I mostly read non-fiction. I love the escape of fiction, but more often than not I feel like learning about something or someone.
Books on health, nutrition and self-improvement often make huge claims for themselves on how they will make you healthier or younger, dramatically improve your outlook or change your life. They have curated/sponsored reviews that support the claims and the publishing cycle continues. Most of these claims are scams of course, but their noise distracts us when a truly remarkable book comes along. Why we sleep? is a book to be noticed. An urgent, important read that should be required reading.
I first heard about Matthew Walker through Kevin Rose’s podcast, mentioned here Why do coffee and tea keep us awake? and I just finished the book. It took me a about a month to get through, I took it super slow – highlighting passages, making kindle notes, checking footnotes, putting in bookmarks. It got a bit ridiculous in the end actually, in some of the chapters I was basically highlighting the whole thing on my kindle, which kind of defeats the purpose of highlighting. Anyway, I feel I got to the core of the book and the research.
The book traces the origins of sleep – how sleep has evolved along with our understanding of it through time. It looks very closely at our scientific understanding of it (Walker himself is a sleep scientist), what the different sleep stages mean and how they work on the body. It looks at what happens when sleep isn’t available (spoiler: you die). He describes how we can go about improving the quality of our sleep and the benefits of doing so. There is so much in this book. It will actually save lives. I have 33 pages of notes on this book, which is more of a booklet than notes but here’s my first quote from the introduction. Walker comes out swinging!
“Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer. Insufficient sleep is a key lifestyle factor determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease. Inadequate sleep—even moderate reductions for just one week—disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic.” Dr Matthew Walker, Why we sleep, Page 3.
So this is a must read. As a bonus the quality of the writing is first rate. If you listen to Matthew Walker speak, then you’ll understand why. He’s highly articulate, eloquent and funny as well. Please read this book and share it with people you care about!