Why We Sleep
By Professor James Duffin
The Universal Pastime: Sleep and Rest Explained
Richard L. Horner, BookBaby, 2014
In The Universal Pastime: Sleep and Rest Explained, Richard Horner provides new insight concerning what sleep is for, why it developed and why it is universally found across species. Horner, Professor of Medicine and Physiology at U of T, explains the physiological basis for sleep through a carefully and detailed reasoning from fundamental evolutionary principles that I found fascinating and brilliantly explained. The book is more than just about sleep; it is a lesson in scientific reasoning.
It is written for a wide audience, not just fellow scientists. For example, explanations of all Latin and Greek terms ensure you don’t have to be an expert to follow the developing themes. The writing style is detailed, with arguments presented slowly and surely, building to the conclusions. While the ideas of Darwin and other scientists feature prominently in these explanations, the important concepts are grounded in everyday life.
In the introduction to this book, Horner explains why he wrote it. He provides insight into the life of a scientist in the current world of which the general public is largely unaware — a service to all who labour in scientific research. In the chapters that follow, readers will not only find an explanation of sleep but also how and why brains have developed to be so adaptable across many organisms, and the universality of sleep and the circadian rhythm. There are detailed explanations provided, such as the biology of timekeeping and the rhythm of brainwaves. And in the final chapter the author emphasizes the links between sleep, mental health and well-being — which are good lessons for us all.
James Duffin is Professor Emeritus in the Departments of Anaesthesia and Physiology.