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Adventures in the strange science of sleep
by David Randall
ONE night in 1987, Ken Parks left his home in the suburbs of Toronto and drove to his in-laws' house, where he killed his mother-in-law and attempted to strangle his father-in-law, before driving to the local police station to hand himself in.
This would, under normal circumstances, have been an open-and-shut case. But the circumstances were anything but normal: Parks's actions that night were all carried out involuntarily, while he slept. Parks was eventually acquitted and walked free, in a landmark case that led directly to the new field of sleep forensics.
Sleepwalking is one of several parasomnias, or sleep disorders, described by journalist David Randall in Dreamland. Starting with his own sleepwalking episode - which led him to climb out of bed and walk head first into his bedroom wall - Randall weaves his personal story with anecdotes like that of Parks, the short history of sleep research, and the latest findings. He explains why sleep deprivation has become a formidable enemy for the US army; how a short afternoon nap can boost productivity; and how dreams can aid creativity and help us to solve complex problems.
Yet while most of us spend about a third of our lives sleeping, the phenomenon remains largely mysterious. All animals sleep, Randall tells us, but we still have little understanding of exactly why.
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