Book Review – October 2017 – Sallie Eden

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker – Published by Allen Lane, 3 October 2017

Matthew Walker is currently Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology and Director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. Over the course of his twenty-year career he has published over 100 scientific research studies. ‘Why We sleep’ is his first book and he offers a disclaimer: “should you feel drowsy and fall asleep while reading the book, unlike most authors, I will not be disheartened.”

Sadly for me, this book turned out to be so addictive that I stayed awake reading it until the early hours. Then I woke up at 5am to finish it (having remembered everything I’d read the previous evening*)

The author says that he’s in love with “communicating the astonishing brilliance of [sleep] to the public”. He certainly has the knack of presenting the findings of his extensive research in a user-friendly and endlessly interesting way. That’s possibly the result of the statement “I am in love with everything sleep is and does“. Dear Reader, so am I.

There’s no denying this book has at its heart the results of his extensive academic research, however, his writing is not just easy to understand (without being patronising) but he managed to leave this reader wanting more.

So, what did I learn? Obviously sleep plays a large part in our lives, but it’s also vital for our mental and physical health, our memory, weight, energy levels and even our life expectancy. I discovered how alcohol and caffeine affect our sleep patterns and why drinking decaf coffee might not have the outcome we expect. I also learned why people sleep more or less at different stages of their lives and that genetics determine whether we are larks or night owls.

I also discovered that, given my love of espresso, it’s just as well I’m not a spider.

I’m happy to report I shall be taking a siesta from now on. All in the name of research and good health. Sleep, the miracle drug.

Absolutely fascinating.

*Read the book and you’ll understand why!

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