Why We Sleep

Why We Sleep – 5 Quick Lessons

The elastic band of sleep deprivation can stretch only so far before it snaps. Sadly, human beings are in fact the only species that will deliberately deprive themselves of sleep without legitimate gain.

Matthew Walker – Why We Sleep

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, PhD is most definitely worth the read! We’re all guilty of fighting our sleepiness to write one more email, scroll on social media one last time or watch one more episode of a show we’re binge watching. But what if we learned that all of this sleep deprivation was extremely unhealthy and even deadly, would we listen? You decide. Here are 5 quick lessons from the book of the week, Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, PhD.

1- Not enough time in a day.

Dr. Walker shares a circadian rhythm study that hypothesizes the relationship between sunlight and our wake time. With both plants and humans subjects, the studies showed clear evidence of a built-in Sleep rhythm despite being in absolute darkness for up to 31 days. Strangely enough, humans wake and sleep cycles consistently exceeded a 24hour timeframe. Basically, the old saying “there really isn’t enough time in a day” is scientifically accurate; that is, it would be if the sun wasn’t such an expert in resetting our sleeping rhythms.

“It is no coincidence that the brain uses Daylight for this resetting purpose. Daylight is the most reliable repeating signal that we have in our environment. Since the birth of our planet, and every single day thereafter without fail, the sun has always risen in the morning and set in the evening.”

Matthew Walker – Why We Sleep

2 – Night owls aren’t lazy, early risers aren’t crazy

Contrary to popular belief, whether you’re a night owl or effortlessly arise from your slumber at the crack of dawn has less to do with your character, and more to do with your DNA. PSA: Stop being so judgmental, and let people sleep in their unique natural rhythms. Don’t chastise those that need to sleep in after being up all night, someone needs to be able to take night shifts! It certainly isn’t me.

“Night-owls are not owls by choice, they’re bound to a delayed schedule by unavoidable DNA hard wiring. It is not their ‘conscious fault’ but rather their genetic fate.”

Matthew Walker – Why We Sleep

Mother Nature would never pass on a biological trait at random would she? Studies suggest the contrast between morning people and night owls stems from living in community and taking sleeping shifts to protect the human tribe or family unit. Nature knows. Capitalism continuously rewards the early-risers though, often leaving night owls in a tough spot socially.

3 – But first coffee? … Maybe not.

“Most people do not realize how long it takes to overcome a single dose of caffeine, and therefore will fail to make the link between the bad night of sleep we’re recovering from in the morning and a cup of coffee we had 10 hours earlier with dinner.”

Matthew Walker – Why We Sleep

Caffeine is one of the most common drugs In the world. it’s the key that keeps people from falling asleep more easily. Why we sleep dives into the common misconceptions about coffee and the often unknown risks of regular use. One thing that surprised me, was the fact that contrary to popular belief, decaffeinated coffee does not mean Non-caffeinated. One cup of decaf is actually far from caffeine-free, though it has a lot less than the regular stuff, it may still impact ones sleep quality. Additionally, most of us are most likely self-medicating our constant state of sleep deprivation. Periodical use of coffee is much better for us. Instead of relying on it, to better our health, we should consider getting enough sleep to function optimally without coffee until noon. Absentmindedly consuming a drug as a force of habit creates an unnecessary dependence. This is among many factors that prevents sleep and greatly erodes our sleep quality.

4 – Born to run Nap

A few of us enjoy a full afternoon nap, further contributing to our state of sleep bankruptcy… All humans respective of culture and geographic location, Have a genetically hardwired dip in alertness that occurs in the mid-afternoon hours…I’m sure you’ve experienced this blanket of drowsiness that seems to take a hold of you mid-Afternoon, as though your brain is heading towards an unusually early bedtime.

Matthew Walker – Why We Sleep

I’m an avid sleeper that has been shamed for my love of naps on numerous occasions! Reading these facts made me smile and wish I could shove this In people’s faces. I’d say “No I’m not lazy, or boring, I’m intuitive and falling prey to an evolutionarily imprinted lull in wakefulness that beckons an afternoon nap called the post-prandial alertness dip” The author of Why We Sleep refers to this as biphasic sleep. Many areas in the world such as South America, Spain and Greece, culturally mandate a 3-5 hour siesta midday, where stores and restaurants are closed and everyone is encouraged to nap. A study done in Greece showed a 37% increased risk of death from heart disease in subjects that gave up the “siesta” tradition due to pressures from the growing tourism economy. In contrast, theres a small enclave in another part of Greece, where the siesta still remains intact. That place often gets described as ‘the place where people forget to die’. There, men and women are four times more likely to see the age of 90 than Americans.

5 – Sleeping is the secret to longevity

Routinely sleeping less than 6 or 7 hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer. Insufficient sleep is a key lifestyle factor, determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease. Inadequate sleep, even moderate reductions for just one week, disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly, that you would be classified as “pre-diabetic”

Matthew Walker – Why We Sleep

Okay we get it, sleep is critical, however sometimes it doesn’t come as easily as we’d hope. When young kids have trouble sleeping, experts suggest a bedtime routine. Adults can benefit from one of those as well. Whether it’s a warm bubble bath, soft music or some meditation that does it for you, sticking to a routine to increase your relaxation before bed will do nothing but serve you. Evidentially, that means… the unthinkable: putting away your screens! *faints*. Even with the new “sleep mode” on most smartphones that increase the yellow tones while decreasing the dreaded and vilified blue light that has been linked to disrupting sleep; phones continue to be the reason many Americans, (Canadians too), don’t sleep as early as they should. Figure out what works for you and stick to it, your life and longevity may very well depend on it.

What an informative book! Remember, 5 Lessons barely ever scratches the surface on any non-fiction book! But getting something from a book you haven’t read yet is worth something in my books! Cheers to growing without the pain, and reading to improve ourselves in every way.

Thank you Dr. Matthew Walker!

And thank you for reading.

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5 Comments

      1. savingmamassanity

        Seriously though! We (my husband and I) get made fun of because we go to bed “early”? Well, guess what friends… I bet I feel better than you do because no person should have to function off of less than 7 hours of sleep!

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