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On the academic side, the latest report from the somnabulent world is Peretz Lavie's The Enchanted World of Sleep. Translated from the original Hebrew with aplomb by Anthony Berris, Lavie's book introduces us to the world of scientific sleep study through one of the original sleep institutes, the Sleep Laboratory at the Technion--the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. Prof. Lavie, who is dean of the Faculty of Medicine and head of the Laboratory, is uniquely qualified to give such a historical perspective, because he did his graduate work under Prof. Bernie Webb, one of the founders of sleep research.
It should be noted that what these scientists are studying is the mechanisms of sleep. While dream state is included in this, they are interested in only the fact that someone is dreaming, not about what the dream relates. Such dream studies are the province of psychologists. Prof. Lavie and his collegues are medical doctors who are interested in the physiology of sleep--what happens when people are deprived of sleep through natural (brain disorders, etc.) and unnatural (sleep deprivation experiments, etc.) events. One of the many myths exploded in this book is that a majority of people sleep poorly. Instead, Prof. Lavie proves, people only think they don't sleep well, whereas in comparison studies, their sleep is as even as the next persons. The person's opinion is solely based on a perception that occurs during the first thirty minutes of sleep, and can be easily corrected by controlling simple environmental variables (noise, light, etc.). While The Enchanted World of Sleep is meant for an audience of his peers, it is written as much as a personal memoir, detailing his own experiences with patients at the Sleep Laboratory. The author comparison that I was inevitably drawn to is that of Dr. Oliver Sacks, who also explains some tough medical mysteries by using personal experience.
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While Jouvet is undoubtedly one of the pioneers in sleep research, this book is less than ground-breaking. Jouvet postulates that the function of REM sleep is to periodically reinforce genetic programs, in order to maintain the functional synaptic circuits responsible for our psychological heredity. Basically, he is saying this "genetic reprogramming" would restore our individuality and diversity within our species, despite a changing environment. The hypothesis presented is rarely acknowledged in current literature on the subject and Jouvet has little to support his hypthesis.
I was left with many more questions than I started with, but that could be good. The translation is mediocre but Jouvet throws in some kind of houty chuckles every once in a while that make it bearable.
If you want to read a very comprehensive, readable and informative book on sleep, I would recommend 'Sleep' by J.Allan Hobson.