Building community in a changing world

April 19, 2022

Sleep Well (Or Better Than You Currently Are)

A long way back, I blogged about how I wasn’t sleeping well. Since the start of the pandemic, my sleeping schedule has dramatically changed. I go to bed much earlier than I used to – and I’m often up by 4:30 am. On the whole, it’s worked for me – but it can be challenging because I can’t seem to break the cycle when I need to stay up for an activity that lasts beyond 9 pm.

Most people would say they are someone who gets insufficient sleep – either in duration or that they have an abnormal pattern. I’ve spent a good deal of my adult life that way myself. It’s a bummer.

Recently, I read the wonderful book by a neuroscientist, Matthew Walker, entitled “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams.” My wife had been handing out copies to friends for over a year – and I finally caved to see what the hubbub was about. Subconsciously, I think I was avoiding reading it because it illuminates just how important sleep is.

The book is chock full of fascinating revelations. Here’s the description of it from the Amazon page selling the book:

“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.”