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Hardcover | Out of Print | 227 pp. | 5.375 x 8 in | June 1999 | ISBN: 9780262100809
Paperback | $5.75 Short | £4.95 | 227 pp. | 5.375 x 8 in | February 2001 | ISBN: 9780262600408
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The Paradox of Sleep

The Story of Dreaming
Translated by Laurence Garey


Michel Jouvet is perhaps the world's leading sleep and dream researcher. He discovered a mysterious dream state that he called paradoxical sleep. This third category of brain activity (distinct from sleeping and waking) is a state of very deep sleep with some specific motor events, including rapid eye movements (REM). In The Paradox of Sleep, Jouvet takes the reader on a scientific and sociological tour of the history of sleep and dream research, concluding with his own ideas on the function of dreaming.

Jouvet tells the story of a handful of neurobiologists, including himself, who pioneered sleep and dream research in the 1950s. He describes the technical and ideological obstacles they faced and opens his own laboratory to the reader, explaining anatomical, biochemical, and even genetic techniques. He also touches on psychological, philosophical, and metaphysical aspects of sleep and dreaming.

A key section of the book is Jouvet's discussion of why we dream. After summarizing Freud's theory of dreams, he contrasts it with current neurobiological data. Finally, he outlines his own controversial theory about why we dream: to preserve our individuality. Dreaming, claims Jouvet, is necessary for the genetic reprogramming of our brain.


“Exceptional.... Jouvet is a leader today, as he was 40 years ago, in ideas about paradoxical sleep. He appeals for better understanding of the energetics of the brain as the key to understanding sleep, and leaves us with the intriguing theory that paradoxical sleep is a genetically determined iterative reprogramming mechanism to maintain individuality. The more the reader brings to it, the better this book—like all great books—becomes.”—John M. Orem, The Quarterly Review of Biology


The Paradox of Sleep by Michel Jouvet is written by the man who discovered, 40 years ago, the major physiological signs that define the state of dreaming sleep, which we still use now. Jouvet is not only a man of science, but has a wide intellectual horizon and marked literary gifts. This exciting book (translated from the French) takes us through the labyrinth of research paths into the functions of dreaming, its physiological correlates, and some contemporary disputes about the significance of conscious processes.”
Mircea Steriade, Professor, School of Medicine, Laval University, Quebec, Canada