Review: Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker

Rating: 5 out of 5

It’s not difficult to think of a book that’s merely important (important in what way and to whom?), but it is far more difficult to come out with a title that could actively improve everyone’s well-being. Looking at the number of people I know who’ve already read this, I’m late to the show—but I don’t mind that as long as I got there—and, in brief, the summary is that we should sleep more.

I think, when one focusses on that idea, it doesn’t sound so alien any more. The instinctive modern sensibility that sleep is for the lazy doesn’t quite hold water when one looks at the species who all sleep. What Mr Walker does, however, goes beyond simple focussing, when he uses his experience to highlight how missing out on sleep can affect us.

We’ve all done it. There’s been that time where we wanted to either study or party, possibly on the same day, for just too long, and so sleep got pushed back. Or, like Mr Gates notes in his review, those days when an all-nighter at the office was just not something to pass by. I remember a weekend where some work had to be done, and the sacrificial lamb, to get it done, was sleep. What I didn’t get—and what you should get if you do work at night—was compensation for the damage I was doing to myself by being awake all night.

And that is because, as the author goes on to prove in his book, we all do damage ourselves if we stint ourselves on sleep. The evidence is both compelling, and, generally, saddening. Having not been the only one to either deprive myself of sleep at work or during studies, I wonder how many of us would do it if we knew the effects that has long-term.

I’ve made some changes after reading this book, and it’s not often I say this as, generally, I expand the realm within which I think but not act. With this book, I’ve had to think about how to act. Some possibilities are easy, such as waking up at the same time, while other things, such as ensuring that enough sleep—eight hours—is had before that wake-up call, are more difficult. Yet, we need to try, because the evidence that Mr Walker sets out is compelling.

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