28 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
    • 4.9 • 565 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.

    #27: Insomnia - Part 2

    #27: Insomnia - Part 2

    There is no quick test that can determine insomnia. Instead, the diagnosis of clinical insomnia disorder is based on a set of clinical assessment and interviews. These center on three core features: 1) difficulties falling asleep, 2) difficulty staying asleep, or 3) waking up and not feeling refreshed by your sleep.  Furthermore, to receive the diagnosis, you often have to be experiencing these things at least three nights per week; and having these issues for three straight months.
    One meta-analysis looked at over twenty studies of people with insomnia or healthy sleep. It found far fewer differences in their sleep recordings than you would imagine. The insomnia patients did spend more time awake, and there were reductions in their deep non-REM and REM sleep. But none of the differences  explain the degree of suffering for those with insomnia. 
    This mismatch can be illustrated by an extreme example. There is a rare variant or subtype of insomnia called sleep state misperception. It is characterized by a mismatch whereby the patient reports their sleep as very bad. But the sleep recordings show a different story. The recordings show that the patient has slept a full, normal night of sleep, but the patient will tell you that they felt as though they never slept a wink! 
    Such patients used to be dismissed as having nothing wrong with them. Now, science and medicine no longer take this view, and instead, understand that there is a mismatch going on, that the patient has a misperception of their sleep, and they still require clinical consideration.
    So, that’s an overview of insomnia classification and diagnosis. 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, first because he’s serious about his health, and second, because Matt did his research on the science and ingredients in Athletic Greens and thinks scientific data that 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. 

    • 16 min
    #26: Insomnia - Part 1

    #26: Insomnia - Part 1

    Today’s episode is the first in a 7-part series on insomnia. Matt starts with a calming reality—insomnia isn’t a single bad night or a string of bad nights of sleep. In the US, epidemiological studies have suggested that insomnia disorder is as prevalent as the obesity epidemic: around 10-15% of the population suffer from clinical-grade insomnia, making it the most common sleep disorder. Indeed, one out of every two people will experience insomnia during their lifetime. It is therefore very likely that you or someone close to you is suffering from insomnia.
    But what is insomnia? There are perhaps different “flavors” of insomnia, although it depends on the clinical criteria used by different countries. One useful way scientists and doctors have thought about it is on the basis of three different features: 1) sleep-onset insomnia, 2) sleep-maintenance insomnia, and 3) non-restorative sleep. These features are not mutually exclusive.
    Clinicians often use the 30/30/3 “rule of thumb” to first distinguish the possibility of insomnia. The 30/30/3 rule means the following: 1) it takes you at least 30 minutes to fall asleep,  or 2) 30 minutes go fall back to sleep after waking during the night, and 3) that this is  happening consistently at least 3 nights a week.
    Insomnia is *not* sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is  defined as having the sufficient ability to generate sleep, but insufficient opportunity to get it. Insomnia is the opposite of this. Insomnia is the insufficient ability to generate good quality or quantity of sleep, despite having sufficient opportunity time to sleep.
    Finally, Matt points out that insomnia can be a standalone condition, or a secondary symptom of something else, for example, chronic back pain.
    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.
    One of the sponsors of the episode today is a long-time one, our good friends at the athletic clothing company, Vuori. They, too, have a special deal for you all where you can get 20% off your purchase when you visit vuori.com/mattwalker. Vuori produces really good, high quality clothing, and they offset their carbon footprint 100%, both of which, of course, mean a great deal to me. So, if you like athletic clothing, and you wish to help the planet out, then check them out at vuori.com/mattwalker and get 20% off your purchase. 
    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, 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. 
     And, as always, if you have thoughts or feedback you’d like to share, please reach out to Matt on Instagram.

    • 20 min
    #25: Optimising Your Sleep

    #25: Optimising Your Sleep

    Today’s episode focuses on optimising your sleep. It’s designed for people who don’t have clinical insomnia but would like to fine-tune their sleep. Matt goes over five conventional tips, and five unconventional tips that may be new to you. 
    The first tip is regularity—going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Your brain has its own master 24-hour clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which expects regularity. 
    Second is temperature—your brain and body need to drop their temperature for you to fall and stay asleep, so the ambient temperature must be cold. 
    Third is darkness—we need darkness to trigger the release of melatonin. 
    Fourth is to walk it out. If it’s been around 25 minutes, and you can’t fall asleep, get out of bed, relax in another room, and come back to bed later. 
    Finally, try to abstain from coffee from around noon and avoid drinking alcohol in the evening.
    Of the non-conventional tips, the first is this: if you’ve had a bad night’s sleep,  DO NOTHING. Don't wake up any later. Don't drink excessive compensation caffeine. Don't nap. And don't go to bed any earlier the following night. That explains the reasons why.
    The second tip is to have a wind-down routine. Your biology needs to wind down so you can descend into good sleep at night, so we should all find our own wind-down routine.
    Third is to stay away from naps, especially after 1pm, which is a bit like snacking before your main meal. 
    The fourth tip is don’t count sheep. It doesn't work (in fact, it makes matters worse!) Instead, take yourself on a familiar mental walk. Doing this helps take your mind off itself and lets you fall asleep because you stop overthinking.
    And the ffinal unconventional tip is to remove or cover all clock faces in the bedroom. 
    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, first because he’s serious about his health, and second, because Matt did his research on the science and ingredients in Athletic Greens and thinks scientific data can be taken as ground truth.
    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, p

    • 20 min
    #24: Sleep is Bloody Remarkable - Part 2

    #24: Sleep is Bloody Remarkable - Part 2

    Matt is back this week with his recurring series, ‘Sleep is Bloody Remarkable’. Today’s episode is all about why we are unique when it comes to sleep. 
    When we compare our sleep to that of all other primates, humans stand out in two ways. First, we spend far less time asleep, and second, and in bloody remarkable 😂 contrast, humans get more than double the amount of REM sleep.
    Unlike many other primates, we humans are exclusively ground (or bed!) sleepers. In contrast, primates usually sleep arboreally, meaning in the branches of trees. During REM sleep, to prevent acting out our dreams, the brain paralyzes the body. But this is far too dangerous to do if you are sleeping up in the trees, lest you fall fatally down to earth.
    Homo erectus, as the first obligate biped and, with fire to deter predators and blood-sucking insects, was able to sleep fairly safely on the ground. However, fire didn’t eradicate all the risks. This forced another [bloody] remarkable change: hominids had to become far more efficient in their sleep and thus shorter duration of sleep. 
    This re-engineering of human sleep became one of the triggers that rocketed Homo sapiens to the top of the evolutionary pyramid due to REM sleep’s supercharging of 1) our socioemotional, allowing us to form the cooperative societies that formed the basis of modern civilizations, and 2) cognitive intelligence, particularly our creativity, which was the fuel to our brain-derived engine of ingenuity that helped in the great advances of civilization. 
    “Simply put: we sleep, therefore, we are.” 
    Sleep really is bloody remarkable. 
    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.
    One of the sponsors 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 - 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, 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 of the episode today is our good friends at the athletic clothing company, Vuori. They have a special deal where you can get 20% off your purchase when you visit vuori.com/mattwalker. Vuori produces high quality clothing, and they offset their carbon footprint 100%, both of which, of course, mean a great deal to me. So, if you like athletic clothing, and you wish to help the planet out, then check them out at vuori.com/mattwalker and get 20% off your purchase.   
    So, make your way over to LMNT and Vuori 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
    #23: Dreams – Part 6

    #23: Dreams – Part 6

    In this episode, Matt goes deeper into his exploration of  lucid dreaming. He tells us all about studies demonstrating that lucid dreamers can wake from dream sleep on command, demonstrating control over intention in their dreams, and even bring themselves to orgasm in dream sleep!
    Matt tells us about two leading methods for developing the skill of lucid dreaming. The first is Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams, which involves the creation of a conscious, deliberate intention to remember that one is dreaming. For example, repeating a certain phrase each night before sleep. The second is the Reality Testing Method. This involves consistently examining one’s environment and testing to differentiate between which of the two worlds, waking or dreaming, it is. The idea is to ingrain these tests in your waking life, so that they will flow over into your dreams, thereby triggering lucidity if you are dreaming.
    But how does the brain become lucid during dreaming? It’s been discovered that when lucid dreaming starts, the prefrontal cortex fires up into activity! This seems to be a defining quality of the lucid dreaming state, different to classical REM sleep dreaming where this rational control region of the prefrontal cortex re-engages, thereby letting you gain volitional control over what you dream.
    Matt finally poses this hypothesis: between 80 to 90 percent of the populace are not lucid dreamers. If gaining dream control was so beneficial, surely more of us would do it. However, Matt counters his own argument: as we have not stopped evolving, it’s possible that lucid dreamers represent the next iteration of hominid evolution in their ability to control their dreams, and potentially harness their preferred creative problem-solving ability! #mindblown!
    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, first because he’s serious about his health, and second, because Matt did his research on the science and ingredients in Athletic Greens and thinks scientific data that 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.

    • 16 min
    #22: Dreams - Part 5

    #22: Dreams - Part 5

    In part five of his series on dreams, Matt discusses what lucid dreaming is and how it was scientifically proven to be real.
    We define lucid dreaming as the moment when an individual becomes aware they are dreaming. Historically, the concept of lucid dreaming was considered a scientific scam. First, to claim that people can gain conscious control over a normally unconscious process injects a heavy dose of ludicrous into the already preposterous experience we call dreaming. Second, how could any scientist objectively prove a subjective claim, especially when the individual is asleep when they do it?
    Well, several years ago, an experiment removed all such doubt. Lucid dreamers were placed inside an MRI scanner and instructed to alternately clench their hands. The researchers took snapshots of their brains as they were doing this, allowing them to define the precise  areas controlling each individual’s left and right hand. In the second part, the participants again underwent an MRI scan, this time, allowed to enter REM sleep.
    Once the subjects became lucid, they signaled their awareness with a specific set of eye movements so researchers could take MRI pictures of brain activity. They then gave another set of eye signals to demonstrate that, in the dream, they were now alternating between clenching their hands.
    Each time the dreamers indicated that they were clenching a hand, the scientists were able to take down timestamps. Of course, the participants weren’t physically moving their hands, but amazingly, the results of the MRI scans proved that they weren’t lying; the same regions of the brain that were active during the physical movements lit up when the lucid dreamers clenched in dreams. With these results, the scientists had gained objective proof that lucid dreamers can not only control when they are dreaming but can also control what it is they dream.
    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.
    One of the sponsors of the episode today is our good friends at the athletic clothing company, Vuori. They have a special deal for you all where you can get 20% off your purchase when you visit vuori.com/mattwalker. Vuori produces high quality clothing, and they offset their carbon footprint 100%, both of which, of course, mean a great deal to me. So, if you like athletic clothing, and you wish to help the planet out, then check them out at vuori.com/mattwalker. 
    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 important to maintaining your blood biochemical balance. So, 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.
    As always, if you have thoughts or feedback you’d like to share, please reach out to Matt on Instagram.

    • 13 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
565 Ratings

565 Ratings

BLJSchoolPsych ,

Applicable, interesting SLEEP SCIENCE!

Love everything this man records or writes. Extremely useful for the lay person and just enough science for the nerds.

Luna the Night Owl ,

Enthusiastic and educational

This short-style podcast is educational, based in science, communicated so all can understand easily whether their background is in the sciences or not, and filled with Dr. Walker's unabashed enthusiasm for learning and teaching. I love the short and to-the-point episodes. They are just right for listening to when you have a spare moment, and the information sticks well. His enthusiasm is contagious and a wonderful mood booster during the long days of the pandemic. Hopefully, these will be continued for many more episodes to come--and hint, hint, maybe will accompany a second book in the future (no pressure!) with more information on advances in sleep science. Highly recommended :) Updating 3/18/22: Love the Sleep Is Bloody Remarkable episode and hope for more in this style to come in the near future! Updating 6/18/22: Really enjoying this series and putting the knowledge to use. Having taught at the college level, I understand how much time and effort goes into producing an excellent lecture and so thank you so much Dr. Walker for all the heart, soul, and enthusiasm you put into this podcast :)

Daniel Olshansky ,

A fair alternative to the book “Why We Sleep”

There’s no debate that Matt Walker’s book, “Why We Sleep”, is the best resource on the everything sleep related: importance of sleep, sleep optimization, etc…

Second to his book, are discussions where Matt Walker is interviewed at length on other podcasts.

This podcast is an easy-to-consume introduction if you haven’t read the book or listened to his conversations on other podcasts, but I personally find it a bit too slow, repetitive, and do no enjoy the format of the 10-20 minute episodes.

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