his book was sent to me by Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.
07.05.19 / Simon & Schuster / Non-Fiction (Medical) / Paperback / 368pp / 978-1471176357
Target Audience: Readers with a fascination of sleep, psychology and/or neuroscience. Those who want greater insights into what happens to our brains when we sleep and how often sleep fails us in new/dangerous ways.
About The Nocturnal Brain: Tales of Nightmares and Neuroscience
What happens to our brain at night? Are we really fully asleep and if so how is it that some individuals end up doing what they do? Or can it be the case that perhaps the brain never fully goes to sleep and that in some individuals there is a disconnect between the sleeping part of their brain and the active part of their brain so that the two become confused? Does this happen to all of us in varying degrees and can the reverse be the case too – so that some individuals are actually asleep during the day while appearing to be awake?!
In this ground-breaking book, Dr Guy Leschziner takes us on a fascinating journey through the nocturnal brain to illustrate the neuroscience behind nightmares, night terrors and sleep walking.
My Review of The Nocturnal Brain
‘So why is it that I’m writing about these patients? And, more importantly, why should you read about them? Many of the stories that follow are about patients with extreme sleep disorders, at the very limits of the spectrum of human experience, and it is by studying these extremes that we can learn about the less severe end of the spectrum; by understanding how these patients are affected by their sleep disorders, we come to know a little about how we ourselves are affected by our sleep.’ P3 of The Nocturnal Brain
Guy Leschziner’s The Nocturnal Brain is an engaging and compelling read that brings us up to speed on important sleep science research and shows that we are on the horizon of an exciting and potentially life-changing exploration of the neurological and psychological sleep disorders that plague us and studies that will change the way we understand or utilise sleep forever. After writing a paper on the functions of sleep when he was a student, Leschziner found himself enthralled by the possible neurological and psychological research opportunities that existed within the field of sleep science. That started a promising and passionate career in the treatment and research of life altering sleep disorders and a constant search for answers that still fervently continues to this day.
The Nocturnal Brain takes us through a variety of case studies surrounding rare and unusual sleep disorders that can seriously affect the patient from a young age or even spontaneously at any point in their lives, often leaving them unable to function. This book isn’t just GL reeling of a bunch of names and stories though that pertains to the point he wants to make or to provide readers of strange examples of how sleep can overwhelm us or escape us entirely. Leschziner is invested in his patients, often working with them and their families for many years. Each case is important to GL and he handles the details and the outcomes of their journey with care and appreciation.
Elaborating on each person’s experience to a wider perspective on the human condition and taking us on an interesting trip through the biological reasons that sleep or our bodies can turn against us at any moment. Describing the paradoxical issues behind the neurology and psychology of the human brain and how often one will set off the other and vise versa. GL’s case studies are fascinating and can be somewhat hard to digest at times due to the discomfort of what some of the patients face.
GL takes us through an impressive amount of cases including those suffering with Narcolepsy, Sleep Apnea, Restless Leg Syndrome, Kleine-Levin Syndrome, Sexsomnia, Insomnia and dangerous parasomnias that can potentially threaten the lives of the patient and of those around them. We hear from the individuals and their families or friends about soul destroying relationships with sleep (or lack of) and how GL has been able to help with their progress. How hopeless the conditions may seem yet eventually coming to terms with symptoms, behaviour and limitations of their situation. Each chapter fits around the people instead of the people fitting in with the subject matter which was a nice change of pace.
GL’s delivery is a satisfying amalgamation of professional, personal, emotional and factual. The medical terminology is not too overwhelming and I kept up with most of the heavy duty words and explanations. Though cerebral autosomal dominant artieriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy made me sweat a little. I thought his honesty towards the status of sleep research and his choice of tone was refreshing. It is great to see a professional who still has a completely open mind about their work and doesn’t talk as if everything they say is absolute fact. The scientific and medical information is well mapped out, expanded on with a helpful amount of detail and I found myself learning about a whole host of new interesting theories and neurological findings.
The Nocturnal Brain works well as an introduction to sleep science but also has enough newly relevant information for a seasoned reader to extract too. Yes some of the usual suspects appear (Gage and Parks) but they are anecdotal compared to time and energy GL puts into sharing his patients stories in the book. GL is constantly searching for new treatments for the many people who arrive in his sleep clinic and The Nocturnal Brain consistently shows us how intricate and unstable these disorders can be when they get out of hand. The complexity of finding a helpful treatment is mind-blowing and it is inspiring to see how compassionate and understanding GL is to people who’s illness can sometimes never be truly defined.
There have been some treatment pitfalls within GL’s career, especially that guy who pretended to be unable to get out of bed for 20 hours a day so he could get out of the responsibilities of being a husband and father, that have developed GL’s view of his patients and taught him more about reading between the lines. But ultimately he knows that we are still scratching the surface of our understanding sleep and is as passionate, if not more so, about his research now as he was 20 years ago.
Sleep baffles everyone at some point in our lives and most of us will lose sleep or focus because of a disorder or illness that is described in this book. I therefore deem it required reading for everyone who reads this review because Guy Leschnizer is, along with his colleagues, doing ground breaking research that is changing and will change many more lives in our future. I haven’t had the best relationship with sleep and I definitely take it for granted. Because of The Nocturnal Brain and GL’s hard work, I am going to do better with my own sleep habits as there are many people out there who would do anything to be able to sleep like I do.
About Guy Leschziner
Doctor Guy Leschziner is a world-renowned neurologist at London Bridge Hospital, The Cromwell Hospital and within the Dept of Neurology and Sleep Disorders Centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals.