Summary of "Why We Sleep" by Matthew Walker

Part 1 This Thing Called Sleep

Chapter 1 To Sleep

Chapter 2 Caffeine, Jet Lag, and Melatonin: Losing and Gaining Control of Your Sleep Rhythm

good simple view of brain biochemistry and architecture as regards sleep.

Chapter 3 Defining and Generating Sleep: Time Dilation and What We Learned from a Baby in 1952

Chapter 4 Ape Beds, Dinosaurs, and Napping with Half a Brain: Who Sleeps, How Do We Sleep, and How Much?

Chapter 5 Changes in Sleep Across the Life Span

Part 2 Why Should You Sleep?

Chapter 6 Your Mother and Shakespeare Knew: The Benefits of Sleep for the Brain

Chapter 7 Too Extreme for the Guinness Book of World Records: Sleep Deprivation and the Brain

This chapter concerns neurological benefits of sleeping (and issues arising from sleep deprivation)

Chapter 8 Cancer, Heart Attacks, and a Shorter Life: Sleep Deprivation and the Body

Part 3 How and Why We Dream

Chapter 9 Routinely Psychotic: REM-Sleep Dreaming

Chapter 10 Dreaming as Overnight Therapy

Chapter 11 Dream Creativity and Dream Control

Part 4 From Sleeping Pills to Society Transformed

Chapter 12 Things That Go Bump in the Night: Sleep Disorders and Death Caused by No Sleep

Chapter 13 iPads, Factory Whistles, and Nightcaps: What's Stopping You from Sleeping?

Chapter 14 Hurting and Helping Your Sleep: Pills vs. Therapy

Chapter 15 Sleep and Society: What Medicine and Education Are Doing Wrong; What Google and NASA Are Doing Right

Chapter 16 A New Vision for Sleep in the Twenty-First Century

Conclusion: To Sleep or Not to Sleep

Appendix: Twelve Tips for Healthy Sleep

For me, this was the book I got the most out of in 2018.

Criticisms of "Why We Sleep"

There was a rather hard-hitting criticism of the book, by Alexey Guzey:

...and a later response to criticisms from Dr Walker here:

Personally I don't think those initial criticisms do nearly as much as Alexey thinks they do to destroy the entire validity of the work. They're more like editor's notes, fixing a bug here and there. I'll continue to take the work of a professional sleep researcher over an amateur like Alexey who writes:

I've been experimenting with sleep for the last month and I converged on a formula of sleeping 4-5 hours per night and then doing as many 20-30 minute naps as I need during the day (1-2 usually).


I hope to write the synthesis of everything I know about healthy and efficient sleep habits in the future.

I'll be looking forward to that.

It is important to know that "Why We Sleep" is not a guide to helping you get better sleep. It gives you so much information about sleep that it can create or exacerbate anxiety, particularly for people who already have sleep-related problems. This is a major issue and thankfully Dr Walker will be putting a note to that effect on the next edition.

I hardly recognise the words above! I have softened a lot in my outlook on these matters.