The Nocturnal Brain: Nightmares, Neuroscience, and the Secret World of Sleep

Dr. Leschziner introduces us to main sleep disorders via case studies of particularly interesting patients. He introduces each patient in a manner that suggests he really enjoys his patients and meeting them (although invariably he mentions they are slim and well dressed, etc, which was a little awkward to read over and over sometimes.)

Despite being primarily a neurologist, Dr. Leschziner does present each sleep disorder as a multipdisciplinary puzzle: requiring him to be a detective of their habits as well as to be open to their self-reported symptoms whilst keeping a somewhat cynical mindset that sometimes folks don’t report the entire truth.

Indeed, there’s one case study here of a patient who certainly had issues with sleep, but whose partner falsely reported very disturbing sleep talking that is an excellent example of how vulnerable folks are when they are sleeping, and how difficult it is to get good data on very subjective experiences.

The prose (for this non-scientist) is quite readable, the patients relatable, and the discussion of how parts of the brain being awake at the same time as parts of the brain being asleep leading to some of the behaviors presented (sleep talking, sleep actions, etc) made sense. It becomes clear what torture being sleep deprived is, however Leschziner does make a distinction between the long term ill health effects of insomniacs who experience heightened heart rater/arousal/adrenaline consistently and insomniacs who are self-reporting less sleep but who do not exhibit the same heightened heart rates/arousal, etc. The long term health issues most of us laypeople are aware of with interrupted sleep seems to be with the first set of insomniacs– which was interesting and I’d wished I could have seen more data to support this.

Overall a worthy read as sleep is an issue that affects us all no matter what social class or race, and some of the therapies mentioned by Dr. Leschziner are good ones to know about in general.