The Secret Life of Sleep by Kat Duff

The Secret Life of SleepEver have a difficult time falling asleep? Wake up in the night and fret over hours of lost rest? Millions and millions of Americans struggle with sleep issues every night, adding one of the most basic human functions to an ever-growing list of things that perpetuate anxiety in our frantic modern world. It’s no wonder that the sleep aid industry grows exponentially every year. But are we looking at sleep (and sleep problems) through the wrong lens? Kat Duff approaches the subject in a particularly interesting manner. Through an equal mixture of memoir, anecdotes, history, and scientific research, she explains the importance of sleep in our daily lives for both our physical well-being and our societal norms.

Our sleep patterns have changed quite drastically since the beginning of humanity, when our long ago ancestors slept in short shifts of light sleep, one long deep sleep, and intermittent periods of wakefulness. Even during Medieval times, people cherished this long tradition of midnight waking, using the time for quiet contemplation, visiting with family, or practicing various creative outlets. This sleep schedule changed the most dramatically only as recently as the Industrial Revolution, when sleep became condensed into one long stretch to increase productivity for Western workers. Before this time, no other animal –including humans- tried to regulate their sleep so meticulously, and we have had an immense amount of difficulty as a species in this practice.

Sleep issues are not limited to adult workers, however. Duff also addresses similar societal changes in how parents approach the act of sleeping in raising their children, how teenagers and college students binge-sleep on the weekends, and how all kinds of factors of sleeping habits during youth can result in different traits and manifestations in later life.

The next time you have difficulty falling asleep, consider picking up this book and take comfort in feeling that you are not alone. In addition to knowing a little more about the history, culture, and science of sleep, you might walk away with some insights into handling your own sleepless nights, both emotionally and physically.

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