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Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  45,473 ratings  ·  5,754 reviews
A New York Times bestseller

The first sleep book by a leading scientific expertProfessor Matthew Walker, Director of UC Berkeleys Sleep and Neuroimaging Labreveals 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,
...more
Hardcover, 1st edition, 368 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by Scribner
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  • Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
    Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams
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    Release date: Jun 19, 2018
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    Popular Answered Questions
    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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    Average rating 4.44  · 
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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 wasnt 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 Ive read Matthew Walkers 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 my
    ...more
    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
    ...more
    Emily
    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
    ...more
    Petra-X
    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
    ...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 function,
    ...more
    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.
    ...more
    Trevor
    Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: science, medicine
    So, this book is both a must read and deeply, deeply disturbing. Ive been having trouble sleeping for the last few years and now Im 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
    ...more
    Warwick
    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 sleepeven moderate reductions for just one week
    ...more
    David
    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
    ...more
    Hamad
    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 nights 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
    ...more
    Kamil
    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),
    ...more
    Bradley
    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
    ...more
    Bharath
    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
    ...more
    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. Youll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious. Sleep! Who would
    ...more
    Rebecca
    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 79 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 ...more
    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
    ...more
    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.
    Faye*
    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. 😉
    Vanessa
    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
    ...more
    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.
    ...more
    Laurie Anderson
    Everyone should read this book.

    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!

    description

    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
    ...more
    Olive
    Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: favorites-2019
    Check out my review on booktube: https://youtu.be/vKPh0TE1an8
    Otis Chandler
    The author, Matthew Walker, makes a compelling case for sleep that frankly even after having read many articles about the importance of sleep, and even watching his TED talk, changed my perspective. It has convinced me that I have likely been under-slept much of the past 10 years (3 kids and a busy job will make it hard), and that has been a negative contributor to my health and well being. Specifically, I have always been of the belief that I am a person who can subsist on 6-7 hours of sleep, ...more
    Stephen
    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
    ...more
    Leah Nadeau
    Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    Holy crap what an AMAZING book! I looooooved this. I had no idea how important sleep was to us... Everyone should read this. There is such a lack of education from sleep. Sleep is more important than diet and exercise.
    As an adult you need between7-9hr of sleep per night.
    Sleeping pills don't do shit.
    Youth and elderly need sleeping the most. If you don't allow teenagers their much needed sleep it increases the chance they will have a mental conditional, higher chance of suicide and so much
    ...more
    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
    ...more
    Eli
    Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: read-2019
    There was nothing really new here but I really liked how the author showed the importance of sleep!
    I also read this in a really stressful time in my life and I'm now really convinced that sleep is the best thing everrrrrrr

    so yay to taking naps without feeling guilty!
    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
    ...more
    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
    ...more
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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.

    Articles featuring this book

    Tech pioneer, cofounder of Microsoft, cochair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and author Bill Gates is an avid reader who has becom...
    180 likes · 108 comments
    “The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.” 64 likes
    “Inadequate sleep—even moderate reductions for just one week—disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic.” 34 likes
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