Book Review: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

So I’m a bit of a workaholic. My wife, gently seeking to change this, sent me an episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast, this episode. The podcast is an interview with Matthew Walker, a sleep scientist (pretty sure he’s Dr Matthew Walker, non-medical, but he doesn’t seem to make a big deal out of that). Lets just say it was an eye-opener about the dangers of sleep deprivation. And he’s written a book, this book.

Titled “Why We Sleep”, the book is definitely written for a wide audience. It doesn’t assume the reader knows anything about sleep, and it isn’t packed full of jargon. The author takes the reader on a journey through what sleep is, how it works, and the purpose it serves.

The book is a really good example of how to get science across to people who might not be accustomed to it. Each concept is introduced with concepts and anecdotes, and then proved with experiments, and empirical data. This was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the book: seeing how scientists go about expanding our knowledge of the universe and everything in it.

Walker describes at length how damaging sleep deprivation is for humans. There are associations – and in some cases demonstrable causalities – with everything from dementia, to cancer, and just about every other ailment. Part way through the book I did find it a bit tedious, and it felt a bit melodramatic, but that could be my own denial about the damage I do to myself by not sleeping enough. By the end of the book I had come to appreciate that the author is trying to get an important point across: that we must take sleep seriously.

The last part of the book covers a number of ideas, or suggestions to restore sleep to its correct place in society, which I guess is the part that gave me most food for thought. As a manager of people, maybe one day as a parent, how can I create an environment where getting enough sleep is a priority?

I’m not going to give some sort of rating or anything. I enjoyed the book, it carries an important message, and I think more people should read it.

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