Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, by Matthew Walker, PhD

I listened to the Audible version of this book. I found it while searching for books about sleep, and this book is excellent.

Dr. Matthew Walker is a sleep researcher, and has conducted many sleep studies over many years. The points he makes are supported by interesting data. I enjoyed his perspective and his obvious expertise on the subject of sleep, and the book was well written.

Dr. Walker is not only a great researcher, he is also deeply passionate about seeing better sleep bring about societal impact. The data from his studies, and the studies of other researchers, make it clear that lack of sleep contributes to many widespread issues today. These issues range from behavioral to medical. He draws connections between the pervasive health problems we see today and inadequate sleep in the persons affected.

The most interesting thing I learned was how impactful sleep is on the development of a human being, especially in the early stages of development. The developing brain, especially of young children and infants, depends heavily on sleep.

I was amazed to discover the connection between inadequate sleep during a child’s early years, and the propensity to develop either attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attention deficit disorder (ADD) later in life.

As I was thinking about this book, and both the incredible benefits of adequate sleep and the detrimental effects of living in “sleep deficit”, I began to think about God’s created order. Obviously God designed us to need sleep. It’s part of being finite, of being creaturely. He made our bodies to need that time of sleep each day to recover, lock in memories, and prepare for the next day. But he also created the world in such a way as to accommodate our sleep.

How did he do this? He created night and day. Consider Genesis 1:3-5:

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

As Dr. Walker brings out in the book, our circadian rhythms are intricately connected to the day/night cycle. Anyone who has experienced jet-lag knows this first-hand. God made the day/night cycle and he made our circadian rhythms to work in sync with the predictable rising and setting of the sun.

I recommend reading this book and I plan to implement some of his “12 steps to improve your sleep each night”. I’ve included the list here:

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule: go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning.
  2. Exercise is great, but not too late in the day: no later than 2-3 hours before your bedtime.
  3. Avoid caffeine and nicotine.
  4. Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed.
  5. Avoid large meals and beverages at night.
  6. If possible, avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep.
  7. Don’t take naps after 3 PM.
  8. Relax before bed.
  9. Take a hot bath before bed: the drop in body temperature after the bath will help you get to sleep.
  10. Dark bedroom; cool (65F) bedroom; gadget-free bedroom.
  11. Get the right sunlight exposure: try to wake up to sunlight, and get out in the sun during the day.
  12. Don’t lie in bed awake for more than 20 minutes – if this happens, get up and do a relaxing activity until you feel sleepy.

Dr. Walker’s book is available here:

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