Renowned sleep scientist Matthew Walker discusses everything you need to know about what a better night’s sleep can do for your life, and how to prioritize and perfect the way you sleep. Walker breaks down how to identify when you need more sleep, how to deal with insomnia, the best devices to track your sleep, and some unconventional sleep hygiene tips, including why it’s never a good idea to count sheep.
Walker is a Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California-Berkeley, and is also the founder and director of the Center for Human Sleep Science. He has published over 100 scientific research studies on the impact of sleep on human brain function, and he is the author of the 2017 book, Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams
Here are a few highlights from the conversation:
What we’ve discovered is that no one stage of sleep is more important than the other. Different stages of sleep do different things for your brain and your body at different times of the night. So when people come to me and they’ll say, “Look, how do I get more REM sleep? Or how do I get more deep sleep?” I’ll ask them, “Why do you want more of that deep sleep?” And they’ll say, “Well, isn’t that the good stuff?”
Why would mother nature lie you so vulnerable and unconscious? If only one type of sleep was important she would have excised the other type of sleep during the evolutionary course of development long ago. The fact that they still remain with us, all of them to this day, suggests that they probably all serve some functional, evolutionary, fundamental importance, and that’s exactly what we’ve been discovering.
People will say to me, “Look, it’s so strange. I’m falling asleep, watching television at night on the couch and then I get into bed and I’m wide awake and I don’t know why.” And in part it’s because your brain has learned that negative association and bonded that negative association of being wake with this thing called the bed. And you need to break that association.
Sleep efficiency, by the way, is defined by the amount of time that you’re asleep relative to the amount of time that you’re in bed. So if you’re in bed eight hours and you sleep for all of that eight hours, that’s a 100% sleep efficiency.
I think the first point to make in all of this, and I’ve spent so much time thinking and journaling and sort of meditating on all of this, the first point to make is that if I’m ever wrong about something, life in general or science specifically, I don’t want to be wrong any longer than I have to be.
And so much more.
- 00:00 – Introduction
- 02:30 – The basics of sleep and the four stages
- 09:09 – How much sleep you should get
- 19:00 – Is there a danger to forcing more sleep?
- 21:48 – The danger of lying awake in bed
- 22:38 – What to do if you can’t fall asleep
- 24:52 – How caffeine affects your sleep
- 31:10 – How alcohol affects your sleep
- 36:58 – Why you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep
- 43:20 – Techniques to deal with insomnia
- 54:26 – Relationship between temperature and sleep
- 01:03:24 – Is there a danger to Oura rings?
- 01:09:58 – How Matthew tracks his sleep
- 01:12:00 – The sleep metrics Matthew focuses on
- 01:16:47 – Matthew addressees the controversy of “Why We Sleep”
- 01:32:07 – What ensures a bad night of sleep?
- 01:38:50 – Unconventional advice for a better night’s sleep