Everything You Know About Sleep Is Wrong with Dr. Matthew Walker

January 4, 2018
In this episode we discuss everything you ever wanted to know about sleep. We examine the findings from hundreds of studies across millions of people and pull out the major findings about how vitally important sleep is, the global sleep loss epidemic, the stunning data about sleep and productivity, the simplest and most effective evidence based strategies for getting better sleep and much more with Dr. Matthew Walker. 
 
Dr. Matthew Walker is Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and Founder and Director of the Center for Human Sleep Science. He has published over 100 scientific studies and is the author of the book Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. Which is currently the #1 Amazon Bestseller in Neuroscience . He has been featured on numerous television and radio outlets, including CBS 60 MinutesNational Geographic ChannelNOVA Science, NRP and the BBC.
 
  • Global sleep loss epidimic - the average American sleeps only 6.5 hours per night
  • Sleep has slowly been eroded by our society over the last 60 years
  • Sleep is vital and essential from an evolutionary standpoint - you can’t just lop off 25% of the necessary sleep you need 
  • Studies across millions of people show one clear thing - the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life
  • If you sleep less, you will be dead sooner, lack of sleep kills your more quickly
  • Lack of sleep is a major predictor of “all cause mortality” including cancer, alzheimers, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, and suicide
  • Hard science shows why a lack of sleep is tremendously bad for you
  • Sleep has an image problem, we stigmatize sleep and think its lazy and slothful - people wear lack of sleep as a badge of honor to be celebrated
  • Less sleep does not equal more productivity 
  • The 5 clear truths of sleep research and productivity
    • Under-slept employees take on less challenging problems
    • They produce fewer creative solutions
    • They exert less effort when working in groups (slacking off, social loafing)
    • They are more likely to lie, cheat, and engage in deviant behavior
    • The more or less sleep that a CEO has had, the more or less charismatic they will be
  • Chronic exhaustion cost most first world nation 2% of the GDP - 411 billion dollars lost each year to a lack of sleep
  • The research is very clear that under-slept individuals are not as productive or successful 
  • The evidence is resoundingly clear - cutting on sleep makes you less productive and less creative and less effective
  • After being awake for 21 hours, you’re as cognitively imparied as someoen who is legally drunk
  • The two principle types of sleep - REM sleep and non-REM sleep
  • The different stages of sleep - the 4 stages of REM sleep
  • Hard science shows that deep Sleep is critical to clearing toxins out of your brain
  • Sleep is like a sewage system for your brian - it cleans all the toxins and debris out of your brain
  • The less sleep you have, the higher your probability of getting alzheimers
  • Different cognitive systems in your brain also work during sleep - its like saving files to a hard drive, you have to sleep to get the save button
  • The emotional circuits of the brain are changed and modified by sleep - the amygdala (which controls fight or flight) is regulated by the prefontrol cortex
  • Lack of sleep can have a serious negative impact on your emotional health 
  • Sleep reboots body systems as well - not just the brain
  • Deep sleep is one of the best blood pressure medications you can imagine
  • Deep sleep regulates insulin levels and blood glucose levels
  • Sleep is also essential for the reproductive system 
  • Sleep boosts testosterone and lack of sleep makes you 10 years older from a testosterone standpoint
  • Apetite, weight, food consumption are all regulated by sleep - lack of sleep makes you eat 300-550 more calories per day, and makes you eat more high sugar and high carb foods
  • Sleep also has a profound impact on the immune system - one night of 4 hours of sleep will drop natural killer cells (body cancer fight cells) by 70%!
  • The link between lack of sleep and cancer the WHO recently classified night shift work as a probable carcinogen
  • Sleeping 5 hours per night makes you 200-300% more likely to catch a cold than someone sleeping 8 hours a night
  • There is not a SYSTEM or PROCESS in the body/brain that is not impacted by sleep
  • The most striking omission in the health literature today is that sleep is not at the center of the health conversation
  • 3 key ways sleep improves your learning
  • Is it wise to pull an all nighter? What does the research say?
  • The “memory inbox of the brain” (hippocampus) and how sleep is vital to creating and storing memories
  • Sleep is vital both BEFORE learning and AFTER learning to store and save new memories and solidify them into the architecture of the brain
  • Sleep replays information and strengthens memories
  • Sleep provides a 3x advantage to problem solving compared to an equivalent period being awake 
  • "The 6 Unpopular Tactics for Getting Enough Sleep"
    • Carve out enough time and make sleep a priority - carve out an 8 hour window to sleep every night
      • This is the #1 thing to do - regularity is KEY - go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time, no matter what
      • Sleeping in late creates “social jetlag” which has serious negative consequences - regualirty of sleep is key
    • Keep the temperature cool - keep your bedroom 68 degrees - your body needs to drop its core temperature 2-3 degrees to fall asleep
      • You can hack this by taking a hot bath before bed
    • DARKNESS is key to producing melatonin. Phones, screens, blue light etc trick the brain into thinking its day time and shut off melatonin production
      • Reading on a tablet 1 hour before bed shifts your melatonin production 3 hours later!
      • Use blackout shades
      • No screens 1 hour before bed
    • Do NOT stay in bed if you’ve been in bed longer than 20 minutes. You brain is a very associative machine - being awake in bed trains the brain that its OK to be awake in bed. Get up, go to a different room, read a book in dim light, no screens, no eating. And only when you feel sleep return to bed, and you will re-learn the key association between making teh bed about sleep
      • Some people don’t like this idea. 
      • Meditation is a great way to get yourself to fall back asleep. The studies are very clear, very well done that meditation can help improve sleep. 
    • No caffeine after noon and avoid alcohol in the evenings. 
      • Caffein prevents deep sleep 
      • Alcohol fragments  your sleep and makes your wake up much more, leaving with unrestorative sleep
      • Alchohol blocks dreams and REM sleep 
  • Sedation is NOT sleep. Knocking out your cortext is not natural sleep. 
  • You could be A FAR BETTER VERSION OF YOURSELF mentally, cognitively, physiology if you just got more sleep
  • Current sleeping pills are “sedative hypnotics” that do NOT productive naturalistic sleep, and do not get the benefits of sleep
  • Sleeping pills have a far higher risk of death, cancer, infection
  • CBTI - cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is just as effective as sleeping pills in the short term, but much more effective long term
  • Melatonin can be a useful tool to time the onset of sleep
  • Does napping work?
  • There is no such thing as the sleep bank - you can’t accumulate a debt and then hope to cash in on the weekend - sleep doesn’t work like that
  • Napping can prevent you from falling asleep and staying asleep! Be careful!
  • How does GABA impact your sleep?
  • Sleep is a remarkably complex neurochemical ballet
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