Why We Sleep: A New Belief for Better Rest

18.10.2023 |

Episode #6 of the course 100 Nonfiction Books Everyone Should Read by John Robin


Welcome back to our course on 100 Nonfiction books everyone should read!

Last lesson, we explored the business and economics category. Put together with the previous four categories, we now have expanded the world knowledge aspect beyond what’s covered in the historical and scientific domains of nonfiction.

Where can we go next to expand the map? Welcome to lesson 6, where we’ll now explore another category which rounds out the personal side a bit more. Get ready to add 10 more great books to our must-read shelf!


Medical, Health, and Fitness

Top recommendation: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker.

This next category includes all the books that shine a different light on the personal side of self-help: that of health, medicine, and fitness.

There are many aspects to health, but in my opinion, sleep is perhaps the most important topic to learn about. We spend about 30% of our life asleep, and good or bad sleep can be the root of good or bad health.

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker is a book that transformed my picture of what sleep is, and many false myths about it. In fact, it is the primary source for yet another one of my popular Highbrow courses: Sleep Hacks: Using Science to Improve Your Sleep. Even Bill Gates read and loved this book!

Perhaps what I found most powerful about this book was how it completely inverted my mindset on sleep. It’s easy to think of sleep as a waste of time you can’t escape. When I started out as a small business owner in 2014, I had carried forward my work-all-night, get-it-done thinking and would try to cut my sleep down around an overly-ambitious, goal-completion schedule. I hated sleep.

But after reading this book, I came to see sleep as my “priority one” above all priorities. Everything about this book now has become part of my core philosophy of healthy living: I now love sleep. In fact, I probably sleep more than necessary, because I’ve discovered—through applying everything in this book like an experiment—how many benefits like clearer thinking, fewer headaches, quicker workout recovery, better mood, and faster learning abound when I make sleep my foundation. Yes, it’s less time to be “productive” but before making the change Why We Sleep convinced me of, I used to spend 5 hours on a task that now I can do in 2 hours, because I’m not fretting, second-guessing myself, getting distracted, unable to concentrate, making mistakes—all symptoms of a lack of sleep.

So, time lost is actually time gained, and I hope after you check out this top-recommended book for the category, that you’ll have a similar discovery awaiting you as well!

Runners up:

There are two very close runners-up to Why We Sleep, and—yes, you guessed it!—they were primary references for another of my popular courses: Secrets To A Long Life. How Not to Die by Gene Stone and Michael Greger is not as pessimistic as it sounds; in fact, it’s a truly optimistic book. Outlining several ways we can learn from the habits of those who live long or without disease, and comparing that to trends seen in the habits of those who die or get sick prematurely, this book presents a road map of small changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle that will help you avoid many health issues that are avoidable. You would be amazed at how much of a role stress—in its many manifestations—can play in this recipe!

Lifespan by David Sinclair considers aging more specifically, drawing on numerous studies of the long-lived to learn from genetics and habits. Delivering a similarly optimistic message, Lifespan presents aging as a treatable disease; not that we can avoid it and live forever, but that we can recognize many of the things we associate with old age—like being sedentary and hunched over, having a heart attack or stroke, or getting diabetes—can be avoided with some core habits like the right kind of exercise, eating less high-fat meat, and intermittent fasting.

Two other great books that make the runner-up list are:

The Story of the Human Body by Daniel Lieberman

This Is Your Brain on Food by Uma Naidoo

The Story of the Human Body is a great way to further your understanding of health, by way of understanding the ins and outs of how the body works, and how we have come to be the human beings we are today. This Is Your Brain on Food is more of a food-focused read that delves a bit deeper than what is touched on in How Not to Die and Lifespan, with further insights on how specific foods can tie to certain disorders, and how some foods can even alleviate some symptoms. It even includes some great recipes to help you get these foods into your diet!

Honorable mentions:

Here are five honorable mentions to round out our list of 10:

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan, a refreshing take on food that busts a lot of myths about diet and nutrition, allowing you to take a freer, more realistic approach to eating.

Breath by James Nestor, an exploration of the phenomenon of breathing and the surprising amount we can learn about human health just from this alone.

Built to Move by Juliet Starrett and Kelly Starrett, a low-stress, easy-to-follow new approach to exercise, without any need for complicated equipment or the discomfort associated with traditional all-or-nothing gym strategies.

Gut: The Inside Story of Your Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders, revealing the many functions of the gut and how fundamental it is not just to our health, but identity as well.

Glute Lab: The Art and Science of Strength and Physique Training by Bret Contreras and Glen Cordoza, a thorough explanation of core exercise techniques and programs, centered on the most important muscle to train to avoid injury: the glute.

Stay tuned for tomorrow, when we’ll see what top 10 books await in the next category!


Recommended movie

Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019), with Jillian Bell


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