By David K. Randall
W. W. Norton & Company, $25.95, 304 pages
Lately there has been a surge of nonfiction books on human behavior with chapters written like cursory magazine essays with nuggets of interesting facts buried in trivia, sensational news stories, academic research, military findings and sports team analyses. Often, the same subject material is regurgitated from book to book. Appropriately, since such books make for great light reading before bedtime, investigative journalist David K. Randall’s Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep falls into this category.
“Whether you realize it or not, how you slept last night probably has a bigger impact on your life than what you decide to eat, how much money you make, or where you live.”
Dreamland provides an overview of the creative boost provided by naps, the peril of sleep deprivation, the importance of the circadian rhythm, whether one sleeps better alone and other sleep-related meanderings. It may inspire someone to shift his or her sleeping habits, but the main topic is too broad to really allow penetration of any specific aspect of sleep. Instead, Dreamland rests on a superficial level that prevents it from being as life-altering as denser, more detailed scientific books. Even Randall’s initial goal, to solve his sleepwalking problem, is never reached.
Reviewed by Sarah Hutchins