Renowned neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker thoroughly describes how sleep deprivation can easily lead to cancer, heart attacks, and Alzheimer’s disease, and how we can amend this.
Meet Matthew Walker. If there ever was a competition to win the ‘World’s Oddest Job’ title, we could guarantee Walker’s name would come up as the winner. The man behind the curtain is an extraordinary prodigy in his field and works as a sleep scientist. Moreover, he is the directing face behind the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley.
Throughout the decades, this institute had dedicated its best efforts to uncovering and studying each of the sleeping process’ characteristics. Interestingly enough, researchers were hoping to unfold how sleep has such a huge impact on the basic human processes. Despite our every effort to unravel one of the universe’s biggest secrets, we still remain laymen.
Once you hear Walker discuss the art of a solid sleep, you’ll understand why he refers to today’s way of living as a “catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic.” The only logical way to amend this, in Walker’s mind, is to get the government educated and involved in the process itself.
In his detailed book, Walker tries to educate the crowd about the chain that links sleep deprivation and serious health issues, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, weight gain, and mental illnesses.
Walker did not stop there, making it his mission to get governmental branches to partake in his project of awareness.
The root of exhaustion
In a matter of decades, the sleeping pattern got impaired so much that people across the globe couldn’t even conceptualize the true form of a good night’s sleep.
Why? Walker believes that stress, work, and even lights during the night, can all hurt the sleeping process tremendously.
Walker goes on to assure us that sleep is not given a proper credit, meaning it is often underrated in comparison to being proactive. In today’s world, Walker notes people wrongfully claim ‘being tired’ as a trophy label of hard work.
Actually, experts back Walker on this one. Namely, it has been registered that sleeping less than five hours a day for longer periods of time is bound to come at a certain price, meaning health issues are likely to occur now more than ever before.
Nowadays, we rarely see the lack of sleep as the leading culprit for our stress, anxiety and weak performance.
The latest technological discoveries allowed experts to acquire easier, more thorough access to the brain.
The Liverpool-born specialist has worked on the issue for over two decades. A virtuoso in neuroscience and holder of a Ph.D. Degree in neurophysiology, Walker set the bar for any researcher analyzing the sleeping process and the lack thereof. Soon enough, Walker learned that sleeplessness can cause an outbreak of dementia.
With this realization, he began working harder but found this to be a much more challenging task than initially believed. As a professor at the University of California, Walker figured that his self-treatment works better than any other available method. This means he rests for eight hours during the night, finding it super helpful for both his body and mind.
Walker does mention that sleeping deprivation used to make a ‘nutty’ out of him. Once, he even found himself awake at 2 a.m. in a hotel room, pumping with adrenaline.
Miraculously, Walker did what anyone else would do by this time – he lied down in his bed and picked up on some reading.
Documented proof and consequences
As concluded by numerous studies, individuals aged 45 or older who are trained to sleep for six hours or less have 200% more odds of suffering a heart failure.
Furthermore, sleep deprivation can trigger blood sugar escalations, ultimately leading to weak insulin responsiveness. As a result, individuals could find themselves diagnosed with a pre-diabetic state, also known as hyperglycemia. Among other side-effects, insomnia can easily cause obesity. This occurs due to reduced levels of leptin in the body, a hormone responsible for keeping the organism full. Sadly, the lack of leptin encourages the production of ghrelin, a hormone tightly related to hunger.
Additionally, there is a secret co-relation between sleep and immune-threatening illnesses, such as the flu. This why we urge ourselves to bed whenever we feel unwell, but it seems experts have never examined this particular bond, until now.
Walker insists that insufficient sleep can trigger the growth of cancerous cells – a conclusion confirmed by a handful of studies as well.
That aside, a solid sleep provides us with the ability to store new memories as well as preserve the old ones. Sleep deprivation can affect the mental health as well, with Walker elaborating how the human creative mindset is directly dependent on our dreams.
Walker performed many brain scans in sleep-deprived people, ultimately reporting a 60% increase of the amygdala – a familiar stimulator of anger and rage. As far as children and adolescents are concerned, lack of sleep can result in an aggressive behavior, bullying, or even suicidal thoughts.
Finally, Walker pays special attention to the close bond between a quality sleep and Alzheimer’s disease. Unofficially, it is said that elevated amyloid levels in the body can affect the brain long enough to kill its most active cells. In case of Alzheimer’s disease, the brain becomes unable to protect its own cells by flushing the toxin out.
Prevention and precaution
According to Walker, detecting a sleep-related issue is often quite personal and based on each individual’s intuition. Usually, people who cannot wake up, even with an alarm clock are sleep deprived. The same goes for people who are addicted to caffeine.
First thing is first, stop forcing your body to work overtime. Imagine you are awake and mobile for over 19 hours – this means your body has the exhaustion level equal to that of an inebriated person.
Next, it is crucial that you begin treating sleep as any other daily activity.
Walker makes sure to put a special emphasis on the
Nowadays, even in business, sleep needs to get more credit by both employees and employers. Currently, an array of US accompanies have already developed sleep-measuring devices to examine the process. Keep in mind that sleep-provoking meds are not to be considered for use, as these are known to weaken the process of memorizing.
Many health groups controversially reported that LED-emitting devices boost the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep. Walker is a firm believer in everything related to technology, insisting it will help solve the sleep deprivation issue.
As far as ambitions go, Walker would like to begin researching how dreams affect the physical and emotional aspects of the body.
In the most passionate of approaches, Walker exudes the need to dig deep into the sleeping cycle, trying to reveal whether sleep ever evolved as a pattern.
A professional writer with over a decade of incessant writing skills. Her topics of interest and expertise range from psychology, to all sorts of disciplines such as science and news.