Cover image for Sleepyhead : the neuroscience of a good night's rest / Henry Nicholls.
Sleepyhead : the neuroscience of a good night's rest / Henry Nicholls.
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, 2018.

Physical Description:
x, 342 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
Originally published in the UK by Profile Books as Sleepy head : narcolepsy, neuroscience and the search for a good night.
Bad sleep -- Let there be light -- Weak with laughter -- Stages of sleep -- Sleeping dogs don't lie -- Bad breath -- The perfect neurological storm -- Lost in transition -- Ghosts and demons -- Wide awake -- Mind, body and soul -- Good sleep.


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
616.8498 NIC Book Adult General Collection

On Order



A narcoleptic's tireless journey through the neuroscience of disordered sleep
Whether it's a bout of bad jet lag or a stress-induced all-nighter, we've all suffered from nights that left us feeling less than well-rested. But for some people, getting a bad night's sleep isn't just an inconvenience: it's a nightmare. In Sleepyhead , science writer Henry Nicholls uses his own experience with chronic narcolepsy as a gateway to better understanding the cryptic, curious, and relatively uncharted world of sleep disorders. We meet insomniacs who can't get any sleep, narcoleptics who can't control when they sleep, and sleep apnea victims who nearly suffocate in their sleep. We learn the underlying difference between morning larks and night owls; why our sleeping habits shift as we grow older; and the evolutionary significance of REM sleep and dreaming. Charming, eye-opening, and deeply humanizing, Sleepyhead will help us all uncover the secrets of a good night's sleep.

Author Notes

Henry Nicholls is a renowned science writer and author of three books. He has also written for Nature , New Scientist , and hosts the Guardian 's "Animal Magic" blog. Nicholls lives in London.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Science writer Nicholls (The Galápagos: A Natural History) uses his decades-long experiences with narcolepsy as a jumping-off point for this stimulating exploration of sleep. He relates his own condition, and the related one of cataplexy-an abrupt loss of muscle tone in response to strong emotion-to the more common experiences of insomnia and sleep apnea. Nichols is careful to ground readers in the history of research into REM and circadian rhythms, but takes more interest in new research, primarily concerning a certain kind of neurotransmitter, the hypocretin. As he reveals, a genetic study of narcoleptic dogs in the late 1990s suggested problems with the functioning of the hypocretins could be involved in multiple sleep disorders. Along the way, Nicholls shares a few dramatic cases-including one of a man who strangled his wife while both were sleeping-but avoids the traps of sensationalism and prurience by keeping his focus on himself and others whom he meets. Actual advice on better rest is modest and ranges from common sense, such as avoiding caffeine, to research-based but perhaps counterintuitive, such as sleep restriction as a treatment for insomnia. Everybody sleeps, and Nicholls's entry into the genre of pop science books that use the unusual to illuminate the everyday has equally universal appeal. Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

In his latest work, accomplished nature writer Nicholls (A Natural History) turns his research and expository skills toward his life with narcolepsy. After recounting his experiences, he focuses on the discovery and treatment of narcolepsy. He also takes a broad view of sleep disorders, showing how complex and interrelated the subject matter can be. Included are stories of various sleep dysfunctions, such as cataplexy, sleep paralysis, hypnagogic hallucinations, sleep apnea, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome. Along the way, Nicholls tells the history of the science of sleep, including the race to uncover the underlying neural pathway of narcolepsy and its key proteins, known as hypocretins or orexins. The author's style is conversational and the writing easy to follow. The book does not include in-depth discussion of brain anatomy or physiology; those interested in more detail will need to dig into the endnotes. VERDICT Anyone living with narcolepsy will be interested in this book, as will those with other sleep disorders. Readers simply curious about the science of sleep should also find it engaging.-Nancy H. Fontaine, Norwich P.L., VT © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
1 Bad sleepp. 1
2 Let there be lightp. 17
3 Weak with laughterp. 46
4 Stages of sleepp. 67
5 Sleeping dogs don't liep. 95
6 Bad breathp. 112
7 The perfect neurological stormp. 138
8 Lost in transitionp. 159
9 Ghosts and demonsp. 176
10 Wide awakep. 198
11 Mind, body and soulp. 225
12 Good sleepp. 255
Author's notep. 271
Further Readingp. 273
Acknowledgementsp. 276
Notesp. 279
Indexp. 324