Before I had kids, I never had any problems sleeping. Five years and two kids later, my body won’t stay asleep. I’m not exaggerating when I say that every night I’ve spent with my family since having children (so 4.5 years minus the occasional business trip) has been interrupted by one of my kids (usually the same one; good thing he’s cute) or one of our pets. Add in a worldwide pandemic and the accompanying stresses, and I’m exhausted. Actually, I would love to just be exhausted. That’s a gentle word for how I’ve been feeling.
Unfortunately, it appears I’m not alone. A fellow editor and I trade sleep secrets (we both purchased weighted blankets and Hatch Restore machines on Prime Day). The New York Times recently ran an article on yoga moves to try before bed to improve sleep. And every Thrive Global newsletter I receive has at least one article about sleep (a slight exaggeration, but you get my point). And while I’m past the 3 am anxious scrolling through the news that I was doing in March, I’ve still had trouble getting my sleep under control. Essential oils, meditation, teas, baths, and prescription drugs are just a few of my tricks, along with the aforementioned blanket and sleep machine.
Of course I’ve also turned to books. If you are one of the many sleep-deprived people out there, I hope this list gives you some hope that sleep will come again.
The Promise of Sleep: A Pioneer in Sleep Medicine Explores the Vital Connection Between Health, Happiness, and a Good Night's Sleep by William C. Dement, MD, PhD, and Christopher Vaughan
This is an oldie (sort of) but a goodie, and one that many people have recommended to me. Dr. Dement is the founder and director of the Stanford University Sleep Research Center; this book examines not only why sleep is so important, but also helps you determine how much sleep you need (it’s not a universal 7-8 hours!), and provides methods for combatting common sleep issues such as insomnia and snoring.
The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It by W. Chris Winter, MD
Arianna Huffington calls Dr. Winter a “sleep whisperer,” and the science in this book is slightly more up to date than The Promise of Sleep. Winter wants us to sleep well without sleeping pills (me too, Dr. Winter, me too!), and understand how our environmental factors such as light or food may affect what happens when we hit the hay.
Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker, PhD
Blessed by Bill Gates as “an important and fascinating book,” Why We Sleep examines just that: the role sleep serves in our lives and health. Although this book does offer advice on how to get a more restful night’s sleep, it is focused heavily on how to use sleep to better our minds and bodies.
Say Good Night to Insomnia: The Six-Week, Drug-Free Program Developed at Harvard Medical School by Gregg D. Jacobs, PhD
I should preface this by saying, this book is on my to-be-read stack, as I need to ramp up and block out six weeks where I can try this program. The title says it all, and this method has shown to improve sleep in 80% of patients.
While this fascinating (and recently published) book deserves its own post, there’s a section that resonated with me in terms of sleep. The quick background is that in his early 20s, Shetty left behind his life in London to become a monk. But after a few years, he realized that his true calling was helping others, and he left monkhood behind to become a mindfulness coach. He brings what he learned as a monk to his coaching, and to this book. In the chapter titled Routine, Shetty proclaims that “Location Has Energy: Time Has Memory.” Each area of your home should be dedicated to a single purpose, and your bedroom is for sleep. If you’re checking work email before bed, you’re not creating the optimal environment.
How to Sleep: The New Science-Based Solutions for Sleeping Through the Night by Rafael Pelayo, MD
This upcoming book is currently sitting on my nightstand, not just because I’m enjoying Dr. Pelayo’s theories, but also because it’s frankly a good-looking book. Dr. Pelayo opens by talking about how improving sleep hygiene (for example, no caffeine after a certain time) does not help those with serious sleeping issues: “Expecting sleep hygiene alone to help a person with chronic sleep difficulties is like telling somebody with an anxiety disorder to stop worrying.” This is a great book to skip around in. I skipped the chapter on snoring (our only snorer is one of our dogs) and went right to the section on Insomnia. And while I may disagree with Dr. Pelayo that weighted blankets aren’t a cure-all for insomnia, I still think this book will become a new classic in the genre.
Having trouble sleeping? Here is a collection of books that might help.