The Secret Life of Sleep

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It has become increasingly clear that our sleep shapes who we are as much as, if not more than, we shape it.

While most sleep research hasn’t ven­tured far beyond research labs and treatment clinics, The Secret Life of Sleep taps into the enormous reservoir of human experiences to illuminate the complexities of a world where sleep has become a dwindling resource.

With a sense of infectious curiosity, award winning author Kat Duff mixes ...

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The Secret Life of Sleep

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It has become increasingly clear that our sleep shapes who we are as much as, if not more than, we shape it.

While most sleep research hasn’t ven­tured far beyond research labs and treatment clinics, The Secret Life of Sleep taps into the enormous reservoir of human experiences to illuminate the complexities of a world where sleep has become a dwindling resource.

With a sense of infectious curiosity, award winning author Kat Duff mixes cutting-edge research with insightful narratives, surpris­ing insights, and timely questions to help us better understand what we’re losing before it’s too late.

The Secret Life of Sleep tackles the full breadth of what sleep means to people the world over. Embark on an exploration of what lies behind and beyond our eyelids when we surrender to the secret life of sleep.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
We all sleep, but how often do we consider what goes on while we engage in this (usually) nightly practice? This impressive account from Duff (The Alchemy of Illness) presents the science of sleep without putting its readers to sleep. She intersperses personal anecdotes amid her array of data, which ranges from laboratory sleep studies to poetry and folklore. Some of her examples might already be familiar to readers, but here they serve to show the universality of sleep. The scientific work Duff seamlessly draws into the narrative serves to illuminate cultural understandings. For example, the mythic spirits that visit us in our sleep—the kinds that come to Scrooge at the height of his Christmas cynicism—are described in their literary contexts, before being analyzed on their biological bases. Dreams, from the barely memorable to the life changing, play a prominent role in this text, and Duff addresses the anxieties and fears of sleep itself that keep us awake at night. We learn, too, about what differentiates a waking state from its sleepy counterpart. Sleep as a phenomenon exists just outside of our conscious awareness, and can be difficult to study objectively, yet Duff leads an absorbing foray into the vibrant activity that we otherwise sleep right through. (Mar.)
"What distinguishes Duff's work from the average popular science title is her beautifully nuanced, lyrical prose and astute recognition that sleeping and dreaming have a much deeper meaning in our lives beyond the research laboratory."
Jean Houston
“Illness becomes numinous in Kat Duff’s strong telling. With wordsetched in pain and beauty she carries us into a passion play as potentas it is strangely healing. Quite simply, this is a masterpiece.”
Natalie Goldberg
“This is an important book. As you read it, you will feel yourunconscious rise up and cry ‘Yes! Yes!’ Kat Duff has dared to givevoice to the deep truth about sickness that our culture has avoided. Sheis a pioneer, openingup the state of illness as a new wilderness toexplore. Her book has changed my life and I thank her."
Thomas Moore
“A lovely book, beautifully written, full of insight, and an excellentcorrection of our society’s usually soulless way of dealing withillness. If medical schools would listen to this message, we’d have arevolution in health care.”
Larry Dossey
The Alchemy of Illness is pure heart-talk, a path back to thesoul, an honoring of all that we are. Kat Duff is a very wise woman, andher incandescent book is sheer poetry.”
Jungian analyst - Arifa Goodman
"Kat Duff shines the light of her open-minded curiosity into a darkened and mysterious world with wit, charm, perspicuity, humor and wisdom. After reading The Secret Life of Sleep, you may find yourself inhabiting a new, enhanced view of the world and of yourself."
Chief Medical Office, Holy Cross Hospital - Loretta Oriz y Pino
"In this book, Kat has done an incredibly skillful job pulling together the most recent scientific research on sleep studies and intermixes it with what artists and poets and sages for centuries have to offer on the subject."
Kirkus Reviews
An investigation of the many mysteries of sleep, a subject that "opens a Pandora's box of bigger questions of consciousness and unconsciousness, remembering and forgetting, body and soul, and reality itself." Though sleep has often been the subject of clinical studies and pharmaceutical research, its cultural history is rarely thoroughly explored. Mental health counselor Duff (The Alchemy of Illness, 1993) delves deep into the human experience of sleep to reach a better understanding of its causes and effects. Historically, it's interesting to note that even basic sleep patterns have changed significantly since industrialization: Before time was managed so tightly in order to accommodate the modern workday, people slept in two chunks rather than one long sleep. As a result, more pressure is put on that overnight slumber—common wisdom today is that eight hours is the minimum required for an alert, productive morning—which, in turn, has led to widespread dependence on pharmaceutical sleep aids. The author weaves captivating anecdotes with scientific data, detailing how brain activity alters during sleep, relaxing reality-bound inhibitions and often leading to moments of great insight. Duff argues that everyone dreams, whether those experiences are remembered or not, and that these nocturnal mental adventures have a big effect on the decisions we make while awake. History is rife with narratives of breakthroughs occurring within dreams, further evidence of how profoundly sleep influences creativity. The author's multidisciplinary approach and relatable writing is a breath of fresh air, and her enthusiasm for her subject echoes how many of us feel—we love to sleep. By understanding the mechanisms that make sleep possible, our symbiotic relationship with this nightly ritual has the potential to dramatically improve. Full of unique insights and surprising facts, this book brings to the fore an entire world that exists behind closed eyes.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582704685
  • Publisher: Atria Books/Beyond Words
  • Publication date: 3/18/2014
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 254,190
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Kat Duff is the award-winning author of The Alchemy of Illness and has written for Parabola Magazine and Ink and Ashes. Duff lives in northern New Mexico, where she works as a licensed counselor in private practice.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 1, 2014

    The Secret Life of Sleep, Kat Duff, Beyond Words/Atria Books, 20

    The Secret Life of Sleep, Kat Duff, Beyond Words/Atria Books, 2014, $24
    We all do it. So does every other living creature. Some might consider sleeping to be mundane, but as modern society becomes increasingly round-the-clock, more people are chasing a good night’s sleep. Duff’s exhaustive research on sleep through the ages and in various cultures shows that the biological concept of sleep is affected by culture. It’s fascinating to learn how sleep has evolved even here in the U.S. The book also delves into the realm of dreams, including history, research and stories, and so much more, on any topic related to sleep. I have been a student of sleep research over the past several decades and have read many books on sleep and dreaming, but I learned a lot from this easy-to-read book. 
    — Alice R. Berntson, New Connexion Journal

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