Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

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Simon and Schuster, Oct 3, 2017 - Health & Fitness - 360 pages
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Why We Sleep is an important and fascinating book…Walker taught me a lot about this basic activity that every person on Earth needs. I suspect his book will do the same for you.” —Bill Gates

A New York Times bestseller and international sensation, this “stimulating and important book” (Financial Times) is a fascinating dive into the purpose and power of slumber.

Sleep is one of the most important but least understood aspects of our life, wellness, and longevity. Until very recently, science had no answer to the question of why we sleep, or what good it served, or why we suffer such devastating health consequences when we don't sleep. Compared to the other basic drives in life—eating, drinking, and reproducing—the purpose of sleep remained elusive.

An explosion of scientific discoveries in the last twenty years has shed new light on this fundamental aspect of our lives. Now, preeminent neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker gives us a new understanding of the vital importance of sleep and dreaming. Within the brain, sleep enriches our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions. It recalibrates our emotions, restocks our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates our appetite. Dreaming mollifies painful memories and creates a virtual reality space in which the brain melds past and present knowledge to inspire creativity.

Walker answers important questions about sleep: how do caffeine and alcohol affect sleep? What really happens during REM sleep? Why do our sleep patterns change across a lifetime? How do common sleep aids affect us and can they do long-term damage? Charting cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and synthesizing decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood, and energy levels; regulate hormones; prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes; slow the effects of aging; increase longevity; enhance the education and lifespan of our children, and boost the efficiency, success, and productivity of our businesses. Clear-eyed, fascinating, and accessible, Why We Sleep is a crucial and illuminating book.

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Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

User Review  - Publishers Weekly

Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley, begins his first book by reminding readers that until quite recently, the routine that most of us go through nightly was a mystery ... Read full review

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Insufficient sleep has been linked to aggression, bullying, and behavior problems in children across a range of ages. A similar relationship between a lack of sleep and violence has been observed in adult prison populations; places that, I should add, are woefully poor at enabling good sleep that could reduce aggression, violence, psychiatric disturbance, and suicide, which, beyond the humanitarian concern, increases costs to the taxpayer.
Equally problematic issues arise from extreme swings in positive mood, through the consequences are different. Hypersensitivity to pleasurable experiences can lead to sensation-seeking, risk-taking and addition. Sleep disturbance is a recognized hallmark associated with addictive substance use. Insufficient sleep also determines relapse rates in numerous addiction disorders, associated with reward cravings that are unmetered, lacking control from the rational head office of the brain’s prefrontal cortex.
Psychiatry has long been aware of the coincidence between sleep disturbance and mental illness. However, a prevailing view in psychiatry has been that mental disorders cause sleep disruption – a one-way street of influence. Instead, we have demonstrated that otherwise healthy people can experience a neurological pattern of brain activity similar to that observed in many of these psychiatric conditions simply by having their sleep disrupted or blocked. In deed many of the brain regions commonly impacted by psychiatric mood disorders are the same regions that are involved in sleep regulation and impacted by sleep loss. Further, many of the genes that show abnormalities in psychiatric illnesses are the same genes that help control sleep and our circadian rhythms.
Preliminary but compelling evidence is beginning to support this claim (sleep and psychiatric disorders are 2-way street of interaction). One example, bipolar disorder. A research team in Italy examined bipolar patients during the time when they were stable, inter-episode phase. Next, under careful clinical supervision, they sleep-deprived these individuals for one night. Almost immediately, a proportion of the individuals either spiraled into a manic episode or became seriously depressed. The result supports a mechanism in which sleep disruption – which almost always precedes the shift from a stable to unstable manic or depressive state in bipolar patients – may well be a (THE) trigger in the disorder, and not simply epiphenomenal.
Thankfully, the opposite is also true. Should you improve sleep quality in patients suffering from several psychiatric conditions using a technical we will discuss later, called cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), you can improve symptom severity and remission rates.


Time Dilation
Changes in Sleep Across the Life Span
Part 2
How and Why We Dream
Dreaming as Overnight Therapy
Dream Creativity and Dream Control
Pills vs Therapy
What Medicine and Education
A New Vision for Sleep in the TwentyFirst Century
To Sleep or Not to Sleep

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About the author (2017)

Matthew Walker is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley, the Director of its Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab, and a former professor of psychiatry at Harvard University. He has published over 100 scientific studies and has appeared on 60 Minutes, Nova, BBC News, and NPR's Science Friday. Why We Sleep is his first book.

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