cover image Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep

Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep

David K. Randall. Norton, $25.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-393-08020-9

This fabulous book is likely to address any and all questions you might have about sleep, although, given the state of research in the field, the answers may not be definitive. The range of topics is enormous, from the evolutionary reasons for sleep to the best type of mattress—oddly enough, studies suggest that high quality sleep is equally possible on an unpadded concrete floor as on a high-tech air mattress. Equally surprising, sleeping pills yield no higher quality sleep than a placebo. What they apparently do is retard the formation of short-term memory so people taking sleeping pills simply don’t remember all the times they wake up. Randall argues that people can commit crimes in their sleep, and that the most important cause of friendly fire deaths in war is soldiers’ lack of sleep. There’s plenty of practical information, like how to overcome insomnia without drugs, how to combat snoring, how to encourage young children to get to sleep and, perhaps most useful, how to bet successfully on professional football games: our circadian rhythms favor West Coast teams over East Coast teams on Monday nights. This is one book that will not put you to sleep. 10 illus. Agents: Larry Weissman and Sascha Alper. (Aug.)