Sleep Is Your Superpower

“In minds crammed with thoughts, organs clogged with toxins, and bodies stiffened with neglect, there is just no space for anything else.” ~ Alison Rose Levy

Sleep is pivotal for human health, well-being and longevity. Sleep is often considered as a powerful elixir of wellness and vitality. Insufficient sleep, on the contrary, has devastating consequences. It causes a host of illnesses, compromises health and safety, productivity and quality of life. Sleep loss has become an epidemic problem and results in personal, familial, societal and public health concerns.

The author of the book “Why We Sleep”, Matthew Walker, Ph.D., is a notable sleep expert who is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley, and the Director of its Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab. He was a former professor of psychiatry at the Harvard University. He has completed his Ph.D. in neurophysiology, supported by a fellowship from Medical Research Council (MRC), London.

In this book, Dr. Walker stresses the importance of reclaiming our rights to a full night of sleep without embarrassment, or the stigma of laziness. The book “Why We Sleep” refers to the 8 hours of recommended sleep. He has discussed a 360° evaluation on taking proper sleep, and its positive outcome. Simultaneously, he has described the consequences of insufficient sleep, which can result in various diseases. Abnormally high blood sugar levels, cardiovascular strokes, depression and anxiety attacks leading to suicidal thoughts are some common results of sleep deprivation.

Dr. Walker has discussed the prevalence of sleep sickness due to sleep disorders, which lead to physical and mental dysfunctions. The extreme result of sleep deprivation may also be a shorter lifespan. This book dives deep and reveals sleep’s connection to health. It demonstrates that every bodily organ revitalizes with sleep. To sum up, sleep works as a refreshing “vitamin.”

Generally, on average, an individual remains awake for approximately two-thirds of his life. Dr. Walker has discussed sleep benefits, learning ability, diversity of body functions, enhancing memorizing capacity, making logical decisions and improving psychological and emotional health.

The main purpose and benefit of sleep discussed by Dr. Walker is to ignite brain and body health each and every day. This book is a journey of discoveries to revise the cultural attitudes to sleep.

The book, “Why We Sleep” has been structured into four main parts. The first part is an attempt to define sleep across the human lifespan. Part two summarizes the good, bad, and the ugly aspects of the lack of sleep for the brain and body. Part three discusses the scientific underpinning of dreams. Finally, part four is about bench to bedside aspects of sleep. It discusses insomnia and sleeping pills, along with a discussion on the clinical data results. These chapters are not arranged in a progressive manner; rather it can be read individually in any order without losing the key information.

You can view his inspiring TED Talk speech – click here:

Sleep Is Not an Optional Luxury. It Is a Non-Negotiable Biological Necessity

  • Lack of sleep destroys your brain’s ability to turn short-term memory into long-term memory.
  • You cannot take in new memory when you are deprived of sleep.
  • Lack of sleep significantly decreases your testosterone.
  • Sleeping for 6 hours instead of 7 hours reduces the activity of natural killer cells by 75%. Natural killer cells are a part of immune system. They are responsible for defending our body against cancers. Thus, if you do not get enough sleep, you are far more likely to get cancer.
  • Lack of sleep modifies your genes such that:
    • Inflammation increases
    • The risk of cardiovascular disease increases
    • The activity of cancer-promoting genes increases
    • The activity of genes responsible for immune system decreases

World Health Organization classifies “Shift Work” as a Carcinogen. In other words, “Shift Work” causes Cancer.

Tips for better sleep

  • Make a regular sleep schedule
  • Keep the room temperature cool. Keep it around 18 degrees Celsius. When the room is hot, it is difficult to fall asleep.
  • Stop drinking caffeinated beverages at least 8 hours before you go to bed
  • Do not take naps for too long. Avoid naps if possible.
  • Do not skimp on sleep ever. Prioritize sleep.

Sleep and shower are the best tools for building positive momentum and maintaining productivity.