Synopses & Reviews
A fourth-generation insomniac, Patricia Morrisroe decided that the only way she’d ever conquer her lifelong sleep disorder was by becoming an expert on the subject. So, armed with half a century of personal experience and a journalist’s curiosity, she set off to explore one of life’s greatest mysteries: sleep. Wide Awake is the eye-opening account of Morrisroe’s quest—a compelling memoir that blends science, culture, and business to tell the story of why she—and forty million other Americans—can’t sleep at night.
Over the course of three years of research and reporting, Morrisroe talks to sleep doctors, drug makers, psychiatrists, anthropologists, hypnotherapists, “wake experts,” mattress salesmen, a magician, an astronaut, and even a reindeer herder. She spends an uncomfortable night wired up in a sleep lab. She tries “sleep restriction” and “brain music therapy.” She buys a high-end sound machine, custom-made ear plugs, and a “quiet” house in the country to escape her noisy neighbors in the city. She attends a continuing medical education course in Las Vegas, where she discovers that doctors are among the most sleep-deprived people in the country. She travels to Sonoma, California, where she attends a Dream Ball costumed as her “dream self.” To fulfill a childhood fantasy, she celebrates Christmas Eve two hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle, in the famed Icehotel tossing and turning on an ice bed. Finally, after traveling the globe, she finds the answer to her insomnia right around the corner from her apartment in New York City.
A mesmerizing mix of personal insight, science and social observation, Wide Awake examines the role of sleep in our increasingly hyperactive culture. For the millions who suffer from sleepless nights and hazy caffeine-filled days, this humorous, thought-provoking and ultimately hopeful book is an essential bedtime companion. It does, however, come with a warning: Reading it will promote wakefulness.
"Biographer and former magazine editor Morrisroe (Mapplethorpe: A Biography) considered herself a high-functioning, if acutely suffering, insomniac until she walked in front of a taxi one morning and was almost run down. Her subsequent, serious efforts to confront her sleep problems (which she envisions as a malevolent French aristrocrat played by John Malkovitch) included checking into a sleep laboratory (results: inconclusive) and trying antidepressants (she gets 'weird psychedelic dreams'), but her condition seemed intractable. In her struggle, she traces the history of sleeplessness from Hippocrates to modern pharmaceuticals, including the infamous Halcion (known to cause 'memory loss and violent behavior') and flavor-of-the-moment Ativan. Morrisroe makes the expected stops, including a convention (attendees introduce themselves with lists of sleep disorders: 'Hi... I have narcolepsy, sleep apnea and rheumatoid arthritis. ...and spend two years in a psychiatric hospital because I was misdiagnosed. What are your sleep issues?') and the increasingly profitable sleep industry (featuring $60,000 luxury mattresses and urban napping franchises); fortunately, Morrisroe's sparkling writing carries her through. That her journey ends happily, with her discovery of Qigong, means readers will be as encouraged as well as informed, with as much on overcoming insomnia as avoiding snake-oil salesmen." Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
About the Author
Patricia Morrisroe received a B.A. from Tufts University and an M.A. from NYU. She is the author of Mapplethorpe: A Biography and was for many years a contributing editor to New York magazine. She has written for numerous other publications, including Vanity Fair and Vogue. With her husband, Lee, she divides her time between a noisy apartment in New York City and a (relatively) quiet house in Westchester County.