Working long hours? Shift worker? Read this book

Why Why We Sleep is essential reading for all trade unionists

Why We Sleep is by Matthew Walker. Published by Penguin Books, RRP £10.99

Matthew Walker is a professor at Harvard and is an expert on sleep. What he doesn’t know about how and why we sleep and how it affects our brains isn’t worth knowing. His book Why We Sleep should be a compulsory text for all union activists in any sector where workers undertake long hours or shift work. In short a lack of sleep means that we can’t concentrate at work and are far more likely to make mistakes or have accidents. In one memorable section Walker argues that driving when suffering the effects of sleep deprivation is more dangerous than drink driving (not that he is advocating the latter). When drunk your responses are slowed, while if you experience a micro sleep you have no control whatsoever. The book further describes how a lack of sleep impacts on both our physical and mental health. In truth there is nothing in the book which most people did not already, know or suspect. The strength of the book is that it explains exactly how and why a lack of sleep impacts on our health from a scientific basis. Such information should be invaluable when arguing about excessive hours and oppressive shifts in the workplace. Why We Sleep should be required reading in tackling ill health and long hours in the workplace.

By Barckley Sumner