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Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker,
Ph.D.: Scriber, An Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. New York, USA, 2017, 368

Article · January 2018

DOI: 10.1007/s41782-018-0034-0


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Seithikurippu R. Pandi-Perumal
Somnogen Canada Inc


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Sleep and Vigilance


Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew

Walker, Ph.D.

Scriber, An Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. New York, USA, 2017, 368 Pages

Seithikurippu R. Pandi‑Perumal1 

Received: 3 January 2018 / Accepted: 16 January 2018

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

embarrassment, or the stigma of laziness. The book ‘Why

We Sleep’ refers to the 8 h of recommended sleep. He has
discussed a 360° evaluation on taking proper sleep, and its
positive outcome. Simultaneously, he has described the con-
sequences of insufficient sleep, which can result in various
diseases. Abnormally high blood sugar levels, cardiovascular
strokes, depression and anxiety attacks leading to suicidal
thoughts are some common results of sleep deprivation.
Dr. Walker has discussed the prevalence of sleep sickness
due to sleep disorders, which lead to physical and mental
dysfunctions. The extreme result of sleep deprivation may
also be a shorter lifespan. This book dives deep and reveals
sleep’s connection to health. It demonstrates that every bod-
ily organ revitalizes with sleep. To sum up, sleep works as
a refreshing ‘vitamin’!
Sleep is pivotal for human health, well-being and longevity. Generally, on average, an individual remains awake for
Sleep is often considered as a powerful elixir of wellness and approximately two-thirds of his life. Dr. Walker has dis-
vitality. Insufficient sleep, on the contrary, has devastating cussed sleep benefits, learning ability, diversity of body
consequences. It causes a host of illnesses, compromises functions, enhancing memorizing capacity, making logi-
health and safety, productivity and quality of life. Sleep loss cal decisions and improving psychological and emotional
has become an epidemic problem and results in personal, health.
familial, societal and public health concerns. The main purpose and benefit of sleep discussed by Dr.
The author of this book, Matthew Walker, Ph.D., is a Walker is to ignite brain and body health each and every day.
notable sleep expert who is a professor of neuroscience and This book is a journey of discoveries to revise the cultural
psychology at UC Berkeley, and the Director of its Sleep and attitudes to sleep.
Neuroimaging Lab. He was a former professor of psychiatry This book, ‘Why We Sleep’ has been structured into
at the Harvard University. He has completed his Ph.D. in four main parts. The first part is an attempt to define sleep
neurophysiology, supported by a fellowship from Medical across the human lifespan. Part two summarizes the good,
Research Council (MRC), London. bad, and the ugly aspects of the lack of sleep for the brain
In this book, Dr. Walker stresses the importance of and body. Part three discusses the scientific underpinning of
reclaiming our rights to a full night of sleep without dreams. Finally, part four is about bench to bedside aspects
of sleep. It discusses insomnia and sleeping pills, along with
a discussion on the clinical data results. These chapters are
* Seithikurippu R. Pandi‑Perumal not arranged in a progressive manner; rather it can be read
individually in any order without losing the key information.
Somnogen Canada Inc, Toronto, ON, Canada This is the main advantage of this book.

Sleep and Vigilance

Dr. Walker has discussed in-depth the relation between to adopt and health promoting. People in any age bracket can
‘desire to sleep’ and ‘want to stay awake’. In doing so, the easily follow these tips and take great benefit from them.
basics of circadian rhythm, the chronobiotic actions of mela- ‘Why we sleep’ is not a self-help book that one can read
tonin, and the two-process model of sleep regulation have and seek a cure for their sleep disorder. This book is not
been discussed. a reference volume, nor does it provide depth of medical
Dr. Walker has discussed two factual universal indicators information for sleep disorder patients, or parents of chil-
of sleep. One is losing external awareness by getting the dren with serious sleep problems. It is not a book that dis-
sensory gate of the brain blocked by thalamus. The second cusses the range of sleep disorders in-depth either. If a reader
indicator is a sense of time distortion. who bought the book was seeking a straightforward answer
A fact needs to be understood that sleep is not an option, for the question “why we sleep”, they might still be disap-
but an obligation in life. The requirement in terms of quan- pointed. This is because the function of sleep is still a mys-
tity and quality varies among individuals and among differ- tery, and it is one of the unsolved problems in neuroscience.
ent ages. The time duration required for people in different “What then, is the value of this book?” one might ask. What
age brackets can vary quite a lot. As old age gets near, the does it offer?
rejuvenating power of sleep declines, and physical, mental Sleep is a very popular topic, and there are numerous
and mortality risks increase. The level of body energy also self-help books available. Unlike many other books written
deteriorates. Depression, lower cognitive functions, and for- by novice authors, or someone who has very little informa-
getfulness take place. Through study and experiments, it has tion or exposure to the field of sleep medicine, this book
been observed that older adults become unable to have deep was written by a competent, world-renowned sleep expert
sleep. Poor sleep can result in ill health and various diseases who spend decades of cutting edge research in the field
as Alzheimer, diabetes, depression, anxiety and chronic pain. of sleep medicine. By writing this absolutely fascinating
It is well known that ‘sleep is the universal health care book, Dr. Walker has exhibited a tour-de-force. The book
provider’ (Walker, pg. 108, line 1), and also comes with is highly informative, well-organized, a clearly written and
no fee. Numerous brain functions depend on sleep. Losing easily readable book that is packed with much useful scien-
out on sleep may be a cause of brain impairment. Having a tific information for patients, and sleep professionals alike.
nap during the day has demonstrated to help in improving Insufficient sleep and poor quality sleep are pervasive in the
memory. Maintaining sleep quality replenishes and refreshes modern 24 h society. Rather than delving into specific sleep
motor function, allowing top performance for skilled athletes issues, this book focuses on aspects of the importance of
and workers. Finally, the most effective benefit of sleep dis- sleep, overall.
cussed in this section is creativity. Dr. Walker makes a sobering yet sensible plea to the
In closing, the new vision for sleep in the twenty-first cen- masses. That is, take sleep seriously. Dr. Walker’s book is an
tury has been discussed. In this chapter, Dr. Walker argues eye opener for those who wants to take their sleep seriously,
that the lack of shut-eye is a slow form of self-euthanasia and and thereby teaches the foundation of sleep science, and its
offers a roadmap of interventional opportunities. In this five- health imperatives. In addition, this book is an interesting
step roadmap, he discussed individual-level transformation, read and will be an important addition to one’s personal
followed by a societal transformation. Dr. Walker, after dis- library no matter if that person is a patient or a physician.
cussing sleep along with pros and cons, has given a number Sleep plays a vital part of everyone’s life. Therefore, the
of tips for a healthy sleep. His tips are easy to follow, simple importance of sleep can never be discounted.


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