Sleep is your superpower | Matt Walker

Sleep is your superpower | Matt Walker

Thank you very much. Well, I would like
to start with testicles. (Laughter) Men who sleep five hours a night have significantly smaller testicles
than those who sleep seven hours or more. (Laughter) In addition, men who routinely sleep
just four to five hours a night will have a level of testosterone which is that of someone
10 years their senior. So a lack of sleep
will age a man by a decade in terms of that critical
aspect of wellness. And we see equivalent impairments
in female reproductive health caused by a lack of sleep. This is the best news
that I have for you today. (Laughter) From this point, it may only get worse. Not only will I tell you
about the wonderfully good things that happen when you get sleep, but the alarmingly bad things
that happen when you don’t get enough, both for your brain and for your body. Let me start with the brain and the functions of learning and memory, because what we’ve discovered
over the past 10 or so years is that you need sleep after learning to essentially hit the save button
on those new memories so that you don’t forget. But recently, we discovered
that you also need sleep before learning to actually prepare your brain, almost like a dry sponge ready to initially soak up
new information. And without sleep,
the memory circuits of the brain essentially become
waterlogged, as it were, and you can’t absorb new memories. So let me show you the data. Here in this study, we decided
to test the hypothesis that pulling the all-nighter
was a good idea. So we took a group of individuals and we assigned them
to one of two experimental groups: a sleep group
and a sleep deprivation group. Now the sleep group, they’re going to get
a full eight hours of slumber, but the deprivation group,
we’re going to keep them awake in the laboratory, under full supervision. There’s no naps or caffeine, by the way,
so it’s miserable for everyone involved. And then the next day, we’re going to place those participants
inside an MRI scanner and we’re going to have them
try and learn a whole list of new facts as we’re taking snapshots
of brain activity. And then we’re going to test them to see how effective
that learning has been. And that’s what you’re looking at
here on the vertical axis. And when you put
those two groups head to head, what you find is a quite significant,
40-percent deficit in the ability of the brain
to make new memories without sleep. I think this should be concerning, considering what we know
is happening to sleep in our education populations right now. In fact, to put that in context, it would be the difference
in a child acing an exam versus failing it miserably — 40 percent. And we’ve gone on to discover
what goes wrong within your brain to produce these types
of learning disabilities. And there’s a structure that sits on the left and the right side
of your brain, called the hippocampus. And you can think of the hippocampus almost like the informational
inbox of your brain. It’s very good at receiving
new memory files and then holding on to them. And when you look at this structure in those people who’d had
a full night of sleep, we saw lots of healthy
learning-related activity. Yet in those people
who were sleep-deprived, we actually couldn’t find
any significant signal whatsoever. So it’s almost as though sleep deprivation
had shut down your memory inbox, and any new incoming files —
they were just being bounced. You couldn’t effectively
commit new experiences to memory. So that’s the bad that can happen
if I were to take sleep away from you, but let me just come back
to that control group for a second. Do you remember those folks
that got a full eight hours of sleep? Well, we can ask
a very different question: What is it about the physiological
quality of your sleep when you do get it that restores and enhances
your memory and learning ability each and every day? And by placing electrodes
all over the head, what we’ve discovered
is that there are big, powerful brainwaves that happen during
the very deepest stages of sleep that have riding on top of them these spectacular bursts
of electrical activity that we call sleep spindles. And it’s the combined quality
of these deep-sleep brainwaves that acts like a file-transfer
mechanism at night, shifting memories from a short-term
vulnerable reservoir to a more permanent long-term
storage site within the brain, and therefore protecting them,
making them safe. And it is important that we understand what during sleep actually transacts
these memory benefits, because there are real medical
and societal implications. And let me just tell you about one area that we’ve moved this work
out into, clinically, which is the context of aging
and dementia. Because it’s of course no secret
that, as we get older, our learning and memory abilities
begin to fade and decline. But what we’ve also discovered is that a physiological signature of aging
is that your sleep gets worse, especially that deep quality of sleep
that I was just discussing. And only last year,
we finally published evidence that these two things,
they’re not simply co-occurring, they are significantly interrelated. And it suggests
that the disruption of deep sleep is an underappreciated factor that is contributing
to cognitive decline or memory decline in aging, and most recently
we’ve discovered, in Alzheimer’s disease as well. Now, I know this is remarkably
depressing news. It’s in the mail. It’s coming at you. But there’s a potential
silver lining here. Unlike many of the other factors
that we know are associated with aging, for example changes
in the physical structure of the brain, that’s fiendishly difficult to treat. But that sleep is a missing piece
in the explanatory puzzle of aging and Alzheimer’s is exciting because we may be able
to do something about it. And one way that we are
approaching this at my sleep center is not by using
sleeping pills, by the way. Unfortunately, they are blunt instruments
that do not produce naturalistic sleep. Instead, we’re actually developing
a method based on this. It’s called direct current
brain stimulation. You insert a small amount
of voltage into the brain, so small you typically don’t feel it, but it has a measurable impact. Now if you apply this stimulation
during sleep in young, healthy adults, as if you’re sort of singing in time
with those deep-sleep brainwaves, not only can you amplify
the size of those deep-sleep brainwaves, but in doing so, we can almost
double the amount of memory benefit that you get from sleep. The question now
is whether we can translate this same affordable,
potentially portable piece of technology into older adults and those with dementia. Can we restore back
some healthy quality of deep sleep, and in doing so, can we salvage
aspects of their learning and memory function? That is my real hope now. That’s one of our moon-shot
goals, as it were. So that’s an example
of sleep for your brain, but sleep is just
as essential for your body. We’ve already spoken about sleep loss
and your reproductive system. Or I could tell you about sleep loss
and your cardiovascular system, and that all it takes is one hour. Because there is a global experiment
performed on 1.6 billion people across 70 countries twice a year, and it’s called daylight saving time. Now, in the spring,
when we lose one hour of sleep, we see a subsequent 24-percent increase
in heart attacks that following day. In the autumn,
when we gain an hour of sleep, we see a 21-percent
reduction in heart attacks. Isn’t that incredible? And you see exactly the same profile
for car crashes, road traffic accidents, even suicide rates. But as a deeper dive,
I want to focus on this: sleep loss and your immune system. And here, I’ll introduce these delightful
blue elements in the image. They are called natural killer cells, and you can think of natural killer cells
almost like the secret service agents of your immune system. They are very good at identifying
dangerous, unwanted elements and eliminating them. In fact, what they’re doing here
is destroying a cancerous tumor mass. So what you wish for
is a virile set of these immune assassins at all times, and tragically, that’s what you don’t have
if you’re not sleeping enough. So here in this experiment, you’re not going to have your sleep
deprived for an entire night, you’re simply going to have your sleep
restricted to four hours for one single night, and then we’re going to look to see
what’s the percent reduction in immune cell activity that you suffer. And it’s not small — it’s not 10 percent, it’s not 20 percent. There was a 70-percent drop
in natural killer cell activity. That’s a concerning state
of immune deficiency, and you can perhaps understand
why we’re now finding significant links between
short sleep duration and your risk for the development
of numerous forms of cancer. Currently, that list includes
cancer of the bowel, cancer of the prostate
and cancer of the breast. In fact, the link between a lack of sleep
and cancer is now so strong that the World Health Organization has classified any form
of nighttime shift work as a probable carcinogen, because of a disruption
of your sleep-wake rhythms. So you may have heard of that old maxim that you can sleep when you’re dead. Well, I’m being quite serious now — it is mortally unwise advice. We know this from epidemiological studies
across millions of individuals. There’s a simple truth: the shorter your sleep,
the shorter your life. Short sleep predicts all-cause mortality. And if increasing your risk
for the development of cancer or even Alzheimer’s disease were not sufficiently disquieting, we have since discovered
that a lack of sleep will even erode the very fabric of biological life itself, your DNA genetic code. So here in this study,
they took a group of healthy adults and they limited them
to six hours of sleep a night for one week, and then they measured the change
in their gene activity profile relative to when those same individuals were getting a full eight hours
of sleep a night. And there were two critical findings. First, a sizable and significant 711 genes were distorted in their activity, caused by a lack of sleep. The second result
was that about half of those genes were actually increased in their activity. The other half were decreased. Now those genes that were switched off
by a lack of sleep were genes associated
with your immune system, so once again, you can see
that immune deficiency. In contrast, those genes
that were actually upregulated or increased by way of a lack of sleep, were genes associated
with the promotion of tumors, genes associated with long-term
chronic inflammation within the body, and genes associated with stress, and, as a consequence,
cardiovascular disease. There is simply no aspect of your wellness that can retreat at the sign
of sleep deprivation and get away unscathed. It’s rather like a broken
water pipe in your home. Sleep loss will leak down
into every nook and cranny of your physiology, even tampering with
the very DNA nucleic alphabet that spells out
your daily health narrative. And at this point, you may be thinking, “Oh my goodness,
how do I start to get better sleep? What are you tips for good sleep?” Well, beyond avoiding
the damaging and harmful impact of alcohol and caffeine on sleep, and if you’re struggling
with sleep at night, avoiding naps during the day, I have two pieces of advice for you. The first is regularity. Go to bed at the same time,
wake up at the same time, no matter whether
it’s the weekday or the weekend. Regularity is king, and it will anchor your sleep and improve the quantity
and the quality of that sleep. The second is keep it cool. Your body needs to drop
its core temperature by about two to three degrees
Fahrenheit to initiate sleep and then to stay asleep, and it’s the reason
you will always find it easier to fall asleep in a room that’s too cold than too hot. So aim for a bedroom temperature
of around 65 degrees, or about 18 degrees Celsius. That’s going to be optimal
for the sleep of most people. And then finally,
in taking a step back, then, what is the mission-critical
statement here? Well, I think it may be this: sleep, unfortunately,
is not an optional lifestyle luxury. Sleep is a nonnegotiable
biological necessity. It is your life-support system, and it is Mother Nature’s
best effort yet at immortality. And the decimation of sleep
throughout industrialized nations is having a catastrophic impact
on our health, our wellness, even the safety and the education
of our children. It’s a silent sleep loss epidemic, and it’s fast becoming one of the greatest
public health challenges that we face in the 21st century. I believe it is now time for us
to reclaim our right to a full night of sleep, and without embarrassment or that unfortunate stigma of laziness. And in doing so, we can be reunited
with the most powerful elixir of life, the Swiss Army knife
of health, as it were. And with that soapbox rant over, I will simply say, good night, good luck, and above all … I do hope you sleep well. Thank you very much indeed. (Applause) Thank you. (Applause) Thank you so much. David Biello: No, no, no.
Stay there for a second. Good job not running away, though.
I appreciate that. So that was terrifying. Matt Walker: You’re welcome.
DB: Yes, thank you, thank you. Since we can’t catch up on sleep,
what are we supposed to do? What do we do when we’re, like,
tossing and turning in bed late at night or doing shift work or whatever else? MW: So you’re right,
we can’t catch up on sleep. Sleep is not like the bank. You can’t accumulate a debt and then hope to pay it off
at a later point in time. I should also note the reason
that it’s so catastrophic and that our health
deteriorates so quickly, first, it’s because human beings
are the only species that deliberately deprive
themselves of sleep for no apparent reason. DB: Because we’re smart. MW: And I make that point
because it means that Mother Nature, throughout the course of evolution, has never had to face the challenge
of this thing called sleep deprivation. So she’s never developed a safety net, and that’s why when you undersleep, things just sort of implode so quickly,
both within the brain and the body. So you just have to prioritize. DB: OK, but tossing and turning in bed, what do I do? MW: So if you are staying in bed
awake for too long, you should get out of bed
and go to a different room and do something different. The reason is because your brain
will very quickly associate your bedroom with the place of wakefulness, and you need to break that association. So only return to bed when you are sleepy, and that way you will relearn
the association that you once had, which is your bed is the place of sleep. So the analogy would be, you’d never sit at the dinner table,
waiting to get hungry, so why would you lie in bed,
waiting to get sleepy? DB: Well, thank you for that wake-up call. Great job, Matt. MW: You’re very welcome.
Thank you very much.

100 thoughts on “Sleep is your superpower | Matt Walker

  1. I'm watching this at 3am.. realized that I've gained a super power being able to sleep just for 2hrs yet perform highly efficient job.. you're wrong mate!! You need to retest the scenario to human and meta human like me 馃槀馃槀馃槀馃槀

  2. This is so important. I have suffered from sleep deprivation for years. Shift work as a nurse has contributed tremendously. I am being treated for ovarian cancer. No doubt sleep deprivation and lots of stress, work related. I need to also improve on my sleep hygiene.

  3. Now that we know the problems we have when we don't sleep enough, what do we do when we can't sleep enough. I am older and so I sleep lightly and wake up often. I also have painful joints that make it hard to find a comfortable position so I toss and turn all night. I also find it difficult to ease off the onrushing thoughts that I enjoy so much during the day. So, time to give us some real help, instead of just warnings.

  4. Never knew this for sure but i always presumed aging and alzheimer was related to sleep, i don't sleep well in a long time so i fear i'll keep suffering for it for years ahead, but perhaps the tools i'll be able to use in the future may help me with it, hope it's not too late, this video was absolutely awesome

  5. what are you supposed to do: go to -> <- LEARN and start to get MELATONIN not only for sleep. but for your LIFE…

  6. What I'd like to know is which sleep stages are actually responsible for the processes mentioned. For memory, it is deep sleep or SWS (slow wave sleep) and I suppose it is so for the others. I'd like to know more though.

  7. Great video! Here's my only complaint:

    "Sleeping – It's 'Mother Nature' best effect yet at immortality" (is my transcription correct?)

    Really? "Mother Nature"?
    Brain waves, selecting and transfering of files for specific pourpose or goals, learning habilities and plenty of other effects (while controlling all your incredible body systems)…
    and blind and unguided "Mother Nature" is to receive the credit, despite having no power (no agency) to design/create any of this?
    Sorry, no matter how frenquently
    evolutionists evoke the "magic" words "natural selection" + "mutations" (scientifically debunked concerning macroevolution), there's no evidence "Mother Nature" is able to design/create or "build" brains and minds.

    To the Creator be the glory!

    "I praise You聽because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    Your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well."
    Salm 139:14
    God bless!

  8. I have a secret . I sleep for an average of 3 hours a night or even sometimes 2 hours and still woke up like nothing. Before going sleep , I'm listening to binaural beats meditation. 2 hours before bedtime I drink my magic mixture : Lipton tea mixed with cayenne pepper. Looks like a whack but truly helps me become a productive and busy person doubling my life 2x by staying awake longer.

  9. i sleep all the time

    really deep sleeps too

    and i always feel great

    and it seems like i never have to go to the hospital for any sickness

    so i think he's right

  10. This is far away from the best presentation ever by Simon Sinek I watched it last night and I'm really impressed 馃憤馃徎

  11. 項 靾欖牅鞐劀 氤搓碃鞛堨棃電旊嵃 牍Μ鞛愳暭瓴犽劋鞖..氩岇崹 靸堧步 頃滌嫓..

  12. We don't scale up how good for us could be better nights of sleep: immunologically and reproductively stronger, more fit and less propense to cardiovascular diseases, more slow-aging (undamaged genes for a lot more time), less anxious and stressed, more creative, less emotionally unstable, happier persons; just to abbreviate. Better humans (emotionally and socially) with healthier bodies 馃檪
    Source: Why we sleep? – Matthew Walker (yes, he actually wrote a book about Sleep and it's truly worth reading)

  13. Is somebody trying to blame sleep loss on diseases, cancer, corona virus, and the break down of our immune sytem, etc.? While it sleep loss plays a part in the health of our immune system the elephant in the room is 5g lest we forget. (For starters, eliminiation of that…is half the battle)

  14. So, it makes sense not to take Diazepams at night for sleep. I have been treating family/friends with small doses of CBD, CBDa, THCa, THCv, CBG, and CBC. No more than 2-4 milligrams of CBD (or CBDa) and 2-4 milligrams of THCa. If you're fortunate to find a strain that has THCv in it, get this and hold onto it. This is excellent for Diabetes, and; Macular Generation. We need to get away from Big Pharma and go natural.

  15. I loved his intonation. 19 minutes just passed and i didnt even realize it. And the content.. very useful. I'll try it for sure.

  16. what if somemore who can鈥檛 sleep so well? such as sleep apnea patient. everyone knows sleeping is good, but nobody can do it properly

  17. To TED TALK Staff- please introduce first who is the speaker and their background about the subject matter. Thank you.

  18. For those who want to learn more, the JRE podcast (Joe Rogan Experience) has a podcast episode with this speaker and it鈥檚 just as amazing.

  19. *20 seconds in: snatches and gulps down 3 melatonin pills 馃榿鉁岎煆拣煓岎煆拣煈嬸煆拣煒. …鈥淪leeping pills do not produce naturalistic sleep and do nothing for you鈥 馃槓

  20. Husband: woman i will go to bed
    Wife: why so early?
    Husband: you always say grow some balls and that is exactly what i will do.
    Wife: huh??
    Husband: god they will be so big from now on.. Walking away.

  21. This is not true In Everyone I'm a 47 year old. That has had no University teachings. I sleep about three to four hours a day my entire adult life .I have become head electrico-mechanical engineer . By self education. I have acheived learning anything I have no prior knowledge of in 24 hours. I can retain all information I learn. I can also record long sequences of numbers for long times and I don't even think about it. It just gets stored away for when I need it. I guess I'm an exception to this beleif. I ama diabetic that is up around the 1000 levels of sugar. My body still heals, most go into coma with levels around 500. I have ran multiple simoltanious multi-million dollar construction projects. Successfully and without stress. I would like someone to study my brain and body.i also have gained the ability to not feel pain from a slip I had and hit my head causing a major concussion after this incident my body seems to heal faster and not feel pain

  22. Two years ago I concluded at the same results with different analysis, we have to sleep between 8 and 10 hours this d茅pend the brain activty

  23. The answer to the last question is to simply meditate clear your mind off the clutter and go into deep slumber

  24. Good talk. Watch Kobe Bryant's comments on how sleep impacted his game.

  25. Absolutely right! If we have not get right sleeping or very less sleeping at night! So it鈥檚 cause very much harmful to our body鈥檚 or Social and work place too! Some how, in night 09:00 to 06:00 it鈥檚 very especial! Within we are sleeping in day! Because , the night hour is double from day sleeping! That鈥檚 why, we need definitely! From my view n my case, I need at night 06 or 07 hours (Normally). 馃様馃槥馃槖

  26. 隆鈥橫 such bad on following a routine, some days 隆 sleep 18 hours some days 隆鈥檓 up for 2-3 days in a row..,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *