In Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep , David K. Randall takes us on a magical mystery tour of sleep.
You write that you struggled with sleepwalking, but what are you hoping readers will gain from Dreamland?
Sleep is something that we all do, and a lot of us don’t do it very well. As I started researching the book, I realized that everything that goes into who I consider me—my health, my ability to problem solve, my relationships, everything—all depended on the time I spent on the pillow each night. Sleep is one of those things that it is so easy to overlook, to ignore , or dose with coffee. We don’t really see the consequences anymore. Sleep is arguably more important to your health and happiness than eating right or exercising, but it is rarely part of that same conversation.
Most countries have moved away from siesta. But Google and other such companies have reinstated naptime. Do you foresee a comeback in the corporate world?
It depends on what industry [you] are in. The most important product of the Googles, Nikes, and Ciscos are the brains of their employees. They need their employees to be sharp, to solve problems quickly, or to come up with new ideas. Research is showing naps help you synthesize what you learned, make connections that aren’t necessarily obvious, and attack a problem in new ways.
Do you see companies recognizing how important it is to get the eight hours of sleep or turning a blind eye to the problem?
I think as time goes by, it will just be more and more obvious what sleep does for us. Ignoring that will be almost the same as ignoring your health or eating chili cheese fries everyday and thinking you will be fine and fit into your pants. It will go like that for a while. I think it will be easier to recognize that people and companies can be more successful if they [see] the importance of sleep and the end results.
Through your research, was too much sleep ever addressed?
That is a hard question for researchers to find out. You find these studies about people who sleep too much, but then have other health problems. Sometimes it is hard for them to figure out what the cause of the problems with sleep would be. With certain depressions, people won’t get out of bed. It is hard to separate the effects of depression versus the effects of too much sleep.