Book Review: Dreamland

What do you do when you can’t fall asleep at night? You might get up and read a book, listen to music, lie there and get frustrated, or… count sheep. Envisioning fluffy white sheep bounding over fences is often recommended as a tactic to help one fall asleep. But why sheep? Why not bunnies, or pandas, or cute little penguins?

Unfortunately, this is just one of many interesting questions about sleep that isn’t addressed in David K. Randall’s Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep. In his book, Randall covers such sleep topics as the history of sleep, dreams, sleepwalking, jet lag, sleep apnea, insomnia, and sleep hygiene, to name a few. For each topic, Randall presents facts and describes what is currently known about that topic. He also peppers each subject with anecdotes, such as his own stint with sleepwalking. These stories make for an interesting, light read—there is no need to worry that you’ll be inundated with fact after fact, or bored by stuffy writing. Randall writes well, keeping the readers engaged in the topic. It’s never a drag to read this book.

Yet Randall never gets far below the surface. If you’ve learned about sleep in high school or university classes (such as psychology or biology), or read any Wikipedia articles about sleep, you probably won’t learn much new information from this book. Randall writes about topics that are already quite well-known, such as sleep apnea, and doesn’t even mention lesser-known topics. I would have loved to read about circadian rhythm disorders such as non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder. And what about night terrors? What’s the difference between a night terror and a nightmare, and why are night terrors more common in children than adults? These are just two topics (out of many, many sleep topics) that would belong in this book, yet they weren’t even mentioned in passing.

In summary, I did enjoy this book because of the author’s writing style, but I found myself disappointed by how little I learned. If you don’t know anything about sleep, then I would recommend this book, otherwise I would look for something with more depth. Three out of five stars.

Book Information:
Title: Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep
Author: David K. Randall
Publish Date: 2012
Length: 266 pages
See it on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13629711-dreamland

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