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The Book That Shifted Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian's Thinking Around Sleep

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Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian is an advocate for work/life balance. It's something his wife, tennis legend Serena Williams, encouraged him to get better at.

Part of that balance, and one of the ways in which Ohanian ensures he's setting himself up for success, is by trying to get the proper amount of sleep.

For Ohanian, the 2017 book "Why We Sleep (Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams)" shifted his entire mindset.

"This is a phenomenal book because it really goes into the science and the research behind why sleep is such an important part of our lives," Ohanian tells CNBC Make It.

"It's not just for its restorative powers, like you can get more work done in a day and be more effective with those hours," he says. "What we're seeing is the long-term health costs to not getting enough sleep.

"Really [the book] solidified why it's actually really important."

Written by Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology and director of University of California, Berkeley's Center for Human Sleep Science, the book is a deep dive into the science of sleep and explores topics from how caffeine and alcohol affect sleep to what really happens during REM sleep to how sleep patterns change over time. Walker also explains how sleep can improve the ability to learn, regulate hormones and may help prevent certain diseases like Alzheimer's.

Bill Gates is also a fan of the book. In a 2019 GatesNotes blog post the billionaire said that reading "Why We Sleep" made him realize how his all-nighters and lack of sleep while building Microsoft in his 20s and 30s took a "big toll" on him.

The book "explains how neglecting sleep undercuts your creativity, problem solving, decision-making, learning, memory, heart health, brain health, mental health, emotional well-being, immune system, and even your life span," Gates wrote.

However, Gates did not necessarily buy into all of Walker's reporting, "such as the strong link he claims between not getting enough sleep and developing Alzheimers," he wrote. (Studies from National Institutes of Health and Science of Translational Medicine have found links between sleep deprivation and lack of deep sleep is associated with "higher levels of tau," a protein that helps to stabilize nerve cells in the brain, "which forms toxic tangles inside the brain cells of people with Alzheimer's," NPR reported in November.)

Ohanian says if he can't get between six and eight hours of sleep every night, he knows he has to change something in his life or routine.

"It doesn't always happen. But I really strive for that because I'm seeing the real results every day in my own life," he says.

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