Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Night School

by Richard Wiseman

The older I get the more value I place on a good night's sleep, so I was all over Richard Wiseman's Night School. This book promises tips for making the most of the third of our lives or so we spend in the land of nod, a third that's anything but dead time. It promises ways to live better and be more effective by improving our sleep, which seems like a big promise to be making. But like 59 Seconds this isn't vague feelgood self-help nonsense which sounds great but under-delivers; it's backed by science.

The modern world is facing an epidemic of sleeplessness, and it's getting worse. A combination of the hectic pace of modern living, increased lighting, and a greater prevalence of screens big and small pumping out blue light has messed with our circadian rhythms. These aren't the only factors making it harder to get enough sleep.

The book is structured into eight lessons, and each one ends with a short, fun test where you can assess things such as the quality of your sleep, your snoring, or how susceptible you are to being hypnotised. Richard Wiseman takes a light-hearted tone that makes his writing very easy to digest. However, this sits beside an incredibly shocking and serious aspect to the subject. It's possible to die of sleep deprivation in extreme cases, and it takes weeks of constant wakefulness rather than a sleep debt that builds up over time. But failing to get enough sleep regularly also has other long-term health implications, as well as making it more likely that you'll have accidents. There is a lot in this book to shock readers into taking more care to make enough time for sleep, as well as a host of tips for banishing insomnia.

One thing I appreciated was the way the author de-stigmatised taking naps, and indeed sleeping well. There is cultural pressure to under-sleep, whether that's through working patterns or the perception that napping or sleeping in is inherently lazy. The author debunks those ideas, and presents evidence that people who sleep the right amount are more productive.

The section on sleep walking and night terrors was interesting. Another four lessons are devoted to dreams: their role in learning, the meaning of them, how to use them to help solve problems or enhance creativity, and whether it's possible to have lucid dreams. Whilst much of this is fascinating, it doesn't have as many potentially life-changing practical applications as the first half of the book.

Blue light is my nemesis, but its dangers are a message that a lot of people don't seem to have registered. Some of the other tips offered in this book are common sense, but there are others that aren't as well known, and all it takes is a small number of practical tips to make Night School worth every penny of its cover price. Best read in natural light.

31st January 2016

Book Details

Year: 2013

Categories: Books


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5 star rating

Review ©

Source: own copy
Read more about Richard Wiseman