Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Reader's Diary #798- Jessa Gamble: The Siesta and the Midnight Sun

A few years ago one of the local high schools opted for later class times in the morning. They're just one of many high schools all across North America that have chosen to go the same route, citing studies about adolescent sleep deprivation, optimal learning times and other research proven benefits. I'm guessing that Gamble would be happy to note that we're not all slaves to the clock and that the science of sleep finally seems to be getting some respect.

Sleep and its relationship to internal and external clocks and calendars is the focus of Jessa Gamble's The Siesta and the Midnight Sun.

Written in a popular science vein, The Siesta and the Midnight Sun filled with quirky facts and fascinating studies. It's somewhat erratic, but for the most part I didn't care about Gamble's riffing on the theme of time. There were some times when her point was either tenuous or loss altogether and those were a bit more problematic. As interesting as it might be that the Dorset people, the predecessors of the Canadian Arctic who most people think went extinct, may have actually been absorbed into the later Inuit genealogy, I'm not sure what it had to do with rest of the book.

Though the Dorset story was Gamble off on a tangent, it helps illustrates why I still quite enjoyed the book, despite the apparent lack of direction. Based on our shared biology, there are certain sleep needs we all have. Yet based on our latitude, there are certain environmental cues we can't ignore and that interact with our biology. As the title suggests, The Siesta and the Midnight Sun, is a globe-trotting book. In order to question the efficiency of the increasing globalization (read: capitalization) of time, Gamble shares sleep-related anecdotes from cultures all over the world. Travel and sleep-- two of my favourite pasttimes (except when bed bugs are involved).


Shonna said...

Interesting John. I saw this book in a publisher catalog before it came out and it caught my eye. I now have it out from the library, but haven't started it yet.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I would definitely read this, despite its flaws. I've always had a soft spot for circadian rhythms.