Jake Trent

Why We Sleep

Sleep is more important that we realize to many aspects of our health

I heard about Why We Sleep from a Gatesnotes recommendation. I read it because I was fascinated with what Gates and others described as a change in their mindset around the priority of sleep. Reading the book, it has similarly moved me.

The book is full of studies and statistics and is thus rather dry. "Why something something" by Someone, PhD might be sure to be. But the numbers tell a story that is compelling enough to make me want to listen. So many systems of our body and our general health are laid on the foundation of our sleep. Our bodies aren't just wasting time when we're sleeping -- this is how we remain in a state to do anything else. Our health, including immune system, energy, ability to fight cancer are reliant on sleep. Our mood state, the ability to handle disappointment and temptation are reliant on sleep. Our brain, the ability to keep it healthy, remember things, learn new things, avoid dementia are reliant on sleep. Our diet, what we choose to eat, our ability to curb appetite, the amount we eat, the weight we lose are reliant on sleep. Our physical bodies, attractiveness, ability to perform are reliant on sleep. It's in everything.

And because of sleep's great influence on all the personal aspects of our lives, we should take it seriously. We shouldn't see it as a waste. We shouldn't term others lazy for finding the sleep they need. We should realize that sleep patterns can vary for many. We should see the impact that the lack of sleep has on us personally, as families, businesses, and society. We should advocate for better sleep. We should help our loved ones get sleep.

After reading, I simply wanted better sleep. Here are the 12 basic tips shared at the end of the book, paraphrased:

  1. Stick to a schedule. Same time to bed and time to wake up, every day. Weekends included.
  2. Exercise, but not too late in the day. 3+ hrs before bedtime.
  3. Avoid caffeine and nicotine.
  4. Avoid alcohol.
  5. Avoid large meals or drinks late at night.
  6. Avoid medicines that delay or disrupt sleep where possible.
  7. No naps after 3pm.
  8. Relax before bed, leave time to unwind.
  9. Take a hot bath before bed, helps the body drop temp and feel sleepy.
  10. Dark, cool 65deg F, gadget-free bedroom. No phones, TVs, computers. Don't watch the clock.
  11. Get 30m+ bright sunlight in daytime. Turn down lights in evening.
  12. If awake at night for 20m+, don't fret in bed. Get up, do something relaxing until sleepy, then return to sleep.