Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams.
Why We Sleep. Sleep is one of the most important but least understood aspects of our life, wellness, and longevity. Until very recently, science had no answer to the question of why we sleep, or what good it served, or why we suffer such devastating health consequences when we don’t sleep. Compared to the other basic drives in life—eating, drinking, and reproducing—the purpose of sleep remained elusive.
An explosion of scientific discoveries in the last twenty years has shed new light on this fundamental aspect of our lives. Now, preeminent neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker gives us a new understanding of the vital importance of sleep and dreaming. Within the brain, sleep enriches our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions. It recalibrates our emotions, restocks our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates our appetite. Dreaming mollifies painful memories and creates a virtual reality space in which the brain melds past and present knowledge to inspire creativity.
Walker answers important questions about sleep: how do caffeine and alcohol affect sleep? What really happens during REM sleep? Why do our sleep patterns change across a lifetime? How do common sleep aids affect us and can they do long-term damage? Charting cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and synthesizing decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood, and energy levels; regulate hormones; prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes; slow the effects of aging; increase longevity; enhance the education and lifespan of our children, and boost the efficiency, success, and productivity of our businesses. Clear-eyed, fascinating, and accessible, Why We Sleep is a crucial and illuminating ebook.
Reviews about ebook Why we sleep:
- Bill Gates: really liked it
Back in my early Microsoft days, I routinely pulled all-nighters when we had to deliver a piece of software. Once or twice, I stayed up two nights in a row. I knew I wasn’t as sharp when I was operating mostly on caffeine and adrenaline, but I was obsessed with my work, and I felt that sleeping a lot was lazy.
Now that I’ve read Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep, I realize that my all-nighters, combined with almost never getting eight hours of sleep, took a big toll. The ebook Why We Sleep was recommended to me by my daughter Jenn and John Doerr. Walker, the director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Human Sleep Science, explains how neglecting sleep undercuts your creativity, problem-solving, decision-making, learning, memory, heart health, brain health, mental health, emotional well-being, immune system, and even your life span. “The decimation of sleep throughout industrialized nations is having a catastrophic impact,” Walker writes.
I don’t necessarily buy into all of Walker’s reporting, such as the strong link he claims between not getting enough sleep and developing Alzheimer’s. In an effort to wake us all up to the harm of sleeping too little, he sometimes reports as fact what science has not yet clearly demonstrated. But even if you apply a mild discount factor, Why We Sleep is an important and fascinating ebook.
Because this is a short review, I’ll answer a few questions that I suspect are top of mind for you.
Does everyone really need seven or eight hours of sleep a night? The answer is that you almost certainly do, even if you’ve convinced yourself otherwise. In the words of Dr. Thomas Roth, of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, “The number of people who can survive on five hours of sleep or less without impairment, and rounded to a whole number, is zero.”
Why do we sleep? After all, when you’re sleeping—and all animals do—you can’t hunt, gather, eat, reproduce, or defend yourself. Yet Walker concludes that the evolutionary upsides of sleep are far greater than these downsides. In brief, sleep produces complex neurochemical baths that improve our brains in various ways. And it “restocks the armory of our immune system, helping fight malignancy, preventing infection, and warding off all manner of sickness.” In other words, sleep greatly enhances our evolutionary fitness—just in ways we can’t see.
What can I do to improve my sleep hygiene?
– Replace any LED bulbs in your bedroom, because they emit the most sleep-corroding blue light.
– If you’re fortunate enough to be able to control the temperature where you live, set your bedroom to drop to 65 degrees at the time you intend to go to sleep. “To successfully initiate sleep … your core temperature needs to decrease by 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit,” according to Walker.
– Limit alcohol, because alcohol is not a sleep aid, contrary to popular belief. While it might help induce sleep, “alcohol is one of the most powerful suppressors of REM [rapid-eye-movement] sleep,” Walker says.
– If you can possibly take a short midday nap as our ancestors used to and some Mediterranean and South American cultures still do, you should (but no later than 3 pm). It will likely improve your creativity and coronary health as well as extend your lifetime.
It took me a little longer than usual to finish Why We Sleep —ironically because I kept following Walker’s advice to put down the ebook I was reading a bit earlier than I was used to, so I could get a better night’s sleep. But Walker taught me a lot about this basic activity that every person on Earth needs. I suspect his ebook Why We Sleep will do the same for you.
- Emily: it was amazing
For once, I actually mean five stars in the sense of “everybody should read this ebook Why We Sleep.” This ebook is highly readable but contains stunning information I’d never seen anywhere else (and includes numerous references to serious primary literature). I was reminded (stay with me here) of ancient Egyptian funerary practices. After carefully embalming organs like the heart and liver, and placing them in canopic jars, the Egyptians pulled the brain out with a hook and threw it away, because they didn’t really know what it was for. This is how most modern people approach sleep. We know it must be sort of important, because why else would it be there, but we’re quite foggy on the specifics and tend to give it short shrift. At worst, we see it as an “annoying and enfeebling” obstacle to other uses of our time. Some standout topics here: your natural day/night pattern and the buildup of a chemical called adenosine in your brain that makes you sleepy, which contributes independently to your sleep cycle; and how caffeine and jetlag get you off your rhythm. (This was particularly interesting to me because I read this on a long flight. I never sleep on flights to Europe and this book explains why: I do not sleep-deprived enough to have excess adenosine to make me sleepy, plus it doesn’t feel like nighttime yet when we depart. So my brain isn’t interested in sleeping. When I arrive, my goal is to stay awake until 9 pm and at first, it’s easy. That’s the “day” part of the circadian rhythm giving me a bit of a boost. But soon, that fades away and the extra adenosine comes crashing down.) The role of sleep in processing memories and new information: sorting out what’s important, solidifying newly gained understanding, and turning traumatic experiences into bearable memories. How all creatures sleep, but in different ways that make the brain-repairing effects of sleep compatible with their environments. Some things that we think aid sleep, like alcohol and sleeping pills, are only useful if your goal is to lie inert in bed; they don’t lead to true, restorative sleep.Oh, and the doctor who developed the system for medical residents, and insisted that long shifts and little sleep were essential training, was a big-time cocaine addict.
There’s some genuinely frightening information here as well. Sleep deficits cannot be made up (sleeping in on the weekends doesn’t help) and lead to shorter lifespans. Lack of sleep contributes to Alzheimer’s disease, mental illness, and cancer. (The WHO categorizes night shift work as a probable carcinogen.) Drowsy driving is more common than drunk driving and more dangerous. We may be seriously harming the country’s teens by forcing them to wake up and go to high school at an hour so inimical to the circadian rhythm of that age group.
I already follow the author’s advice about “sleep hygiene” so I was mostly attuned to the scientific information and arguments here about social ills. Many people in my sleep-deprived cohort may be genuinely alarmed to read this book. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t! I read so many nonfiction ebooks with titles like this Why We Sleep one that is ho-hum–but this one’s a humdinger Why We Sleep.
- Mario: it was amazing
The best ebook about the importance of sleep and the dangers of a lack of it Why We Sleep. Often it´s our own fault, because we eat too much too late, consume media before going to bed, don´t exercise, float the mind with negative and repetitive thoughts that come back at night, sadly not as succubi and incubi, but more the nightmarish evil, not sexy, demon style thing. Even if full 8 hours are reached, the quality can be so low that healthier people with an optimistic mindset find more regeneration with lesser sleep than that.The consequences of sleeping too little because of work, too many hobbies, or mental problems are as devastating as overweight, smoking, drinking, and many other harmful activities one normally avoids, but doesn´t care when it´s about finishing just one more level, one more chapter, one more project for work, one more beer with friends, one more episode, one more cancer, heart attack, virus infection due to a weakened immune system…
The funny thing is, we mostly don´t do it because of existential necessity, but to consume any kind of medium, have a long good time with friends and family and intuitively think that the time is better invested in those activities than in 1 or 2 more hours of unproductive, forever lost hours of sleep. Cutting down to under 7, 6, sometimes even less seems legit to get more out of life and we don´t realize that we don´t just pay the expensive long-term price of higher mortality and more sickness, but that the following day is not as productive as creativity, workflow, concentration, and perseverance drastically drop and so we are slower, worse in any aspect, and unmotivated. Even if one sleeps the full 8 hours, the consequences of once sleeping too little or even not can reduce the performance for days, just as alcohol does the days after the hangover. Look how sad you make that poor little brain buddy there behind your eyes, what were you thinking when you did that, that reading is more important or what?
But, of course, it´s also societies fault and by forcing kids and teens to wake up far too early to go to school and pressing the last out of every working person, the current conventions produce immense unnecessary harm that could easily be avoided by better, progressive models of society and, once again, shining Scandinavia enters the limelight with the mantra “Social benefits and social security in a fair and strong eco-social welfare state make happy people.”
Any drug around and before sleeping *cough beer cough* is a bad idea, alcohol before sleeping helps to fall asleep, but kills REM- sleep and sleeping pills are strong drugs with severe side effects like for instance killing oneself when accidentally overdosing. If there is already trouble with insomnia, one adds more problems to it by using chemical methods instead of finding out what the real cause is, changing something, and searching for help. In extreme cases, good old pharma is the only option, but many may not even try alternatives.
A big, but unsolvable, problem is the positive effect of sleep deprivation on people with depression and similar mental diseases. I don´t know how the harm of both illnesses could be quantified and compared, but both options seem to be horrible. To be desperately unhappy with full sleep and floating the body with stress hormones while diving ever deeper into the vicious cycle or to sleep far too less and be happier and more motivated, but meanwhile damaging the whole body Why We Sleep.
This lucid dreaming thing is so extremely individual that one person might be close to unable to ever produce something satisfying while the other can do it as if it was nothing. That´s just random luck or bad luck, some people can add years and more quality to their lives by being conscious and creating any, totally real dream and fantasy wonderland and understanding personal problems, traumas and even solving them, while others can´t crack the brains code how to unlock the treasure chest.
About the Author:
Matthew Paul Walker is an English scientist and professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is one of the most high-profile public intellectuals focused on the subject of sleep.
As an academic, Walker has focused on the impact of sleep on human health. He has contributed to over 100 scientific research studies.
Walker became a public intellectual following the publication of Why We Sleep, his first work of popular science, in 2017. It became an international bestseller.