Coren conveys a vast amount of information about sleep with a lively feeling for the research that amassed it. He explores the basic body cycles and their effects on sleep, and he describes the human "internal clock" and the confusions arising from adjusting its 25-hour cycle to the requirements of the 24-hour day. His main theme, though, is sleep deprivation. The average person should sleep between 9 1/2 and 10 hours a night, it seems--a need Coren stresses by citing many effects of lessened sleep time, one of the most striking of which is the increase in fatal accidents during the days following the spring change to daylight saving time (there is a corresponding decrease when standard time resumes in the fall). As some frightening stories Coren tells attest, long-distance truck drivers, medical interns and residents, and nuclear plant workers especially suffer from lessened sleep. As Coren stresses elsewhere, sleep is also a vital factor in the body's ability to fight off disease. Despite the topic, few will fall asleep reading this book.
Forget that early-to-rise myth; getting too little sleep is unhealthful, costly, and downright unproductive, according to this lively, anecdote-laden report on the perils of sleep deprivation.
Coren, a Canadian neuropsychologist whose previous work had wide appeal among dog lovers (The Intelligence of Dogs, 1994), will win the kudos of sleep lovers with this one. After a brief look at sleep in the rest of the animal kingdom, he focuses on what happens to the human mind and body when deprived of sleep. Citing research and using notes from a diary he kept while systematically cutting back on his own sleep, he demonstrates that reducing sleep decreases the quality and quantity of one's work. Furthermore, to ignore our biological clocks is to court disaster, for Coren notes that sleep deprivation weakens the immune system, leaving the body more vulnerable to infection and illness, even death. He looks specifically at the effects of sleep deprivation on truck drivers, airline pilots, air traffic controllers, hospital interns and residents, and shift workers such as police and firefighters. The statistics and anecdotes he provides are certainly eye-opening. A 1988 figure he cites gives the cost of sleep-related accidents in the US that year as billion, and he presents persuasive evidence that the major disasters of Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and the Exxon Valdez were all caused by human beings with too little sleep. Tucked in among the sobering data are several charts and tables, quizzes to help one analyze one's own sleep habits and needs, and some tips on overcoming jet lag and getting a good night's sleep.
All the justification one needs for turning off the alarm and catching another 40 winks.