Dr. Matthew Walker on Sleep: The Penetrating Effects of Poor Sleep From Metabolism to Performance to Genetics, and the Impact of Caffeine, Alcohol, THC, and CBD on Sleep – The Peter Attia Drive (Part III)

Check out The Peter Attia Drive Episode Page & Show Notes

Check out the Podcast Notes for Part I and Part II

Key Takeaways

  • Being underslept puts you on a path to being pre-diabetic
  • Sleep deprivation distorts your genes and their activity 
    • Certain genes become downregulated (like those associated with the immune system)
    • And other genes tend to be upregulated (like those associated with tumor promotion, chronic inflammation, and stress)
  • Sleeping only 6 hours per night for one week increase the likelihood you’ll consume more calories and choose to consume unhealthier foods
  • Caffeine has a half-life of 6 hours and a quarter-life of 12 hours
    • So if you have a cup of coffee at midday, a quarter of that caffeine is still affecting you at midnight (this is the equivalent to drinking a quarter cup of coffee right before bed)
  • Even a little bit of alcohol prior to bed will ruin sleep quality
  • THC will decrease the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep
    • But like alcohol, it blocks REM sleep 
  • CBD seems to reduce the amount of time it takes one to fall asleep
    • It also acts to decrease anxiety (which can improve sleep quality) 
  • With one night of sleep deprivation, you can instigate a level of anxiety which would fall under the umbrella of a clinical anxiety order diagnosis

Intro

  • Dr. Matthew Walker (@sleepdiplomat) is the author of Why We Sleep and professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Matthew has been making the podcast rounds, check out:
    • The Podcast Notes from his appearance on the Found My Fitness podcast
    • The Podcast Notes from his appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience
    • The Podcast Notes from his appearance on The Jordan Harbinger Show

Sleep Deprivation, Weight Gain, and Insulin Resistance

  • One study found that people deprived of sleep for 4 hours per night for 2 weeks suffered a 50% reduced ability to dispose of glucose into muscle tissue
    • On a simple level – this means that the glucose you consume just stays in the bloodstream, rather than being directed to muscle
      • On a simpler level – it means you’re pre-diabetic
  • How do insulin/glucose normally work?
    • We consume sugar/glucose
    • Our beta cells in the pancreas sense a spike in blood sugar
    • They then release insulin
    • The insulin then helps shuttle glucose into cells
      • The cells of the body have to be sensitive to the insulin in order to uptake the glucose
      • But when your insulin levels are constantly elevated (from eating a sugary/crappy diet) – your cells become insulin resistant, leading you on a path to diabetes
        • Ideally, you want to be as insulin sensitive as possible
    • When insulin binds to a cell receptor, the phosphorylation of something called AKT takes place which helps the GLUT-4 transporter, now inside the cell, migrate to the surface of the cell to help shuttle glucose in
  • Here’s where insufficient sleep comes in:
    • When you’re underslept, the beta cells of the pancreas become insensitive to spikes in blood sugar/glucose (so it stops releasing enough insulin to deal with the food we consume)
    • The cells of the body also become insensitive to the signal of insulin (they become insulin resistant)
      • Under a lack of sleep, the amount of insulin required to phosphorylate AKT to initiate cells to start absorbing glucose is around 2x

Let’s Sum Up So Far

  • A lack of sleep:
    • Increases your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
    • Reduces the activity of your immune system
    • Impairs learning/memory 
    • Increases your risk for cardiovascular disease
    • Increases your risk for cancer
    • Contributes to depression and anxiety
    • AND leads to diabetes/insulin resistance/weight gain

Epigenetics

  • One study found that depriving a group of individuals to only 6 hours of sleep/night for one week led to the distortion of 700+ genes and their activity (relative to when they were getting 8 hours of sleep/night)
    • Note how common getting only 6 hours of sleep per night is
    • Also note – there’s only ~20,000 genes in the human genome (700 = ~3%)
    • Certain genes were downregulated (like those associated with the immune system)
    • And other genes were upregulated (like those associated with tumor promotion, chronic inflammation, and stress)
  • So – You are literally genetically modifying yourself by not getting enough sleep

Sleep and Fitness

  • With insufficient sleep, all of the following suffer:
    • Your motivation to exercise 
    • Your reaction time
      • 6 hours of sleep for one week can drop it by almost a half a second
    • Your aerobic output
    • The amount of force you can generate
    • Your time to physical exhaustion
      • With just 6 hours of sleep, this metric shows a ~30% decrease
  • Far more world records in the Olympics are broken at the peak of a human being’s circadian rhythm (around 1-2 PM) compared to to other times during the day
    • This ability to perform best physically at this time is common across all sports

Sleep and Appetite Regulation

  • It’s been found that people who sleep 5-6 hours/night for one week experience disruptions in the  hunger and satiety hormones (ghrelin and leptin) 
    • Leptin is the satiety signal – it tells your brain you’re full
      • When you’re underslept – this signal get turned down
    • Ghrelin is the hunger hormone 
      • When you’re underslept – this signal gets ramped up
    • All of this results in an increase in caloric intake
      • People sleeping 6 hours/night will typically eat 300 extra calories during the day (added up – this is 70,000 calories/year or about 10 lbs. of weight)
  • Not only this – you’re more likely to consume unhealthier foods 
    • Related to this, when you’re sleep deprived, the part of the brain which tends to keep your hedonic desires in check (the prefrontal cortex) shows a decrease in activity
      • As an adult if you’re lacking sleep, you probably won’t throw a tantrum like a child in the grocery store, but you’re sure as hell more likely to buy a can of Pringles

A Lack of Sleep in the Workplace

  • Employees who are underslept are less likely to accept challenging problems
    • Of the problems they do select, they end up producing fewer creative solutions to those problems
  • Under slept employees are more likely to slack off in a team setting
  • The less sleep an employee gets, the more likely they are to be deviant/unethical 
    • (so they’re more likely to forge reimbursement claims)
  • The less sleep a CEO gets from one night to the next, the less charismatic/inspiring employees rated that CEO from one day to the next
    • Think about this from the standpoint of dating or even parenting

Beauty Sleep

  • People are consistently rated sicklier, sleepier, and less attractive under a lack of sleep

Sleep Quotes

  • “Sleep is the Swiss army knife of health. Whatever ailment you face, it’s more than likely that sleep has a tool in its toolbox that can fix it.”
  • “There is no aspect of a human being’s wellness that isn’t eroded by a lack of sleep”

The Effects of Alcohol on Sleep

  • Alcohol:
    • Is a sedative – it works on the same class of receptors that sleeping pills work on 
      • It inhibits the deep/restful/restorative sleep 
    • Fragments your sleep
    • Blocks REM sleep
    • Inhibits vasopressin (aka antidiuretic hormone – ADH), thus causing more of a diuretic effect (making you pee more)

The Effects of Caffeine on Sleep

  • As mentioned in Part II of this interview (Podcast Notes), caffeine acts to mute the buildup of adenosine
  • “If you’re taking caffeine before midday, you need to ask why”
    • 11-12 PM should be your peak level of alertness – you shouldn’t need caffeine
  • Caffeine has a half-life of 6 hours and a quarter-life of 12 hours
    • So if you have a cup of coffee at midday, a quarter of that caffeine is still affecting you at midnight (this is the equivalent to drinking a quarter cup of coffee right before bed)
  • Also note – caffeine reduces deep sleep if it’s still in your system
    • Giving someone 200 mg of caffeine in the evening reduces deep sleep by 20% (as deep sleep drops with age, this is like aging you by ~20-30 years)
  • The way you process caffeine is largely genetic
    • Some people. for instance, are very caffeine sensitive

The Oura Ring

  • “There is no greater tool to show you the deleterious effects of alcohol than an Oura Ring” – Peter
    • Peter and many of his patients, using the Oura Ring, have noticed a significant drop in REM sleep when consuming even a little alcohol before bed (as little as 2 drinks 5-6 hours before bed and 0-1 drinks 0-3 hours before bed)
    • Alcohol also raises your body temperature, raises resting your heart rate, and compresses your heart rate variability (all undesirable for good sleep)
      • Note – you need to drop your core body temperature by 2-3 F in order to fall asleep
  • Peter has noticed that a low quality high carb meal prior to bed mimics the effects of alcohol when it comes to sleep

Does THC help sleep?

  • “I don’t think I’d feel comfortable suggesting that THC is a pro-sleep compound”
    • We just don’t have enough data – even depending on the different strains
  • THC will decrease the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep
    • It doesn’t really affect total sleep duration
    • But like alcohol, it blocks REM sleep 

How about CBD?

  • “I think it’s more promising”
  • It seems to reduce sleep latency (it helps you fall asleep faster)
  • It doesn’t seem to inhibit REM sleep (but more data is needed)
  • CBD doesn’t seem to result in any dependency issues
  • Right now though, it’s not clear what the correct dose would be for sleep purposes
    • At certain lower doses, CBD actually seems to promote wakefulness
  • One study found that CBD increased deep sleep quantity (again – this was only one study)
  • What’s going on with all the above? Why does CBD seem to help?
    • It’s probably related to thermoregulation
      • CBD seems to decrease core body temperature
    • CBD also seems to decrease anxiety, which contributes to better quality sleep

The Two-Way Street of Mental Health and Sleep

  • Matt says that in the past 25 years, he has not been able to discover a single psychiatric condition in which sleep is normal
  • It’s very likely the increased rates of insomnia are tied to the rise in anxiety disorders
    • But related – with one night of sleep deprivation, you can instigate a level of anxiety which would fall under the umbrella of a clinical anxiety order diagnosis
  • Sleep is emotional first aid, but it’s a two-way street
    • Mental ill health also leads to sleep problems
  • After 16 hours of wakefulness, things start a downward spiral in the realm of mental health

Dr. Walker’s Current Projects

  • He’s currently on sabbatical 
    • Even though he’s not currently teaching, he’s the Director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at UC Berkeley
      • One of his main goals – raise funds for the center
  • One of his startup companies (StimScience) just went public (they’re funded by Khosla Ventures)
    • The company makes a device that’s placed on your head which measures brain waves and inserts an electrical voltage into the brain to boost the depth of deep sleep (aimed for used in Alzheimer’s patients)
      • The device aims to boost the size of the deep/slow waves associated with deep sleep (ideally increasing further the memory related benefits you get from deep sleep)
  • He’s starting to think about writing a second book
  • Some studies Matt hopes to run in the future:
    • He wants to examine certain healthy, older individuals in their 60s-70s who seem to be resistant to age-related sleep decline – why is this the case?
    • He wants to examine the Blue Zone groups – perhaps their long life and healthspans are actually related to sleep, not diet?
  • Matt is a scientific adviser for Verily Life Sciences, formerly known as Google Life Sciences

Random

  • Kids of all ages are sleeping about 2 hours less, on average, than they did 50 years ago
  • People with untreated sleep apnea have much higher rates of type 2 diabetes
  • 10 million American adults in the past month have swallowed some kind of a sleep aid 
  • Peter talks about a patient who was struggling severely with sleep after having tried just about everything
    • After undergoing MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, his sleep problems were completely fixed
  • Matt doesn’t drink alcohol and refrains from caffeine

These notes were edited by RoRoPa Editing Services

Bookmark