Sleep Is Critical for Learning. Podcast with Professor Marcos Frank

We do not enter into the world with infinite knowledge of ourselves and our surroundings. We don’t have knowledge or skill to survive, to dance, or to do martial arts with grace and efficiency. We don’t know enough about ourselves or know how to interact best with different types of people we encounter. We don’t know how to accelerate our ability to get better at something. We are born, however, with the capacity to learn and to remember, and by virtue of this skill, we have an incredible potential to do great things.

Professor Marcos FrankToday, important stuff happened to you. Tonight, when you sleep, your brain will extend the process of turning that stimulation – the sites, sounds, thoughts, emotions, facts, etc. – into memories that you can access at a moments notice in the future. It’s amazing when you think about it: experiences, facts, skills, and even thought patterns become a part of who we are. How much do you know now that you didn’t know 1o to 15 years ago, or even last week, last month, or yesterday? The process of accumulating information, and accessing when needed, is so routine it’s easy to forget that something is going to make it possible. As it turns out, sleep plays a vital role in the formation of certain types of memories. In this interview, I speak with someone who has made, and continues to make, significant contributions to help the world better understand how all this magic works. My guest is Marcos Frank, Ph.D., who is the Interim Chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine at Washington State University. I hope you enjoy this discussion as much as I did.

Physical Activity and Sleep. Podcast with Matt Buman

I am very happy to announce our new podcast, humanOS Radio. The aim is interview three categories of people: 1) Researchers whose work informs us about some aspect of how we live, 2) Entrepreneurs who are translating science into solutions, and 3) Investors making bets to predict (and support) the major future influencers on health. The format will be flexible, but most shows will around 30 minutes or less. I think the best way to get a sense of what humanOS will deliver is to listen to an episode or two. Without further ado, please find my conversation with Matt Buman, PhD., who is an Assistant Professor in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion at Arizona State University.

Can We Learn from Hunter-Gatherer Sleep? Podcast with Jerry Siegel

We’re getting much less sleep than we used to! Well, at least that’s been the story, but this story has largely been based on self-reported sleep times. If we are getting less sleep than we should, we need to know. One approach to understanding this subject better is to investigate what “natural” sleep looks like. Luckily, we now have more information on this due to a ground-breaking study recently published by Professor Jerry Siegel at UCLA, and colleagues in the journal Current Biology. In his study, he evaluated three societies living in natural conditions (e.g., modern day hunter-gatherers) to examine their sleep behaviors and physiology. He also analyzed external factors like natural light, ambient temperature and the season in which the data was collected. And by doing so, Dr. Siegel appeared to turn the wide-spread belief that we are chronically sleep deprived on its head. At least that seemed to be the emphasis of most news reports that came out describing the study. But to really understand what this data means, we need to discuss the study and interpret the findings with an emphasis to explain the difference between sleep period and sleep time. Along with an article investigating this subject, you can listen to my interview with Dr. Siegel where we discuss the study and his findings.

Is the Paleo Diet Best for Metabolic Syndrome? Podcast with Hanno Pijl and Esther van Zuuren

Just today, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – the most prestigious nutrition journal in the world – published a systematic review and meta-analysis of the paleolithic nutrition pattern (the Paleo diet).

The audio interview below is with study authors, Hanno Pijl, M.D., Ph.D., and Ester van Zuurin, M.D., both of Leiden Unversity in the Netherlands. They, along with authors Eric Manheimer and Zbys Fedorowicz, first performed a systematic review of six online publication libraries for all possible qualifying research. From there, they winnowed the list to four studies, pooling together 159 subjects for their analysis, looking for mean differences in primary endpoints related to metabolic syndrome: 1) Waist circumference, 2) Blood pressure, 3) Triglycerides, 4) HDL cholesterol, and 5) Blood sugar concentration. Secondary endpoints included change in body weight, even though some of the studies included in the analysis tried to prevent weight change so that the results would be less confounded by it. Weight loss, while healthy for someone who is overweight, can also improve these endpoints independently, making it harder to know if it is the nutritional properties of the diet or the weight loss that influenced results. We discuss this specifically in the interview, which you can listen to it here in its entirety.

Some Thoughts on the Freakonomics of Sleep

Back in May of this year, I give a presentation entitled Sleep, Productivity, and Peak Performance at a CEO summit in Manhattan hosted by VC firm, Firstmark Capital. After I presented, Steven Dubner of Freakonomics spoke about the man who smashed the world record at Nathan’s hot dog eating contest. See more about this story in the blog post. After we both presented, Dubner approached me for an interview to discuss sleep. My interview was included in the two-part series that they just published on the subject.