40 episodes

The Matt Walker Podcast is all about sleep, the brain, and the body. Matt is a Professor of Neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of the book, Why We Sleep and has given a few TED talks. Matt is an awkward British nerd who adores science and the communication of science to the public.

The Matt Walker Podcast Dr. Matt Walker

    • Health & Fitness
    • 5.0 • 16 Ratings

The Matt Walker Podcast is all about sleep, the brain, and the body. Matt is a Professor of Neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of the book, Why We Sleep and has given a few TED talks. Matt is an awkward British nerd who adores science and the communication of science to the public.

    # 39 - Sleep and Exercise Pt. 1

    # 39 - Sleep and Exercise Pt. 1

    Does exercise have an impact on the quantity and quality of your sleep? The National Sleep Foundation's annual poll found that individuals who exercised frequently (defined as three times or more a week) reported sleeping with a higher quality than those who exercised less than once a week.  Exercise has also been shown to increase the release of endorphins, which can improve mood and promote feelings of relaxation, both of which can contribute to better sleep.
    As with most things, moderation is key. Overexertion can have negative effects on sleep, so it's important to find a balance that works for you. It's also important to consider the timing of your exercise as engaging in vigorous activity too close to bedtime may make it difficult to fall asleep. On the other hand, some research suggests that low-intensity exercise performed in the evening can actually improve sleep.
    Exercise has been shown to lead to longer sleep duration in both healthy individuals and those with sleep disorders, and it may also lead to improved sleep efficiency. One study found that moderate intensity exercise led to a 65% improvement in sleep efficiency, while another found that high intensity exercise resulted in a 34% improvement.
    In addition to these benefits, exercise may also lead to deeper stages of sleep and a decrease in the number of awakenings during the night. A meta-analysis of 13 studies found that exercise was associated with an increase in non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, specifically NREM stage 3 sleep, which is the most restorative stage. 
    It's important to note that the relationship between exercise and sleep is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. The intensity, duration, and timing of exercise can all impact its effect on sleep. It's important to pay attention to your own body and its unique needs when it comes to finding the right balance of exercise and sleep. Additionally, the optimal amount and type of exercise for improving sleep may vary depending on a person's fitness level and individual preferences. 
    It may be helpful to experiment with different durations and intensities of exercise to see what works best for you and your sleep patterns.
    Please note that Matt is not a medical doctor, and none of the content in this podcast should be considered medical advice in any way, shape, or form, nor prescriptive in any way.
    Today's podcast is supported by biochemical electrolyte drink company LMNT, and they are very kindly offering eight free sample packs when you purchase any one of their orders at drinklmnt.com/mattwalker.LMNT is an electrolyte sports drink that I can get behind - it's created from the basis of science, and it has no sugar, no coloring, and no artificial ingredients – all qualities that are so important to maintaining your blood biochemical balance. If you want to give LMNT a try, just head on over to drinklmnt.com/mattwalker and get your eight free samples with your first purchase. 
    Another sponsor this week is the good people at InsideTracker, and they are generously offering a special 25% off any one of their programs for anyone who uses the above link.  InsideTracker is a personalized biometric platform that analyzes your blood and your DNA to better understand what's happening inside of you and also offers suggestions regarding things that you can do to better try and adjust some of those numbers, optimize them, and, as a result, optimize you.
    And, as always, if you have thoughts or feedback you’d like to share, please reach out to Matt on Instagram.

    • 23 min
    #38: Sleep is Bloody Remarkable Pt 3

    #38: Sleep is Bloody Remarkable Pt 3

    Almost every species will suffer catastrophic impairment in the brain and body due to total or chronic partial long-term sleep loss—save for a small handful of befuddling cases where lack of sleep does not cause devastating impairment. While humans are the only species that deprives itself of sleep for no adaptive benefit, there are rare situations where an animal will limit or go completely without sleep. Starvation pushes aside an organism’s need for sleep to forage more widely, while the need to protect newborns can be prioritized over sleep (as seen in the long journeys of killer whales returning to their pods). 
    Even more remarkable is the ability of birds to stay awake for thousands of kilometers during migration. The white-crowned sparrow, for example, can withstand days without sleep during their migratory period with no cognitive impairment; it has basically discovered an internal biological Iron Man suit!
    Please note that Matt is not a medical doctor, and none of the content in this podcast should be considered medical advice in any way, shape, or form, nor prescriptive in any way.
    The good people at InsideTracker are one of the sponsors of this week's episode, and they are generously offering a special 25% off any one of their programs for anyone who uses the above link during the time window of this episode. InsideTracker is a personalized biometric platform that analyzes your blood and your DNA to better understand what's happening inside of you and offers suggestions regarding things that you can do to better try and adjust some of those numbers, optimize them, and, as a result, optimize you.
    Also sponsoring this week are those fine people at Athletic Greens, and they are generously offering 3 benefits for anyone who uses the above link for their first order: 1) a discount on your order; 2) a one-year free supply of vitamin D; 3) five free travel packs. Athletic Greens is a nutrition drink that combines a full complement of antioxidants, minerals, and biotics, together with essential vitamins. Matt’s been using it for several years now because he’s serious about his health, and because he did his research on the science and ingredients in Athletic Greens and thinks its scientific data can be taken as ground truth.
    So, make your way over to InsideTracker and Athletic Greens to take advantage of these incredible deals. And, as always, if you have thoughts or feedback you’d like to share, please reach out to Matt on Instagram.

    • 13 min
    #37: Sleep & Memory - Part 3

    #37: Sleep & Memory - Part 3

    The final installment of this series focuses on what happens inside your brain during deep, non-REM sleep that allows you to fixate new memories. There are at least two mechanisms at work here. One is a process of shifting information from short to long-term memory. Each night when you go into deep non REM sleep, those long range brainwaves of deep sleep are going to be moving packets of information, from that short term, vulnerable, USB stick-like memory reservoir (the hippocampus) to the safer long term storage site (the cortex). When we wake up each morning, we've now cleared out that USB memory stick, and we've refreshed and restored our ability to start learning new memories. This process repeats, filling up the USB stick with new information during the day, and then at night, transferring those memories over to the long term storage site in the cortex.
    The second memory mechanism, memory replay, is very different. Back in the 1990s, scientists recording the activity of individual brain cells in the memory centers of rats running around a maze discovered that different brain cells coded different parts of the maze. More remarkable was the discovery that the sleeping brain would replay these new memory sequences during deep, non-REM sleep much faster than standard waking speeds. This meant the memory trace was being replayed many times, and the brain was repeatedly etching it more permanently into the brain.
    There is at least one other time during sleep when we see memory replay—REM sleep, the stage when we dream. But here, memories are replayed at much slower speeds, sometimes just half the speed of waking experience. Because of this temporal distortion - where time within the dream is slowed down and expanded - you will feel as though you have been dreaming for far longer than you actually have. The movie Inception, in fact, draws some inspiration from this concept - almost as though the director and the writer of the movie Chris Nolan had a little bit of idea help from a sleep scientist!
    Please note that Matt is not a medical doctor, and none of the content in this podcast should be considered medical advice in any way, shape, or form, nor prescriptive in any way.
    Today's podcast is supported by biochemical electrolyte drink company LMNT, and they are very kindly offering eight free sample packs when you purchase any one of their orders at drinklmnt.com/mattwalker. LMNT is an electrolyte sports drink that I can get behind - it's created from the basis of science, and it has no sugar, no coloring, and no artificial ingredients – all qualities that are so important to maintaining your blood biochemical balance. If you want to give LMNT a try, just head on over to drinklmnt.com/mattwalker and get your eight free samples with your first purchase. 
    Another sponsor today is MasterClass - the online streaming platform where anyone can learn from the world's best about a variety of topics such as cooking, art, science, and, of course, technology. When you sign up, you get access to all of the classes taught by such masters as Martin Scorsese, Venus Williams, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, to name a few of Matt’s favorites. You may even find a masterclass from a familiar sleep scientist! This year, Masterclass is offering a special gift for the holidays - buy one annual Masterclass membership and get another one totally free! So if you're curious and have a thirst for learning, head on over to masterclass.com/mattwalker  now.
    And, as always, if you have thoughts or feedback you’d like to share, please reach out to Matt on Instagram.

    • 18 min
    #36: Sleep and Memory - Part 2

    #36: Sleep and Memory - Part 2

    Previously, we learned sleep is necessary before learning to prepare the brain to learn effectively. But sleep is also needed after learning to cement new information in your brain. This discovery happened in 1924 when two German researchers pitted sleep and wake against each other to see which would win out in memory-savings benefit. Their findings suggested that time spent awake can be hazardous to new memories while time spent asleep has fixating benefits.
    Researchers have also put REM sleep head-to-head with non-REM to see which is more effective at saving memories. When it comes to memory, it is deep non-REM that helps hit the save button on new memories. These results led Matt to conduct experiments where we causally enhance the memory using electrical or auditory brain stimulation methods, and as a result, boosting the next day retention of memories. Indeed, with some of these sleep-stimulating methods, researchers have been able to double the amount of memory-savings benefit from sleep.
    The results of these studies have real pragmatic and clinical implications, including in the context of aging and dementia. It’s no secret our learning and memory abilities begin to decline as we get older, but it’s also been discovered that a physiological signature of aging is that your sleep gets worse, especially the amount of deep, non-REM sleep. Recent evidence indicates that these two processes aren’t simply co-occurring but significantly interrelated. 
    The potential silver lining of this is that sleep is something we may be able to do something about. Matt and other researchers are exploring the use of direct current brain stimulation to restore some healthy quality of deep sleep in older adults and those with dementia, thereby salvaging aspects of the learning and memory function. And the tentative answer so far is that this could work, although it will take some years before we can even start to entertain real hope in this regard.
    Please note that Matt is not a medical doctor, and none of the content in this podcast should be considered medical advice in any way, shape, or form, nor prescriptive in any way.
    Those fine people at Athletic Greens are one of the sponsors of this week’s episode. and they are generously offering three benefits for anyone who uses the above link for their first order: 1) a discount on your order; 2) a one-year free supply of vitamin D; 3) five free travel packs. Athletic Greens is a nutrition drink that combines a full complement of antioxidants, minerals and biotics, together with essential vitamins. Matt’s been using it for several years now because he’s serious about his health and because he did his research on the science and ingredients in Athletic Greens and thinks its science and scientific data that can be taken as ground truth.
    Another sponsor this week is the good people at InsideTracker, and they are generously offering a special 25% off any one of their programs for anyone who uses the above link.  InsideTracker is a personalized biometric platform that analyzes your blood and your DNA to better understand what's happening inside of you and also offers suggestions regarding things that you can do to better try and adjust some of those numbers, optimize them, and, as a result, optimize you.
    So, make your way over to Athletic Greens and InsideTracker to take advantage of these incredible deals. And, as always, if you have thoughts or feedback you’d like to share, please reach out to Matt on Instagram.

    • 17 min
    # 35: Sleep and Memory - Part 1

    # 35: Sleep and Memory - Part 1

    It is a fundamental truth that sleep is far more than the absence of wakefulness. It is an incredibly active state, demonstrated by the fact that numerous functions of the brain and body are restored by and depend on sufficient sleep. One of the most impressive and best-understood of these is sleep’s beneficial role in boosting learning and memory abilities. Sleep is necessary both before and after learning and it intelligently associates and interconnects new memories together, offering the ability for creativity and ingenuity.
    The first of these benefits starts while we’re awake, as the brain acquires novel information, and different types of memories are imprinted in different parts of it. Fact-based memories depend on an area of the brain called the hippocampus, which is almost like a USB stick. Some years ago, Matt and his team conducted a study on the hippocampus and found a 40% deficit in the ability of the brain to make new memories without sleep. In addition, scientists working with rats have found that depriving the brain of sleep stops the cells within the hippocampus’ memory structure from forming strong connections. Notably, it doesn’t take an entire night of sleep deprivation to produce these types of impediments—selective deprivation of deep, non-REM sleep in humans can produce the same effects.
    Research has shown that during the deepest stage of deep, non-REM sleep, powerful brainwaves combine to act like a transfer mechanism. Wanting to know even more about how learning capacity and ability change across a waking day and how sleep modifies or restores that, Matt and his team designed a new study on daytime naps. They found that staying awake throughout the day resulted in a progressive decline in learning capacity, while those who took a ninety-minute nap showed no such decline. In fact, their capacity to memorize facts increased after that nap, showing a 20% learning advantage. This illustrates further that, without sufficient sleep, the brain is like a waterlogged sponge, our memory circuits saturated with memories so that we can no longer absorb new information and make new memories effectively.
    Please note that Matt is not a medical doctor, and none of the content in this podcast should be considered medical advice in any way, shape, or form, nor prescriptive in any way.
    Today’s podcast is supported by MasterClass - the online streaming platform where anyone can learn from the world's best about a variety of topics such as cooking, business, art, entertainment, writing, sports, science, health, and, of course, technology. When you sign up, you get access to all of the classes taught by such masters as Martin Scorsese, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ron Howard, and Bill Clinton to name just a few of Matt’s favorites. You may even find a masterclass from a familiar sleep scientist! And for this Holiday season, if you give one annual membership you'll get a second one, free! 
    Another sponsor of today's podcast is the biochemical electrolyte drink company LMNT, and they are very kindly offering eight free sample packs when you purchase any one of their orders at drinklmnt.com/mattwalker. LMNT is an electrolyte sports drink that I can fully get behind - it's created from the basis of science, and it has no sugar, no coloring, and no artificial ingredients – all qualities that are so important to maintaining your blood biochemical balance.
    So, make your way over to LMNT and MasterClass to take advantage of these incredible deals. And, as always, if you have thoughts or feedback you’d like to share, please reach out to Matt on Instagram.

    • 17 min
    # 34: Sleep and Sex – Part 2

    # 34: Sleep and Sex – Part 2

    It’s been said that sleep is the new sex, and rightly so—a good night of sleep is going to do many things for the vibrancy, intimacy, and vitality of your relationship. We know that when couples are not getting sufficient sleep, they have more conflicts the next day and won’t resolve them nearly as well. This is partly because underslept couples suffer a loss of empathy for each other.
    However, insufficient sleep also has an effect on sex itself. Specifically, your reproductive hormones suffer, which are critical for the health of your sexual relationship. For example, young men who sleep just four to five hours a night will have a level of testosterone equivalent to someone ten years their senior.
    The same is true for women. Women who are not getting adequate sleep are 30% more likely to have abnormal menstrual cycles and suffer reductions in hormones critical to sexual wellness and fertility, including estrogen, luteinizing hormone, and follicle-stimulating hormone. 
    Reductions in estrogen and testosterone can also decrease the sexual arousal a woman experiences. In contrast, one hour of extra sleep is associated with a 14% increase in the likelihood of a woman wanting to be sexually intimate with her partner.
    So sleep will certainly enhance sex, but it turns out that sex will also enhance your sleep. Sex before bed will improve the subsequent quality of sleep that you get that night, as long as that sex results in orgasm.
    And thankfully, it’s not necessary to have a partner to get these benefits. Orgasm achieved through self-stimulation helps an individual fall asleep faster, and improves the reported quality of sleep they subsequently obtain. 
    These findings are potentially important because they tell us that both sex and orgasm seem to be reliable sleep aids. So perhaps we don’t need to look to the latest and greatest sleep gadgets. Instead, we may be able to explore sex and orgasm as potential pathways to better sleep. In summary, sleep and sex are powerful and playful bedfellows.
    Please note that Matt is not a medical doctor, and none of the content in this podcast should be considered medical advice in any way, shape, or form, nor prescriptive.
    The good people at InsideTracker are one of the sponsors of this week's episode, and they are generously offering a special 25% off any one of their programs for anyone who uses the above link during the time window of this episode. InsideTracker is a personalized biometric platform that analyzes your blood and your DNA to better understand what's happening inside of you and offers suggestions regarding things that you can do to better try and adjust some of those numbers, optimize them, and, as a result, optimize you.
    Also sponsoring this week are those fine people at Athletic Greens, and they are generously offering 3 benefits for anyone who uses the above link for their first order: 1) a discount on your order; 2) a one-year free supply of vitamin D; 3) five free travel packs. Athletic Greens is a nutrition drink that combines a full complement of antioxidants, minerals, and biotics, together with essential vitamins. Matt’s been using it for several years now because he’s serious about his health, and because he did his research on the science and ingredients in Athletic Greens and thinks its scientific data can be taken as ground truth.
    So, make your way over to InsideTracker and Athletic Greens to take advantage of these incredible deals. And, as always, if you have thoughts or feedback you’d like to share, please reach out to Matt on Instagram.

    • 9 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
16 Ratings

16 Ratings

trulshotvedt ,

Excellent podcast about sleep!

Thank you so much for getting started with your podcast about sleep!
I love that this is all based on science and research. Looking forward to this sleep journey and getting to understand the mystery behind sleep!

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