What Is Sleep? A ‘Superpower,’ a ‘Power Cleanse’

17:33 minutes

In his latest “Flame Challenge,” Alan Alda asked people to answer the question: “What is sleep?” And the judges on the contest? A panel of 11-year-olds, who voted Eric Galicia and Brandon Aldinger as the clearest explainers. Galicia and Aldinger join us to talk about how they approached the question and their guidelines for communicating science to maximum effect.

Plus, Matthew Walker, a sleep scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, has a clever analogy of his own for sleep. He says snoozing is a “power cleanse for the brain.” We talk to Walker about the connection between sleep and the accumulation of toxic proteins in our brains, and what that could mean for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

Segment Guests

Alan Alda

Alan Alda is an actor and writer. He’s also the host of the Clear + Vivid podcast, and founder of the Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in New York.

Matthew Walker

Matthew Walker is a neuroscience and psychology professor and director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.

Eric Galicia

Eric Galicia is a Masters of Health Physics candidate at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

Brandon Aldinger

Brandon Aldinger is a materials scientist at Ibis Tek in Butler, Pennsylvania.

Meet the Producers and Host

About Christopher Intagliata

Christopher Intagliata was Science Friday’s senior producer. He once served as a prop in an optical illusion and speaks passable Ira Flatowese.

About Elah Feder

Elah Feder is the former senior producer for podcasts at Science Friday. She produces the Science Diction podcast, and co-hosted and produced the Undiscovered podcast.