Night School (Jack Reacher, #21) | Lee Child

Summary of: Night School (Jack Reacher, #21)
By: Lee Child


Dive into the fascinating world of sleep and its importance to our lives with the summary of ‘Night School.’ Learn about the numerous stages of sleep, such as how our brain activity changes and the relevance of dreaming to our emotional well-being. Discover how our modern-day relationship with sleep has been negatively impacted by the invention of the light bulb and technology, leading to sleep deprivation and its harmful consequences. Finally, explore some of the bizarre sleep-related phenomena, such as sleepwalking and sleep-learning.

The Stages of Sleep

Sleep is a much more intriguing process than we might believe. The human body requires gradual relaxation before entering different sleep stages that come with varying levels of brain activity. In stage one, the brain starts producing new ideas, while the muscles relax, and in stage two, deeper breathing and snoring occur. Stage three and four are the deep sleep stages with little brain activity, and waking up in these stages could cause grogginess. Finally, the fifth stage is when rapid eye movement starts, indicating that the person is dreaming. The whole cycle takes about 90 minutes, repeating about five times in an average night.

The invention that stole our sleep

The history of how the light bulb changed our relationship with sleep and the escalating effects of modern technology on sleep deprivation.

For most of human history, the darkness of night dictated our sleeping patterns. Then came the invention of the light bulb, and Thomas Edison, its creator, saw it as a solution to staying up late to work. However, the new nightlife that stemmed from it caused people to sleep less. Fast forward to the present day, and the problem has only gotten worse. With the advent of technology and constant stimulation from devices, people are sleeping fewer hours than ever. Major sleep studies from around the world show that most individuals don’t get the recommended eight hours of sleep, and some don’t even think they need it. The National Sleep Foundation reports that, on average, people slept between eight and nine hours in 1960; in 2000, the figure had dropped to seven hours. The detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on human health are extensive, and it’s essential that we take our relationship with sleep seriously.

Sleep Deprivation and Disasters

The dangers of sleep deprivation and its impact on accidents and disasters are real. This is evident from what happened to the Exxon Valdez oil tanker and other studies.

Have you ever heard of the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster? Did you know that sleep deprivation played a part in it? That’s right. The third mate responsible for the accident only had six hours of sleep over the two nights before the accident, a factor that contributed to his poor judgement and lack of alertness. Sleep deprivation can make people prone to accidents, as studies have shown.

Sleep psychologist Gregory Belenky’s study in 2003 helps to shed more light on this phenomenon. Belenky placed participants in different groups based on their hours of sleep, between 3 and 9 hours. They were then tested for their response time to different stimuli. The results showed that those who slept for more hours had better reflexes, and the seven-hour group, though claiming to feel awake and alert, had slower reflexes than the nine-hour group.

In summary, this book excerpt reveals the dark side of sleep deprivation and its impact on accidents and catastrophes. Be it on a personal or corporate level; sleep deprivation can lead to poor decision-making, impaired judgement, and reduced reflexes, creating disastrous consequences.

The One-Hour Sleep Phenomenon

Discovering the Genetic Mutation for Reduced Sleep Needs

Ray Meddis, a sleep psychologist, discovered an incredible phenomenon in the 1970s when he met Miss M., a 70-year-old woman who claimed to need only one hour of sleep per night. Meddis invited her to his London lab to observe her brain waves while she slept, but Miss M. was too excited to fall asleep until the third night, when she slept for 90 minutes. For the next few nights, the team monitored her sleep and discovered that she only needed an hour of sleep per night, which was not abnormal but simply different. Despite this anomaly, her EEG scans looked normal.

Over the years, researchers discovered that some people have reduced sleep needs and thrive in the business world as entrepreneurs or CEOs. In 2009, a research team from the University of California at San Francisco discovered that a specific gene mutation, DEC2, caused this reduced need for sleep. Through experiments with mice, they found that the gene tends to appear in different members of the same family as it can be passed down from one generation to the next. This discovery raised numerous questions, including whether everyone has this genetic mutation and whether it is possible to replicate the benefits of reduced sleep needs without this mutation.

Tricks for Sound Sleep

For centuries, people have struggled with sleeplessness and came up with various remedies. However, not all of them were effective. In Victorian England, people resorted to miracle cures like lodestones. But Charles Dickens, the famous author, searched for ways to combat insomnia. The key to sound sleep is avoiding bright light from electronic screens, which delays the release of the hormone melatonin, responsible for inducing sleep. Also, white noise could create a peaceful sleep environment.

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