Skip to main content

The Secret Life of Sleep

Kat Duff

Embark on an exploration of what lies behind our eyelids when we surrender to the secret life of sleep.

What makes us cross the line from waking to slumber? According to Harvard scientists it’s our ‘sleep switch’ – a cluster of neurons in the hypothalamus. For the ancient Greeks it was the god Hypnos, caressing you with his wings. For the Blackfeet Indians, a butterfly.

From the meaning of dreams to the dangers of sleeping pills, Kat Duff brings insights from the latest in sleep science, the paintings of Salvador Dali, the musings of Michel de Montaigne, and rituals from around the world to paint a portrait of an activity that we all cherish but know little about. Why do we sleep? What happens in our brains when we sleep? Why are sleep patterns in Western industrialised countries so unhealthy? Is the boundary between sleep and wakefulness as clear cut as we might have supposed?

Tackling the full breadth of what sleep means to us, The Secret Life of Sleep blends cutting-edge research with captivating narrative to explore a hidden world that is both intimate and mysterious.

  • Publication date: April 3, 2014
  • ISBN: 9781780744155
  • RRP: £12.99
  • Pages: 272
  • Publication date: April 3, 2014
  • ISBN: 9781780744162
  • RRP: £5.99
  • Pages: 272


 ‘There’s much to recommend in Duff’s perceptive exploration’

Sunday Business Post

‘Interesting… What is clear from The Secret Life of Sleep is that our relationship with the Sandman has changed greatly over the millennia, and it looks like it’s going to continue to change even more in the future’ 

Big Issue

‘Duff is right to identify that many of us are sleepless princesses, now, prickled by anxiety and text messages, by lights and to-do lists and rubbish on the internet; and right, too, that the intersection of the new science of the brain and our myths about sleep is a fascinating area.’


‘Timely and highly original’ 4/5 stars. 

New Internationalist

'A charmingly written compendium… Duff offers a rich understanding of the subject in which personal insights blend with an amazing array of perspectives in ways that always seem to enhance and complement each other.'

Dreaming CultureJeannette Mageo – Professor of Anthropology at Washington State University and author of

'A highly readable blend of science, dream analysis, literature and psychology, to help make us more conscious of all that lies tantalisingly beyond consciousness.'

Lucy Beresford, novelist, psychotherapist, and broadcaster

'What distinguishes Duff's work from the average popular science title is her beautifully nuanced, lyrical prose and astute recognition that sleeping and dreaming have a much deeper meaning in our lives beyond the research laboratory.'


'Full of unique insights and surprising facts, this book brings to the fore an entire world that exists behind closed eyes.'


'Duff leads an absorbing foray into the vibrant activity that we otherwise sleep right through.'

Publishers Weekly

Kat Duff

Kat Duff is a journalist, author, and licensed counsellor. She is the creator of the popular blog upon which this book is based. She lives in New Mexico, USA.

Author page

Sign up to our newsletter

Sign up to our newsletters to find out more about our latest books and offers, straight to your inbox.
Select mailing lists