Discovering the Power of the Night Self

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Pub Date 18 Jan 2024 | Archive Date 18 Jan 2024

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'Sleepless has changed how I feel about sleep . . . I was captivated' The Times, Book of the Week

'This book will inspire you to get up, light a candle, and experience your own Night Self' Financial Times


In the winter of 2020, Annabel Abbs experienced a series of bereavements. As she grieved, she kept busy by day, but at night sleep eluded her. And yet her sleeplessness led to a profound and unexpected discovery: her Night Self.

As the night transformed into a place of creativity and liberation, Annabel found she wasn't alone. From the radical fifteenth-century philosopher Laura Cereta and subversive artist Louise Bourgeois, to Virginia Woolf and the activist Peace Pilgrim, women have long found sanctuary, inspiration and courage in darkness.

Drawing on the latest science, which shows we are more imaginative, open-minded and reflective at night, Annabel set out to discover the potential of her Night Self. Sleepless follows her journey, from midnight hikes to starlit swims, from Singapore, the brightest city on Earth, to the darkest corner of the Arctic Circle, and finally to that most elusive of places - sleep.

A moving, revelatory voyage into the dark, Sleepless invites us to feel less anxious about our sleep, and to embrace the possibilities of the night.

'Sleepless has changed how I feel about sleep . . . I was captivated' The Times, Book of the Week

'This book will inspire you to get up, light a candle, and experience your own Night Self' ...

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ISBN 9781529366471
PRICE £16.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

Out for a run one morning just before Christmas, the author got a devastating phone call. Her father had suddenly and unexpectedly died. It hadn't been that long since her stepfather had died and she was supporting her mother through her grief. Now, faced with this terrible loss, she began to suffer from insomnia. What happened to her during her sleepless nights surprised her--she embraced and befriended what she calls her Night Self. She found creativity of a different sort during the nights she was awake and began to investigate how other artists, writers, poets, and other creatives experienced this. She delved into the science to learn what happens to our bodies and minds at night and discovered that female and male bodies respond somewhat differently. She pondered the gendered differences in how the dark is experienced, noting that for women, there is an element of fear involved, especially when outdoors and that men are 'more likely to exhibit ethically problematic behaviors than women' in the dark. (p 180). In the Prologue, she states, 'This an attempt to remove some of the anxiety that now accompanies not sleeping, to understand why we don't always sleep, and to remind ourselves that women throughout the ages have suffered from periods of sleeplessness, and survived, even thrived.' (p. xi)

Does she succeed at her stated goal? In my opinion, she does indeed. The book is fascinating as well as superbly written. Abbs skillfully weaves together the fruits of her research across many fields with her own experiences. She evokes the mindscapes, skyscapes, and landscapes as she and others have experienced them in ways that made me feel these things, too. It's a testament to her talent as a writer that she can do this while at the same time explaining brain science, human biology, philosophy, and so many other facts and ideas. It's a highly informative , readable, very enjoyable book that I highly recommend.

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