Insomniac / Edition 1

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Overview


I can't work, I can't think, I can't connect with anyone anymore. . . . I mope through a day's work and haven't had a promotion in years. . . . It's like I'm being sucked dry, eaten away, swallowed up, coming unglued. . . . These are voices of a few of the tens of millions who suffer from chronic insomnia. In this revelatory book, Gayle Greene offers a uniquely comprehensive account of this devastating and little-understood condition. She has traveled the world in a quest for answers, interviewing neurologists, sleep researchers, doctors, psychotherapists, and insomniacs of all sorts. What comes of her extraordinary journey is an up-to-date account of what is known about insomnia, providing the information every insomniac needs to know to make intelligent choices among medications and therapies. Insomniac is at once a field guide through the hidden terrain inhabited by insomniacs and a book of consolations for anyone who has struggled with this affliction that has long been trivialized and neglected.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

No one can describe a journey better than someone who's made the trip, and insomniac Greene's exploration of the disorder is both fascinating and disturbing. Many people, including doctors and insomniacs themselves, believe that sleeplessness is the patient's fault: too much caffeine and stress, irregular bedtimes, lack of exercise. In fact, no one knows what causes it, but the effects of insomnia are clear: as Greene, a professor of literature and women's studies at Scripps College, shows, sleep deprivation kills creativity, reduces levels of the hormones needed to repair cells and is directly linked to weight gain and memory loss, high blood pressure and diabetes. Insomniacs are usually referred to mental health practitioners or the growing number of sleep labs offering behavior modification or drugs (which, for Greene, have always "buil[t] tolerance, and rapidly," necessitating ever-larger doses). "This is a somewhat cranky book," Greene admits, and rightly so. "You can't live with this problem as long as I have, you can't be blown off and written off as many times as I have, and not get cross." Supplementing her own experience with that of other chronic insomniacs and a look at the science of sleep, Greene offers an enjoyable and informative account that will provoke even readers who get their full eight hours a night. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
A lifelong insomniac battles the stigma attached to her disorder. For Greene (Literature and Women's Studies/Scripps Coll.; The Woman Who Knew Too Much: Alice Stewart and the Secrets of Radiation, 1999, etc.), the frustration of insomnia goes far beyond the endless nights waiting for sleep to come, which she describes in harrowing, redolent detail. What she finds so deplorable is the fact that insomnia is largely ignored or belittled by the general public, medical professionals and even fellow sufferers. Even though sleeplessness has proven links to heart disease, diabetes, depression, weight gain and memory and concentration loss, the medical community generally labels insomnia as a symptom or syndrome, rather than a disease. Though there is no known cause or cure for insomnia, a pathetically small amount of money is allocated to sleep research. Even more problematic is how few are willing to admit their own insomnia-perhaps because patients often assume much of the burden of blame. Greene has been advised to monitor her caffeine and meal times, to increase or decrease her exercise patterns, to meditate and to engage in countless other nonmedical remedies. She has been referred to mental-health professionals, hypnotherapists and nutritionists, and has been prescribed vitamins, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication. Finally, Greene decided to take matters into her own hands, seeking out countless perspectives to find out what, if anything, works. The results are mixed. The book may prove far more effective as a wake-up call to the medical profession than as a prescriptive guide for patients, though many may find her empathetic tone helpful. An honest, passionate and relentless quest,but at more than 500 pages, even fellow sufferers may be (perhaps happily) exhausted by Greene's overzealous tome. Agent: Jean Naggar/Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency
New England Journal Of Medicine

“Greene’s book is the best available on the subject.”
O: The Oprah Magazine

“Insomniac is far too interesting to lull you into dreamland.”
Wall Street Journal

“A harrowing memoir.”
People

“No easy answers - but fascinating.”
Seattle Times

“Disturbing, important book.”
Nature

“Provides . . . insights that many sleep researchers and doctors have lost track of. . . . Among the best books of its kind.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520259966
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 4/7/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 520
  • Sales rank: 1,003,967
  • Product dimensions: 8.68 (w) x 5.66 (h) x 1.29 (d)

Meet the Author


Gayle Greene is Professor of Literature and Women's Studies at Scripps College, Claremont California. She has published books on Shakespeare, women writers, and scientific issues. Her most recent books are Doris Lessing: The Poetics of Change and The Woman Who Knew Too Much: Alice Stewart and the Secrets of Radiation. She is a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), a professional medical society for researchers and clinicians, and is the patient representative on the board of the American Insomnia Association, an organization within AASM.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     xi
Insomnia     1
Sleepstarved     26
Blame the Victim     49
Sleepless in Seattle: The Conferences     79
The Brain of an Insomniac     112
Sleep, Stress, and Stages of Life     141
Rock, Hard Place: The Drugs     171
Change Your Attitude, Change Your Ways: Behavioral Modification     218
Asleep at the Switch: The Clinics     248
Alternatives     281
Bedding Down with the Beast     311
Making Change     342
Notes     371
Glossary     447
Selected Bibliography     455
Index     473
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2008

    A reviewer

    I have been trying to find help for insomnia for 28 years. I have been to two of the top research medical facilities in the country and have not been helped. I have taken every drug on the market. I thought I was getting dementia but after a recent $7000 work up I find I don't have dementia. What I have is drug side affects. And then I read this book!! For the first time I found some new things to try, I now understand much more about insomnia, and I will no longer seek help from the sleep docs. I don't think that they will have any help for us for several more years. In the meantime I will stay in touch with my fellow insomniacs on Gayle's website. They are much more helpful. What is clear upon reading the book is that our doctors don't know anything that can be helpful about insomnia and also that they really don't know enough about the dangers of the drugs that they are handing out. The pharmaceutical companies are in control of America's health care. For anyone who struggles with insomnia this book is a must. I am sending it to my doctors knowing that they will learn more by reading it than at any conference they will attend. That is IF they read it!!! This is the Insomniacs Bible. Read it!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 2, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Diving into the Wreck Gayle Greene¿s Insomniac is an amazing memoir. For one thing, it lacks the self-absorption one fears when picking up a book-length memoir. The Moby Dick of this book is the condition of insomnia. The Ishmael is Gayle Greene. Or

    Gayle Greene’s Insomniac is an amazing memoir. For one thing, it lacks the self-absorption one fears when picking up a book-length memoir. The Moby Dick of this book is the condition of insomnia. The Ishmael is Gayle Greene. Or is she an exhausted Odysseus, struggling through a daunting voyage, pursued by vengeful gods? Like Moby Dick, this tale is studded with individual chapters devoted to specific themes. Other reviews of Insomniac focused, naturally enough, on its efficacy in curing insomnia (she quotes W. C. Fields: “Get plenty of sleep.”). But as a non-insomniac (mostly), I read this as a memoir. Indeed, the cover blurb quotes WSJ referring to it as “a harrowing memoir.” But really, it goes beyond harrowing. Here we have Gayle Greene the insomniac pursuing her quest for the sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care. She is like Odysseus descending into the netherworld. She goes to sleep disorder conferences! She takes medically prescribed remedies—with only limited success. She interviews her fellow sleep-deprivees. At every corner, she hits a wall (sorry for the mixed metaphor). The skin-flailing honesty reveals…well, an honest searcher for a light in the darkness…or rather, darkness in the searing light of sleeplessness. There is courage here not only of honesty about failure to discover the cure but also of self revelation.

    I learned, as a sleep-deprivation dabbler, a lot about sleep. I learned about the importance of the different kinds of sleep, how long it takes to reach the kind of sleep that truly refreshes, and the cycles of sleep. It made me respect sleep in a way I had not before. In a scientific sense, I guess we don’t know why sleep is so important. Experientially, of course, we do. And Gayle Greene’s phenomenological analysis of the process of sleep—and sleeplessness—is superb.

    This book is not just for the sleep deprived. It is an odyssey into the dark world of wakefulness. As Fitzgerald said, “In the dark night of the soul, it’s always two o’clock in the morning.” I recommend this, insomniac or not. Take it to bed with you; stay up all night reading it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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