The Enchanted World of Sleep

P. Lavie, Author, Peretz Lavie, Author, Anthony Berris, Translator
P. Lavie, Author, Peretz Lavie, Author, Anthony Berris, Translator Yale University Press $55 (284p) ISBN 978-0-300-06602-9
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996
Release date: 04/01/1996
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Unlike last year's Night by A. Alvarez, this analysis of the mechanics of sleep includes little literature or art and whatever history it contains is strictly about the people and events germane to the science of sleep. Readers will have to find their enchantment where Lavie does--in the research and facts themselves. In enthusiastic prose (even when discussing the decline of sleep research, he talks about ""the golden era of earth-shaking discoveries"" when ""every night held the chance of a new and thrilling revelation, with researchers anxiously awaiting the morning so that they could report on the night's findings""), Lavie describes each phase of sleep, its rhythm and its disturbances; REM and dreams; sleep deprivation; jet lag; and sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea and narcolepsy. Lavie is the dean of the faculty of medicine and head of the sleep laboratory at the Technion in Haifa, and his most interesting discussions are often peculiar to circumstances in Israel: the observation that Holocaust survivors who adjusted well to life in Israel were less likely to remember dreams (any dreams) than those who had not; the situational insomnia that resulted from the threat of missile attack during the Gulf war; the mystery of the Jewish narcoleptics (after extensive research, Lavie recorded only a dozen or so, 100 times fewer than expected). There are some how-to tips that seem a little out of place, and only a scientist is going to find a molded mask and an air compressor worn to correct sleep apnea ""so simple as to be pure genius."" But for those who want to know what happens when the ability to ""know"" is suspended, this is a clear and earnest introduction. (May)
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