Why We Sleep by Matthew WalkerBy Eric Antoine Scuccimarra
Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker, is a truly amazing book. It is a scientific exploration of why animals need sleep that details a great amount of research and provides a lot of insight into the nature of sleep. While it reads like it was written for general audiences, this does not dilute the science behind it and Walker stays firmly in the area of science.
When I was reading this book and telling my wife about it she kept asking me questions like "does it say what kind of mattress we should get?" The book does not even touch on questions like this and, to its credit, does not even venture into the realm of popular self-help books. Dr. Walker has no agenda, is not trying to sell anything and he has no theories he is trying to promote. He merely lays out the results of his many years of research into sleep and interprets those results in an easily understandable manner. If, like my wife, you want to know what type of mattress to buy or what supplements or medications may help you sleep, you will find no answers here.
In fact, quite the opposite, Walker claims that most medications will actually impair your sleep. While something like Ambien may actually help you get to sleep, on average, twenty minutes faster, it seems to seriously impair the quality of that sleep, disturbing the normal sleep patterns and impairing the processes which the brain performs during sleep. He says the only supplement that will actually help sleep is melatonin, and he only recommends this for cases of jet lag, as an aid to reset your circadian rhythm. As with many people, I feel I have a difficult time sleeping and I used to take over-the-counter anti-histamine sleep aids at night occassionally. After reading this book I completely stopped taking them. I have a harder time falling asleep without them, but I wake up in the morning feeling much better than when I was taking them. On the other hand my brother continues to take massive amounts of assorted OTC and prescription sleep medication, he sleeps an awful lot in terms of hours, but he is always tired and claims he does not sleep well despite the evidence to the contrary. While this seems counter-intuitive, it fits in with the data cited in the book.
For anyone who is looking for tips on how to sleep better this book is not written for you - the only real suggestions are to stick to a regular sleep schedule every day and don't take sleeping medication. For anyone who is interested in why all animals need sleep, why we dream, and the science of sleeping - this is an amazing book.