The Lost Art of Sleep
Michael McGirr
(Pegasus Books)
"The loud spluttering, strangling, gargling noise that passes as snoring is actually your attempt to push the palate and tonsils out of the way, open the throat, and clear the airway," McGirr explains. "The noise sounds desperate, and it is. You are struggling for life and you don't even know."
"I have been a teacher since Plato founded the academy. With each passing year, I observe in a number of my teenage students higher levels of both anxiety and exhaustion, two burdens that are closely related. Both feed off the fiction that these young people have never done enough or been good enough. Silence and sleep are the two places in which students can put down these burdens. But these are skills that have to be learned. The senior counselor at our school says that poor sleep is his No. 1 predictor of poor mental health."
"Sleep is the most generative part of our day because it is when our ego gets out of the way. I am fascinated by sleep perhaps because I have so often struggled to achieve it - - - both as a sufferer of severe sleep apnea and, more happily, as the father of twins. I have learned that when you cannot sleep, the discipline of silence can serve as a substitute, a kind of waking sleep allowing us to let go and live in the present. This does not mean it is passive or vacant. It means we surrender control and begin to listen.

[To be reviewed before 1 September]