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P o d c a s t

The Matt Walker Podcast is all about sleep, the brain, and the body. Matt is an awkward British nerd who adores science and the communication of science to the public (mostly in an inelegant manner!) hence the podcast.

If there are things that you think Matt can be doing better in terms of podcasting, or if there are podcast topics you want him to discuss, head on over to his Instagram page, say hello, and drop him a message (he needs all the help he can get)!

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI) can be split into at least five core components: 1) sleep restriction therapy, 2) sleep hygiene, 3) stimulus control, 4) cognitive restructuring, and 5) relaxation therapies. 

Sleep restriction therapy has been shown to be one of the most effective components of CBTI. It  isn’t about restricting your sleep so much as limiting the amount of time you are allowed to spend in bed, and it aims to drive up the brain’s appetite for sleep, and promote long bouts of unbroken sleep. 

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Very understandably, many insomnia patients try to self-medicate their condition with varied “sleep aids”. The tragedy us that most of them not only fail to help but actually make insomnia worse.  

Most common among these is alcohol, which hurts your sleep in at least three different ways: 1) it sedates your brain, rather than generating naturalistic sleep 2) it increases the frequency of nighttime awakenings and makes it harder to fall back to sleep, and 3) it inhibits REM sleep.

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Some of the first neurological-related discoveries about insomnia were made by placing healthy sleepers or patients with insomnia inside brain scanners, and measuring changes in the activity in different parts of the brain as they tried to fall asleep. In the good sleepers, three main regions of the brain started to shut down at sleep: 1) emotion-related regions, 2) basic alertness-generating regions, and 3) the sensory awareness gate of the brain.

Today’s episode focuses on changes within the bodies of people suffering from insomnia. Almost all forms of chronic insomnia come with a significant psychological component, namely emotional distress and anxiety. This starts a Rolodex of anxiety spinning once you turn off the lights. This leads to rumination and catastrophizing, which will thwart any hopes of a good night’s sleep.

Today’s episode takes two questions as its subject: first, why does someone develop insomnia, and second, what adds gasoline to the sleep-disorder fire of insomnia and only makes it rage more powerfully? These are two very complex questions, but through lots of great science and wonderful scientists, we now have a conceptual model explaining how you may find yourself falling into the pit of insomnia. This is called the “3-Ps” model, and it consists of a three-step knock-on cascade of factors that lead to insomnia: predisposing, precipitating, and perpetuating factors.


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.

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.

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. 


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. 


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! 


In part five of his series on dreams, Matt discusses what lucid dreaming is and how it was scientifically proven to be real. 


Today’s episode focuses on a second but very different function of dreaming: the ingenious processing and interconnection of memories that inspires creativity and even problem-solving ability. 


Matt’s back with part three of his series on the science of dreaming! In this episode, he discusses how he and other scientists have discovered that dreams are not simply an  unintended by-product of REM sleep. Instead, dreams provide at least two essential benefits for human beings. 


In the second episode of this series about REM sleep dreaming, Matt explores what the science has to say not only about how we dream at the brain level, but what it is that we dream about. 


This week’s episode is the first in a new multi-part series all about dreams! Today, Matt focuses on the question of how your brain generates these things called dreams. 


Matt has a special announcement this week: a new recurring type of episode called, ‘Sleep is Bloody Remarkable’. This series of episodes will share fascinating facts about sleep that will  blow your mind! In the premier episode, Matt focuses on something truly (bloody) remarkable: half-brain sleep, or unihemispheric sleep. 


Matt returns with Part 2 of his series on sleep and weight gain. This time around, he teaches us how a lack of sleep not only makes you eat more food, but changes what types of food you want to eat, and eat to excess. 


Matt kicks off a two-part series all about sleep, eating, and weight gain. 


In the previous episode, Matt described the role of temperature in helping us fall asleep. In this episode, Matt teaches us all about the role of temperature in helping us stay asleep across the night, and then more effectively wake up the following morning. 


In today's episode, Matt reveals how 1) your own temperature and, even more precisely, 2) the temperature of different parts of you, as well as 3) the temperature of your bedroom, can change how well or how poorly you sleep at night. 


In today's episode, Matt takes us on a deep dive into melatonin. He covers four main topics: 1) what is melatonin? 2) how does melatonin work? 3) what does melatonin do, and *not* do, for sleep? 4) how can we think about melatonin supplementation? 


In this week’s episode, Matt continues his discussion of sleep and caffeine. Here, we learn about the paradox of coffee, one in which coffee provides health benefits, despite its negative impact on sleep? 


In today's episode, Matt unpacks the world of coffee, and caffeine in the first of a two-part series on caffeine. Matt describes the numerous health benefits associated with coffee, the fact that Matt has even changed his tune a little and advocates a morning cup for some. Matt may not have anything to do with caffeine itself, with more details on that in part 2. In part 1, Matt then takes a deep dive into the different ways in which caffeine negatively impacts your sleep, some of which you may be less familiar with? 


On last week’s episode, we learned about the three main ways alcohol can harm our sleep: 1) alcohol results in sedation rather than naturalistic sleep, 2) alcohol causes sleep fragmentation, and 3) alcohol impairs REM sleep? 


Although some people may believe that a drink or two in the evening will help them sleep better, today’s episode shows us that alcohol harms our sleep in several different ways. In the first of two episodes on sleep and alcohol, Matt talks about alcohol as a chemical, and the main ways it negatively affects our sleep? 


As the great Roman poet, Ovid, once said, “There is more refreshment and stimulation in a nap, even of the briefest, than all the alcohol ever distilled.” But are naps always a good thing? Are we even designed to nap? And if you do nap, when should you do it, and for how long? 


In the final episode of our three-part series about chronotypes, Matt examines the question of  whether your chronotype is truly fixed, or if you can change an evening type to a morning type (though you will hear that Matt’s preference is for society to change, not the individual). 


In the second episode of our three-part series on chronotypes,  Matt speaks about what happens when you do not sleep in harmony with your natural chronotype. Unlike morning larks, night owls simply cannot fall asleep easily early at night, which leads to the first and most obvious consequence of not sleeping in line with your chronotype—you don’t sleep as much. 


Are you a morning type? Or are you an evening type? Perhaps you are neither of the two? Today’s episode is the first in a three-part series all about your chronotype, or your body’s natural biological preference to be awake and be asleep at a certain time. 


Continuing on from last week’s episode about sleep pressure, today, Matt Walker dives into the second half of the sleep-wake story, circadian rhythm. 


Welcome back to the Matt Walker podcast. Today’s episode looks at the story of sleep pressure - how it works, how you can try to block it or fool it, and why you feel so good after a night of full, peaceful sleep. 


Learn about the fascinating world of sleep!


In the second episode of our three-part series on chronotypes,  Matt speaks about what happens when you do not sleep in harmony with your natural chronotype. Unlike morning larks, night owls simply cannot fall asleep easily early at night, which leads to the first and most obvious consequence of not sleeping in line with your chronotype—you don’t sleep as much. 

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