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

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
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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 my daughter Jenn and John Doerr. Walker, the director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Human Sleep Science, explains how neglecting sleep undercuts your creativity, problem solving, decision-making, learning, memory, heart health, brain health, mental health, emotional well-being, immune system, and even your life span. “The decimation of sleep throughout industrialized nations is having a catastrophic impact,” Walker writes.

I don’t necessarily buy into all of Walker’s reporting, such as the strong link he claims between not getting enough sleep and developing Alzheimer’s. In an effort to wake us all up to the harm of sleeping too little, he sometimes reports as fact what science has not yet clearly demonstrated. But even if you apply a mild discount factor, Why We Sleep is an important and fascinating book.

Because this is a short review, I’ll answer a few questions that I suspect are top of mind for you.

Does everyone really need seven or eight hours of sleep a night? The answer is that you almost certainly do, even if you’ve convinced yourself otherwise. In the words of Dr. Thomas Roth, of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, “The number of people who can survive on five hours of sleep or less without impairment, and rounded to a whole number, is zero.”

Why do we sleep? After all, when you’re sleeping—and all animals do—you can’t hunt, gather, eat, reproduce, or defend yourself. Yet Walker concludes that the evolutionary upsides of sleep are far greater than these downsides. In brief, sleep produces complex neurochemical baths that improve our brains in various ways. And it “restocks the armory of our immune system, helping fight malignancy, preventing infection, and warding off all manner of sickness.” In other words, sleep greatly enhances our evolutionary fitness—just in ways we can’t see.

What can I do to improve my sleep hygiene?

- Replace any LEDs bulbs in your bedroom, because they emit the most sleep-corroding blue light.

- If you’re fortunate enough to be able to control the temperature where you live, set your bedroom to drop to 65 degrees at the time you intend to go to sleep. “To successfully initiate sleep … your core temperature needs to decrease by 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit,” according to Walker.

- Limit alcohol, because alcohol is not a sleep aid, contrary to popular belief. While it might help induce sleep, “alcohol is one of the most powerful suppressors of REM [rapid-eye-movement] sleep,” Walker says.

- If you can possibly take a short midday nap like our ancestors used to and some Mediterranean and South American cultures still do, you should (but no later than 3 pm). It will likely improve your creativity and coronary health as well as extend your lifetime.

It took me a little longer than usual to finish Why We Sleep—ironically, because I kept following Walker’s advice to put down the book I was reading a bit earlier than I was used to, so I could get a better night’s sleep. But Walker taught me a lot about this basic activity that every person on Earth needs. I suspect his book will do the same for you.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
December 10, 2019 – Shelved
December 10, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 58 (58 new)

Tõnu Vahtra Great book on the importance of sleep and how to maximize sleep quality.

André I love how Bill is able to recognize his mistakes and improve himself, in this case explaining how his all-nighters in the early Microsoft era weren’t that productive.

Cheran Elansezhian I am happy that you have read this book and shared it to rest of the world.

A mind blowing and fascinating book about sleep which I believe 21st century is in need of it more than ever before.

Patrick Naidoo Dear Mr Gates,
I would just simply like to thank you for helping to change the world for the better. By setting up organizations you are helping to put the world on track to become a better place. Your work is amazing and please keep this going. Thank you very much.

Patrick Naidoo, Australia

Jarrod Yeah but have you read Recursion?

message 6: by Walace (new) - added it

Walace What a great review Gates. I'm interested in this topic for a long time. I feel confident right now to dive into this amazing book

Sean stayed up all last night reading it.lmfao

Marco "In an effort to wake us all up to the harm of sleeping too little, he sometimes reports as fact what science has not yet clearly demonstrated." Exactly what held me back from giving the book a 5-star rating...interesting and well build documentations about how sleep deprivation affects, directly and indirectly, so many aspects of well being and brain/body are well always presented, but then there is a certain bias in making all this evidence converge towards the same answer.
Surely sleep deprivation is likely to have a role in anything involving the core body functioning etc, however sometimes the book ends up giving the false overall idea that is the only and main factor at play. Which of course is partial and in some cases not scientifically demonstrated.
None the less Why We Sleep remain one of this year (or well next year I guess) must-read, because his little possible flaws do not undermine the overall value of a book, and its effort to place our common relation with sleep in general in a new and more aware perspective. For sure there are too many wrong aspects in how we relate to this vital body function.

message 9: by Sijin (new) - added it

Sijin Stephen thank you for recommending this book. It literally saved my brain and body. Never took sleep seriously.

message 10: by Arjun (new)

Arjun I agree with Matthew Walker.

message 11: by Sean (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sean ya me too. finished the book last night....... at 12am

message 12: by matthew (new)

matthew hi

Aminoddin Domado
I don't necessarily buy into all of Walker's reporting, such as the strong link he claims between not getting enough sleep and developing Alzheimer's

Isn't it because a protein toxin called "beta-amyloid" is flushed in our brain while sleeping? Thus, lack of sleep causes build up. There are studies about this.

message 14: by Jasurbek (new)

Jasurbek Very good book

Arjun Mahadevan 💯

message 16: by Chandler (new)

Chandler Santos Interesting might just have to read this

message 17: by Mahidhara (new) - added it

Mahidhara Davangere Thank you Bill Gates for recommending this book this new year.

Petra-X Off having adventures Mediterranean working hours evolved because of the climate. Businesses traditionally closed at noon or 1 pm and re-opened 4 hours later. People then pigged out on huge lunches and had to sleep them off in the heat of the day. I don't know any companies in the US (or Caribbean where I am) that would allow that.

message 19: by Beverly (new)

Beverly I Appreciate you Sharing your thoughts. I am a big fan of yours I have always felt different from any one I know. Because I am so much smarter than them of course I would never say that to them. I feel as if I am watching a movie go by.I am on the side lines watching the movie. Thank you Sincerely Beverly Lang

raghav  R I picked this up thanks to you and reaffirms my love for sleep <3 Thanks!

message 21: by Juan (new) - added it

Juan Alfonso First review I read in this platform. So cool! Thank you so much for taking the time to review it for us. I’m definitely going to read it!

message 22: by Kanwae (new)

Kanwae Kan About the Alzheimer part ,there is a relationship between amyloid plaques and CSF (Cerebrospinal Fluid) patients diagnosed with Alzheimer ,typically those who are diagnosed with Alzheimer have less CSF .The cause and effects are tricky but CSF is important for clearing brain waste and to clear the waste you need good sleep .Sleeping in sides do help to prevent snoring and effective CSF circulation . It's harder to pinpoint to Alzheimer cause but you could do what all you can to prevent it .

message 23: by Kanwae (new)

Kanwae Kan Also it comes in varieties , it's just one of them .

message 24: by abc (new)

abc walker's right

message 25: by Janis (new) - added it

Janis The jury is still out on amyloid plaque buildup, mostly that the buildup may be another concurrent symptom rather than a cause. We do know that sleep clears them.

One painful point of science is that it's by definition convergent. If we'd have tracked the sleep patterns of people later diagnosed with AD, we'd know. We're getting there. I know lits of science book authors tend to cherry-pick to make their point, but intuitively I'm on board with sleep-deprivation's bolstering of dementia-related disease. People who beat themselves up... well, beat themselves up. It's up to each of us (in a perfect world world) to decide what's worth it for us, and what's not.

MICHAEL H HAMILTON There is a big difference between stating that everyone needs more than 5 hours of sleep - and stating that it is almost certain that you need 6 or 7 hours sleep. Surely age, physcal and mental health, weight, diet and so on are just some of the variables that affect one's need?

message 27: by Kanwae (new)

Kanwae Kan Yeah I accept it but I do believe for a fact that some needs are quintessential to life . If you don't take nutrients such as omega 3 it surely doesn't become life threatening but effects of depression doesn't need to said . Sleep times depends on individuals ,some can be very active with a 4 hr Sleep (it was discussed in a wired video , although much of research needs to be done ) some requires as much as 8 or 9 .It falls on you to decide how much you want .

Samia Thank you. I had very similar reactions, particularly about how he states the connection between sleep and chronic disease as scientific facts when there isn’t enough evidence to support it. Overall, I learned a lot and definitely have a better understanding of how sleep impacts brain health and functioning.

message 29: by me (new)

me hi

Shailesh Choudhary Thanks for the recommendation:) Currently reading it and finding it quite informative and interesting.

Ricardo Sasso Of course one of the biggest employers in the world would take all the evidence in the book with a grain of salt. Imagine if tomorrow his executives start asking for 7-8 hours of sleep everynight, he would be indeed fu****.

kevin xxgughf

kevin rs RSS

kevin wpHGedj sondern cvjm

message 35: by Lucy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lucy Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing your experience with sleep zzzzz~

message 36: by Mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mark Porton Greay review Bill

message 37: by Totol (new)

Totol BookhoarderIV Wtf I thought it was some employee of Microsoft named Bill gates writing this review till I finished reading it and went back and saw his picture. Wow. Is it really him? I'd love to try your corona inducing 5g radiating vaccine nanobots.

message 38: by Sara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara Taimouri Excellent book ! So much informations about sleep, sciences évidences, I love it ... must read if you lack of sleep ^^

message 39: by Amr (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amr Khashoggi Currently reading it as we are in lockdown because of the CV19 pandemic, which made it easier to apply the author’s recommendation of sleeping and catching the circadian waves. It has definitely improved my ability to work smart rather than hard and to be focused multifold.

message 40: by Sharan (new)

Sharan Aithal Turned off my alarm after this review. Gonna wake up naturally, I might even try that nap thing.

Victor Moisa Hi Bill.Thanks for the recommendation. And please vote me to make America great again!

Victor Moisa Hey.You can follow me on Goodreads because I will publish a book about making America great again

Brooklynn Littleton cool

message 44: by Cs_s0uM (new) - added it

Cs_s0uM I am eagerly waiting to read this as soon as I finish my current stocks!

message 45: by Serkan (new) - added it

Serkan i sleep twelve hours a day

message 46: by Jim Kelly (new)

Jim Kelly hi

message 47: by J.K. Rowling (new)

J.K. Rowling Yo Bill lol lol!
Back to the firts day we are friends. You are a BABY. Your mother calls you "Lol Lol CUTE". Every night, you will never sleep if your mother doesn't answer you why we needs to sleep by this book.

Vroomfundel My first question was exactly the same as Bill Gates's - what about all these people (some of which very successful) who claim to only need 4-5 hours?
Even though the conclusions is just like Mr. Gates describes it I feel that this wasn't addressed with enough detail; maybe just the evidence is not there yet in order to proclaim this conclusion more definitely.

message 49: by Becca (new) - added it

Becca There is a pretty solid and scientifically-established link between sleep deprivation and Alzheimer’s, but other than that, good review.

Mrs Jennifer F. Steadman Now you pull all nighter to make vaccines to dumb people down. Thanks

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