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Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

My Rating: 9 / 10

I recently posted on Twitter (see tweet) a conundrum regarding sleep: we spent a third of our lives sleeping yet the majority of us have never been part of any sleep education or training. This seems a little odd given we invest so much of our time in education and other aspects? With that in mind I dove into Matthew Walkers book to get that education. I wanted to understand how I could better prepare for bedtime and hopefully maximise the quality (and perhaps quantity) of my sleep.

Why We Sleep is a fascinating read for someone wanting to learn about sleep and how to improve it. It was a little longer than a usual how-to book yet worth the money spent. Walker traverses through many key topics that help build a solid knowledge of sleeping. For example:

  • What is sleep (REM, NREM)
  • Why we sleep and how it changes from a child, teenager, adult to a senior. Our circadian rhythm changes over the time, therefore so does the amount of REM and NREM sleep.
  • What impacts on the quality of sleep we get (e.g. caffeine, alcohol, technology, pills etc.)
  • Why we dream

The biggest learning for me is that sleep is a critical foundational facet in our health; greater in my opinion than fitness and nutrition. If you don’t get enough sleep it will impact on your ability to focus as well impact on energy, cravings and motivation. Anyone looking to establish a better health routine must start with sleep hygiene and build up and out from there.

Three key takeaways from the book:

  1. You can never “sleep back” (recover sleep) that which we have previously lost. Walker calls this the most important take away of his book
  2. Human beings are the only species that will deliberately deprive ourselves from sleeping without legitimate gain.
  3. Melatonin has little influence on the actual generation of sleep itself, however it helps kick off the sleeping process. Note that blue lights in LED and technology impact on melatonin production. Therefore this is an area everyone should think about changing today. I use yellow glasses at night when at home. Furthermore there seems to be little if any quality melatonin in the pills you can purchase over the counter.

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