Book Review: Healing Night

Healing Night:  The Science And Spirit Of Sleeping, Dreaming, And Awakening, by Rubin R. Naiman

As someone whose sleep problems are pretty openly acknowledged [1], I frequently read books that talk about sleep.  Most of the books, quite sensibly, talk about how we as a contemporary society need to sleep more and better and that we do not do a good job at handling rest and recovery.  This book, as one might expect, is no different.  While there is a great deal I found about the book that was helpful and encouraging, as might be expected I found a great deal about the book that was less than enjoyable.  The author takes an approach to sleep that combines certain elements of science and technology and a history of science and technology (which is deeply interesting) and then adds to this approach a viewpoint that combines a lot of ancient heathen and Eastern religious.  Those readers who appreciate that an American sleep society took as its emblem a modification of the yin-yang symbol will find more about this book that interests them than than I found to be the case.  As for me, I found at least as much (if not more) to offend me than I found enjoyable about the book.

In about 200 pages the author covers ten chapters of material.  The author begins with a defense of the night in general given the way that modern technology has helped eliminate the darkness from our physical if not our moral and emotional world (1).  After this the author discusses the rhythm of rest (2) and the way that from dusk onward we are intended to surrender gradually to a healing sleep (3).  After that the author looks at darkness as a time of sleep and serenity (4), which many people in our time fail to find.  The author looks at dreams and dreamers (5) and the way that dawn is a time of gradual awakening (6).  After discussing sleeping pills the author discusses the way that we use medicines and drugs like caffeine to force ourselves awake in a daze (7).  The author discusses our need to make peace with the night and the darker sides of our nature (8), and contrasts the imaginative capacity of people with the way that we often seek to be entertained through the imaginative creations of others (9).  Finally, the author talks about how to integrate consciousness and (through sleep) unconsciousness into our lives and practice so that we may sleep better and live better than we do at present (10).

Yet although I found this book to have a great deal that was enjoyable, there was much I disliked about the book as well.  Like many contemporary authors, the author urges that readers integrate a lot of heathen meditation into their lives and practices, yoga and the mindless chanting of mantras and the like, and the author shows an unhealthy and extensive interest in Greek ancient religion and the heathen goddess Nyx and her supposed offspring.  Besides this, it appears that the author is writing from a Jungian perspective where the mental constructs of the unconscious and shadow and various other supposed aspects is viewed as fact rather than as speculation, and a fairly outdated speculation at that.  Even if there was a great deal about this book that was enjoyable and should be taken seriously, like our need to sleep better and recover some of the dreams that help our mind as well as body recover during the dark hours, the book simply has far too much wrong with it to recommend highly, although the author obviously considers himself to have written a work of great importance.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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