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BOOK REVIEW: Night School by Richard Wiseman

Night School: Wake up to the power of sleepNight School: Wake up to the power of sleep by Richard Wiseman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon page

This book is a two-in-one. It’s a pop sci book covering the science of sleep. However, it’s arranged as a self-help guide to teach one how to get the most from one’s sleep life. It covers a wide range of sleep related issues from how to minimize jet lag to how to master lucid dreaming. It also describes the sometimes dire effects of not getting enough quality sleep. Along the way one also learns about interesting anecdotes and research that may not change your quality of sleep, but could prove interesting or useful nonetheless—such as the research that shows a strong correlation between the position in which one usually sleeps and one’s personality.

The meat of the book is divided up into eight sections (called “Lessons” in accord with the theme of “Night School.”) The first few lessons begin with general background on sleep and sleep deprivation, and cover how much sleep one needs and how one can achieve the best possible sleep life. Then the book delves into more specialized topics such as night terrors, sleepwalking, “power napping,” and the question of whether one can really learn in one’s sleep. The last couple chapters deal with dreaming (normal and lucid.)

Along with the eight lessons, there are also eight assignments. Most of these assignments are surveys that help the reader understand what will work for them best specifically—as not all sleep advice is one-size-fits-all. However, there are other assignments like a mid-course recap exam, a call to attempt interpreting one’s own dreams (as opposed to relying on the generic dream interpretation guides which the science suggests are bunk,) and a suggestion to start a dream diary—with instructions for how to go about it.

Another nice feature of the book are its boxed discussions of relevant research on such topics as segmented sleep (instead of sleeping through the night), narcolepsy, snoring, children’s sleep issues, etc. There’s also a Conclusion that reviews key information from the book in the form of a refutation of the common myths that abound on the subject of sleep, as well as a “manifesto” that repeats key elements of advice on good sleep. It’s a scholarly work, and so it include source citations.

I learned a lot from this book. Granted a lot of the advice is commonsense (e.g. sleep in a dark, cool, and quiet place), but there are plenty of not so obvious tidbits as well (e.g. red light is okay, but blue light will keep one from sleeping.) There are also a lot of fascinating stories in the book to keep one interested.

I’d recommend the book for anyone who wants to learn to improve their sleep lives.

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