The cover of Why We Sleep

Why We Sleep

Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

by Matthew Walker

In case you don’t wanna read it, I’ll summarize: if you’re not sleeping at least 8 hours every single night, you will die a painful death at a young age.

If you’re still interested, Why We Sleep is a solid pop science book by a respectable sleep scientist. It cites a lot of original research, as well as state-of-the-art science. Sleep, it turns out, is really good for you, and for some dumb reason we don’t get enough of it. Walker also delves into the science of dreams, which I found particularly fascinating.

While it offers only a few practical tips (only take melatonin for jet lag, avoid LEDs, 65ºF is the ideal bedroom temperature), I came away with an increased appreciation for the sleep I do manage to get.

One small bone to pick: Walker puts down insufficient sleep as the primary cause for many health issues. He uses age as the main dimension to which sleep correlates, but doesn’t really address how race, gender, or socioeconomic factors correlate to sleep. I’d put good money on the rich and privileged getting more sleep than the poor and oppressed. Privilege means access to better nutrition and healthcare, and in turn means longer and healthier life. While Walker claims that the studies were balanced, I imagine that sleep inequality would be extremely challenging to isolate. I’d love to hear more about this, but it gets glossed over.