Let me first say that YOU NEED THIS BOOK. Here’s a link to it. You’re welcome.
I loved this book despite its meaty depth, the points hit home and pushed me to write my first book review since, well, probably my last 5th grade book report?
Why We Sleep is a book by Matthew Walker, PhD, that addresses research and important discoveries about not only why we sleep but why we should be making sleep a priority for our health, happiness, safety and sanity. This book delves into the scientific understanding of why humans (and animals) need sleep to live and need optimal sleep cycles to function efficiently, effectively and evolve.
Humans are complex beings who require sleep to live (yes, you will die if you don’t sleep for years consistently, he discusses this in the book).
This book entertains as much as it educates about diseases and their relation to sleep. He dives deep regarding memory and hormonal functions linked to sleep. He describes experiments that prove definitively why sleep is necessary for memory and cognitive growth, emotional stability, hormonal stabilization and cell turnover (including weight maintenance, our immune functions, and fertility) and what happens when we decrease sleep to the levels commonly found in our modern society.
A reduction of sleep by only 1-2 hours per night (he cites an average of 5-6 hours versus the recommended 7-9 hours) causes multiple deleterious effects including more rapid aging, insulin resistance, memory and recall deficits, learning deficiencies, and even behavioral issues.
There are multiple studies detailing safety issues regarding driving while sleepy (I became familiar with this statistic as a medicine resident who routinely worked 30 hour shifts then drove the 4 miles home to my apartment). Sleep deprivation causes more delayed reactions and more accidents than driving impaired by drugs or alcohol. Think about the people you know who don’t sleep well and a frightening picture emerges of our sleep deprived majority operating heavy machinery and making life-altering decisions on a daily basis.
Another sad statistic in this book is that we can’t “recover” sleep. A lot of us lack quality and quantity of sleep on the week days and then try to make it up on the weekends. I’ve been guilty of this for years. Apparently this doesn’t physiologically work, which made me profoundly sad. This book has opened my eyes in many ways and also reinforced what I already have been teaching in my Stop Being Stuck program – that sleep is imperative to multiple body functions – including weight loss and overall health. I was not aware of the severity of the impact on insulin resistance, increased appetite (via imbalance of ghrelin and leptin), and the links to decreased immune system function, increased infection risks, dementia, and cancer.
Dr. Walker also discusses the implications of over the counter as well as prescription “sleep” medications and how they sedate, rather than restore quality sleep and alter sleep cycle functions. He brilliantly details what NREM and REM sleep are and why we need both and how either or both can be decreased or missed with late sleeping and early awakening.
He concludes the book with an analysis of the cost to our world that lack of sleep is causing. He discusses from a societal perspective how we could all individually, in companies, and as a whole improve our knowledge, profits, productivity, and creativity by no longer lauding those who sleep less to work more, but sleep more to work more efficiently and intelligently as well as increasing the retention and intelligence of our kids by allowing them to sleep more and in better quality conditions as their brains grow and mature.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It did take me several weeks to read, mostly in the evenings. And yes, several times it did make me sleepy while reading, which, as he states in the book, he takes as the ultimate compliment.
So, in conclusion – go read this book! If you are wondering now how you can sleep better tonight – you can download my free sleep PDF here.
When you’re ready to lose your excess weight, drop your mind drama around food and optimize your health, come join our community and Stop Being Stuck here.
Let’s stay in touch.