Did you know that you can tell time in your sleep? That women have more nightmares than men? Or that up to half of the calories you consume can be burned off simply by fidgeting? In Sex, Sleep, Eat, Drink, Dream, acclaimed science writer Jennifer Ackerman takes us on an astonishing and illuminating tour of the human body during a typical day, from waking in the morning to the reverie of sleep and dreams.
Most of us are familiar with the concept of circadian rhythms, the idea that the human body maintains its own internal clock. Recent scientific advances reveal the importance of synchronizing our actions with our biological rhythms — and show how defying them can cause us real harm. With Ackerman as our guide we learn the best time of day to take a nap, give a presentation, take medication, and even drink a cocktail, along with a host of other useful and curious facts. Entertaining and deeply practical, this book will make readers think of their bodies in an entirely new way.
Just as Michael Sims does in his planetary guide, Apollo's Fire (Reviews, June 11), science journalist Ackerman (Notes from the Shore) uses a single day as a narrative framework for examining a wide array of scientific information, but she has chosen a much more intimate subject: the human body. Starting with a 5:30 a.m. wakeup call and working through to the wee hours (with a pause for a restorative midday nap), she explains the complex details behind some of the body's most basic functions. The day is a somewhat arbitrary structure for topics that could be discussed at any time (she holds off on exercise until the late afternoon, for example), but the arrangement is never obtrusive, and Ackerman's prose is inviting. While she doesn't offer a radical new perspective on the human body, she does provide a steady stream of interesting information on things like the tiny hair cells inside the cochlea that enable us to hear even the briefest of noises, and the aphrodisiac allure for women of the odor of men's underarm sweat. All in all, Ackerman offers an pleasant day's diversion.