“At the moment when we analyze the data, and I’m sitting there with a student or I’m analyzing data, and we finally run the statistics, at that moment in time, if I’m lucky, I know something that has never been understood in the entirety of human civilization, and I cannot tell you how much of a thrill and a privilege that is. And so is science hard? It’s brutally hard, but just that alone, the hedonic rush that you get from de novo knowledge, gosh, it’s never left me, and I don’t think it ever will.”— Dr. Matthew Walker
Matthew Walker, PhD (@sleepdiplomat), is professor of neuroscience at the University of California Berkeley and founder and director of the school’s Center for Human Sleep Science. Dr. Walker is the author of the New York Times and international bestseller Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, which was recently listed by Bill Gates as one of his top five books of the year. His TED Talk, “Sleep is Your Superpower,” has garnered more than 17 million views.
He has received numerous funding awards from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health and is a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2020, Dr. Walker was awarded the Carl Sagan Prize for Science Achievements. Dr. Walker’s research examines the impact of sleep on human health and disease. He has been featured on numerous television and radio outlets including 60 Minutes, Nat Geo TV, NOVA Science, NPR, and the BBC. Dr. Walker is also scientific advisor to Oura, a sleep-tracking ring.
Dr. Walker hosts the 5-star-rated podcast The Matt Walker Podcast, which is all about sleep, the brain, and the body.
And one last thing. UC Berkeley has given the rare approval for Matt’s newly opened Sleep Center at the University to be named by an individual donor, or a named company, in perpetuity. If you are interested, please reach out to Matt and note that this opportunity is in the 7-figure range.
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The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.
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Want to hear the first time Dr. Matthew Walker was on this podcast? Have a listen to our conversation here, in which we discussed the relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease, why our deep sleep declines as we age, ideal exercise for promoting deep sleep, fainting goats, the psychological value of emergency sleep medicine for insomniacs, how sleep affects food intake and weight fluctuation, perilous polypharmacy, and much more.
What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Connect with Dr. Matthew Walker:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn
- Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker | Amazon
- The Matt Walker Podcast
- Matt Walker’s TED Talks
- Center for Human Sleep Science
- Dr. Matthew Walker, All Things Sleep — How to Improve Sleep, How Sleep Ties Into Alzheimer’s Disease and Weight Gain, and How Medications (Ambien, Trazodone, etc.), Caffeine, THC/CBD, Psychedelics, Exercise, Smart Drugs, Fasting, and More Affect Sleep | The Tim Ferriss Show #650
- Insights from Dr. Matthew Walker, Adam Grant/Atul Gawande, Diana Chapman, and Rich Roll/David Goggins | The Tim Ferriss Show #630
- Sleep and Sex: Part 1 | The Matt Walker Podcast
- Sleep and Sex: Part 2 | The Matt Walker Podcast
- What Is a Sleep Divorce? | Matthew Walker
- I Tried the Scandinavian Sleep Method — And Now My Partner and I Refuse To Sleep Any Other Way | Well+Good
- The Impact of Sleep and Circadian Disturbance on Hormones and Metabolism | International Journal of Endocrinology
- FDA Approves New Treatment for Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder in Premenopausal Women | FDA
- Poor Sleep May Impair the Ability to Feel Empathy | Psychology Today
- The Best Temperature for Sleep | Cleveland Clinic
- Sleep Fitness Technology: Smart Bed Cooling & Heating System For Better Sleep | Eight Sleep
- Sex and Sleep: Perceptions of Sex as a Sleep Promoting Behavior in the General Adult Population | Frontiers in Public Health
- Oxytocin and Vasopressin in the Human Brain: Social Neuropeptides for Translational Medicine | Nature Reviews Neuroscience
- How to Fall Asleep When You’re Exhausted But Wired | Shape
- Fight or Flight: The Sympathetic Nervous System | Live Science
- Sleep Pressure | The Matt Walker Podcast
- Wireless Hitachi Magic Wands | Amazon
- Melatonin | Mayo Clinic
- Melatonin | The Matt Walker Podcast
- Two Hormones for One Receptor: Evolution, Biochemistry, Actions, and Pathophysiology of LH and hCG | Endocrine Reviews
- Took Too Much Melatonin? | NCPC
- Thousands of Kids Are Getting Sick from Downing Melatonin Pills | NPR
- 2-Minute Neuroscience: Suprachiasmatic Nucleus | Neuroscientifically Challenged
- Prolonged Release Melatonin for Improving Sleep in Totally Blind Subjects: A Pilot Placebo-Controlled Multicenter Trial | Nature and Science of Sleep
- Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien | Amazon
- Lack of Sleep Shrinks Men’s Testicles? | University of California
- Scientists Pinpoint Dosage of Melatonin for Insomnia | MIT News
- Beta-Carotene | University of Rochester Medical Center
- Optimising Your Sleep | The Matt Walker Podcast
- Matthew Walker’s 11 Tips for Improving Sleep Quality | MasterClass
- Insomnia Treatment: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Instead of Sleeping Pills | Mayo Clinic
- What Is Sleep Restriction Therapy? Who Should Use It? | Healthline
- Dreams: Part 1 | The Matt Walker Podcast
- Dreams: Part 2 | The Matt Walker Podcast
- Dreams: Part 3 | The Matt Walker Podcast
- Dreams: Part 4 | The Matt Walker Podcast
- Dreams: Part 5 | The Matt Walker Podcast
- Dreams: Part 6 | The Matt Walker Podcast
- What is REM Sleep? | National Sleep Foundation
- Sleep Paralysis | Stanford Health Care
- Lucid Dream | Wikipedia
- Lucid Dreaming: A Beginner’s Guide | Tim Ferriss
- 5 Lucid Dreaming Techniques to Try | Healthline
- Steel Man Argument Explained | Philosophy Vibe
- Frequent Lucid Dreaming Associated with Increased Functional Connectivity between Frontopolar Cortex and Temporoparietal Association Areas | Scientific Reports
- Lucid Dreaming in the Tibetan Tradition: Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche | Science and Nonduality
- Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (The MILD Technique) | World of Lucid Dreaming
- Waking Life | Prime Video
- How to Use Reality Checks to Have Lucid Dreams | World of Lucid Dreaming
- Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold | Amazon
- Huperzine A | RxList
- Galantamine | Healthline
- Lucid Dreamers Are Using Unproven Tech to Hack Their Sleep | Wired UK
- Sleep and Memory: Part 1 | The Matt Walker Podcast
- Sleep and Memory: Part 2 | The Matt Walker Podcast
- Sleep and Memory: Part 3 | The Matt Walker Podcast
- Schools Start Too Early | CDC
- The State Finally Letting Teens Sleep In | The Atlantic
- How Sleep Loss Sabotages New Memory Storage in the Hippocampus | University of Michigan News
- What are Sleep Spindles? | Sleep Foundation
- Sleep Spindles and Memory | AAST
- Ultradian Rhythm: For Real Productivity, Less is Truly More | HBR
- Naps | The Matt Walker Podcast
- Waking up Is the Hardest Thing I Do All Day: Sleep Inertia and Sleep Drunkenness | Sleep Medicine Reviews
- Jurassic Park | Prime Video
- Trapped in Amber | Natural History Museum
- Sleep On It: How Snoozing Strengthens Memories | NIH News in Health
- Memory Processing in Relation to Sleep | Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine
- Even Small Amounts of Alcohol Impair Memory | The Atlantic
- Funding Cutting-Edge Scientific Research | Saisei Foundation
- Sleeping Brain, Learning Mind: Opinion by Matthew Walker | The Harvard Crimson
- How Sleep Affects Immunity | Sleep Foundation
- Spaced Learning Vs Massed Practice | ITAC
- Make New Memories But Keep the Old, With a Little Help From Electrodes | Innovation| Smithsonian Magazine
- Fast-Forward Playback of Recent Memory Sequences in Prefrontal Cortex During Sleep | Science
- Human Hippocampal Replay during Rest Prioritizes Weakly Learned Information and Predicts Memory Performance | Nature Communications
- Memory and Sleep: How Sleep Cognition Can Change the Waking Mind for the Better | Annual Review of Psychology
- Memory Game | Amazon
- Matt Wilson: Reading the Minds of Rats | TEDxCoconutGrove
- Turning 40 Winks Into Decades: The Pace Of Time In Dreams | Psychology Today
- Inception | Prime Video
- The Role of the Human Anterior Insular Cortex in Time Processing | Brain Structure and Function
- Why Accidents and Emergencies Seem to Dramatically Slow Down Time | The Conversation
- Sleep and Exercise: Pt. 1 | The Matt Walker Podcast
- Sleep and Exercise: Pt. 2 | The Matt Walker Podcast
- How to Fight Sarcopenia (Muscle Loss Due to Aging) | Healthline
- 7 Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) | Healthline
- Training Zones Explained | ACTIVE
- Desmopressin | Mayo Clinic
- [05:43] Sleep and sex.
- [23:45] Melatonin misgivings.
- [32:47] The suprachiasmatic nucleus.
- [36:08] Shrinking balls phenomenon.
- [41:47] Minimizing the time it takes you to sleep.
- [49:40] The bizarre basics of dreaming.
- [55:56] Taking a leap into lucid dreaming.
- [1:19:57] Optimizing sleep for learning.
- [1:43:14] Can sleep during an illness boost memory retention?
- [1:49:08] Massed versus spaced practice.
- [1:53:00] Using brain stimulation technology to enhance learning.
- [1:56:50] Optimizing memory replay.
- [2:02:47] Sleep and time dilation.
- [2:11:25] Today’s “charlatan” science that may someday be vindicated.
- [2:17:44] Exercise and memory.
- [2:25:37] Staying hydrated without having to urinate all night.
- [2:29:13] Parting thoughts.
MORE DR. MATTHEW WALKER QUOTES FROM THE INTERVIEW
“At the moment when we analyze the data, and I’m sitting there with a student or I’m analyzing data, and we finally run the statistics, at that moment in time, if I’m lucky, I know something that has never been understood in the entirety of human civilization, and I cannot tell you how much of a thrill and a privilege that is. And so is science hard? It’s brutally hard, but just that alone, the hedonic rush that you get from de novo knowledge, gosh, it’s never left me, and I don’t think it ever will.”
— Dr. Matthew Walker
“The goal of education, in my mind, is twofold. The first is to brainwash you into thinking for yourself. The second is for you to gain long-term information.”
— Dr. Matthew Walker
“Life is to be lived. Have a drink, of course. I’m not being puritanical. But if you are, let’s say, a student or you’ve been learning new information for a new job or you’ve been learning a new skill for a new particular sport and you know when you’ve been learning and you know when you probably want to have a night out, restructure those things to implement them in the smartest way possible for optimizing outcomes.”
— Dr. Matthew Walker
- Hugh Grant
- Stephen LaBerge
- Richard Linklater
- John Smith
- Carlyle Smith
- Bruce McNaughton
- Ken Paller
- Matthew A. Wilson
- Christopher Nolan
- Peter Attia
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.
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9 Replies to “Dr. Matthew Walker, All Things Sleep Continued — The Hidden Dangers of Melatonin, Tools for Insomnia, Enhancing Learning and Sleep Spindles, The Upsides of Sleep Divorce, How Sleep Impacts Sex (and Vice Versa), Adventures in Lucid Dreaming, The One Clock to Rule Them All, The IP Addresses of Your Memories, and More (#654)”
Hi Tim, I’m trying to reply to your 5-bullet Friday post this week. You mentioned you are reading the book by A. Brooks about the second half of life. I suggest you read the book by Father Richard Rohr called, Falling Upward. When I read it, it felt like redemption. I’ve done the hard work of being squeezed out of a tube of toothpaste. Now, I feel at peace and perhaps, if I may be so bold, have a sense that I may one day be an elder for my “tribe.” Let’s rejoice in the beauty of growth and experience. Let’s be proud of our new depth and wisdom. It is/was hard earned!
Simply exquisite. Great conversation, great ideas to critically think about.. ty.
Simply remarkable conversation. What an incredible life and stories. This one tops the charts. Thanks so much Tim for bringing Wade Davis into your podcast.
Hi Tim, you asked about tips for lucid dreaming. I was hoping to be able to email you, but I guess this works too. I have been lucid dreaming regularly since I was about six. There’s a lot I could say. Here are my top things I would lead with, we are all body, soul, and spirit, and yet only our bodies do not go with us in our dreams. I believe it is my connection to my spirit and imagination that leads to lucid dreaming. Before going to bed I imagine a place and story (mostly pick one or a few nice safe places). This leads to when I wake up my imagination is reminded I am asleep yet still can move around the dream world freely. This would be my number one tip, I believe it’s a strong imagination that practices walking between the waking and dream world. Secondly, my spirit can sense when I am in a hotel room if there is a demonic presence, this leads to me dreaming of demons. Over the years I have had to learn how to engage my spirit to fight off, overcome, or wake myself up. Your spiritual awareness and connection in the waking world may help you with lucid dreaming, even reading books about angels. Lastly, on a practical side, I sleep better with balanced hormones or in sun a few hours.
Better sleep leads to more lucid dreaming time. I would encourage anyone interested in lucid dreaming to eat healthy for balanced hormones and to stay away from drugs or alcohol. They disrupt your hormones and can keep you from getting quality sleep. Oh, lastly, I do believe lucid dreaming takes away from feeling rested if done for too long in one setting. Hope this helps!
Dr. Walker’s comments on the effect of sleep deprivation on memory and the downsides of the all-nighter prompted thoughts about a major difference between my habits as an undergraduate and my habits in law school. In many ways, I was an all too typical college student, unorganized, undisciplined, immature, and distractible. And, yes, the faculty’s habit of loading the course evaluation to near the end of the course (in the form of a final exam), prompted procrastination, which in turn led to too many episodes of cramming, and all-nighters (or near all-nighters). I am sure the resultant sleep deprivation had a profound effect on how I did in the exams (and, more to the point, how well I retained material for the long haul0.
A few years after finishing my bachelor’s degree, I made my way to law school—a bit more mature, and a bit more focused. If anything, law school professors tend to rely on final exams even more than their colleagues who teach undergraduates. But, by then I actually kept up with the reading (good plan), and took copious notes throughout the semester. By the time exams loomed, I had a plan: For each course, I spent a day working through the syllabus, and, using my notes from class and from the readings, created a detailed outline. The process generally lasted about six to eight hours (a full day of work, basically). And then (and this is where it ties to what Walker was saying) I had a decent dinner, relaxed in the evening, and went to bed early enough to have a solid night’s sleep.
[More than once, I had an experience similar to the one Tim described with his exam in Chinese characters, finishing a final in far less time than allotted, and far ahead of anyone else in the room (and I did not even have to get sick to do it)].
Tim, Thank you for your excellent podcasts with Dr. Walker.
Here are some notes from research I gathered on 12/16/2020.
Tibetan sleep yoga, bardo, lucid dreams; see Wikipedia for information about bardo, an intermediate, transitional, or liminal state between death and rebirth.
During a lucid dream, the dreamer becomes aware they are dreaming and may gain some amount of control over the characters, narrative, and environment. The experience has been recorded since ancient times. Cultivating the dreamer’s ability to be aware that they are dreaming is central to both the ancient Indian Hindu practice of yoga nidra and the Tibetan Buddhist practice of dream yoga. The cultivation of such awareness was a common practice among early Buddhists. Dream yoga can progress to sleep yoga where one maintains lucidity during dreamless sleep.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama writes:
“In order to train in the path that would allow us to transform death, the intermediate state, and rebirth, we have to practice on three occasions: during the waking state, during the sleeping state, and during the death process.
To gain the proper experience during sleep and the waking state, I think it is crucial to become familiar, by means of imagination, with the eightfold process of dying, beginning with the waking conscious state and culminating in the clear light of death.” “It is important to realize that there are many forms of meditation. These issues are not even discussed in the lower three classes of Buddhist tantra, only within Highest Yoga Tantra. Dream yoga is a discipline all unto itself (p. 45, Sleeping Dreaming and Dying, An Exploration of Consciousness with HHDL, edited and narrated by Francisco J. Varela, 1997).
Early references to lucid dreaming are found in ancient Greek writing. Aristotle (384-322 BC) wrote: “often when one is asleep, there is something in consciousness which declares that what then presents itself is but a dream.”
In 1968, Celia Green wrote that lucid dreams were a category of experience distinct from ordinary dreams and they are associated with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
In 1985, Stephen LaBerge at Stanford University performed a pilot study that showed that time perception while counting during a lucid dream is about the same as during waking life. LaBerge’s results were confirmed in 2004.
In 2018, a study was conducted to see if it were possible to attain the ability to lucid dream through the drug galantamine. It was given to 121 patients in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, the only one of its kind. Some participants found as much as a 42% increase in their ability to lucid dream, compared to self-reports from the past 6 months, and 10 people experienced a lucid dream for the first time. It is theorized that galantamine allows acetylcholine to build up, leading to greater recollection and awareness during dreaming.
In 2016, a meta-analytic study by David Saunders and colleagues on 34 lucid dreaming studies, taken from a period of 50 years, demonstrated that 55% of a pooled sample of 24,282 people claimed to have experienced lucid dreams at least once or more in their lifetime. For those that stated they did experience lucid dreams, approximately 23% reported to experience them on a regular basis, as often as once a month or more.
A 2015 study by Julian Mutz and Amir-Homayoun Javadi showed that people who had practiced meditation for a long time tended to have more lucid dreams. The authors claimed that “Lucid dreaming is a hybrid state of consciousness with features of both waking and dreaming” in a review they published in Neuroscience of Consciousness in 2017.
Mutz and Javadi found that during lucid dreaming, there is an increase in activity of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the bilateral frontopolar prefrontal cortex, the precuneus, the inferior parietal lobules, and the supramarginal gyrus. All are brain functions related to higher cognitive functions including working memory, planning, and self-consciousness. The researchers also found that during a lucid dream, “levels of self-determination” were similar to those that people experienced during states of wakefulness. They also found that lucid dreamers can only control limited aspects of their dream at once.
Lucid dreaming – Andrew Holocek is the top current guy. He does podcasts you should invite him!
This 2-part series was absolutely riveting and so rich with information and advice. I’m a big fan of Tim having been a first year reader of The 4 Hour Body, lost 45lbs, completely corrected my high cholesterol and blood pressure, and have given away 30 copies of the book and recommended it to dozens more. I’m a bit of a Coach on the boo.
I was a little surprised that Tim and Dr. Walker didn’t explore the convergence of lucid dreaming and time – “oscillation” – a time speed change in dreams or “when time slows down” – or whatever they called it. I have generally read about the concept of “time travel” or being in 2 places at one time in Carlos Casteneda wrtitings, Spalding’s “The Life and Teachings of the Master of the Far East” and “How to Change Your Mind” regarding the use of psychelics.
While I try to practice healthy ways to fall asleep, sometimes taking a sleep aid is what get’s the job done (even if placebo effect). Do you or Dr. Walker have an alternative to Melatonin that you would recommend?