Dangerously Sleepy Book Summary - Dangerously Sleepy Book explained in key points
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Dangerously Sleepy summary

Alan Derickson

Overworked Americans and the Cult of Manly Wakefulness

4.1 (34 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

Dangerously Sleepy by Alan Derickson is an enlightening firsthand account of the struggles sleep-deprived workers faced in the 19th and 20th centuries in America. The book also highlights the efforts made by labour unions and medical experts to improve working conditions and mitigate the effects of inadequate sleep on workers.

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    Dangerously Sleepy
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    Benjamin Franklin was one of the first Americans to theorize about sleep, but he left a poor legacy.

    Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Such sayings are emblematic of a common American attitude – that sleep is for chumps, for the lazy masses who have nothing better to do. But when did this unhealthy attitude start?

    To find that out, we’ll have to rewind back to the eighteenth century, when one of the nation’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, gave the subject some serious consideration.

    Before he was a politician, Benjamin Franklin was a prototypical polymath whose long list of professions included inventor, newspaper printer and author. One of his publications was the yearly Poor Richard’s Almanack, which included poems, proverbs, astrology and useful advice for the early settlers of the 1730s.

    One of his most famous sayings from the almanac, a saying still bandied about today, is “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” In 1735, when Franklin published this advice, he warned people that getting up late would only leave them scrambling and trying in vain to catch up on lost time.

    Franklin’s own sleep habits were relatively normal, and perhaps surprisingly economical. He would end every day at 10:00 p.m. and wake up every morning at 5:00 a.m.

    But as time went on, Franklin’s attitude began to change, and sleep became ever more undesirable.

    During the 1740s, in other writings under his “Poor Richard” pen name, Franklin took on a more judgmental view toward sleep. His maxims now implored people to get up, to stop wasting their lives; he even started telling people that there would be time enough for sleep once they were six feet under.

    Franklin’s anti-sleep attitude may well have been spurred to life by John Calvin. Franklin deeply admired the Protestant reformer, a man known for his aversion to sleep. When Calvin died at the relatively young age of 55, Franklin noted in his eulogy that he’d actually lived much longer than most, since he’d wasted so little time on sleep and sloth.

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    What is Dangerously Sleepy about?

    Dangerously Sleepy (2014) shines a light on one of the oft-ignored yet highly relevant legacies of the industrial revolution: lack of sleep. The nineteenth century brought us many innovations, such as electricity, railroads and modern machinery, but it also led to exploited workers and the idea that sleep is for the weak – a luxury that Americans can’t afford.

    Dangerously Sleepy Review

    Dangerously Sleepy (2004) by Alan Derickson explores the dangers of sleep deprivation and its impact on individuals and societies. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With meticulous research and compelling anecdotes, it offers a comprehensive understanding of the consequences of sleep deprivation.
    • Through its exploration of historical and cultural perspectives, it reveals the broader implications of sleep deprivation beyond individual health.
    • By shedding light on the widespread prevalence of sleep disorders and society's neglect of adequate sleep, it challenges conventional notions and prompts reflection.

    Best quote from Dangerously Sleepy

    Sleep is an absurdity, a bad habit. - Thomas Edison

    —Alan Derickson
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    Who should read Dangerously Sleepy?

    • The overworked
    • Historians of the industrial revolution
    • Readers who feel guilty about getting eight hours of sleep

    About the Author

    Alan Derickson, a historian and professor at Pennsylvania State University, specializes in the history of labor and the working class. His other books include Black Lung, Health Security for All, Worker’s Health and Worker’s Democracy.

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    Dangerously Sleepy FAQs 

    What is the main message of Dangerously Sleepy?

    The main message of Dangerously Sleepy is the importance of sleep and the dangers of sleep deprivation.

    How long does it take to read Dangerously Sleepy?

    The reading time for Dangerously Sleepy varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Dangerously Sleepy a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Dangerously Sleepy is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the impact of sleep on our health and well-being.

    Who is the author of Dangerously Sleepy?

    The author of Dangerously Sleepy is Alan Derickson.

    What to read after Dangerously Sleepy?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Dangerously Sleepy, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • The Mind at Night by Andrea Rock
    • Can't Even by Anne Helen Petersen
    • Dopamine Detox by Thibaut Meurisse
    • Eat Sleep Work Repeat by Bruce Daisley
    • 10% Happier by Dan Harris
    • Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
    • The First Rule of Mastery by Michael Gervais