There are a couple of metrics I use to judge the value of a book.
- To what degree does it change the way I think or live? (5/5)
- How likely am I to gift it to friends? (5/5)
- Is it approachable? (5/5)
Based on those questions I have scored this book with marks out of 5 and taken an average as the final score of its value.
For Why We Sleep, I value it as a 5/5 book.
My Thoughts on the Book
Before reading this book I knew sleep was important but I couldn’t really tell you why. After reading this book, I feel like I can — or I at least have a place where I can direct you to to find some of those reasons for yourself.
This book has helped to shift the way I prioritise my days and nights. Sleep has become a key priority on my agenda. I am actively taking steps to improve my own sleep and to practice better sleep hygiene over the long term in order to reap the benefits of this incredible activity. Some of those steps are drastic, such as avoiding alcohol (because of its effects on learning) and avoiding melatonin suppressing short-wave light after sunset; or minor, like ensuring I’m keeping a consistent sleep and wake schedule each day — even on weekends.
One of the important things I got from this book is that sleep is not an inactive process through which we simply pass away a third of our lives. Although I may be unconscious whilst it’s going on, there is a lot of work being done by my brain and body to repair the “breakdown / damage” done by being awake. But it’s not all about repair, it’s also about optimisation.
What stuck with me was the relationship between sleep and learning. Quality sleep has an enhancing effect on learning whereas deficient sleep has a reductive effect.
Matthew Walker tells of a pianist who, after struggling for a long time to nail a tricky part in a piano piece he was practising, went to sleep and then after waking found that he could just play the part he was initially struggling with. Our brain goes to work solving all kinds of problems when we are asleep. The things we learn are solidified and hardcoded into memory when we are asleep. Sleep benefits us in myriad ways and we rob and only do ourselves harm when we allow so little time for it.
How much sleep do you need? It varies, but as a rule of thumb you should give yourself a 7-9 hour sleep opportunity each night.
There were some parts of the book that were more interesting to me than others, and naturally I read those more carefully than the rest. But I don’t feel there was any filler material. The 340 pages were entirely worth the read even though some parts may be of more interest than others. Based on that, I wholeheartedly recommend it.