UC Berkeley Professor Matthew Walker is the author of “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams.” In this headshot photo, Walker sits before a blue-green background. He has blond hair and blue eyes.

UC Berkeley Professor Matthew Walker has consulted for the NBA, the NFL and Pixar — all on sleep. Sleep can impact everything from food cravings to the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Yet human beings are the only species that “deprive themselves of sleep for no sound reason,” Walker says. Walker joins us to talk about the impact of sleep deprivation, how to improve your sleep cycle and his new book “Why We Sleep.”

Guests:

Matthew Walker, professor of psychology and neuroscience, UC Berkeley; author, “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams”

 

Berkeley Neuroscientist Matthew Walker Explains ‘Why We Sleep’ 5 December,2017Michael Krasny

  • jakeleone

    Gorillas, Chimps can do many of the things that we do, they can even talk. But they seem to have issues remembering and repeating long strings of abstract things, example counting to 10. Painting from Gorillas lacks clarity (Koko/Michael from the Gorilla Project), but the paintings do have some qualities of the subject (determined by asking via sign language what the painting was about). Is this difference between human painting and ape painting, because of an ability to record long sequences generally throughout our human brains. And use those long sequences to “Quality Assure” our actions?

    Does the hippocampus play a more important role in increasing a certain kind of alertness that causes cortical neurons to sharpen/increase memory capacity? Is alertness, more the reason why London cabbies have a bigger hippocampus?

    I started playing violin at age 50 and I find alertness (getting a kind of scared paranoid feeling) is actually great at increasing my playing accuracy, I can’t help but think I am using my Amygdala and hippocampus to prime my cortical neurons generally, and in doing so affecting the ones that are actually responsible for improving my violin playing.

    Recording a memory must be a difficult task, what does sleep do for us at the physical neuronal chemical level to improve our ability to acquire new memories during our alert-fully-awake state?

  • Noelle

    It’s totally insane that our culture is so anti-sleep. Ariana Huffington wrote a book about this too. I stayed the weekend at Esalen Institute and lots of people in the workshop had sleep problems. After a day there, it seemed like everyone in workshop had improved sleep. Maybe this proves that our general culture is very bad for our health, and that we need to have vacations away from our devices(at the very least), and real vacation time mandated by the government, real paid time off! Europeans have real vacations. Why do we allow our bosses to get away with this? Lack of vacation and sleep is an American travesty.

  • William – SF

    I find that if I do physical activity to a high enough degree that I’m exhausted (like working out to the point of having sore muscles) I sleep deeper, yet it seems to have no affect on how long I sleep, any thoughts?

  • Noelle

    Was he on the Hidden Brain NPR show?

  • William – SF

    Let’s get this one out of the way …no I will not reduce my coffee consumption. Now, how do I get enough sleep?

    • Noelle

      Stop drinking it after noon.

      • William – SF

        You mean after noon?

        • Noelle

          yep!

        • Noelle

          I didn’t have coffee this morning, though the type of caffeine that agrees with me more is black tea, Irish Breakfast or any good Assam is the strongest I can handle. I really do think eventhough they both have caffeine, there has to be some botanical difference and thus for some people the caffeine in coffee has a different effect than other forms we have.

          • William – SF

            I’ve experienced the same effect.

          • Jon Latimer

            After years battling anxiety and insomnia, on my doctor’s orders I quite coffee this year. It’s been pretty hard. Like really, really hard. But green tea and *occasional* black tea have now replaced my coffee fix and I’m much better for it. To each their own though.

    • Noelle

      Oh well, coffee drinkers don’t have deep sleep.

    • jakeleone

      The only side affect I experienced with coffee (back when I drank 2 pots of caffeinated coffee a day). My leg would wake up in the middle of the night and wiggle around uncontrallably. Otherwise I never had any issue with it, until a Doctor accidentally checked my blood pressure. Now I can’t have any fun!

  • When our mother was in a nursing home before she died, they would come and turn her every 2 hours so she didn’t get bed sores. She never got bed sores but suffered from the lack of sleep. This is a common practice in hospitals and nursing homes. I know there are special beds to help with this. I wonder if they could weigh what’s more important in these situations.

    • William – SF

      Agreed, it’s stupid. There are plenty of people that sleep through the night without moving. Rotate during the say, sure, at night, no.

  • Noelle

    Yes, this reminds me that my sister-in-law’s boyfriend was a truck driver and he crashed the truck and died, and it was determined that it was because he fell asleep.

    • marte48

      Sorry for asking, but isn’t your sister-in-law’s boyfriend your brother?

      • Noelle

        No, I’m an only child.

  • chriswinter

    I don’t mean to put your guest on the spot, but perhaps he would be willing to address a question about someone we’re all familiar with who puts in a long day, then wakes at around 3 AM to tweet out irate messages. Is this person getting enough sleep?

    • Noelle

      Oh don’t get me started. Yep, that person is definitely sleep-deprived and should not have his current job.

    • William – SF

      And can he address DJT’s penchant for BigMacs and 2 scoops of ice-cream when everyone else gets 1 scoop. Insanity through junk food consumption is not a defense against committing crimes, right? Right?

  • Jon Latimer

    Can the Dr please discuss the effects of using alcohol, marijuana and/or eating certain foods before bed? Any positive effect? Or are these all purely negative?

  • Ben Rawner

    Can one catch up on sleep during the weekends by sleeping more?

    • BDN

      What’s the big deal about finding time for sleep other than wives and bosses who make it impossible. It’s a perennial issue because when sleep happens other than on a convenient schedule, it’s treated as a social disease. Just go to sleep when you’re tired and pass laws to defend it, seriously,

  • e mckay

    What do you think of using herbal sleep aids – specifically Valerian, Skullcap, or California Poppy tinctures?

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    1) Probably the “too much sleep” myth refers to staying in bed without actually sleeping, whereas genuine sleep cannot be overdone.

    2) In at least one school of thought, profound de-stressing can unlock an old sleep debt. What evidence is there that sleep can never be made up?

    3) If a person has endured a period of extreme sleep deprivation (i.e. contiguous days and days of inadequate sleep), what steps can be taken to heal the wound, so to speak?

  • B_Waldo

    I work in architecture, and for years my most vivid dreams have been incredibly spatial. This might be impossible to answer, but would this be because I work with spatial problems every day, or is that why I am drawn to spatial problems?

  • Priyanka Prasad

    sometimes i have to wake up early morning to help my husband prepare breakfast and send kids to school but then if i still feel drowsy, i do catch up on a bit more sleep afterwards before i go to work. is that a good way to catchup on sleep.

    • marte48

      what a luxury!

  • Priyanka Prasad

    also any data on how we can prevent sleep problems to occur?

  • Melissa Pauser

    i have auto immune disease and have always needed 8-9 hours per night to feel rested. There is a thought that people
    who get more than 6 hours of sleep are lazy. Sleep is always luxurious after evening yoga class!

  • Linda Bachmeier

    I take a Benadryl every night, and it works like a charm. I sleep well every night and have been using Benadryl for many years. Is this medication harmful?

    • BZ

      We need to hear the audio again when posted but I thought he said you don’t receive the kind of sleep your body needs with pills. But if you’re not experiencing any of the normal Benadryl side effects that’s a good thing and you may be the first to test out its long term effects. And of course, if you stop taking it, you may have even more trouble sleeping. I think I’d start weaning myself off it.

    • marte48

      Try Tums instead, and a glass of water.

      • Linda Bachmeier

        Tums? Curious, why Tums? Never heard that…

  • BZ

    When will KQED post the audio tape? ty

    • Noelle

      check this space later today

  • marte48

    This is only going to get worse for people who have housing insecurity. To sleep, you do need a bed.

  • DFinMA

    Instead of going to bed, it’s 10:33pm and I’m listening to a conversation about the importance of sleep. fml.

  • I work night shift, but keep a consistent schedule, even on my days off. Sleeping in a darkened room, I have tricked my body into thinking I am in a different time zone. Seems to work okay. Much better than changing schedules.

Host

Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

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