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Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams

According to the author our brain switches between two types of sleep every night.

Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams is a famous science book by sleep researcher and neuroscience professor Matthew Walker. The book provides some extraordinary insights into the impact of sleep on every aspect of our lives. This might be the most comprehensive and compelling book that you will read on sleep. The book can be construed as a summary of scientific research on the short-term and long-term effects of sleep and how can improve our sleeping patterns to live a healthy life. In 368 pages, the author briefly deals with three main aspects of sleep which are as follows:

Part 1. Defining Sleep

According to the Author our brain switches between two types of sleep every night. Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NERM) sleep where our brainwaves are slower than when we are awake. At this stage our cortex is relaxed and the brain is in a position to transfer selected memories from our short-term memory to long-term memory. Whereas, in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep brainwaves are much faster like when we are awake, allowing us to dream. REM sleep plays an important role in fueling creativity and problem-solving capacity. Here, the author advises the readers to get a full eight hours of sleep to avoid the repercussions of not completing the two stages of sleep.

Part 2. Reasons to Sleep

Matthew Walker, a renowned sleep researcher has spent years in understanding the implications of sleep on human health. To share his findings with his readers he gives a few reasons why should we sleep.

a. Memory Enhancer: Sleep is proved to be beneficial in making, securing, and then preventing forgetting memories. Healthy sleeping patterns reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

b. Sleep for Creativity: Sleeping properly helps get our creative juices flowing and also increases our concentration. When we do not sleep properly we are not able to perform as per as potential. Therefore, it is necessary to have seven hours of sleep to maintain cognitive performance. Sleeping more than ten hours reduces efficiency like when we have not slept in twenty-four hours.

c. Other Health Benefits: The author goes to an extent to say that, “shorter your sleep, shorter is your life”. Lack of sleep is the root cause of diseases like heart disease, obesity, dementia, diabetes, and cancer. Shorter sleep attributes to increased hunger and appetite causing weight gain and obesity.

Part 3. Method to Improve Sleep

Various surveys across the world have found out that adults do not get proper hours of sleep as recommended. The book, Why We Sleep includes detailed findings, tips, and methods to improve the quality and quantity of our sleep and sleeping patterns.

Chapters 13 and 14 the enlightens its readers about various reasons why they are not able to sleep like:

a. The use of electronic gadgets and watching television till late replacing our sleep time is harmful. Reading books on Ipads instead of printed books reduces the amount of melatonin released in our bodies at night. Further, the author advises readers to stop using devices that emit blue light two hours before they go to sleep. Using dim lights instead of powerful lightning help in peaceful sleeping patterns. To prevent disruption in your sleep having a completely dark room is also necessary.

b. Consuming alcohol has considered effects on your sleep simply because sleep induced by alcohol is not continuous and thus stages of NREM and REM are not achieved. Nightly alcohol disrupts your sleep and also it takes time to digest that alcohol.

c. Often when troubled with lack of sleep we take sleeping medications. Using heavy doses of such medications can have severe effects on our mortality. People who use sleep pills instead of natural sleep are likely to die much earlier.

After making the readers are aware of all the harmful effects lack of sleep can cause, the author has come up with twelve tips to improve the quality of sleep. The Appendix attached to the book has enumerated these tips some of them are as follows:

1. Sticking to one sleep schedule.

2. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine.

3. Avoid medication that delays or disturbs your sleep.

4. Avoid using electronics a few hours before going to bed.

5. Don’t lie in bed awake.

Overall, the book is well researched and talks about hard-hitting facts. Matthew Walker takes us on a journey to make us understand why sleeping peacefully is as important as eating, drinking water, or doing physical activity. This book is highly recommended for everyone who wants to have a healthy life and get rid of their sleep troubles.


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