Books to optimize your 4000 hours of existence!

Adithyan Ilangovan 6 min read


Here is a fact. The average lifespan of a human being is 4000 weeks. Of that,

  • ~1333 weeks will be spent exclusively sleeping1 😴.
  • ~4000 weeks of breathing🧘‍♂️ in the background2
  • ~472 weeks on shopping for, preparing for, and consuming food3 🍽.
  • ~55 weeks on showering, cleaning 🧴, and caring for skin. 4

That is a whopping amount of weeks.
Maybe some of the readers here are approaching the activities deliberately and well.
But can we say the same for all of us? Probably not.

For most of us, each of those activities mostly runs on autopilot. We often don’t give much thought to it. The way we approach each of those things is learned either in early childhood, culturally imbibed, or just something we slipped into.

Also, each of those activities has an indirect, but significant, impact on other things in life. For example, a good night’s sleep helps us perform emotionally, cognitively, and physically better in our waking hours.

So how do we then learn the best approaches?

Over the last few years, I have been lucky to stumble across books that changed how I approach each of those activities. They have helped me to reconsider and be deliberate in my approach. Those books were a few days of time investment, with life-long returns on the improved well-being.

In this post, I would like to share those books in the hope that it helps you live your 4000 weeks well 🙂

Disclaimer: This is not going to be a book review post. Rather, more like a book recommendation. Imagine a friend recommending you a book and things that he would tell you when he is recommending that book. That is what this post is going to be.

[Sleep 😴] “Why we sleep” – Matthew Walker

I have recommended this book to countless friends. They all loved it. This is the best book I read in the year 2020. Even if you are not super interested in improving sleeping, this is a well-written and easy-to-read non-fiction book.

Imagine you had a really cool science professor in your university. And he sat you down for 2 hours and gave this amazing enthralling lecture about sleep. He explains to you why it’s magic and all the cool things that happen to you during your sleep. The book is like the written form of the lecture. I was so surprised to learn all the amazing things that happen during sleep. Contrary to popular belief, there are at least as much as things going inside your brain (if not more) as in waking hours.

It is very grounded in science. It is written by an academic. It is written in an engaging way. Also, the book is also very practical and very very actionable. There are many tips in there on how to improve your sleep. In my opinion, it is a one-stop shop for everything related to sleep.

Pick it up and hopefully, it will help in your shut-eye-slumber 🛏 !

[Breathing 🧘‍♂️] “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art” – James Nestor

This one was a surprising one. We all know the importance of sleep and food. It is so much in popular culture nowadays. But breathing is not talked about much. How it impacts our everyday life and mood? How the way we breathe has changed over the years? How we are losing touch with this ancient art? And what we could do about it?

It is not purely a science book like the previous one. It is written by an investigative journalist. But not super science-heavy like the last one. It is part science, part anecdotal, part journalism. Many unconventional and interesting ideas in there. Also, if you are into some serious breathing meditation (or want to get into it), you will understand why they usually have the impact they do. All said, it is definitely easy to read and a page-turner. And lots of actionable tips to improve tips.

I have tried some of the things written in the book and I can personally vouch for them. Like chewing flavorless gum to keep the jaw healthy and help in breathing.
And I will likely read this book again this year.

[Eating 🍽 ] “How not to Die” – Michael Greger

I would say more or less, I have been always very particular about the food I put inside my body. I have sought out and done some deliberate readings on this food topic. There are many books on this topic. If you need one that is very science-heavy, evidence-based, and actionable, then it would be this one.

But, a fair bit of warning. It is not meant to be an easy read like the above two ones. You need to be interested in nutrition and be wanting to improve your eating habits. Otherwise, the book can seem dull with lots of data points and science.

But it’s a great book, that will change your relationship with food. Many interesting insights, and surprising things that you learn. I even wrote a related blog post about this earlier. Also a fair warning, certain sections of the book might come across as a Vegan-propaganda book, since heavily promotes unprocessed whole plant-based foods. But still I recommend the book. It is the most comprehensive I found about nutrition.

[Skin care 🧴] “Clean: The New Science of Skin” – James Hamblin

This book has got to be the most controversial and surprising among all the four I have mentioned. At least for me, the information presented was totally unexpected. And made me totally reconsider the way I was cleaning myself. For example, it talks about how you should try to shower less. It might be actually counterproductive for your health with all the soaps and cleaning that you do for your skin. The warm showers are stripping away the oil in your skin that keeps you healthy.

It is written by a doctor/journalist. And mostly science-backed. It covers the entire spectrum: facial care, showering, moisturizers, cleaning, the history of soap, and why it came to be. Before reading this book, I used to be this showering nut. I used to have warm showers twice a day. My friends know this. But science shows this is bad and I have stopped showering so much (I told you it’s unconventional and might be surprising!)

Also, you probably don’t need all the fancy creams that are marketed and advertised. It has changed how I approach showering, cleaning, and taking care of myself.

The only gripe I have about the book is that it could be better written. Definitely loved the information, but it was not a page-turner like “Why we sleep”. But still totally worth it for the information presented. I have not seen this covered elsewhere. And since it’s written by a doctor, it’s not some pseudo-science. It contains actual factual information.

Totally changed the way I approach cleaning, showering, and moisturizing myself.


We looked at four books that would potentially help us improve our lives. Comments/thoughts/discussions let me know in the section below.


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Footnote :

  1. Assuming you spend 8 hours of the day sleeping.
  2. Assuming you are breathing normally.
  3. Assuming you spend about 2 hours eating (30mins+45mins+45mins) and 30 mins preparing food each day.
  4. Assuming you spend 10-15 showering and another 10 mins a day on your facecare routine.
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