Sleep remains one of the most mysterious areas of our lives. We all sleep, maybe not as much as we would like, but it s a universal human experience, as necessary as breathing and as nourishing as eating. But how much do we really know about sleep? What happens in the third of our lives when we re slumbering? How have sleep, dreams and nightmares been interpreted over the centuries? Why do so many people feel that they are deprived of sleep? How did our ancestors use to sleep? Sleep has its own unexpected and rich story ranging across science, history, literature and philosophy. It s been a cultural battleground between those who see sleep as a gift from nature and those who have seen it as an idle waste of time. In an overcrowded, exhausting 24-hour culture, sleep has become a valuable, rationed commodity. It s something that people are thinking about more than ever before. This bedside-table companion responds to this interest in sleep, providing a mixture of short, browsable pieces and more extended sections. The style is informed, thoughtful and entertaining, in keeping with the subject matter. It is intelligent but playful, quirky and amusing. Any study of sleep has to
Sean Coughlan is a journalist and author, currently writing news and features for the BBC News website and freelancing for the Guardian and other newspapers. His features have included recent interviews with Richard Branson, Desmond Tutu, inmates in Brixton Prison, Nick Park, Tony Robinson and lots of politicians. He is also currently a columnist for the BBC on family matters. For six years, he wrote a weekly funny column about money for the Guardian, which produced a spin-off book, Fear and Loathing in My Bank Account, published in 2002. He is 44 years old, lives in London and has three daughters at primary school. Hence the interest in sleep.