Matthew Walker | A night of sleep is one of the most powerful anxiolytic medications

(Video in English, subtitles in Spanish and Portuguese)

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We did a study that we just published very recently. We took a group of perfectly healthy adults, no signs of anxiety, and then we deprive them of sleep for a night.

And for every hour that you were awake beyond the standard 16 hours, anxiety started to escalate, and it escalated dramatically, and it showed no signs of leveling out.

In fact, by the next morning, 50% of the participants in the study would then be classified as having “clinical levels” of an anxiety disorder. This is within 24 hours; before they were perfectly healthy.

We also then went on to find why that’s the case. Because your prefrontal cortex, which helps regulate your moods and emotions, becomes disconnected from your deep emotional anxiety triggering centers.

So now, it’s almost as though you’re all emotional gas pedal and too little regulatory frontal cortex break as it were, and that’s what was unleashing this wave of anxiety.

Now we can turn that to positive. Because we also discovered that when we gave those people a full healthy night of sleep, the amount of overnight reduction in their anxiety was predicted by how much deep sleep that they were getting.

So in other words, we all think about how can we distress, how can we lower our anxiety, and you know, meditation is great, some people turn to sort of actual medications… all of these things I understand.

Trying to manage your stress in life by trying to do meditation it’s not easy to implement. But in terms of a painless solution, this thing called “a night of sleep” is right there for you, in repeat prescription, every single night if you wish to pick it up.

And it is one of the most powerful, what we call, an “anxiolytic” sort of medications, all natural no drugs required, that we’ve seen.

And in fact, even in that study, it doesn’t require a full night sleep. I should note because what we found is that in a larger group of studies that we tracked across several weeks, even certain changes in the sleep from one night to the next predicted their anxiety level from one day to next.

So there really is a very intimate association there between sleep and mental health in general but including anxiety. And I’m happy to commit to anyone of the other psychiatric conditions.

Extract of the video “Matthew Walker | Sleep in Uncertain Times | Talks at Google” available here:

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