Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body

Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body

ISBN-10: 0618187588

What’s going on in your body as you go through the motions of a day?  This book explores the noteworthy new science of your inner world.  From waking to walking, stressing out to working out, drinking to dreaming, it investigates the fresh news about the mysteries of exercise, sex, fear, stress, appetite, fatigue, learning, sleep, humor, and the body’s circadian rhythms.  


Selected as:

  • an “Editors’ Choice” by The New York Times
  • a “new and notable book of scientific interest” by Science News
  • a main selection by the Scientific American Book Club

“An enthusiastic tour through 24 hours in the life of a typical human body. . . .[an] illuminating and hospitable book.”   ~The New York Times Book Review

“A readable and remarkably comprehensive tour of all that is new and intriguing in the study of normal human physiology.” ~ The New York Times Science Times

“An engaging, eloquent and accessible book.” ~ New Scientist

“A unique attempt to describe the science of who we are.”    ~ Science News

“Offers fascinating insight into the workings of our often inscrutable bodies.”  Bookpage

“Meticulously reported and well written” ~ O Magazine

“Both a fascinating read about our bodies’ complexities and a potentially lifesaving resource, this is a dream of a book.”  More

Foreign editions of Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream have been published in nine languages:  Spanish, German, Korean, Russian, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese, Swedish, and Polish. 

Review by Abigail Zuger, M.D., New York Times, October 30, 2007:

“Jennifer Ackerman’s “Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream” is a readable and remarkably comprehensive tour of all that is new and intriguing in the study of normal human physiology. “The body is like an Antarctica,” Ms. Ackerman writes, “a continent being opened up, mapped, even transformed.”

In the spirit of a continent-hopping tour guide, she hits all the high points of recent research at top speed.

An experienced science writer, she has the sense to hang such a gigantic undertaking on a strict framework: a day in the life of an average person who wakes up (a little before the alarm rings; how do we do that?), sips coffee (why does it taste so good?), drives to work (how does anyone know when to press the brake?) and looks forward to lunch (why do we become hungry?).

The day goes on through the midafternoon slump, the visit to the gym, the after-hours office party (that guy in accounting, what’s his name again?) and the tossing and turning of a particularly bad night’s sleep.

Readers learn that some people can routinely anticipate their alarm with an internal hormone-fueled clock, that coffee’s appeal is actually less in its taste than in its smell, that a drive to work is an exercise in multitasking whose success depends in no small part on an interior “interval timer,” another brain clock like an egg timer that accurately estimates when the yellow light is likely to turn red.

A host of new hormones have been discovered to govern appetite and satiety, and while the doldrums that follow lunch are still not completely understood, recent research strongly supports a brief nap to treat them.

As for those social duds at the office party who require endless reintroductions to the same people, they may be suffering from prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize faces, linked to damage in a tiny area of the brain just behind the right ear.

We may think we depend on the sun to measure time, but we actually have so many precise internal clocks adjusting our metabolism from hour to hour that in the future drugs are likely to be dosed at specific times to maximize their efficacy and minimize their side effects.

Ms. Ackerman’s small book can give these and many more amazements only the briefest of attention each, but her footnotes are a comprehensive source of further information.”

Review in Bookpage October 2007:

A day in the life


Interspersed with autobiographical observations, Jennifer Ackerman’s Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body is both a personal and generalized tour of the human body. Ackerman’s work is fascinating, and it’s easy to focus on the parts that most interest the reader—like, why can’t I sleep at night? (It might be just part of the aging process.) Or, what makes that woman so attractive? (A direct gaze, symmetrical face, full lips and dilated pupils.) But the whole book is worth investigating for its explorations of appetite, sexual urges and nightmares, among other distinctly human experiences and expressions.

The book is divided into times of day—morning, midday, afternoon, evening and night—and then subdivided into germane topics. The system of organization works well because it keeps readers conscious of the rhythms of the body, so formed by the rhythms of the day. The section on “Wit,” for example, is in the morning part of the book, when many of us are sharpest, and a section on how we interpret different faces is in the “Dusk” portion, when many people attend parties or other social events. The “Afternoon” section includes “The Doldrums” and “In Motion,” encompassing both the torpor and production that the post-lunch period seems to engender.

Ackerman’s latest is full of intriguing facts, including that coffee’s flavor is 75 percent due to its odor. Jaws can put as much as 128 pounds of pressure on teeth during chewing. Laughter rouses the brain’s most primal “reward circuits,” which is how it relieves stress. Regular moderate exercise may relieve the symptoms of depression as well as therapy, and humans are the only species that can override the body’s natural sequence at will, forcing ourselves to stay awake, or denying hunger pangs.

Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream offers fascinating insight into the workings of our often inscrutable bodies. It’s also amazingly comprehensive. As Ackerman writes, “From caress to orgasm, multitasking to memorizing, working out to stressing out, drooping to dreaming, it’s here.”

Booklist review 9/1/07:

When are we the most mentally alert?  What makes us feel hungry?  A skilled and personable science journalist, Ackerman has hit her stride in her third book, a virtual full-body scan conducted over the course of 24 hours.  With informational exactitude and conversational casualness, Ackerman summarizes and contemplates the latest findings regarding body processes and life habits.  Beginning with our grogginess upon awaking and moving through a typically demanding day and night of too little sleep, Ackerman explains the mechanics and significance of the body’s inner clock, why touch is essential to our well-being, and how those billions of microbes we host, weighing an estimated two pounds, help us digest food.  Stress is Ackerman’s most compelling subject:  what it is exactly, what havoc it wreaks, and how to control it.  As she touts the benefits of exercise, music, companionship, and laughter, which she describes as “stress therapy rooted in ancient neural threads of joy,” one can’t help but note that scientific breakthroughs are proving the veracity of age-old adages about how to live right.

Other reviews:

“Days of Our Lives” Washington Post, November 25, 2007

“Think you know your own body?  Think again.  Ackerman’s captivating book is rich with fun, fascinating news about your body that makes you see it in a whole new light.”  ~ Miriam E. Nelson, author of Strong Women Stay Young

“Jennifer Ackerman writes with the precision of a scientist and the elegance of a poet.  Her journey from morning to night is invigorating, informed, insightful, and wise.”

~ Steve Olson, author of Mapping Human History and Count Down.

“A fascinating look at what modern science tells us about who we are.” ~ Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe

“In a delightful picaresque describing the typical events inside a human body during an ordinary 24 hours, Jennifer Ackerman vividly captures the science of everyday life, from the way caffeine rouses us in the morning to the way alcohol puts us to sleep at night, from the biology of multi-tasking to the neurobiology of orgasms.  You’ll never think about your body–and what you do to it–in the same way again.”  ~ Stephen S. Hall, author of Size Matters and Merchants of Immortality