Saturday, September 19, 2020
Sleep Diplomat Headlines Sun Valley Wellness Festival
Matt Walker, known as the sleep diplomat, presents at a Google Zeitgeist conference in 2019: COURTESY: Matthew Walker
Friday, August 21, 2020


Sleep has become a casualty of the coronavirus pandemic. While many of us have been able to sleep in, even going to our virtual workplace in our pajamas, many of us have had plenty of sleepless nights fretting about the pandemic.

And some who have had coronavirus have had trouble sleeping as a side effect of the virus.

To the rescue: Dr. Matt Walker, a sleep scientist who will headline the 23rd annual Sun Valley Wellness Festival and Conference, which will be held Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 22-23.

Walker will offer an online address, “Sleep is Your Superpower,” at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22. His talk will be available to Wellness Festival participants through Sept. 7.

“Sleep is your life-support system and Mother Nature’s best effort yeet at immortality,” said Walker, who will discuss the good things that happen to those who get sleep and the alarmingly bad things that happen to those who don’t.

Walker will be joined by other speakers, including Kiril Sokoloff, a Sun Valley visionary who will explore whether the COVID pandemic will raise consciousness.

Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, is the author of the New York Times bestseller, “Why We Sleep.” His TED Talk is one of the top five most watched TED Talks  and he has also appeared on “60 Minutes and NPR’s “Hidden Brain.” He has served as a sleep consultant to the NBA, NFL and Pixar Animation Studios.

He just won the 2020 Carl Sagan Science Prize For Science Popularization, which honors researchers who have contributed to the public understanding and appreciation of science.

Walker, the founder of Berkeley’s Center for Human Sleep Science, said he was humbled to receive the prize as Sagan has been one of his scientific heroes and inspiration.

His presentation on Saturday will dive into the science of slumber and the cutting edge of findings related to sleep and how sleep relates to human health and disease, including COVID-19.

Walker, a native of Liverpool, England, admits that he himself is a 10 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. sleeper, although he is quick to get up and watch soccer games beamed in from the United Kingdom over a cup of morning tea.

He became interested in sleep when he realized the dementia patients he was studying were losing the sleep centers of their brains, while those with other disorders didn’t have those parts eaten away.

“Every disease that is killing us in the developed world now has significant and, many of them, casual links to a lack of sleep,” he says.

 Other speakers include Dr. Seth Cohen, a University of Washington director of Infectious Disease Medicine, who has been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 fight. Also Dr. Eben Alexander, Dr. Zach Bush, and Nora McInerny.

SVWellness Virtual Passes are on sale at Passholders have full access to all 20 virtual online presentations, including guided meditation sessions and movement classes, through Sept. 7, 2020.

Conference organizers want to make the conference accessible to as many people as possible in this year of COVID-19, so pay-what-you-can scholarships are available.


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