Book review: Counting Sheep: The Science and Pleasures of Sleep and Dreams by Paul Martin.
This book makes convincing claims that most people give too little thought to an activity that occupies a large fraction of our life.
It has lots of little pieces of information which can be read as independent essays. Here are some claims I found interesting:
- “sleepiness is responsible for far more deaths on the roads than alcohol or drugs”.
- Tired people rate their abilities higher than people who slept well do.
- Poor sleep contributes to poor health a good deal more than medical diagnoses suggest, but hospitals are designed in ways that hinder patients’ sleep.
- Idle time was apparently a status symbol up to a century ago, now being busy is a status symbol. This should have economic implications that someone ought to explore in depth.
- People in a vegetative state have REM sleep. This sounds like cause to re-evaluate the label we apply to that state.
While the book has many references, it doesn’t connect specific claims to references, and I’m sometimes left wondering why I should believe a claim. How can boredom be a modern concept? When he says “no person has ever gone completely without sleep for more than a few days”, how does he know he can dismiss people who claim to have not slept for years?