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The Encyclopedia of Sleep and Sleep Disorders, 2nd Edition FREE TO VIEW

Lee K. Brown, MD, FCCP
Author and Funding Information

New Mexico Center for Sleep Medicine Albuquerque, New Mexico

Chest. 2002;121(3):1010-1011. doi:10.1378/chest.121.3.1010
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By Michael J. Thorpy MD and Jan Yager PhD. New York, NY: Facts on File, Inc, 2001; 352 pp; $66.00

While not common in books written for the medical professional, the encyclopedia format has long been popular as a means of providing medical information to the layman. Such august institutions as the Johns Hopkins University, Cornell University, Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center, and the American Medical Association publish health encyclopedias of various sorts, and there are a grand total of 768 listings under the term medical encyclopedia on the Barnes & Noble Web site. Even the Disney Company publishes an encyclopedia of pediatric medicine! Given the public’s increasing familiarity with sleep disorders, it is not surprising that an encyclopedia pertaining to this field would appear. In fact, there are two: the volume by Thorpy and Yager that is the subject of this review, and Mary Carskadon’s Encyclopedia of Sleep and Dreaming, first published in 1993 and reissued in 1996.

The Encyclopedia of Sleep and Sleep Disorders was the first encyclopedia of sleep disorders on the scene (in 1991), and it has been expanded and updated in this recently published second edition. Apparently by way of introduction, the book starts off with two essays: “History of Sleep and Man,” by one of the coauthors, Dr. Michael Thorpy (a pioneering figure in sleep medicine); and “Psychology and Sleep: The Interdependence of Sleep and Waking States,” by Arthur Spielman, PhD (a noted insomnia researcher) and colleagues. Both are well-written and informative but seem somewhat out of place in the encyclopedia format. I would have preferred to see them under applicable terms, such as history of sleep for the former and insomnia for the latter, in the body of the book.

The encyclopedia itself is comprehensive, including virtually all of the terms that a layperson interested in sleep and its disorders might want to investigate. However, it would benefit from some expert medical editorship. For instance, another reviewer has commented on the number of entries starting with the word sleep (there are actually no less than 80 such entries in the current edition) and the needless redundancy that this presents to the reader. One could easily imagine an encyclopedic listing of mountains with all of the entries under the letter m! In addition, many entries contain odd mixtures of simple and highly technical terms, thus blurring the supposed focus on the general public.

More troubling to me were the entries containing incorrect or misleading information. For instance, under codeine, this agent is alleged to be a stimulant for all disorders causing excessive sleepiness (sure to be a surprise to any patient with sleep apnea who hazards taking codeine without consulting a physician); and under multiple sleep latency testing (MSLT), the standard 15-min collection period after sleep onset to allow for the appearance of rapid eye movement sleep is at variance with the 10-min collection period that Thorpy and Yager specify. The book is particularly weak with respect to sleep-disordered breathing. Two examples: the entry on central sleep apnea syndrome (CSAS) fails to distinguish between hypoventilatory CSAS (usually a manifestation of neuromuscular disease) and hyperventilatory CSAS (usually from hemispheric cerebrovascular disease or congestive heart failure); and the definition of obesity hypoventilation syndrome equates this disorder to any process “characterized by hypoventilation during sleep.” Remarkably, bilevel positive airway pressure does not merit its own entry and is hardly mentioned at all.

The book does contain some examples of excellent writing for the layperson. For example, the discussion of oral appliances is clear and comprehensive, although a picture of such a device probably would be helpful. (This is a drawback throughout the volume; there are no graphics at all.) The case histories illustrating some disease entries are a good idea, and the listings of prominent figures in the history of sleep medicine add to the historical perspective given by the opening essay.

Overall, The Encyclopedia of Sleep and Sleep Disorders suffers in comparison with Carskadon’s Encyclopedia of Sleep and Dreaming, which is a well-written and authoritative text, but one that is aimed more at the medical professional. It is hoped that a third edition of Thorpy and Yager’s work will be produced without undue delay, incorporating careful editing and perhaps input from a pulmonary consultant, so that it can be recommended as a resource for educating the general public on sleep and its disorders.




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