I read an excerpt of Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker in a newspaper some time ago. I found it very interesting, but also rather scary. Because Matthew Walker has studied sleep for over 20 years and has plenty of scientific evidence to prove that EVERYONE needs eight hours sleep a night. Regular readers will know I struggle with sleep. I’ve been a bit better lately – I haven’t seen 3 and I rarely even see 4, but I do wake up at 5 every single day, so I’m generally getting just under six hours sleep.
Was I brave enough to read Why We Sleep?
To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have been if my friend Natalie from Plutonium Sox blog hadn’t kindly put her copy in the post for me! After she’d gone to all that trouble, I could hardly not read it, could I?
I did have another wobble, though. I read for pleasure. Reading is my way of relaxing, so I ALWAYS read fiction. I wasn’t sure about reading a non-fiction book. But I stopped wobbling and started to read.
Why We Sleep is an amazing, eye-opening book. It describes the different types of sleep and the purpose of them. It tells us there genuinely are morning people, evening people and ‘in between’ people and we can’t fight against nature. It describes what happens if we don’t get enough of the different types of sleep and, crucially, what happens if we don’t get enough sleep at all.
Sleep is essential for our health, education, work and safety. Drowsiness caused by insufficient sleep is a major cause of road accidents. Tiredness makes us less able to learn and work. And, most frightening of all, lack of sleep makes us more likely to get cancer and dementia, to name but two. We are more susceptible to infection, to weight gain and to Type 2 diabetes.
The book mentions Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, who both trained themselves to get by on around four hours sleep a night. But later in life they both suffered from dementia.
Matthew Walker believes our high-pressured society needs to change, so that we can all give ourselves time to sleep, because our lack of sleep is a ticking health time bomb. And sleeping pills are definitely not the answer.
Why We Sleep is a science book, so it’s nowhere near as easy to read as the thrillers I usually read, or even the literary novels I sometimes read. But it is pretty easy to read for a science book. I genuinely believe we should all read it, because I think nearly all of us, even those who don’t suffer from insomnia, are suffering from a lack of sleep which will bite us on the bum sooner or later, with potentially catastrophic consequences.
Now all I need is to learn how to sleep better myself. For me, as a morning person, the answer probably lies in going to bed much earlier. It’s fine to wake at 5 every day, as long as I’m asleep by 9!