Why we Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams

Matthew Walker

I recently listened to this book as an audio book and it was fascinating, not just because of what I found out behind the science behind sleep but because of how much I found out we still don’t know about sleep. Matthew Walker is a professor of neuroscience and psychology and director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science at the University of California and so he is more than qualified to write this book.

At the start of the book, Walker tells the reader that they are more than welcome to pick and choose the chapters they read and when they read them, and I would definitely recommend this approach to the book. As an individual without any scientific background beyond GCSE level, I found that attempting to read the book cover to cover was slightly overwhelming and instead much preferred to dip in and out of the book. This was also one of the reasons why I chose to listen to it as an audio book, because I remained more engaged in a topic I am less well versed in than if I had been reading it.

The book is divided into four sections, each made up of four or five chapters, covering everything from why we sleep the amount we do, the impact jet lag has on our sleep and how sleeping pills work. This means that Walker successfully interweaves his advice for healthier sleep habits with the science of why we sleep.

A favourite chapter of mine was about how we sleep and why we need to sleep for the recommended 8-9 hours a night. The chapter explores the differences between REM and non-REM sleep, and compares how our sleep patterns differ across different species and why this is the case. I also particularly enjoyed finding out about how sleeping pills work and why they may not be the solution to insomnia that they are often thought of.

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