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Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams Paperback – June 19, 2018
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—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
About the Author
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I'll save you the money by summarizing the book:
"Sleep is really, really, really, really, really important. If you don't get enough sleep, you could have many problems because sleep is really, really, really important. I'm not going to tell you how to get better or more sleep, I will only tell you that sleep is really important."
Personally, I think he's holding out on this information for his next book. Grrrrrrrr.
1. It doesn't live up to the tile: the book is mostly a collection of facts and interesting research results and it fails to provide any kind of overarching theory of why we sleep.
2. The main tool used in the book is the scare tactic: "here's what happens if sleep quality is compromised". It works, and it might even be the right approach in many cases (schools starting before 9am is simply barbaric). The problem is, for someone going though sleep troubles, this can dramatically make things worse. It took me ~6months to recover from this book.
-Routinely sleeping less than 6 or 7 hours a night increases your risk of cancer by 50%.
-Every species every studied, preceding the emergence of vertebrates even, sleeps. Some species can sleep with only half their brain (!!). Sleep is an incredibly risky thing for an animal to do because you are completely vulnerable to predators when you sleep. But sleep is THAT important that it was preserved by evolution.
-After even one night of less than 5 hours of sleep, natural killer cells (which kill cancer cells that appear in your body EVERY DAY) drop by 70%. Just one night!!!
Buy it, read it, and then share it with everyone you know.
Are you tired? If your answer is yes, it would seem relatively straightforward to assume you're not getting enough sleep. Yet, signs of sleep deprivation may not always be this obvious (and there are other factors besides sleep loss that can make you feel fatigued).
Dr. Walker does an outstanding job of helping you understand the mystery of why we sleep and unravels some of it mysteries, like why your brain shuts down motor control to your muscles during the most active part of sleep, REM sleep. During REM sleep, there is a nonstop barrage of motor commands swirling around your brain, and they underlie the movement-rich experience of dreams. Thankfully Nature tailored a physiological straitjacket that forbids these fictional movements from becoming reality which protects you from harming yourself. Your brain paralyzes your body during REM sleep so your mind can dream safely.
Dr. Walker also consults for many professional teams and helps their athletes understand how sleep is one of the most sophisticated, potent, and powerful—not to mention legal—performance enhancers that has real game-winning potential. Sleep can radically reduce career or season ending injuries and massively improve performance if optimized correctly.
On the downside he reviews the dangers of what most of us do every night. Not sleep enough. This coming week, more than 2 million people in the US will fall asleep while driving their motor vehicle. That’s more than 250,000 every day, with more such events during the week than weekends for obvious reasons. More than 56 million Americans admit to struggling to stay awake at the wheel of a car each month. As a result, 1.2 million accidents are caused by sleepiness each year in the United States. You may find it surprising to learn that vehicle accidents caused by drowsy driving exceed those caused by alcohol and drugs combined. And if you happen to be drinking or using drugs the results are not additive but synergistically exponential radically increasing your risk of an accident, injury or death.
These are only a few examples of the highly useful information you will receive by reading this book. Highly recommended.
Top international reviews
Well there could be a much simpler explanation. You could be sleep deprived. Lots of people are and many don't even know.
This book explains why we sleep, the positive effects of sleeping in your mind, body and health and the negative effects that not sleeping enough has on them.
I really enjoyed this book. I am sleeping more now and I definitely feel a lot better, more clear minded and energetic. I can now clearly understand the effect a few nights in a row of not sleeping enough have on me... and I can detect it and easily fix it by just going to bed earlier! Life changing.
I have given 3 stars on account of the serious research that has gone into the book. Otherwise it would be even less.
First addressing the process of sleep, why the different phases of sleep are necessary to health, and how modern life and technology disrupt healthy and natural sleep patterns, Walker sets a persuasive context for the problems caused by lack of sleep, from "drowsy driving" (responsible for more avoidable deaths than alcohol and drugs combined) to medical errors by sleep-deprived doctors, from depleting personal happiness to severely hampering the immune system.
At my age, the particularly powerful wake-up call (ho ho) for me is the much greater chance of premature death, even in your sixties.
We're reading this book for the BBC Radio Gloucestershire Book Club in June, and I'm glad this will help give his findings more of an audience. It's already an international bestseller, but I wonder how many people have truly changed their sleeping habits long term as a result? I hope I can find the resolve to change mine before it's too late, and I will be pressing this book on everyone I know with evangelical zeal. Part of me is also gratified to find scientific confirmation of old wives' tales and instincts about sleep: "an hour before midnight is worth two after", "Sleep is nature's healer", "Got to get my beauty sleep", etc. These and many more are all unassailable according to Walker. if we put old wives in charge of the world, it would be a much healthier, happier and peaceful place.
Matthew Walker's writing style is engaging, as are his Youtube videos, and you will learn important information that could, literally, prevent your life from being prematurely curtailed!
For normal folks like you and me, and for doctors or scientists as well, sleep's been always a mysterious phenomena. We humans sleep (preferably) one third of our whole life. This is an enormous amount of time which demands some attention. Though historically the attention has not been allotted to sleep it deserves, academically or culturally.
If you read this book (and you should; whether you love or hate or enjoy or avoid or have problem with or have some queries on sleeping) you'd understand why the evolutionary process didn't eliminate sleep from our biological dictionary. Why, though seemingly unnecessary/time-wasting/futile/unproductive, we still need to get a good night's sleep to get a long list of physiological, biological, psychological benefits. And if you by any chance fail to get the necessary amount of sleep (voluntarily or otherwise), you're a big gambler who doesn't have the idea about the grave repercussions. (No kidding.)
This book will be beneficial to everybody except those smart dudes who have unwavering faith in some generic and prejudiced sayings like: "Six hours of sleep is enough for a functional adult" or "You'll have chance to sleep all you need when you're dead" or "Our great leader sleeps only four hours/day, hence I should do the same to be like him." etc.
Don't trust them for Kumbhkarna's sake. Don't mess with sleep.
Some curious takeaways from the book:
● Not only the starting phase of sleep is important, when you're going to wake up in the morning is equally significant too. If you get up earlier without fulfilling your sleep-quota, there will be consequences. Serious consequences.
● Melatonin doesn't make you feel drowsy; it just reminds your brain, "Time to go to bed, fella." Part of a whole set of timekeeping mechanism actually. The chemical substance which in fact pressurize your system to make you feel sleepy is named Adenosine.
● Dreaming makes you more visionary/creative/shrewd, really. And dreaming is not just some "commercial breaks" between slumber, it has serious impact on your mindset/thinking/worldview/self assessment and many things more.
● Homo sapiens is "biphasic" in case of sleep requirement. That is, we humans are biologically inclined to get sleep two times a day. Taking a siesta is not just a cultural phenomena in origin, but deeply biological. Dozing after lunchtime is absolutely human-like, nothing shameful if you think so.
● It's not mere practice that makes a person perfect. Practice, followed by a good night of sleep is what required for perfection. And the writer is serious about that.
● You can sleep as many hours trying to recover/make up the sleep that you've lost or skipped; but make no mistake, humans can never "sleep back"/rebound the sleep once lost.
● "Night owls" are real, not myth. As real as the "Morning larks" are. Don't bully them; or feel guilty of being one.
● Caffeine is the most widely used (rather abused) addictive psychoactive stimulant drug in the world. It is also the only addictive substance that we readily give to our children and teens.
● And a lot more.
The author is a neurologist and talks about how the brain works when we are sleeping.
How sleep helps the learning process, memory, etc.
There is a science behind sleep, that few people know about. I wish I had read this book when I was in university.
Matthew Walker is a sleep scientist and does an exceptional job in this book of explaining what sleep achieves for us. In fact, sleep deprivation is extremely dangerous and there is not enough awareness of this. Modern lifestyle has dealt a blow to both our duration and quality of sleep, and the effects are already quite apparent.
While sleep has not completely revealed all its mysteries to us, a lot is now known after painstaking research over several years. Our sleep shuffles between NREM, Light and REM sleep – and all of them have their purpose. NREM sleep fortifies our memory helping in longer term recall, while REM sleep & dreams lend emotional balance and help us get to the big picture. The book discusses a large number of experiments detailing what happens when we skip sleep. Depending on the sleep cycle and the quantum of deprivation, the ill effects are nothing short of disastrous – lower immunity, failing memory, loss of emotional balance, pre-disposition to serious diseases such as diabetes, dementia and even cancer. Getting adequate sleep (~8 hours) on the other hand makes people more creative & productive other than being healthy.
Somehow, our cultures today do not emphasise the importance of sleep, as much as we do exercise and diet. So much so, that sleeping less is mistakenly regarded as a confirmation of working hard and being more ambitious. The assumption that each of us can do with varying periods of sleep is largely a myth as well. While a genetic mutation allows a few to function effectively with around 6 hours of sleep, this is extremely rare. Almost all of us do need ~8 hours of sleep. There are tips on improving sleep quantity as well as quality all through the book, such as regulating caffeine in the later part of the day.
Most of us are guilty of not according sleep the importance it deserves, and this book is an eye opener. This is a book everyone should read. There are very important points of note for individuals, educational institutions, hospitals, organisations and even governments.
Das Buch ist in vier Teile eingeteilt: (1) This Thing Called Sleep: Hier erklärt Walker die biologischen Grundlagen des Schlafes und vermittelt ein Verständnis für die unterschiedlichen Schlafphasen. (2) Why Should You Sleep?: Hier geht es um die absolute Wichtigkeit des Schlafes und die Folgen von mangelndem Schlaf. (3) How and Why We Dream: Hier wird die Bedeutung von Träumen erläutert. (4) From Sleeping Pills to Society Transformed: Hier wird der gute und der schlechte Umgang mit Schlaf in unserer Gesellschaft dargestellt und ein Weg in die Zukunft gezeigt. Ein Anhang mit zwölf Tipps für gesunden Schlaf rundet das Buch ab.
Wer ein wissenschaftliches Interesse mitbringt, wird einiges lernen können (obwohl das Buch allgemeinverständlich geschrieben ist), aber auch der Leser, dem es primär um den praktischen Umgang mit dem Schlaf geht, kommt absolut auf seine Kosten. Man muss nicht jedes wissenschaftliche Detail verstehen, um von dem Buch profitieren zu können. Warum ist eine Stunde mehr Schlaf oft produktiver als eine Stunde mehr Lernen? Welchen Einfluss haben Alkohol und Drogen auf unseren Schlaf? Wie kann man Schlafproblemen entgegnen und warum sind Schlaftabletten oft die falsche Lösung? Welche Rolle kann ein Power Nap haben? Wie kann man mit Jetlags umgehen? Und… warum sollte ich den Snooze-Button meines Weckers lieber nicht nutzen? Auf diese Fragen und viele andere hat Matthew Walker Antworten. Absolut lesenswert!
This guy might be a professor but bless him, he can’t write for love or money. He has a tin ear and it’s very excruciating to read. He’s onto something however. I think that the fitness and nutrition industry will (or should) wise up to the need of adequate sleep. In that sense this book is a piece of sensible advice and warning.
I have spent a lifetime of cutting down of sleep time to get some more work done. If I had read the book earlier, I would organised my life differently.
I feel now, having read this book, that I have read everything there is to know and understand about sleep, why we sleep and more importantly, the dreadful damage that lack of it does to us. The book is so thorough and in-depth and I feel all aspects of the topic have been fully covered. It is written in plain language, so very easy to understand.
I have learned so much about sleep deprivation now and the harm it does to physical and mental health. I understand a lot more about the dreaming stages and I feel fully 'trained' to go out there and sleep to the best of my ability, for the sake of my life!