeper stops breathing; and the strange malady of narcolepsy, which is marked by sudden, uncontrollable attacks of daytime sleep. For parents, there are explanations of children's sleep patterns and advice on dealing with their sleep problems, and for the elderly, there are cruel truths about the fragility of sleep in old age.
An eye-opening trip through the land of sleep by a thoroughly professional guide.
Every night the story of sleep, which is as old as time itself, unfolds before us.
More than three billion years ago, evolution discovered the biological clock of blue-green algae, a clock which would force us to fall asleep in a regular cycle even if we were imprisoned forever in total isolation.
Some five hundred million years ago, during humankind's developmental process, the homeostatic mechanisms which prevent us from remaining awake for prolonged periods were created in the vertebrates. About two million years ago, neurobiological mechanisms helped create the dream condition which from that time on has played a major role in human culture.
It was the dream experience which evoked the assumption of duality between body and soul and which, apparently, became the catalyst for the creation of the concepts of "eternal life" and "God."
Finally, in 1879 Thomas Alva Edison invented the light bulb and became responsible, quite inadvertently, for the myriad discomforts which derive from the incompatability between our sleeping time and the substitution of light for darkness. The various constraints which sometimes force us to remain awake at night are the root cause of the vexing divergence between the internal human clock, which continues to deny Edison, and the dictates of modern society. With extraordinary eloquence based upon a vast store of professional knowledge and innovative concepts of the physiology of sleep and dreams, among them that of the "forbidden zone for sleep," Peretz Lavie tells us the story of what is contained in a single night's sleep.
Although I am unable to summarize Lavie's contribution to the study of sleep here, the opportunity I have been given in these few inadequate preparatory remarks are an expression of my great admiration for both this wonderful book and its author, who is one of the most talented pioneers in the study of sleep and dreams.
In my various encounters with people, I am frequently asked the unavoidable question "What do you do?" and then find myself hesitating for a few seconds before replying, "I am engaged in the study of sleep."
My hesitation stems from the fact that experience has taught me that there are two responses to my reply. The first is usually accompanied by a burst of laughter: "The study of sleep? What needs to be studied about sleep?" This is usually followed by a reflex yawn, with which my questioner seems to be telling me, "I, too, study the subject occasionally."
The second response is a prompt request for advice and medication to combat snoring, insomnia, or other sleep-linked problems.
When my grandfather — a farmer who tilled the land with every fiber of his being — first heard that I intended to devote myself to the study of sleep, he tried to convince me to look for a more "useful" profession. "What can a man achieve in his life if he is occupied with sleep?" he argued vigorously.
It is sometimes difficult to convince people that sleep is an enthralling subject, but it is my hope that readers of this book will end up feeling as I do.
Excerpted from The Enchanted World of Sleep by Peretz Lavie. Copyright © 1996 by Yale University Press. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
|1||Sleep and Death||1|
|4||The Rhythm of Sleep||26|
|5||The Twenty-five Hour Day||35|
|6||From Sun Clocks to Biological Clocks||54|
|7||Dreams: Creatures of the Brain||65|
|8||Alfred Maury and the Dream of the Guillotine||76|
|9||Dreaming as a Separate Reality||89|
|10||Do Fish Dream?||98|
|11||The Need for Sleep||111|
|12||The Eccentricity of REM Sleep||129|
|14||Sleep Medicine: The First Steps||161|
|16||The Physical and Medical Causes of Insomnia||184|
|17||Disorders in Sleep Timing||189|
|18||Children Who Refuse to Sleep||205|
|19||Excessive Sleepiness, or "In the Arms of Morpheus"||216|
|20||Narcolepsy: Reversal of the Natural Order||234|