The Woman Who Couldn’t Wake Up: Hypersomnia and the Science of Sleepiness by Quinn Eastman (Colummbia University Press, August 2023) is a medical examination of figuring out the rare condition of idiopathic hypersomia (IH), including the history of the diagnosis and the pharmacological treatment the condition. As the title suggests, it begins with the story of Anna, who often would sleep for 40-60 hours at a time and had difficulty waking. It is a dense nonfiction book ideal for those with medical training and an interest in sleep disorders, including the pharmacological interventions and discoveries related to the highly unique and newly addressed issue of hypersomnia.
I was interested in this book since I have family and friends with narcolepsy and sometimes I wonder about myself, as I get those “just can’t stay awake” moments during the day sometimes. My situation and narcolepsy’s effects on those with the condition are nothing compared to IH, which is the majority of the discussion in this book. From a layperson’s perspective, The Woman Who Couldn’t Wake Up is interesting only insofar as it touches upon the basic how’s and why’s about the brain, studies on how the condition may be genetic in the cerebrospinal fluid of affected individuals, and how circadian rhythms and the body’s natural melatonin helps mediate our sleep. Otherwise, although the stories of actual people were quite interesting, the book was much too technical for me to follow and continue to find interesting.
(Rated 2 from my perspective, probably rated 4 from a medical professional perspective, for an average of 3.)
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advance review copy of this book provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.