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Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  140,102 ratings  ·  14,837 reviews
Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9781501144318.

Neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker provides a revolutionary exploration of sleep, examining how it affects every aspect of our physical and mental well-being. Charting the most cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and marshalling his decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sle
Hardcover, 1st edition, 368 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by Scribner (first published September 28th 2017)
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Kamelia "Should his eyelids fail to close, Walker admits that he can be a touch 'Woody Allen-neurotic'. When, for instance, he came to London over the summer,…more"Should his eyelids fail to close, Walker admits that he can be a touch 'Woody Allen-neurotic'. When, for instance, he came to London over the summer, he found himself jet-lagged and wide awake in his hotel room at two o’clock in the morning. His problem then, as always in these situations, was that he knew too much. His brain began to race. 'I thought: my orexin isn’t being turned off, the sensory gate of my thalamus is wedged open, my dorsolateral prefrontal cortex won’t shut down, and my melatonin surge won’t happen for another seven hours.' What did he do? In the end, it seems, even world experts in sleep act just like the rest of us when struck by the curse of insomnia. He turned on a light and read for a while."


C.J. Shane The problem you describe impacts middle-aged and older people particularly hard. Two factors here are circadian rhythm and sleep pressure. In older fo…moreThe problem you describe impacts middle-aged and older people particularly hard. Two factors here are circadian rhythm and sleep pressure. In older folk, the circadian rhythm shifts so that melatonin is released earlier in the evening, signaling that it's time to sleep. Second, we experience "sleep pressure" caused by the build-up of the chemical adenosine in our brains. If you drop off in the evening, that dissipates adenosine levels so that when you go to bed, there's little adenosine-sleep pressure left. The author has some suggestions on how to change this pattern. I'll write a review later but I'll have to say now that this is one of the most important health-related books I've ever read. Please read it.(less)

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Bill Gates
Dec 12, 2019 rated it 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 book was recommended to me by
K.J. Charles
This book is genuinely terrifying. The author, a sleep scientist, lists the devastating consequences of getting less than 7-9 hours regularly and it is so much worse than you might have thought. SO much worse. We're basically all going to die.

I'm not even kidding--being just an hour short on sleep a day will do serious damage to your immune system almost immediately, and the Western world is in the grip of a massive sleep deprivation epidemic. Lack of sleep is a carcinogen, literally. It also d
Tharindu Dissanayake
"The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life span"

This is not a book that I had in any of my reading lists, and only picked up because the title seemed interesting while I was searching for some other books. I'm really glad that I did so, because this turned out to be one of the most incredible books I've ever read: full of enlighteningly descriptive insights on many aspects related to sleeping.

"Wakefulness is low-level brain damage, while sleep is neurological sanitation."
"When sleep i
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
For once, I actually mean five stars in the sense of "everybody should read this book." This book 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 r
Emily (Books with Emily Fox)
Aug 10, 2021 is currently reading it
Shelves: audiobooks
I'm only 50% into and while it's good, if you have anxiety or if you're not sleeping well... don't read it!

I didn't need to stress myself more about sleeping badly. Now I know exactly how bad for me it is XD

PS. Guys, this isn't my official review, this is just me joking around that it's stressing me out lol
Mario the lone bookwolf (is on a longer vacation)
The best book about the importance of sleep and the dangers of a lack of it.

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 lesse
Petra going to Mexico to hospital again, so hiatus
Something to ponder; every living thing on earth is subject to the circadian (24 hour) rhythm. It is understandable why animals and plants need to be awake in daylight hours. Less so for fish that for thousands of generations have lived in underground rivers and have over the millenia lost the ability to even sense light. Even less so for bacteria. But still, all of us have this endogenous clock keeping time within us, keeping time with the sun.

In the 1930s, a scientist, Nathaniel Kleitman and a
Greg Swierad
Jul 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Sleeping is probably the biggest productivity hack I know. If you don't get enough sleep every day or don't get regular sleep, this is the most important thing you should work on. Lots of bad decisions are made due to lack of sleep so no excuse just make sure you sleep well.
As important as sleeping is, writing a whole book about it feels like it's too much. I liked a lot of the things in this book but thought it was too long.
My biggest lesson from this book is to avoid sleeping pills whenever po
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, medicine
So, this book is both a must read and deeply, deeply disturbing. I’ve been having trouble sleeping for the last few years and now I’m going to have to do something about it, simple as that, because the consequences of not sleeping properly are appalling.

For instance, it provides you, free of charge, with an increased risk of diabetes, dementia (in all its fun and various guises), weight gain, heart disease and even accidental death. And the situation is getting worse. We are losing sleep at a r
❀ Lily ❀
Jan 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
4.5 - Very well researched and the studies/arguments are explained in a way that's very accessible and easy to understand. ...more
JV (semi-hiatus)
Have you ever felt knackered that you needed to catch some z's hopefully to sleep back what you've previously lost? Have you not slept a wink even if you hit the hay awhile ago and just decided to take some sleeping and other sedating drugs just to make you sleep like a log, but then you would wake up feeling like a zombie of sorts? Well, have no fear, the doctor's here! Not me, okay? Mind you!
"Ultimately, asking 'Why do we sleep?' was the wrong question. It implied there was a single functio
Moeen Sahraei
Mar 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Five giant stars. This book is extremely precious because it is the intuitive summary of more than 50 years research on different facets and functions of sleep, and also because it is written by a proficient neurologist in a way that anyone can easily understand the intricate functions of the brain,hormones,body etc.
The author first thoroughly explains the endogenous reasons of sleep ( melatonin and adenosine ) and then describes two different phases of sleep ( NREM and REM ). Then he illustrat
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, biology
Matthew Walker really, really thinks we all need some serious shut-eye, and he's not messing around when it comes to getting you on board – he hits you with both barrels on page one, and never lets up:

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—di
May 26, 2018 rated it liked it
There's an overwhelmingly positive experience I had with this book. For most of it, Walker talks about his research (and his colleagues) surrounding the sleep and those arguments are fascinating and convincing.
However, there are moments, mostly closer to the end of it, when you feel like you are listening to a sales pitch. First of all, I dislike when somebody uses percentage without reference, ie "it's a 150% growth" as it might easily mean it was 1% in the past and now is 2,5% (150% growth),
Clif Hostetler
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
The less you sleep the shorter your life span will be. Do I have your attention yet? If so read this excerpt from the beginning of this book (p3-5), and you will understand why this book caught my attention.

This book is divided into four parts. Part 1 defines the nature and types of sleep, describes how the need for sleep changes over a life span, and goes on to discuss the evolutionary origins of sleep. Part 2 describes why you should sleep and lays out the dire consequences of not sleepin
David Rubenstein
This is such an excellent book, mainly because I had never thought very much about the need for a good night's rest. The first part of this book does not really address "why we sleep". Instead, the book describes "what happens if we do not get enough sleep." Not until about halfway through the book, does the question "why we sleep" really get answered.

The author, Matthew Walker, is a professor of neuroscience and psychology. I always prefer to read science-related books that are written by scien
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sleep has been a big mystery for long, as it has been unclear what purpose it serves, and why natural selection did not weed it out. After all, in earlier times, the period of sleep must have been one of considerable danger for humans (and even now for many animals and birds). And yet, sleep is a common requirement across the animal kingdom as well. In fact, birds and some sea creatures have the remarkable ability to sleep half a brain at a time.

Matthew Walker is a sleep scientist and does an e
Mark Porton
Why we Sleep by Sleep Scientist, Matthew Walker was totally BRILLIANT!

Matthew Walker is a British Sleep Scientist and Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at Berkeley – and it shows. Essentially everything Professor Walker asserts is backed up by evidence. More often than not, he not only states the source but will explain the details of the studies in question to explain his statements. It is just so well done – all easy to read, all so well explained.

But this is all very well. It wouldn’t
Jan 01, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is artful science-writing, except that the science seems sketchy. It is fishy, especially in the context of the author's lambasting of Big Pharma, that he is a self-styled entrepreneur (https://www.sleepdiplomat.com/entrepr...) working with Fitbit and Google, presumably on the types of gadgets he recommends in the book.

Nerd addendum:
The general point is reasonable: people should get enough sleep. Fine -- that hardly requires a book. The potential plus-value here is the fear-mongering to mo
Mar 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
You know, I'm not usually one to tout NY Times bestsellers, but in this particular case, I want to mention that...

This kinda should be required reading for everyone.

Why? Because despite the rather innocuous title and no-nonsense factual information being presented, with no less than 750 scientific studies supporting the findings within, the author OUGHT to have been screaming that we're all freaking fools and morons.

Sure, I've heard of some of the studies, such as the ones related to the huge p
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Hamad by: Tala
This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found @The Book Prescription

“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.”

🌟 I am still on a quest to discover more non-fiction books, that started last year and I am willing to continue this year. So when Tala (Who also happens to be a medical student in my class) recommended this, I knew that I had to read it!

🌟 I also had the same first question that most of us will think of: How a ~370 pages book is filled with things on s
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites-2019
Written by sleep scientist Matthew Walker, this is a look at what all we know about sleep right now. Though much about sleep is still not understood, Walker makes the bold assertion that more than anything else in our lifestyles, sleep is the factor that is the key to our overall wellbeing. Diet and exercise are important, but nothing is as crucial as getting the 7-9 hours you need every single night.

This is not a self-help book on how to sleep more, but understanding the science - presented in
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-improvement
After listening to Matthew Walker’s appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast I decided to leave a review for this book. Overall, it’s quite good and the content is original. This book highlights the benefits of nine hours of sleep and how it is imperative to live a healthy life and do excellent academically. I didn’t think you could write so much over the research on sleeping. I do hope Walker appears on Joe Rogan’s podcast again to remind people to sleep more!
Nov 23, 2019 rated it did not like it
update: there's now an example of deliberate data manipulation by Walker (he edited out the data that contradicted his argument from the graph) -- https://guzey.com/books/why-we-sleep/...


Read my full review here: https://guzey.com/books/why-we-sleep/

Walker misrepresents science, invents things on the fly (e.g. sleeplessness epidemic declared by the WHO), and scaremongers everyone into sleeping more than they probably should. I wrote a fact-check of the first 10 pages of the book, and it's not
Lubinka Dimitrova
Hands down, one of the best books I read this year (more like ever, to be honest).

So, a miracle drug has been discovered. A revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory, makes you more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious. Sleep! Who would ha
Krishna Chaitanya
My sleep is broken, I play games or surf internet for hours before going to bed at midnight and I lazily snooze the alarm at 8am and I continue to do so till 10am or even 11 sometimes. I was looking for a silver bullet to fix my sleep and I picked this one.

So, did it help?
ah, er.. em, yes.

Out of 13.5 hours of material on sleep, author hardly covers on how to fix your sleep but reveals the horrors that are inevitable if your don't change your sleep habits. The author, a sleep scientist strongly a
James Hartley
Apr 05, 2018 rated it liked it
This is going to sound naive but it still surprises me that so many scientists can be so vain. I like to imagine them outside and above such concerns but of course they aren´t: they´re as human as the rest of us. They want to win prizes, "go down in history", have students applaud them in lectures and be popular.
Walker is Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and tours, lectures and writes on sleep and sleep science. This book - which can be read in o
Dave Schaafsma
Dec 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
I've never been a great sleeper. Not an insomniac, no sleep disorders, but I have always been secretly proud that I "need less sleep than most normal people," never sleeping as much as any friend or family member. Hey, I'm ambitious, relatively healthy, I like to stay up late and wake early, bam, waking up without the need for coffee, a bit of a lifer adhd kind of guy. But in the last couple years I have begun to listen to doctors about my blood pressure, heart rate, cholestoral, the need to exe ...more
We often hear that sleep, diet and exercise are the three pillars of health, but Walker, a professor of neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley, goes further: he believes sleep is the platform on which diet and exercise rest. Getting 7–9 hours of sleep a night is not some luxury to aim for but an absolute essential for the brain to process new information and prepare for receiving more the next day. Dreaming is like overnight therapy, and fuels creativity. Sleep deprivation has be ...more
Johann (jobis89)
Dec 28, 2019 rated it liked it
"Our lack of sleep is a slow form of self-euthanasia."

Leading scientific expert Professor Matthew Walk reveals his groundbreaking exploration of sleep and why it's so important.

If anything is going to scare me into taking my sleep more seriously, it would be this book. I can't even begin to detail all the amazing - yet terrifying - facts I learned while listening to Why We Sleep. And I always KNEW us night owls were at a disadvantage when it came to the normal 9-5 lifestyle - our body clock simp
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Matthew Walker is a British scientist and professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on the impact of sleep on human health and disease. Previously, he was a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

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