Sleepyhead: The Neuroscience of a Good Night’s Rest by Henry Nicholls


Published by Basic Books

5 stars


A narcoleptic’s tireless journey through the neuroscience of disordered sleep.

Whether it’s a bout of bad jet lag or a stress-induced all-nighter, we’ve all suffered from nights that left us feeling less than well-rested. But for some people, getting a bad night’s sleep isn’t just an inconvenience: it’s a nightmare. In Sleepyhead, science writer Henry Nicholls uses his own experience with chronic narcolepsy as a gateway to better understand the cryptic, curious, and relatively uncharted world of sleep disorders. We meet insomniacs who can’t get any sleep, narcoleptics who can’t control when they sleep, and sleep apnea victims who nearly suffocate in their sleep. We learn the underlying difference between morning larks and night owls; why our sleeping habits shift as we grow older; and the evolutionary significance of REM sleep and dreaming. Charming, eye-opening, and deeply humanizing, Sleepyhead will help us all uncover the secrets of a good night’s sleep.

As someone who has a complicated relationship with sleep, I picked this book up out of curiosity to see if I could learn a thing or two. I learnt many, many things!

This book is a great mixture of science and entertainment to keep your attention. The science covers the root cause of various sleep disorders, treatments, possible causes and genetics while the entertaining side is a huge number of anecdotes from sleep disorder sufferers that the author has interviewed – this puts everything into context, knowing how real people feel about and manage their sleep disorders.

The book covers a variety of different sleep disorders; narcolepsy, insomnia, sleepwalking, apnea etc.
Each chapter is fascinating and full of very quotable fun facts, though some of the sciencey bits can get quite heavy (neurochemistry, anybody?). The author does combat this very well to make the book more accessible with his humorous narration style.

You can tell how much work and research went into bringing this book together, the fact that the author has narcolepsy puts a personal spin on things which makes it easier to sink in to.



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