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New England Journal Of Medicine
“Greene’s book is the best available on the subject.”
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
3. Blame the Victim
4. Sleepless in Seattle: The Conferences
5. The Brain of an Insomniac
6. Sleep, Stress, and Stages of Life
7. Rock, Hard Place: The Drugs
8. Change Your Attitude, Change Your Ways: Behavioral Modification
9. Asleep at the Switch: The Clinics
11. Bedding Down with the Beast
12. Making Change
Posted June 17, 2008
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!!!
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Posted September 2, 2012
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.
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