“I never sleep!” “I can’t stay awake!” Not so, says Dr. Winter.  With humor, sensitivity, and a lot of science, Dr. Winter explains the true nature of sleep and wakefulness.  For most people our understanding of sleep more closely resembles urban legends and conspiracy theories than physiology or medicine.  And our misconceptions create much of the anxiety that keeps us awake – or asleep.  We persist in our bad habits even when we know they are a lot of the problem.  We drink too much caffeine, stay up late playing video games, leave the TV on in the bedroom all night and then worry about not getting enough sleep.  When we can’t sleep at night we nap during the day.

Sleep is a vital need that we cannot live without. We cannot function well at anything without it. Besides the obvious problems of sleep deprivation such as car accidents, losing a race and not remembering what you read, it can prevent weight loss no matter how good your diet is and ruin your immune system.  At the same time proper sleep can delay Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and prevent cancer. Nobody seems to agree on how much sleep we need.  They do agree that it is the quality of the sleep as much as the amount that matters. Only, they are not sure how to measure the quality of sleep or even how to define it.

Dr. Winter maintains that sleep is a skill that we can learn. Other than the true sleep disorders such as narcolepsy and sleep apnea, most sleep problems can be fixed with education, self-discipline, and patience.  Well, OK, those aren’t all that easy but they will pay off and better than pills, gadgets and more worry.

See also Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker, PhD.

Review by Janet T., Reference Librarian