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Best Books on Sleep

Those having trouble with their nightly sleep can attribute a catalog of ways it can affect them during the day. Whether simply tired and weary-eyed or suffering from more severe maladies, the effects of poor sleep can make even menial tasks harder to execute. Interpersonal relations, work success, athletic performance, and self-happiness can all be at risk. (If you are personally experiencing sleep problems, it is advised to seek the opinion of a medical professional).

The topic of sleep is covered by a lot of authors. These texts range from scientific to anecdotal, rigorous to humorous, yet all aim to help readers understand how and why the body needs sleep, and introduces some steps to guide readers on a path to better slumbers. When looking at the literature available, it can be difficult to figure out which text to choose. We looked at some of the more popular offerings to see how they stand out: 

Best Books on Sleep

Editor’s Choice

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

Pros: 

  • Neuroscience perspective. The author, Matthew Walker, is the director of University of California Berkeley’s Center for Sleep Science. He leverages his experience in clinical research and his position on the forefront of certain technologies to give fresh perspectives on the importance of sleep.
  • Sense of humor. While the arguments made may be scientifically founded, the tone of the book can verge on humorous throughout the text. Great for a casual read.
  • Simple explanations. The author does a wonderful job of explaining complicated science in plain terms. This book should be digestible to a wide range of readers.

Cons: 

  • Short of solutions. This text is very full-throated in its defense of sleep, but leaves the solutions to the reader to research. It is recommended that those with sleep difficulties consult their personal physicians.
  • Only a few diagrams. This book has some useful diagrams and charts. They are interesting enough that the reader may question why there aren’t more. 
Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams
Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

This text from Matthew Walker takes a look at sleep in our modern times through the lens of neuroscience and neuroimaging. The text is engaging and easy to understand, and even has some moments where readers will chuckle to themselves.

The Contender

The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It

Pros:

  • Exercises. This text contains several exercises different sleepers can utilize to help stabilize and regulate their sleep patterns. These are designed to aid sleepers with different needs.
  • Caters to different sleepers. The author recognizes that different people have very different sleep needs. This book speaks honestly and directly to people about what may be causing issues with their slumber.
  • Myths and misunderstandings. A helpful aspect of this book is that the author addresses many misconceptions that are commonly held about sleep and possible causes of sleep disruption. This is great for anyone who wants to address their own understanding of their personal sleep patterns.

Cons:

  • Verbose. The author makes great points but tends to be repetitive. This can make the reading a bit tedious at points.
  • Lacking empathy. Some may find the author a bit irreverent to the trials undergone by those with sleep difficulties. The book has a light tone that may not be what all readers are looking for.
The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It
The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It

The Sleep Solution by Chris Winter is a helpful book that speaks directly to different types of sleepers about the problems they may be having. It addresses many of the questions and concerns that might span the range of his readership.

Best Bargain

The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time

Pros: 

  • Modern problems. This text tackles directly some of the maladies that the author believes are affecting the sleep of millions. Sleeping pills and technology are addressed in depth.
  • Societal solutions. While this book identifies sweeping problems in modern society that make sleep difficult, it also outlines some solutions that may put the world back on course. This is one of the more compelling parts of this text.
  • Value. This is one of the more affordable books that one can find, period. The paperback book costs less than most value meals.

Cons: 

  • More problems than solving. This book has a bevy of research on what the detriments of sleep deprivation. It has less in the way of avenues individuals can take in improving their sleep habits.
  • Hard to read. The author has included lots of annotations and statistics without much qualitative analysis. This can make for a stilted read.
The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time
The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time

Arianna Huffington’s book about sleep, The Sleep Revolution, is a comprehensive text including lots of research about sleep and how it is being disrupted in the modern age. It has a personal touch and explores broad questions about how society treats sleep.

Most Comprehensive Explanation of Sleep

The Promise of Sleep: A Pioneer in Sleep Medicine Explores the Vital Connection Between Health, Happiness, and a Good Night’s Sleep

Pros: 

  • Effects of poor sleep. This book outlines the unfortunate consequences that can be suffered when people lose out on valuable sleep. This can help serve as a wake-up call to those unaware of the ills that can fall upon them if they don’t work on fixing their sleep patterns.
  • Self-tests. The author includes useful self-tests that can be an indicator to the reader as to the health of their sleep. This can help satiate the introspective questions a reader might have as they read this text.
  • History of sleep. The author has an early section in this book about the history of sleep. This is a perspective that is not often covered in similarly oriented books.

Cons: 

  • Lots of anecdotes. While some may find them amusing, the personal anecdotes sprinkled throughout the text can divert the attention away from the subject matter. 
  • Long book. Some may have wished the author had condensed the most valuable information into a shorter text. This book is upwards of 500 pages long.
The Promise of Sleep: A Pioneer in Sleep Medicine Explores the Vital Connection Between Health, Happiness, and a Good Night's Sleep
The Promise of Sleep: A Pioneer in Sleep Medicine Explores the Vital Connection Between Health, Happiness, and a Good Night's Sleep

William Dement’s book, The Promise of Sleep, is both a personal and technical review of sleep, sleep debt, and the health problems associated with lack of sleep. This book touches on everything from the history and science of sleep, to self-tests one can perform and which professionals to contact in case of severe needs.

Best for Sleep Strategy

Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success

Pros: 

  • Personal reflection. The author allows the reader into personal moments and struggles with sleep, providing a fresh perspective. This is great for those looking for an example or someone to empathise with.
  • Fitness. Due to the author’s experience as an athlete, he has a deep understanding of what it takes to use sleep to help performance – and how the lack of sleep can be a detriment to any sort of athlete.
  • 14 day plan. This book has a two week “makeover” that helps readers try different techniques that not only improve the sleeping environment of the readership but also confronts the stress that may be an underlying cause of sleep deprivation.

Cons:

  • Cost. This is one of the more expensive books available on the topic. Even the paperback tends to cost more than many hardcover books of this nature.
  • Marketing. This book includes several references to specific products readers are recommended to try to help their sleep. This can seem a bit like marketing or product placement at times.
Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success
Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success

This book from Shawn Stevenson is very personal and is meant to help readers obtain a level of peaceful sleep that the author had to discover for himself. This text has plain-spoken language and has laid out a two-week path to improve sleep patterns.

How We Picked

Choosing a book can feel like a big commitment. Reading isn’t like picking a TV show to watch; it can take a long time just to get to the point where a reader realizes they made the wrong choice. We’ve evaluated these books with that in mind by looking at some key categories:

Tone

The tone of any given book can speak to different readerships with varying levels of effectiveness. Some people seeking out information on sleep will be looking for statistical analysis, scientific discourse, and rigorously thorough exploration of different research findings. 

This type of text is for people who would like to chew on data themselves and come to conclusions on their own. Other authors use more personal anecdotes and speak to their own experiences, using science as a tool to portray their unique understanding. This type of book can include a bit more humor and may be an easier read for some customers.

Solutions

Almost all of the leading sleep books cover the detriments of not getting enough sleep. However, not all cover possible solutions for readers to endeavor upon to fix their sleep habits. Of the texts that do, there are two main ways they typically provide support.

Some texts have self-tests that can help a reader figure out what is actually going on between dusk and dawn. These results can guide readers to find different solutions that fit their needs. Other texts are more explicit in their offer of possible solutions; some even have weeklong or two-week long plans that are meant to stabilize a sleep routine.

Perspective

The perspective of the authors of most of these texts typically depends on their personal experience. Some are directors of sleep centers at prestigious universities. These individuals use their clinical research experience and enlist the aid of cutting edge technology and discourse to inform their texts.

However, these are not always the most digestible pieces of literature. Authors who are speaking more from a personal perspective, as in those who have struggled with sleep problems themselves, may offer a more empathic and solution-based approach. Their books may have less scientific nous but use a more approachable language.

Tips

Not sure which book about sleep is right for you? Take a look at the below tips to help make your decision making a bit easier:

  • Have you already investigated the science of sleep? 
    • Several books have very important yet basic information about sleep and the science behind it.
    • Those who have already done research or are familiar with many of the accepted tenets of understanding sleep may not find much new in these books.
  • Are you trying to improve your own sleep?
    • Those who are undergoing a moment of sleep instability may be looking to understand the science behind sleep. This can help them understand their own situation.
    • Some who are struggling with sleep may want to hear from someone who has gone through similar circumstances and to find out how they did it. The nuts and bolts science may not be as important as the way it is communicated.
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Logan Block
Logan is the content director of Sleepopolis, which means he not only reviews new mattresses every week, but also curates all the comparisons, best of pages, and video guides on the site. He takes a straightforward, honest approach to his reviews and endeavors to give viewers an objective look at each new product he tries out. Logan has perfected his method by personally testing over 200 different mattresses, so he’s not only able to discern the overall vibe of a specific bed, but to contextualize its feel within the bed-in-a-box market as a whole. When he’s not hopping on a new bed or working with our editorial team to whip up an engaging sleep education guide, you can find him reading books on world history, walking his dog Pepper, or searching for the best cheeseburger in New York City.
Logan Block

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