Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker is a much scarier book than Spineless — jellyfish have nothing on a bad night of sleep apparently.

I actually read this book sort of by accident. I had read this book review in The New Yorker and when I saw this book at the library I assumed it was the book reviewed, The Mystery of Sleep by Meir Kryger. Although I think both books posit a similar argument — sleep is very very important. Also, I probably won’t read that book now because I feel like reading this book made my sleep objectively worse because, while I knew sleep was important, I now basically feel like every minute of sleep I don’t get takes ten years off my life…

I also thought this book would talk more about why people sleep, like, why did all life evolve to need to sleep? The first part of this book does talk about that a bit, but doesn’t come to much of a conclusion other than, it must be really good for us because natural selection wouldn’t waste so much on something that didn’t help us out…

The book is broken up into four sections: This Thing Called Sleep (covering general science of sleep), Why Should You Sleep (the terrifying part of the book that covers both how great sleep is for you and how bad not sleeping is for you), How and Why We Dream (discussing REM sleep), and From Sleeping Pills to Society Transformed (covering sleep disorders, how modern life impacts our sleep, and steps we should take to improve our sleep).

Learning about REM sleep and dreaming was pretty interesting, but parts two and four of the book are what are going to stay with me — even one night of six hours of sleep has terrible consequences for your ability to be you know, awake the next day. And we are wildly not good at recognizing our own impairment. Drowsy driving kills way more people than drunk driving, and we have the same sort of, I feel fine, I’m okay to do this. And drunk driving wouldn’t be good, but drinking just slows your reaction time, when you drive while drowsy, you actually experience microsleeps, so you’re just completely not reacting at all during that time. And if you manage not to kill yourself and others, even low levels of sleep deprivation increase your risk of cancer, dementia, infections, and all kinds of fun stuff.

Although, this book has also convinced me that our current president might just be really really sleep deprived:

Under-slept employees are not only less productive, less motivated, less creative, less happy, and lazier, but they are also more unethical … Previously, I described evidence from brain-scanning experiments showing that the frontal lobe, which is critical for self-control and reining in emotional impulses, is taken offline by a lack of sleep. As a result, participants were more emotionally volatile and rash in their choices and decision making. This same result is predictably borne out in the higher-states setting of the workplace. Studies in the workplace have found that employees who sleep six hours or less are significantly more deviant and more likely to lie the following day than those who sleep six hours or more.

So, next time someone brags about how little sleep they ‘need’ I guess you can evaluate for yourself… 🙂 If you want to dig in more on all the ways sleep is good for you, and not sleeping is bad for you, you should read this book. And although it is full of terrifying facts, it does also include lots of helpful advice for sleeping better (things you probably already know: cut caffeine, cut alcohol, set a bedtime, make your bedroom dark, cool and gadget free,  don’t take naps after 3, don’t exercise too close to bed time).

Well, off to bed to get my 8 hours in.

Currently reading: The Ten Year Nap and The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore.