I recommend Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, a fascinating scientific book which explains the urgency of getting good sleep on a daily basis. The New Science of Sleep and Dreams includes research from UC Berkeley’s Professor Matthew Walker and the scientific sleep research community. Walker credits many diseases traced to chronic lack of sleep, including Alzheimer’s, cancer and obesity. Like Walker’s evidence states, “If you’re sleeping for less than seven hours a night you’re doing yourself a disservice as grave as that of smoking.” Operating at low level sleep deprivation messes up our lives in huge ways scientists are beginning to take very seriously.
It’s not too late to respect sleep, and our society could positively change the diminishing sleep patterns of one hundred years of industrialization’s impact on humans. Most humans do not get the required eight hours of sleep to fully function, and it’s proven to be taking years off of our lives. Students and early school start times harm students by requiring them to go against their circadian brain circuitry. Schools need to reexamine the current early time starts. For example, scientists track students and their amounts of N-REM and REM sleep cycles, and most developing REM values come at the end of eight hours of sleep that students routinely dismiss or don’t get. Lack of REM leads to depression, lack of creativity and wellness. Serious stuff schools need to address.
Walker also points out profound changes humans are experiencing because of the invention of LED lighting. LED is a cool type of light, so prominent in all electronic devices. He compares LED light to light from the depths of the ocean, devoid of sunlight, and warm light humans use with circadian rhythms of sunlight. Darkness is required for our biology, and acts like sleep alarm clocks. LED computer and cellphone light prevents natural darkness, especially when we use the devices at bedtime. Billions of humans use devices in bed, and struggle with insomnia, then turning to the pharmaceutical community for drugs that really don’t help us with deep sleep.
Walker’s book urges me to take sleep seriously. Doctors and scientists have a lack of solid knowledge about what sleep does for us regarding health, creativity and healing. We have to pay attention to what our bodies really need. Why We Sleep is a book well worth reading.