Matthew Walker is a sleep researcher who shares his findings about sleep in Why We Sleep. Many sleep studies show sleep rejuvenates our immune system. One chapter in Why We Sleep begins: “Bad sleep, bad heart.” The connection between poor sleep and heart problems is strong. People with cancer find their disease metastasizes faster if they don’t get the necessary eight hours of sleep per day.

Walker also discusses sleep’s effects on mental health, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. The chapters on improving sleep present several suggestions for a better night in the Land of Nod. Why We Sleep is clearly written and full of timely information. Highly recommended! How is your sleep? GRADE: A
Part 1 This Thing Called Sleep

Chapter 1 To Sleep … 3

Chapter 2 Caffeine, Jet Lag, and Melatonin: Losing and Gaining Control of Your Sleep Rhythm 13

Chapter 3 Defining and Generating Sleep: Time Dilation and What We Learned from a Baby in 1952 38

Chapter 4 Ape Beds, Dinosaurs, and Napping with Half a Brain: Who Sleeps, How Do We Sleep, and How Much? 56

Chapter 5 Changes in Sleep Across the Life Span 78

Part 2 Why Should You Sleep?

Chapter 6 Your Mother and Shakespeare Knew: The Benefits of Sleep for the Brain 107

Chapter 7 Too Extreme for the Guinness Book of World Records: Sleep Deprivation and the Brain 133

Chapter 8 Cancer, Heart Attacks, and a Shorter Life: Sleep Deprivation and the Body 164

Part 3 How and Why We Dream

Chapter 9 Routinely Psychotic: REM-Sleep Dreaming 193

Chapter 10 Dreaming as Overnight Therapy 206

Chapter 11 Dream Creativity and Dream Control 219

Part 4 From Sleeping Pills to Society Transformed

Chapter 12 Things That Go Bump in the Night: Sleep Disorders and Death Caused by No Sleep 237

Chapter 13 iPads, Factory Whistles, and Nightcaps: What’s Stopping You from Sleeping? 265

Chapter 14 Hurting and Helping Your Sleep: Pills vs. Therapy 282

Chapter 15 Sleep and Society: What Medicine and Education Are Doing Wrong; What Google and NASA Are Doing Right 296

Chapter 16 A New Vision for Sleep in the Twenty-First Century 324

Conclusion: To Sleep or Not to Sleep 340

Appendix: Twelve Tips for Healthy Sleep 341

Illustration Permissions 343


  1. Deb

    On a normal workday, I have to be up at 4:30 am, so I can usually fall asleep around 8:30 pm with no problem. But if I wake up in the middle of the night, getting BACK to sleep can be a problem. My sovereign remedy used to be to get up and watch tv or fire up my laptop, but now I just try to drift back to sleep and avoid knocking my sleep cycle out of rhythm.

    1. george Post author

      Deb, Matthew Walker suggests reading a book or magazine in order to fall back to sleep. Walker discourages using anything electronic (TV, computer, iPhone, etc.) because they’re too stimulating.

  2. Jerry House

    Back in the Stone Age, when I first starting working for newspapers, I would type my dreams as I slept: images of type-written copy flowed through my brain rather than images of…whatever. Lately, those type-written dreams have come back. Don’t know why. At least in those dreams, then and now, I don’t have my notorious fumble fingers.

  3. Jeff Meyerson

    Good. It drives Jackie – who has insomnia – nuts that I can go to bed and be asleep within five minutes most nights. Also, I sleep soundly, so if it starts raining or there are loud noises outside, the odds are that I will never know it. Like Deb, though, there are times I wake up and it can take me up to an hour to get back to sleep. Sometimes it depends on what time I wake up The earlier in the night it is, the easier I find it to get back to sleep. After 4 am or so, it can be a problem sometimes.

  4. Maggie mason

    As I get older, I sleep less, and it varies how long it takes me to get to sleep. I usually fall asleep while saying my prayers, though.

    Getting back to sleep after getting up in the night (most nights at least twice) is hard as well. If it goes on a long time,, I do get up to read, which often helps.

    I’ve also started taking Melatonin, and it seems like it works every other night.

    I know they say don’t use electronics before bed, but how many of us fall asleep in front of the tv.

  5. Dan

    A Psych 101 professor in college addressed this subject once, and he said that after years of lecturing, he had concluded that Sleep is the natural state for homo sapiens, and we only awaken when acted upon by some outside stimulus.

  6. Art Scott

    Those interested in the topic should read The Book about sleep physiology, William Dement’s The Promise of Sleep. Dement, a physician & professor at Stanford, essentially invented Sleep Medicine as a specialty, and has evangelized for decades to get the medical profession to take sleep seriously. And like another hero of mine, Terry Teachout, he was a jazz bass player!

    1. george Post author

      Art, I have read William Dement’s THE PROMISE OF SLEEP. He was an early researcher who connected sleep and the immune system. Fortunately, with my CPAP I get good sleep almost every night! And, I used to play trumpet.

      1. wolf

        I couldn’t survive without my CPAP machine, used to snore like hell!

        But I have another problem now:
        Have to go to the loo after two or three hours – and then returning to bed it depends, sometimes I fally asleep quickly, sometimes it takes half an hour or more …
        But being retired in the end I get my 8 hours in bed at least 6 or 7 of which I’m asleep.

        And some crazy dreams:
        Like George I sometimes dream of doing a course – but: in front of unknown people or even on a subject that I know nothing about! 🙂

        Mostother dreams I forget – thoughI know there was something …

  7. Patti Abbott

    I have heard all the things you should do or not do to sleep. Do not watch TV in bed. (Never have) Do not drink caffeine after noon. Do not do electronic stuff. Make you bedroom only about sleep (and sex). Exercise early in the day. Establish a routine. Do not lie in bed more than 20 minutes before reading. (Have to go somewhere else to read though. My problem is I cannot empty my mind. Been that way since age 7. I take drugs now and I still wake up at four almost every day. Trump and cancer has made it much worse.

    1. george Post author

      Patti, Matthew Walker maintains that no sleeping pill will help you sleep. They will sedate you, but they are useless for improving your sleep. You’re likely to wake up feeling more tired if you take “sleep aides.”

  8. Cap'n Bob

    I fall asleep in front of the TV or computer every day! I sleep like a baby when I get to bed, once I fall asleep! I’ve slept through a train wreck and mortar attacks! I would also sleep through this book!


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