Bradley's Reviews > Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 2019-shelf, non-fiction, science

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 probability of obesity and depression and cancer rates for people who don't get 8 hours of sleep, but when we see all the other facts involved with it are all laid out, I frankly despair. Our societies are made up of complete idiots.

Most of the most powerful and necessary REM sleep happens in the last block of sleep, between 6-8 hours. Most of us are reducing our sleep to 6 or less. Learning and retention and memory decrease as if you're constantly drunk, and the long-term effects short circuit all rational behaviors. We eat more because we act high. We get into more car accidents. Test performance is abysmal, as is our moods, our ability to digest foods properly, and our ability to resist the flu drops from an 18% chance at 8 hours of sleep to a whopping 50% chance when you get less than 6 hours. These are studies, based on people who, in a controlled environment, are swabbed with the sick. Think about that. Add VERY significant numbers to cancer, suicide, and total life dissatisfaction, and the picture becomes very dire.

Oh, and sleeping pills short-circuit the REM cycle. As do drugs for ADHD.

This is the funniest and most horrible thing I picked up here: Teens all have a natural change in their circadian rhythm. They all become night owls. So WTF are we forcing them to get up earlier and earlier to go to school? They AREN'T getting enough sleep. So what happens? They go in, do abysmally in school, show all the same symptoms as ADHD, get diagnosed with ADHD, and then get drugs to help them concentrate while only making the fundamental problem of not getting enough REM sleep WORSE.

*slow clap*


And I'm talking about ALL of us. Long term sleep deprivation is the thing we do to TORTURE PEOPLE WE DON'T LIKE. And yet, there's this thing about rewarding long work cycles, turning people in unthinking zombies with decreasing work productivity JUST BECAUSE we're trying to squeeze out that last hour of work? It's KILLING US. Literally. Our minds aren't working well enough to even realize there's a problem.

Put a STOP to this! Seriously, folks! This is right up there with dancing around in a cloud of radium. Oh, look, it's so pretty!

This is science, folks. Not a fad. Don't be an idiot.
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Reading Progress

May 30, 2018 – Shelved
May 30, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
March 12, 2019 – Started Reading
March 13, 2019 – Shelved as: 2019-shelf
March 13, 2019 – Shelved as: non-fiction
March 13, 2019 – Shelved as: science
March 13, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-27 of 27 (27 new)

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message 1: by Tim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tim That good? :) It's on my TBR-pile, in any case, waiting its turn.

Bradley If you're already up on the research, then there's nothing new, but my previous research came from two decades ago, so a good portion of the science is a LOT more robust from what I remember. :)

Easily summed up, however.

GET YOUR EIGHT HOURS. NO EXCUSES. :) Of course, there are caveats. No drugs. They suppress the REM cycle and that's the most important part. Lower your core temp for preparing to sleep. Use your most natural cycle. Quit your job if it doesn't allow you any of these options. Change society to value a healthy population instead of the WEIRD and STUPID focus on working till you drop. Because you will.


message 3: by Tim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tim I just read your review. Seems like this book is perfect for me, although some of the things you mentioned were already obvious to me, based on personal experience. Each day, I'm half a day (12 hours) gone (home <-> work). But hey, at least I can read a bit in the train. :P The other 12 hours are thus for sleep and some leisure. Oh yes, and buying groceries, obviously. Thankfully, there's the weekend to "catch up", although we never catch up on "lost" sleep, do we? It's more a matter of sticking to a (healthy) sleeping pattern during the week, so you don't need the weekend to "recover".

Bradley Yeah, the whole recovery thing is BS. :) Long term pattern is the only way to benefit from this. And yeah, KNOWING this fact is not the same as going out of your way to DO it. :) Right? But that's no excuse, either.

Unless we're suicidal. lol

message 5: by Jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jo agreed. i just read this too. ughhhhhh to the way everything is set up so we don't get enough sleep and people that are night owls are screwed

Bradley Actually, everyone is pretty much screwed until we value our sleep again.

It's so weird how so many people glorify the lack of it. ; ;

message 7: by Geoff (new)

Geoff Was there any research on individual differences in optimal sleep? Is it 8 hours for everyone? Or just.on average? Are the people who feel groggy and deprived after "only" 10 hours correct? What about those that can't force themselves back to sleep after five hours?

Bradley Yeah, of course, there are individual differences, but the distinction is clear on "actual 8 hours of sleep". The many instances where you stare at the ceiling or are forced to wake up for any medical condition, including the need to pee, is not included.

And being groggy after 10 usually means you haven't gotten your needed REM even after being in bed that long. Interrupted, usually. Sleep problems are extremely serious. I personally had a bout of insomnia that turned me into the walking dead about a decade ago and I went through a scare.

But as for the actual Need for sleep, I think there's a .001% variance in our population that has the ability not to have bad effects over time for only getting 6 hours, but it's a lot easier to get hit by lightning, twice, than to be one of those people.

For everyone else, it's a pretty solid 8 on the dot. Then the curve on the graph goes from happy to zombie pretty quickly.

I'm no expert but I've read a lot on it... enough to know it's blisteringly real and confirmed over and over and over. Socially, we're killing each other. Literally.

message 9: by The Captain (new)

The Captain I hadn't seen this one but am glad that ye reviewed it. As someone who is currently unable to sleep consistantly with no idea why (medical science hasn't figured it out yet), I have been wanting to do me own research into it and wasn't sure where to start. This looks like a good place and better yet the library has a copy. Thanks matey!

Bradley It's a very good place to start, but I'd definitely keep narrowing it down after you get the foundation out of the way. :)

I personally had to get my adenoids chopped out. :)

The cure is not always a straight path. But I can say one thing... eating healthier, getting exercise, and following a strict regime is NOT A BAD WAY TO DO THINGS. ;)

message 11: by Cecily (new)

Cecily Very interesting. Thanks, Bradley.

As to the necessity of sleep, especially REM sleep, I remember reading a different sleep book, many years ago, that said the need to dream was so essential (regardless of the fact most of us rarely remember them), that if you let people sleep as long as they like, but wake them the minute they hit REM, they go crazy. Literally. Within a week or two. They need to dream so much, they do so when "awake" - hallucinating, in effect. I don't expect such experiments would pass any ethics committee today.

Regarding teens, there are a few schools experimenting with late starts specifically to take account of the shift in circadian rhythms, but I've not read about outcomes.

Bradley I've read about those same studies from years ago, too. Like schizophrenic breaks. I've always been super fascinated with this stuff. :)

But fortunately for all the scientists out there, we have a HUGE population of self-experimenters out here performing massively sub-ethical experiments on themselves.

What we really need is a huge tracking program and a huge analysis done on it. What we need is Fitbit.

Oh. Wait... you mean it's already happening? But we need all the other variables like real-time food intake stats, sexual activity, and ... wait... doesn't this go against my whole anti-big-brother thing?


message 13: by Susy (new) - added it

Susy I just read about recent research where was stated that the effects of sleep deprivation (and I’m not talking here about a pattern of getting 2-3 hours of sleep every night, but the 6,7 and for some people even 5 hours) have been seriously overstated. I’ve only read the summary, didn’t write down the names so I don’t know if I will be able to find the report but would very much like to read it.

message 14: by Cecily (new)

Cecily Fab answer, Bradley: pertinent, true, and it raised a chuckle or two.

Bradley How is it overstated? The numbers coming back are pure correlation over vast numbers. Were you talking about cancer rates, cognition, or some other value like obesity? Long term effects really stack up.

Of course, if the study is only limited its revision to one, it doesn't immediately follow that the rest are invalid or reduced in importance. :)

Bradley Cecily:

I'm running some sub-ethical experiments on myself right now through my fitbit. It's really fascinating. I'm logging the quality of my fiction writing in the morning and am finding I tend to torture my characters a bit more when I haven't gotten enough sleep.

It's statistically significant. More, it's nearly at a 65% match.

Conclusion: if my readers like to have their MC's tortured, then my readers should have a vested interest in never letting me sleep.

Wow. What a world we live in.

message 17: by Susy (new) - added it

Susy That’s why I would like to read the whole report.

Bradley If you come across it, send me a line. Please. :)

message 19: by Sophie (new)

Sophie Looks fascinating! Is the book centered on neurology or does it deal with other aspects of sleep (general medicine, mental health...)

Bradley A little of everything. Basically a sum-up of all the research to date.

message 21: by Erin (new)

Erin Your enthusiastic review encouraged me to place it on my TBR. Excellent review, Bradley!

Bradley Thanks! :) Have fun!

message 23: by Cecily (last edited Mar 27, 2019 02:12PM) (new)

Cecily Bradley wrote: "I'm running some sub-ethical experiments on myself right now through my fitbit. It's really fascinating. I'm logging the quality of my fiction writing in the morning and am finding I tend to torture my characters a bit more when I haven't gotten enough sleep..."

So you could write in different genres, depending on the time of day and how much sleep you've had?!

Bradley Oh, that's EASY. I'm playful and devil may care in the evening and as sharp as knives in the morning.

Okay. Maybe I should only be writing horror. :) lol Well, close enough. SF lends itself so well to it. :)

message 25: by Jen (new) - added it

Jen People tell me “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” My response? “I’ll be dead if I don’t sleep!” Great review Bradley. :)

Bradley Thanks! :)

message 27: by Darius (new) - added it

Darius Sheeeeshhh. I'm sold. Deff need to read this one!

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