Benjamin Reiss Explores The History Of Sleep And Sleeplessness

Mar 25, 2017

On today’s show, we’re going to talk about something that’s completely free of charge but that many, many people might call the most valuable commodity in the world: sleep. It’s supposed to be a restful and restorative process. So why does it produce such anxiety?

Our guest Benjamin Reiss says he wanted to look at the question “why do so many of us feel that despite all of our efforts to tame our sleep it’s fundamentally beyond our control?”

The result is his fascinating new book “Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World.”

You might expect a book that explores our difficulties with sleeping to come from a doctor or scientist. But Reiss is a professor of English at Emory University, and one of the elements that makes his book so interesting is that he drew upon his deep knowledge of literature to explore how we’ve viewed sleep through the ages and how the rules we’ve created around sleep may be making it harder for us to get a good night’s rest.

We recorded our conversation with Reiss in front of a live audience at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library.