Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Matthew Walker explores why sleep is necessary and the detrimental effects of not sleeping.

Nonfiction, 368 pages, published in 2017

Matthew Walker explores why sleep is necessary and the detrimental effects of not sleeping.


Rating: 2 out of 5.

I read this book for my work book club, and I legitimately would not have finished if we weren’t going to meet (virtually) to talk about it.

The first half of this book is very clinical and scientific. He explains many different things in depth and presents studies that back up what he is describing. It was hard to pay attention to because it was quite dry.

I also felt like he didn’t do anything to keep the tone light. He goes on and on about how sleeping is great for you, and inversely, how not sleeping puts you more at risk for cancer, heart attacks, motor vehicle accidents, Alzheimer’s, etc. It made me feel like I need to be sleeping 24/7 or else I’m going to die. I felt so icky every time I read parts like that and it made it very hard for me to want to continue.

“Dreams” is in the subtitle, so I was quite excited for the section about it. However, the “section” was only about 35 pages long, only about 10% of the book. He breezes over dreams, pretty much only saying that they do have a point and that scientists can kind of know what your dreams are about. I wished the section was either longer, or not there at all.

The last section of the book was about how we could make changes in order to get more sleep. One pretty common example is making school start later for kids. Kids aren’t “lazy” for not performing well when schools start early, their sleep schedule is later than adults. Simply making school start later would improve kids performance in school and help them avoid chronic sleep deprivation. He also talked about flexible work schedules. I personally have to start work at 8, but I know I would probably be more productive if I started at 9 based on how I sleep. There are so many stigmas around sleeping, and how you’re seen as weak or needy if you try to get the proper amount of sleep. This was my favorite section because it wasn’t all doom and gloom, but listed out things that we could do personally and societally that can help everyone get more sleep.

I appreciate the information in this book, but the super clinical beginning, the doom and gloom, and the lack of information about dreams made this an absolute struggle to get through. If it was written in a more accessible, lighter way, perhaps I could have enjoyed it. It definitely had some interesting moments, but overall, I did not enjoy my time reading this book.

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3 thoughts on “Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker”

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