These are compelling stories and they illustrate fascinating neurological quirks. Narratives of this sort were pioneered and perfected by Oliver Sacks in books such as The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. While Leschziner is not in Sacks’s league — his tone is a little drier, his temperament more clinically cool — he shares his boundless curiosity and commitment: you sense how urgently he wants to help his patients to get well...He is passionate about the medical importance of good sleep...These ideas are complex, and it should be clear that this book is a serious contribution by a serious expert. It is not a freak show.
Chronic insomnia now affects one in 10 adults. So it’s not surprising that several recent bestsellers have attempted to tell us how to sleep better. Leschziner questions whether an obsession with sleep is helpful, and refers to a new condition, “orthosomnia”, in which “people are diagnosing themselves with sleep disorders based upon the dodgy output of their sleep trackers”. He advocates instead a holistic approach to sleeping better, declaring that mental health and physical health are indivisible. The Nocturnal Brain will not promise to cure your insomnia, but it does make for an entertaining and thought-provoking bedtime read.