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Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

4.47  ·  Rating details ·  14,525 ratings  ·  2,196 reviews
A New York Times bestseller

The first sleep book by a leading scientific expert—Professor Matthew Walker, Director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab—reveals his groundbreaking exploration of sleep, explaining how we can harness its transformative power to change our lives for the better.

Sleep is one of the most important but least understood aspects of our life, w
Hardcover, 340 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by Scribner
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Simon Harvey No, it's not really a how-to guide. There is a two-page appendix which gives tips for getting consistently good sleep, based on the information from…moreNo, it's not really a how-to guide. There is a two-page appendix which gives tips for getting consistently good sleep, based on the information from the National Sleep Foundation.

That said, it's easy to draw conclusions from the way that light and heat have an impact.

But the biggest effect is that reading the book will convince you that you really should get all the sleep you need. You'll make sure of an early night.(less)
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…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)

Community Reviews

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4.47  · 
Rating details
 ·  14,525 ratings  ·  2,196 reviews

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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
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
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 sleeping.
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Hamad by: Tala
Shelves: 2018-reads, e-books
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 sl
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medicine, science
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
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
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
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),
Lily ☁️
“After all, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

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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
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was so much better than I expected! This is one of those books you just want to buy 20 of to gift to your family and friends. I seriously recommend you read this, especially all of you bookworms who read deep into the night sacrificing your sleep on a regular basis. 😉
André Oliveira
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was good! It contains a lot of scientific information about sleep and dreams.

It was interesting and sometimes boring, but you know what, as the author says at the beginning of the book:

Should you feel drowsy and fall asleep while reading the book, unlike most authors, I will not be disheartened. Indeed, based on the topic and content of this book, I am actively going to encourage you that kind of behaviour from you.
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I am obsessed with learning about sleep, and sleep hygiene. I will read article after article on the topic, even if it's just regurgitating the same old stuff. It just feels calming to me. Despite that though, I'm quite bad at practicing what I preach (to my husband and anyone else who will listen).

This book is anything but calming however. In fact, it will put the fear of god into you. It is however the most informative text I have ever read on the topic of sleep and dreams, and I believe it wi
Nicole (Read Eat Sleep Repeat)
“Sleep is nonnegotiable.”

I love sleep, and I constantly find myself drawn to books on the topic. Not only was Why We Sleep was a thorough exploration of sleep and its many aspects, full of scientific fact, theory, and study, but it was also highly engaging. The audiobook narration was also spot on, making for an unputdownable reading experience. Highly recommended.
Sad Sunday (If I say it's bad, it's bad)
Finally, the book whose author actually said that he will be happy if a reader fell asleep while reading it. Great book!


I have to admit, I skipped a few chapters due to my incompetence in sleep science. But I am still rating it 5* stars since it was a great and interesting read. In my opinion M.P.Walker said everything about sleep that could be said.

The thing I liked the most was the style - it had a flowing continuity that was easy to understand for an average reader (I like stuff called popul
My favourite book of 2018 so far and one of my all time non-fiction favourites.

So much in there that just makes sense and explains a lot - wish that I had read this 30 years ago when I started my working life but without giving too much away I shall be making sure that I get my 7 to 8 hours sleep every night (if I do have to work late, I'll make sure that I don't have an early start the next day) , refrain from alcohol just before sleep, avoid looking at my phone in the evening (blue light which
May 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2018
Some are getting too much, most aren't getting enough. No, I don't mean that; what I am talking about is sleep. There are people out there who seem to be able to exist on almost no sleep, people who are in the office at stupid o'clock in the morning and who are still up way after midnight. While scientists knew that we needed food and water and could explain why, no one could adequately explain why we slept, what purpose it served.

It is only recently though that scientists have been able to und
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 arent: theyre 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 or
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wordy but good content. I'm making sleep a bigger priority.

p. 164:
I was once fond of saying , “ Sleep is the third pillar of good health , alongside diet and exercise . ” I have changed my tune . Sleep is more than a pillar ; it is the foundation on which the other two health bastions sit . Take away the bedrock of sleep , or weaken it just a little , and careful eating or physical exercise become less than effective , as we shall see .

sleep tips from his Fresh Air (10/16/2017) podcast appearanc
India Clamp
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Who knew that sleep is the “fountain of youth” yet is one of the most neglected remedies serving to safeguard us from cancer and protecting us from getting in a car crash. Matthew Walker runs a sleep lab at Berkeley and for the last 20 years has studied the "pouvoir réparateur" sleep imparts. Walker contends more sleep results in fewer mental health issues/suicides. Surprisingly, lack of sleep is linked to decrease in life expectancy.

“...across the cardiac, medical and surgical ICU units, studi
Darian Onaciu
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you've ever slept you should read this book.

I always thought that sleep was a waste of time which drains away about a third of our life. So why bother with it? Why would I not sleep as little as possible and spend my waking time doing things I like?

Well, it seems that there are a throng of reasons why we shouldn't do this, all of them drawn from scientific research.
Let me illustrate this with a quote from the book:

“Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live
Viv JM
Squeezed by the vise grips of an electrified night and early-morning start times, bereft of twenty-four-hour thermal cycles, and with caffeine and alcohol surging through us in various quantities, many of us feel rightly exhausted and crave that which seems always elusive: a full, restful night of natural deep sleep.

This book is a fascinating look at the purpose and benefits of sleep, including the importance of different stages in the sleep cycle. The author describes the myriad of physical an
Michelle Curie
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Did you get eight hours of sleep tonight? Ironically, I started reading this on a night I had trouble falling asleep and it took me about a page to feel scared for life. I am not joking when I'm saying that his book is more alarming than some of those gory post-apocalyptic horror novels out there.

Just an hour of sleep deprivation is considered to have significant impact on our health. We become less effective, less productive, less friendly and attractive even and more vulnerable to a variety of
Want to know why consistently sleeping less than 8 hours per night puts you at high risk (I forget the figures right now, but very very high) of heart stroke, cancer, depression, obesity, anxiety? Want to know how sleeping less than 8 hours per night shortens your life by more than just a few years? Want to get super angry and realize that the entire Western, industrialized world is pushing for ways of life that overlook the need for sleep? Reading this book, I understood how I never got any pro ...more
Lucy Banks
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Detailed yet accessible exploration into all aspects of sleep.

As a chronic insomniac, I knew I had to read this as soon as I spotted it on Netgalley. When sleep is elusive, it colours every aspect of your life - from functioning at work to appetite, so I was keen to learn more about it from an expert, and hopefully pick up some tips on how to cut out the dreaded sleeping pills from my life!

What was immediately appare
Frieda Vizel
Nov 13, 2017 rated it liked it
I heard Walker on NPR and was promptly brought to hysterics over the danger of sleeping too little. I had a techy friend block the wifi on my home router from 8pm until morning, then I bought a data disabling add-on from my phone carrier for my cell phone to lock that too, and I began to measure my smartwatch sleep metrics like workout results; look at me, nine hours! I also procured the book and fell asleep to it quite a few times, which might be a twisted compliment to the author. The other da ...more
Gumble's Yard
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Really well written and extremely informative book on the science of sleep which is at the same time detached (relying on decades of scientific evidence) , passionate (particularly for the need for a regular 8 hours of sleep opportunity), helpful (for example I found the advice on controlling Jet lag very useful), imaginatively informative (I found the link between bird behaviour in flocks, dolphin sleeping techniques and first nights in hotel rooms very interesting) and quirky (I loved the expl ...more
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: managing-self, humans
Great and wonderfully insightful book. Everything you wanted to know about sleep, dreaming and why do we need to do it every night.

This book will also make your skin crawl sometimes... being part and parcel of the modern sleep deprived culture it is plain scary what the price we are paying for an early morning in the office, or worse an all-nighter power-through.

This is a great nonfiction and i wish more people will discover this read. 5 ⭐ fair and square
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019
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“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.” 26 likes
“Inadequate sleep—even moderate reductions for just one week—disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic.” 17 likes
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