—New York Times Book Review
“The director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab explores the purpose of slumber. Understanding the ‘why,’ it turns out, just might help you with the ‘how to.'”
“A neuroscientist has found a revolutionary way of being cleverer, more attractive, slimmer, happier, healthier and of warding off cancer — a good night’s shut-eye … It’s probably a little too soon to tell you that Why We Sleep saved my life, but I can tell you that it’s been an eye-opener.”
“This is a stimulating and important book which you should read in the knowledge that the author is, as he puts it, ‘in love with everything that sleep is and does.’ But please do not begin it just before bedtime.”
“Fascinating … Walker describes how our resting habits have changed throughout history; the connection between sleep, chronic disease, and life span; and why the pills and aids we use to sleep longer and deeper are actually making our nights worse. Most important, he gives us simple, actionable ways to get better rest—tonight.”
“Walker is a scientist but writes for the layperson, illustrating tricky concepts with easily grasped analogies. Of particular interest to business owners, educators, parents, and government officials, and anyone who has ever suffered from a poor night’s sleep.”
—Library Journal, starred review
“Why We Sleep is simply a must-read. World-renowned neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker takes us on a fascinating and indispensable journey into the latest understandings of the science of sleep. And the book goes way beyond satisfying intellectual curiosity, as it explores the cognitive, health, safety and business consequences of compromising the quality and quantity of our sleep; insights that may change the way you live your life. In these super-charged, distracting times it is hard to think of a book that is more important to read than this one.”
—Adam Gazzaley, co-author of The Distracted Mind, founder and executive director of Neuroscape, and Professor of Neurology, Physiology, and Psychiatry at University of California, San Francisco
“Most of us have no idea what we do with a third of our lives. In this lucid and engaging book, Matt Walker explains the new science that is rapidly solving this age-old mystery. Why We Sleep is a canny pleasure that will have you turning pages well past your bedtime.”
—Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology at Harvard and author of Stumbling on Happiness
“In Why We Sleep, Dr. Matt Walker brilliantly illuminates the night, explaining how sleep can make us healthier, safer, smarter, and more productive. Clearly and definitively, he provides knowledge and strategies to overcome the life-threatening risks associated with our sleep-deprived society. Our universal need for sleep ensures that every reader will find value in Dr. Walker’s insightful counsel.”
—Mark R. Rosekind, Ph.D., former NHTSA Administrator, NTSB member, and NASA scientist
Ian Mann –
Two-thirds of adults do not have the recommended eight hours of nightly sleepI bought this book out of general interest. It is an international bestseller by a former professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and is currently a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.Here is why I am reviewing this book in a business newspaper.I believed, as you may, that “pulling an all-nighter” was a badge of honour, a clear sign of commitment and fortitude. President Trump brags of sleeping only 4 hours a night. Just last week a client told me with an element of pride, that he sleeps less than five hours a night. And he wasn’t the first.With what we know now, this is about as absurd as bragging that you are a wife-beater, and that you drive drunk!Consider the facts. Driving without having had sufficient sleep is the cause of hundreds of thousands of traffic accidents and fatalities each year. In the US, one person dies in a traffic accident every hour due to a fatigue-related error, exceeding road deaths caused by alcohol and drugs – combined.“Every component of wellness, and countless seams of societal fabric, are being eroded by our costly state of sleep neglect: human and financial alike,” author Matthew Walker explains.Just to get your attention, consider that reams of reliable research indicate that routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, and more than doubles your risk of cancer. It is a key lifestyle factor determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep deprivation increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, which boosts cardiovascular disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure.Less dramatically, you have probably noticed a desire to eat more when you’re tired. This is because too little sleep increases a hormone that makes you feel hungry and suppresses a hormone that signals food satisfaction.The need to sleep is a foolish biological phenomenon that evolution should have cleaned out of the system. When you sleep you cannot fulfil the basic drives of life: to eat and drink, reproduce and protect yourself. And yet, across the animal kingdom sleeping is a common factor.The World Health Organization has declared sleep loss an epidemic throughout industrialized nations. Two-thirds of adults do not have the recommended eight hours of nightly sleep. “Society’s apathy toward sleep has, in part, been caused by the historic failure of science to explain why we need it,” Walker explains. The fact that sleeping persists throughout evolution means there must be tremendous benefits that far outweigh all the obvious hazards and detriments.In the 1950s and 1960s, scientists used recordings from electrodes placed on the scalp to provide a general sense of the type of brainwave activity underpinning ‘REM’ (rapid eye movement) sleep. ‘Deep sleep’ describes the bodily state of inactivity, while ‘REM sleep’ describes high levels of brain activity with the eyes moving rapidly in different directions. The older technology limited our ability to understand what was happening during REM sleep that makes it so important.In the early 2000s, with the advent of brain-imaging machines, we could reconstruct three-dimensional visualizations of brain activity during REM sleep. This has enriched science’s understanding.Sleeping aids the body by restoring our immune system to fight malignancy, prevent infection, and ward off all manner of sickness. Adequate sleep maintains a flourishing microbiome in your gut which ensures nutritional health. The physical and mental impairments caused by one night of bad sleep dwarfs those caused by an equivalent absence of food or exercise.Dreaming provides humans with many gifts, among these are nightly neurochemical baths that mollify painful memories, and allow the brain to combine past and present knowledge, and inspire creativity.It is believed that “time heals all wounds.” However, Walker suggests that it might be that time spent in dream sleep offers a form of overnight therapy. REM sleep dreaming takes the painful sting out of difficult, even traumatic, emotional episodes you may have experienced during the day, offering emotional resolution when you awake the next morning. This happens because REM sleep is the only time during the twenty-four-hour period when your brain is completely devoid of the anxiety-triggering molecule. Sleep is clearly needed for us to heal emotional wounds.Sleep is also a creative incubator. In the dreaming sleep state, your brain will cogitate on vast amounts of knowledge you have acquired, and then extract overarching rules and commonalities. When we wake we are often able to find solutions to previously impenetrable problems. This is the difference between knowledge (retention of individual facts), and wisdom (knowing what they all mean when you fit them together).Mendeleev formulated the periodic table in a dream, something his waking brain was incapable of. When he awoke he wrote it down, and in only one place was a correction necessary.The neuroscientist, Otto Loewi, formulated how nerve cells communicate with each other in a dream. For this he received a Nobel Prize.Paul McCartney’s origination of the songs “Yesterday” and “Let It Be” were derived from dreams and then written down. “I couldn’t believe I’d written it. I thought, no, I’ve never written anything like this before. But I had, which was the most magic thing!”Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones had a similar experience with his music. Mary Shelley’s dreams provided the vision and narrative for the spectacular gothic novel, Frankenstein.Laboratory tests have shown how problem-solving abilities increase by 15 to 35 % when participants are emerging from REM sleep compared with daytime performance! The REM-sleep dreaming brain was utterly uninterested in bland, common sense, linear type links. In REM-sleep the brain drops the logic guard and ignores the obvious in` favour of very distantly related concepts.So, how do you know whether you’re routinely getting enough sleep? The rule of thumb is whether you could go back to sleep at ten or eleven that morning, or whether can you function optimally without caffeine before noon. And of course, whether you would sleep past your waking time if you didn’t set an alarm clock.Like a loan in arrears, your sleep debt will continue to accumulate. It will roll over into the next payment cycle, and the next, and the next, producing a condition of prolonged, chronic sleep deprivation from one day to another.The implications for your professional performance or management style should be clear. Coming to work sleep-deprived is no better than coming in hungover. And when next you hear someone brag about how little sleep they get, give them Walker’s book to read, or even just this column.We need to revise our cultural appreciation of sleep and reverse our neglect of it.Readability Light –+– SeriousInsights High +—- LowPractical High -+— Low*Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership and strategy and is the author of the recently released ‘Executive Update.
A. Menon –
Informative overview of the necessity of sleepWhy We Sleep is an overview of the author’s research into the purpose of sleep as well as the consequences of a lack of it. It discusses a lot of issues and the author gives his views on the evolutionary benefits and distinctiveness of humans, so it really is quite comprehensive. Most people today, myself included, just are somehow unable to get a healthy amount of uninterrupted sleep and the author does a good job of explaining the consequences of that to the individual through multiple cognitive lenses. He also considers the consequence to the country as a whole through its loss of productive capacity due to overworking.The book is split into four, largely independent sections. The author begins by discussing how sleep occurs, including some of the neuroscience and the chemical cycles associated with our sleep schedule. The reader learns about the marginal differences between certain physiological cycles and the 24 hour day. In addition the causes of jetlag are explored as well as the required adjustment for changing time zones. The author discusses a bunch of experiments done where we were able to learn about our cicadian cycles and some of the differences in sleep requirements any cycle times by age. The author also highlights his novel view on how REM sleep was associated with human ability to light a fire which allowed them to sleep on the ground rather than be in an unstable position in a tree and this evolutionary advancement was essential for modern development. Perhaps, probably not, but the author truly is impassioned about the subject with strong views. The author then gets into why we need sleep and discusses with abundant experimental evidence, the benefits of sleep to cognitive abilities and the necessity of it for healthy living. Some remarkable pathologies are discussed, for example there was an individual who lost the ability to go to sleep and their body slowly lost its ability to function and the disease proved quickly fatal. The author highlights that the Guinness Book of World Records struck the longest period without sleep as a category due to its terrible health consequences and the author spends time on the consequences of lack of sleep to driving abilities highlighting the large number of fatalities that follow. The author also discusses the benefits of sleep to overall body health and gives substantial experimental evidence to the regenerative benefits of sleep to natural ailments. The author does highlight that sleep will not just cure cancer but simultaneously implicitly argues that it might. So the author, with evidence, strongly argues that sleep has the ability to help one regenerate far more than the general scientific community currently advocates. The author gets into dreaming and how sleep breaks up. He discusses how each form of sleep is required and they have different functional benefits. Furthermore the body needs for NREM and REM sleep differ in immediate priority but not in absolute priority and these results are discussed with experimental evidence for how the body catches up on sleep after being deprived. The author discusses multiple memory experiments that depend on prior sleep conditions and highlights the substantially better performance statistics of students who have had enough sleep prior to trying to learn facts. The author then discusses the consequences of sleeping pills, which are considered significant and detrimental. The author also clarifies the difference between sedation and sleep and makes it very clear that sedation is not sleep and does not serve as a remedy and can be counterproductive. Alcohol’s detrimental effects are considered by their impact on sleep for example. The author goes through several common sleeping tablets and makes it clear he does not believe any are substitutes and argues they can become dependencies that create major long term problems. The author then discusses how much better the world could be if we all paid more attention to sleep and how overall productivity of the society could be enhanced. This sort of analysis is interesting but also in need of being the most skeptical of in terms of being a realistic analysis.Why We Sleep is informative and entertaining. It is exaggerated at times and so aspects of the credibility of the book can be highlighted. The author argues multiple times how even one night of sub optimal sleep has distinct impacts on ability and how an all nighter can be catastrophic, only to bring up an example in which an individual goes without sleep for multiple days to then sleep and make a major scientific discovery. The point of the example was to display the benefits of sleep but it erodes the earlier argument that any lack of sleep puts the individual at a massive handicap. Thus the author argues too forcefully for the unrealistic, that we need 8 hours a day without exception, while highlighting that he himself often cant sleep properly once a week. Despite the at times marginally inconsistent tone, the book is a good reminder of the importance of sleep, a good reference for the scientific benefits of sleep and important tutorial on the health requirements for sleep.
READ THIS BOOKWho knew a several hundred page book on sleep could be so captivating! As someone who is already pretty health conscious, I was completely shocked at some of the facts shared in this book and had no idea how essential good quality sleep is for our physical and mental health. My jaw was on the floor as I realized that my sleep habits I currently had in the name of productivity were completely counter intuitive to the goals I was trying to achieve. I haven’t stopped talking about this book to my friends and family. So good!
Mind blowingIn over 20 years in healthcare as a physician, it is a bit startling to see the data laid out in this book. A small amount of it was known to me, but I clearly fit the stereotype of the doctor who was proud of my ability to function with low sleep – I now strongly second guess those assumptions.I appreciate the scientific rigor of presentation – both the facts from studies and being up front with the limits of what conclusions can and cannot be made.Going forward I plan to build much better sleep habits for myself – and somewhat regret the sleep I have missed.
R. E. Johnson –
MUST READTerrific book. Explained many things I have experienced through the years, and opened my eyes to many new truths. A must read for anyone still breathing!
Paramveer Singh –
Must read!Must read for the parents and individuals having sleep and stress issues!
Alejandro Contreras –
Eye openingEye-opening book that brings to light the importance of sleep for our health, and didactically shares the characteristics and benefits of the different phases of sleep.
great book on sleepgreat well written easy to read book everything you need to and should know about sleep. matthew walker is sensational. Has the possibility of marginally (or largely) changing your life if you are a poor sleeper and embody all the advice recommended in this book. recommend it to anyone who tells me they have sleeping problems.
Not helpful for insomniacs!*WARNING* Don’t read this if you suffer from any sort of sleeping problem. It will just make you worse. I thought it would be interesting but actually it just made me feel really anxious about sleeping, so much so that I developed full-blown insomnia! It’s all a bit scary for someone who is prone to sleeping problems. Read only when you’re in a healthy state of mind.
R. M. M. –
Don’t bother unless you’re a doctorThere is far more detail than most people would want. I feel he rather overstates his case – you are given the impression that if you don’t get 8 hours, and get it every single night, you’re doomed to a life of failure and mediocrity. And I didn’t find much prescription. If you are having sleep trouble, what’s the good of being told how terrible that is without being told how to do something about it?I have given 3 stars on account of the serious research that has gone into the book. Otherwise it would be even less.