Master Your Sleep by Tracey Marks, M.D.

A good night’s sleep – modern man’s Holy Grail.  The way we all talk, its the one full-proof panacea we turn to to fix nearly anything and pretty much everything.  And the lack of it . . . well, that’s responsible for almost every ache, pain and muddled thought we have.

When this ARC came across on NetGalley, I was ALL in.  My problematic sleep history began years ago, finally diagnosed as sleep apnea.  I used a C-Pap machine at night till I lost all my weight and several consequent sleep studies confirmed that I don’t need it any longer.  However, the  hormone disturbances of peri-menopause combined with the side effects from certain maintenance medications to introduce me to the Wide World of Insomnia!  If Dr. Marks could teach me anything to help me get even a slightly improved night’s sleep, I would be so grateful.

The first half of Master Your Sleep focuses on the mechanics: how our wake and sleep cycles work, the biology of sleep, and then how even a single night’s sleep is a repetition of cycles.  We are very delicate clockwork creatures, and our modern life has surprising ways of encroaching on that mechanism.  Marks goes on to look at the different consequences of sleep disturbance – physical, mental, emotional.  I was struck by h0ow convinced we are that good restful sleep matters, but how uneducated we remain about the serious health repercussions, focusing instead on the more passing annoyances of feeling tired or sluggish thinking.  A startling number of diseases and serious medical complications are rooted in a lack of consistent, restful sleep, from diabetes, cardiovascular problems and even general susceptibility to opportunistic infections.

The most common sleep problems are laid out in clear, easily accessible terms, allowing readers to grasp the process and the importance of halting it without resorting to off-putting technical jargon or fear-mongering.  It’s readable, clearly understandable and still interesting to the normal, non-medical reader.

While the first half was interesting, the second half is downright useful.  Marks reviews the different treatment options, from medications (prescription, over-the-counter, and homeopathic), to cognitive, behavioral and even the purely physical, such as light box therapy.  She reviews how each treatment works, and why certain approaches are better for specific difficulties, effectively tying her first section with the second.

It was this second half that was gold for me personally, and I firmly believe it will be helpful for most, if not all readers.  If there is  medical imbalance of some sort, medication is the way to go, and a logical first step.  But if, like myself, that has not been effective, the cognitive tools – how we “think” about sleep – can make a HUGE difference.  Even more so, the behavioral tools can improve your sleep and your life almost immediately,

The most impressive part is the practicality.  Marks hits her strong stride in the behavioral measure that can bring significant improvement.  First up is the sleep diary, allowing the sleeper to narrow in on what the specific issues are, beyond the typical “didn’t get any rest”.  Then she moves on to helping readers analyze the assumptions we all have about sleep in general and our own in specific, and how those assumptions can lead to disturbances, or make relatively minor ones into more severe problems.  This allows readers to move from simple identification into actions they can begin taking that very day.  What impressed me further were the documents she provides in the appendix: a structured two-page Sleep Diary, an Assumption Log and a Problem-Solving Worksheet.  These bring the therapist into the reader’s room and allow the reader to start right in on the nitty-gritty work immediately.  And who wants to wait any longer to sleep better?

There is an added bonus, for those of you with little ones running about your home.  Marks has a separate chapter addressing the special causes and issues that arise with sleep disturbances in children, and the problems that their parents face.  It’s an even more delicate situation, but one that affects not only the sleepless child but every individual in the family, and Marks gives it the acknowledgement and treatment that it deserves.

So . . . how ya been sleepin?  With 1 in 3 people experiencing some instance of sleep disturbance, I’ll bet you or someone you care about will benefit from Master Your Sleep.