#BookReview: Forgetting by Scott A Small

Intriguing New Science. For much of human history and even for much of the last few hundred years – when our scientific knowledge has seemingly gone into warp drive itself, sleep was said to be nothing more than the land of dreams, that humans could work at peak efficiency without much of it at all. Forgetfulness, even in many circles now, has been seen as a negative of various extremes, from embarrassing to debilitating.

But what if we’ve had it all wrong, and forgetting is actually one of our more *useful* adaptations? What if sleep actually plays a significant part of this process?

Here, neuroscientist Small examines what we’ve learned – in many cases, much of it over the last decade in particular – about just how imperative forgetfulness is to the very existence of the human body and human society more generally. From the social/ societal benefits all the way to the molecular, intra-cranial benefits, Small examines it all in a text that is clear enough to work in the “popular science” realm while still giving plenty of technical and precise details. Very much recommended.

This review of Forgetting by Scott A Small was originally written on March 14, 2021.

Featured Release of the Week: Sleepyhead by Henry Nicholls

This week, we turn to a science book that proved to be utterly fascinating. This week, we turn to Sleepyhead by British science journalist Henry Nicholls.

As we find out at the very beginning of this book, Nicholls has a very personal reason for looking into the science of sleep and sleep disorders – he himself is narcoleptic. And his own narcolepsy becomes the narrative that ties the entire book together.

In this extremely well researched book – the last 24% of the book is nothing but bibliography and index -, we get a personal and scientific look at narcolepsy, its origins, discovery, scientific basis, and personal effects. We also get an examination of several other sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, phase disorder, and the feeling of being awake yet unable to move. We learn what scientists consider to be the causes of each, their effects, and how to attempt to manage them.

We also learn about the scientific reasoning for some of the general “better sleep” tips most of us have heard at some point – be careful with artificial lighting, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. Indeed, the second chapter is all about the effect light has on the circadian rhythm and the chemical processes that control it. That said, DO NOT go into this book expecting a quick tip or two about how to get better sleep – you’ll get that, but it will be as a part of the scientific explanation behind that piece of advice.

Overall, this is truly a fascinating, approachable look at the science of something many of us barely actually consider – how exactly sleep works, why it is necessary, and how to try to get the best sleep possible. Very highly recommended.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review followed by the newer feature, the YouTube review!
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