Ep.91: Get Better Sleep with Dr. Michael Breus
We all want better sleep. My friend, Dr. Michael Breus, is a clinical PHD psychologist and sleep expert. He’s going to discuss how there are four or five different Chronotypes that affect our sleep. He also dives deep into what kind of sleep your body needs, how much, when should you be sleeping, and why you might be having conflict with your intimate partner because of sleep timing. Listen now and get more restful sleep so you can heal and have greater energy!
LINKS AND RESOURCES:
Take the Sleep Quiz: Here
Explore the Time Shifter app: Here
See what Robyn used for her bed: Here
Robyn: Hi, it’s Robyn Openshaw. And welcome back to the Vibe show. In the next few weeks, I am interviewing two very well known psychologists and psychiatrists and we’re talking about mental health. We’re talking about high vibration ways of dealing with depression and anxiety. And today we’re talking about sleep disorders and the ways that we can get better sleep. My friend, Dr. Michael Breus is a PhD, a clinical psychologist, and he runs a sleep lab.
New Speaker: I’m pretty fascinated by sleep labs and what we learn in there because so often what we learn about what we think our sleep is like and what it actually is like comes out of sleep lab experiments. So Dr Breus has recently released his book: “The Power of When” and it was number one on Amazon in his category and he teaches us some biohacks about how there’s a perfect time to do everything based on your own biological chronotype.
New Speaker: He’s going to talk about how there are four or five different chronotypes and he corresponds them to animals to take a look at what kind of sleep your body needs. How much does it need? When should you be sleeping? Why might you be having some slight conflict with your intimate partner or others in your life or people that you work with based on the way that your body needs to sleep? So he’s gonna talk to us a little bit about when the exact perfect time is to go for a run or to have sex or to eat a cheeseburger or to ask your boss for a raise. So these are the kinds of issues that he gets into. I’m very excited about this interview. Welcome to the show Dr Michael Breus.
Dr. Breus: Hey, thanks for having me. “Doctor” Robyn Openshaw.
Robyn: Hahaha. So let’s talk a little bit about what got you into, you know, you went from the regular PhD in Psychology or whatever your path is. How’d you get so interested in sleep? And what’s sort of your unique take on how to help people with sleep?
Dr. Breus: Well, it’s interesting. It wasn’t my first choice, I’ll tell you that. Going through getting a PhD in clinical psychology, I had a lot of options during my residency for rotations. And it was kind of funny because one of the rotations that was really difficult for them to fill was the sleep rotation. Which didn’t make any sense to me. I guess it was just very biologically based and none of my colleagues were interested in it. And so I said to myself: “You know what, this sounds like it could be cool. I mean, I think I’m a good sleeper. Sleep is an interesting topic in general. Everybody sleeps. So why don’t we check it out?” And I ended up going into the residency. And by the third day, I absolutely fell in love with clinical sleep medicine and I knew this is where I wanted my career to be.
New Speaker: You know, Robyn, I know you know this, but many people out there who are listening might not know this. When you’re working with patients, especially when they’ve got psychological issues. The big problem is that nothing happens quickly. It takes long periods of time, months, years sometimes to see treatment gains. And as a sleep specialist I literally change people’s lives overnight. It’s amazing!
New Speaker: I feel really fortunate to be in the field and be able to have those opportunities because generally speaking in my field, in psychology, not many of us get a chance to do that. And I’ve kept in it. I mean my very first job was as the director of a sleep laboratory. So literally the 19 years that I’ve been in practice, I have only done sleep medicine. So as early as my residency is when I kind of figured that part out. And I got to tell you something, it’s a lot of fun.
New Speaker: There’s new research that comes out literally every single month that’s a game changer for people and things that people would never imagine. Plus being a sleep specialist, it also requires me to know a lot of other things. You know, people ask me questions about sleep and the microbiome. They ask me questions about sleep and nutrition, sleep and weight loss. What’s the best mattress? How do I pick a pillow? Is it okay to smoke cannabis before bed? What about alcohol? How about caffeine? I mean, it’s unbelievable the different things that I get a chance to learn and share with people. So I really feel very fortunate.
Robyn: Well, I want to get into some of what you think are the newest, most exciting discoveries about sleep. But let’s start with the basics. How many people struggle with sleep? We’ve discovered in asking our audience about it that it’s a majority.
Dr. Breus: It’s unbelievable. And we have to make a small distinction here. There’s a big difference between people who have a sleep disorder and what I call disordered sleep. So a sleep disorder is: apnea, narcolepsy, full on insomnia, periodic leg movements, things like that. If you took all the numbers together, we know that between 10 and 12 percent of the population has sleep apnea. We know that roughly 10 percent of the population has chronic insomnia at any given time. If you get over the age of 50, roughly 30 percent of people have restless leg syndrome or periodic limb movements. Narcolepsy is only about one percent.
New Speaker: So you start adding up all these numbers and you’re looking at 40 to 45 percent of people with a sleep disorder, and that’s not including the people who’ve got disordered sleep. Which is just: “I wake up and I feel like crap, Michael. What’s going on? How do I improve the quality of my sleep?” Honestly, I think that’s the majority of folks out there.
Robyn: Yeah. I’m not surprised that it’s an entire discipline within medicine because like you said, there are so many different factors. And I imagine you have to get quite a bit of information about someone for you to know how to solve their sleep problem, because if it were simple, everybody would be sleeping better and we’d all take the same supplement and we’d all be fixed. So what’s wrong with how standard of care medicine is treating sleep disorders or disordered sleeping? How are they dealing with it that’s different than how you see problems with sleep?
Dr. Breus: Well, so here’s what I’ll tell you. When you look at traditional Western medicine, it’s historically about, how do I assess it? And is there a treatment protocol that has already been proven that I can lock and load and get through on a patient? Because remember, we’re in a very difficult time for healthcare these days. I mean, at best you might get 15 minutes with your physician walking through the door, you list off three things, they help you with two of them, you’ve got a couple of more questions and boom, they’re out the door. And that’s really an unfortunate set of circumstances.
New Speaker: Also, most physicians have not been trained in sleep medicine for more than four hours during their entire medical school career. So we’re talking about four hours during four years and most of the time it surrounds apnea, narcolepsy and periodic limb movements. Almost nobody talks about insomnia, which happens to be my area of specialty. And I think it’s because it’s complicated. Not all insomnia is created equal. I always joke around, I say there’s got to be 31 flavors of insomnia, you know, like Baskin Robbins. I mean, it’s crazy.
New Speaker: There’s the, “I can’t fall asleep”. “I can’t stay asleep”. “I wake up too early”. Insomnia associated with pain, associated with diet, associated with menopause. I mean, the list goes on and on and on. And so I really don’t think that a lot of physicians have been trained in sleep and sleep disorders, generally speaking. Now, if we drill down to the subspecialty of sleep medicine, um, most of those people are MDs and they’re not really all that interested in the psychological aspects or the emotional aspects or the nutritional aspects of how to sleep better. They’re interested, quite frankly, in diagnosing sleep apnea and getting people on C-PAP machines.
New Speaker: Now, look, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any problem with people getting diagnosed with apnea. C-PAP is a wonderful treatment modality. It’s not the only one, but it’s certainly one that works and works well. But the majority of sleep medicine these days really surrounds 95 percent of it is sleep apnea. One percent might be a narcolepsy. And then four percent is kind of a mishmash of everything else. So we really don’t have a lot of people out there who have been interested.
New Speaker: Now about six or eight years ago, um, a group of psychologists got together and they created their own board exam. It’s the American Board of Behavioral Sleep Medicine. And there are about maybe a thousand to 1500 people who’ve actually taken and passed that board now. And um, those people are finally the ones that we see are very well trained and really start to understand it. But I’ll also admit to you there, I have yet to meet many of them who understand the importance of the microbiome, nutrition, and things of that nature, that could be helpful as well. So we’re getting there, but it’s definitely taking a while.
Robyn: Well, we can break down the categories that people tend to complain that they have problems in. They have problems falling asleep. They have problems staying asleep. They have problems waking up and feeling like they were rested. And I see a lot of people sort of categorizing people in those three sort of general buckets. And you may have something to say about that because I know you get way deeper and more granular than that.
New Speaker: But one of the things I think is the most interesting about your work in recent years is that you’ve dived into a set of chronotypes that you can quiz us on. And I’d love for you to talk about those chronotypes. Because what it says to me is like so many other things, one size doesn’t fit all. Not all of us really are meant to sleep the same way. And this helps explain why I tell everyone if I’m ever working after 9:00 PM, “Listen, I can barely put a sentence together after 9:00 PM. But you know what? At 6:00 AM, I am so sharp, I jump out of bed. I’m sharp from the minute I wake up. I don’t even know what would happen if I drank a cup of coffee in the morning.”
New Speaker: And so you have these animal chronotypes to go with it. It also reminds me just to drip this in there a little bit, of of how in the last 10 years we’ve read quite a bit about how we’ve really made it difficult for our school children especially our adolescents, because they’re meant to stay up late and they’re meant to sleep in late and we beat them up about it. And we say: “What is the matter with my 17 year old, he won’t get up for school. He sleeps until 2:00 PM every weekend.” Oops, wait, am I going off on my own personal issues with my 17 year old? I think I might be.
New Speaker: But anyway, feel free to talk about any of those issues, with regard to how individual sleep is and that that’s okay. And that we can figure out our own chronotype and what we do with it within our relationship if we have a significant other we may sleep with. Talk about all your chronotype science.
Dr. Breus: Absolutely. So, first of all, thank you for recognizing the science. Believe it or not, this year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine was given to three circadian sleep researchers. So we’re finally getting the spotlight in terms of people having an interest in this idea of chronotypes. Now this is a word that many people may not have ever heard of “chronotypes”. But you’ve probably heard of the vernacular of being an “early bird” or being a “night owl”.
New Speaker: So, if I had to guess, Robyn, I’m guessing that you’re probably an early bird, because like you said, you spring out of bed with lots of energy, but after 9:00pm you are toast. I turn out to be the opposite. I’m a night owl. So I’m much better, like if you wanted to have a meeting at noon, I’m all, I’m all in. I’m awake, I’m alert, I’m starting to rock and roll. But you know, much earlier than that and things, Eh, not working so well for me. I might be drinking some of that coffee that you would probably avoid.
New Speaker: What’s interesting is it turns out that there’s not just two of these. It’s not just that there’s “early birds” and “night owls”, but the science is really interesting, there’s people in the middle and then there are people with insomnia. And my real contribution to the science these days has been from my book, which is called: “The Power of When”. And it’s all about this idea of identifying your chronotype and then learning when you should do something that you would be able to do it optimally or at your highest peak potential.
New Speaker: So, let me break it down. What I did was I changed the names from “early bird” and “night owl” to animals that actually have those characteristics of getting up early, getting up late, in the middle and insomnia. So I started out with people that I call “Lions”. And by the way, for anybody out there who wants to learn what their chronotype is, if you go to www.thepowerofwhenquiz.com. And that’ll be in the show notes and you can do it for free. You just click on there. There’s 35 questions. It takes you about a minute, minute and a half, and you’ll learn very quickly what your chronotype is.
New Speaker: So the first one we have, our “early birds” are who I call “Lions”. The reason I chose lions, is lions are, very early risers. Usually their first kill is before dawn, and then they start to get kind of lazy towards the end of the middle of the day. Lions are my leaders. They are my COO’s of a company. These are the people that manage other people very well. They may or may not do a lot of work, but they’re really good at getting people to do things. They’re kind of what we would consider to be a “Type A” personality. They like to make a list almost every day and go from step one, to step two, to step three, to step four, usually in some type of order that they’ve kind of got set out in their head.
New Speaker: Here’s the caveat though. Everybody says: “Oh, I want to be a lion. I want to wake up at 5:00 AM and get all this extra work done.” Socially speaking, it’s not so great to be a lion, because like we were saying before, dinner and a movie is probably out. You know, I mean a lion might make it through dinner, but then they’re exhausted by 8:30 and going to a 9:00 movie is probably not a good idea for them.
New Speaker: The next category are people in between “early birds” and “night owls”, and I call them “Bears”. Actually being a bear is the best. Oh, by the way, lions represent about 15 percent of the population. Bears on the other hand, represent 55 percent of the population. So one out of two people is a bear. And to be honest with you, Robyn, it’s the best to be a bear!
New Speaker: And the reason is, is society has really molded it’s schedule around a bear’s life. This is where we get the nine to five working schedule. This is where we get people in traffic at certain times in the morning, we know when people are working out, all these different things run on a bear’s schedule. Now remember, only 55 percent of people are bears, which means 45 percent of people are not. And that can be a little bit difficult for people. But bears are really my doers. These are the people that get stuff done. They’re usually fairly outgoing, fun to be with. These are the people that are buying drinks at the bar or inviting you to their home for dinner. They’re really a great group of people, certainly more on the extroverted side.
New Speaker: Then we get to the “night owls” or who I call the “Wolves”. Wolves are very nocturnal creatures and so it made sense for me to pair those two up. I am a wolf by the way. I rarely go to bed before midnight or 1:00. And that’s just how I was built. Um, and by the way, your 17 year old teenager is a wolf because I’ve got a 16 year old teenager who’s a wolf as well. And we’ll talk about that in just a second.
New Speaker: When you look at wolves, we’re very different. We actually have a tendency to be somewhat introverted. If, we bother to make a list at noon, because we certainly wouldn’t make one early in the morning, we might go from step one, to step seven, to step nine, to step twelve, and that makes perfect sense to us, but not sense to anybody else. Wolves have a tendency to be my most creative people. So these are my actors, my authors and my television stars, my musicians. People who are really very, very creative, have a tendency to be late night people.
New Speaker: It sounds like it might be kinda cool, but the biggest problem for wolves is 90 percent of the world thinks that we’re lazy because we just don’t do mornings well. As I tell people all the time. The only thing I hate more than mornings are morning people. Because it’s just not a lot of fun working with some of those people. They’re all chipper and things like that in the morning. You’re probably a morning person. I don’t know if you and I would get along in the morning, probably by noon we’d be fine.
New Speaker: And also, wolves have a tendency to be bigger risk takers. Wolves also have a significantly larger number of health issues. Wolves have a tendency to be overweight, have a tendency to have more sleep disorders, things of that nature. Wolves make up about 15 percent of the population.
New Speaker: Now I want to dive off for a second into a tangent and talk about teenagers. Because here’s the thing, almost all teenagers are wolves. This is a biological consequence. Their internal circadian clock or rhythm is actually slated to go later. Just like me. Teenagers want to go to bed at 12:30, 1:00 in the morning and sleep until noon the next day. That’s actually part of their biology.
New Speaker: So for all the parents out there who are listening, I feel your pain because I gotta get my 16 year old and my 14 year old up every morning and there’s nothing easy about it. But it’s not their fault. This is their biology. By around age 18, they’ll fall into one of these four categories. Some people, like me, stay as a wolf, while others will move into these different categories.
New Speaker: The final category, which represents about 10 percent of the population, are my “Dolphins”. The reason I chose dolphins is because most people don’t know this, but dolphins actually sleepy uni-hemispherically. So half of their brain is asleep while the other half is awake and looking for predators. And I thought that was kind of a good representation of my insomniacs. Because nobody’s ever taken people with insomnia and put them into this categorization and I think they really need to be. And the reason I think that, is because all of these categories are not things that I made up. These are genetically predisposed categories.
New Speaker: If we took a snip of your DNA and we drilled down to an area called the “PER3” gene, what we would understand is that the length of that gene determines your sleep drive as well as your circadian rhythm. And those are the two factors that are so important about understanding chronotypes. But let’s say you’ve taken my quiz and you figure out: “Okay. I’m a bear or a wolf or whatever. Michael, what good does that do me?”
New Speaker: Here’s where it gets super duper interesting. Everybody has a hormone schedule. When you wake up in the morning, your Melatonin stops, your Cortisol raises, and you start to go about your day. However, if your internal biological clock wakes you up at 5:00 and somebody else’s internal biological clock wakes them up at 7:00, guess what? You’re still following your normal schedules. So there’s a big spread or a big difference between them.
New Speaker: And I’ve discovered a way to figure out when your hormones are naturally without any supplements, naturally able to identify when your hormones are at a particular point for you to do certain activities at their peak or at their best. And there’s over 300 studies in my book, not that I did, I culminated data literally from around the world. But I mean, I can tell people the best time to have sex, eat a cheeseburger, run a mile, ask your boss for a raise. You name it.
Robyn: Well, that’s interesting considering that we have a lot of us lions are in relationship with wolves. And I think that probably takes a major toll on intimate relationships longterm. I bet you have something to say about that.
Dr. Breus: I do. So the number one question that I’ve been asked since I’ve written this book is: “What’s the best time for sex and what do I do if I’m one chronotype and my partner is another one?” So let’s address those straight out of the gate. So it’s pretty interesting when you look at the hormone profile that somebody would need in order to have an intimate relationship. You need high levels of testosterone, estrogen and progesterone, cortisol and adrenaline, all five of those need to be high and Melatonin needs to be low, in order for you to accomplish your goal.
New Speaker: Well here’s the thing. Seventy four percent of people have sex between 10:30 and 11:30 at night. There’s a great survey that was done looking at that kind of data. Well, I’ll give you one guess what your hormone profile looks like at night. Looking at all of those hormones that I just discussed, do you want to take a guess at it?
Robyn: I bet that the Melatonin is really high. The progesterone is too low. Really bad for sex.
Dr. Breus: Exactly! It’s in the opposite place. So you heard it here from Robyn and I, everybody should be having sex in the morning. And also, by the way, everybody actually already knew this, especially if you’re a male. Because one of the things we know is that most men wake up with an erection. If that is not mother nature telling you when you’re supposed to use that, I’m pretty sure I don’t know what it is. Um, but that’s where it gets kind of interesting, right? Is looking at these hormone profiles.
New Speaker: Now let’s say that we’ve got somebody who’s an early morning person and somebody who is a late night person. Well, what do you do in those types of situations? Believe it or not, in the book, I created a matrix where the male can put in their chronotype the female can put in their chronotype and it actually gives times in the early evening and times in the early morning when it might be best for sex. I also have two other charts in there for homosexual couples and lesbian couples because the hormone profiles are very, very different.
Robyn: It seems like your information should be in the hands of all these functional, natural hormone replacement doctors because they tell us all the exact same thing. I mean, there’s a little bit of variability, in that, you take your progesterone and your Melatonin half an hour before you want to go to bed. A couple things like that. But it’s not very adapted to this science that you’ve really dialed in with your chronotype typing.
Dr. Breus: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. I mean, it feels like it’s been a little bit on the fringe, if you will. But this has been a part of my training actually since I started practicing. I have had patients historically that have got delayed sleep phase or advanced sleep phase. These people are lions and wolves, but to the extreme. And it’s really been a part of my career for a long, long time. But you’re absolutely correct Robyn, and thank you for identifying the fact that it’s just not a part of mainstream medicine these days.
Robyn: And I think there’s probably some myths out there that you could bust for us. You know, my mother slept four and a half hours her entire life, but she also will take naps like 15, 20 minute power naps. And the woman can sleep anywhere. She’ll pull over on the side of the freeway if she’s driving somewhere and she gets tired and boom, she’s out. But then she’s up in 15 minutes. And literally never sleeps more than four and half hours. She gets up and she reads, like her scriptures, in the morning for like two hours before anyone else even gets up. She raised eight children on this kind of schedule. It’s what her body does.
New Speaker: It’s not just that she’s now 75, she’s always doing this. But then she just has this like amazing ability to nap. I’ve seen her lie on a bench in a huge baseball or basketball stadium. I’ve seen her do it in a college football stadium with people literally stomping on the bench that she’s on and she’s asleep! She’s asleep. I don’t even know which of the categories she would fall into.
New Speaker: But, I wonder if you could just talk about the whole idea that we have to get eight hours of sleep. Because for me personally, that created a lot of anxiety for a lot of years. Until I figured out that I do well if I just can complete sleep cycles without the alarm going off. And if the alarm goes off in the middle of a sleep cycle, even if I got, you know, eight hours of sleep, I might be tired all day. Whereas I might get four and a half hours, wake up naturally, and be fine all day long. What do you have to say about that?
Dr. Breus: So a couple of different things. So first of all, when you look at the idea of napping and people who don’t need a lot of sleep, that’s genetic. About one percent of the population are what we call short sleepers, where they can sleep six hours and feel great. There are some people that are extreme short sleepers, again, this is all based on genetics, where people can sleep four and a half to five hours and be just fine. So if you kinda hit the genetic lottery, if you will, and you’ve got that going on for you, that’s awesome. Congratulations. You get a lot of stuff done. It’s not something that you can necessarily train your body to do.
New Speaker: When you talk about napping. I love napping. I’m a big fan unless you have insomnia. If you’re an Insomniac, napping is not a good idea for you because it lowers your sleep drive or your ability to fall asleep at night. Now, one of the phenomenon that you correctly identified, was the idea that if you wake up naturally at the end of a sleep cycle versus waking up from an alarm in the middle of a sleep cycle.
New Speaker: So many people have experienced this where you nap, and let’s say you napped so long that when you wake up, you can never feel like you wake up, right? That is exactly what you’re talking about. When you wake up in the middle of either Stage 3, Stage 4 sleep, which is the deep physically restorative sleep or REM sleep, which is the deep mentally restorative sleep. Your brain wants that sleep and so it wants you to go back to bed. And it’s going to continue to make you feel sleepy in order to try to get you to fall back asleep. Where as, if you woke up at the end of a sleep cycle, which is, believe it or not, Stage 2, it’s much, much easier to wake up. You feel more refreshed and you’re ready to rock and roll.
Robyn: Okay? So not everybody has to get eight hours of sleep?
Dr. Breus: Oh, absolutely not. That’s a myth for sure. I mean, look, I’m the sleep doctor and I get between six and six and a half hours every night. So people need to understand.
New Speaker: And you know what? I can show people a quick experiment. So most people have a socially determined wake up time, meaning, got to get the kids ready for school. Got to get up for work. What have you. We know that the average sleep cycle is roughly 90 minutes long. We know that the average person has between four and five of these sleep cycles. So if you take a 90 minute sleep cycle and you multiply it times five, that’s 450 minutes or again, roughly seven to seven and a half hours. If you count backwards from your wake up time, it will tell you what your bedtime should be.
New Speaker: So if you wake up at 6:30, your bedtime should probably be around 11:00. So, if you run the experiment and you go to bed at 11:00, see what happens. I ran the experiment for me, and let me tell you what happened. It failed! And it failed miserably. And I’ll explain to you why. I went to bed at 11:00 and instead of waking up at 6:30, which is when I wanted to, I woke up at 5:30. I tried to stay in bed and I felt like crap all day. The next day I did the same thing, went to bed at 11:00, woke up at 5:30. Then I said to myself, maybe my sleep cycle isn’t 90 minutes long. I’m going to go to bed an hour later and see what happens. I went to bed at midnight. I woke up at 6:30 on the nose and I have ever since. So my sleep cycles, it turns out are approximately 78 minutes long now.
New Speaker: “How on Earth, Michael, did you know that your sleep cycle was 78 minutes long”? Well, guess what, everybody, I’m a sleep doctor. I work in a sleep laboratory, so it really wasn’t too hard for me to spend the night there one night and figure out how long my cycles were. Not everybody has the opportunity to do that. But you know, we all do have the opportunity to track our sleep these days. There are some pretty interesting sleep trackers out there that can actually be quite helpful.
New Speaker: My personal favorite sleep tracker is something called the “sleep score”. Uh, you can go to the APP store and download it. It actually works with your iphone. Um, I think they’re coming out with an android version soon. This is something that’s really cool because all you do is you point the speakers of the phone towards you and it can actually measure which stages of sleep you’re in, your cycles and give you some really good ideas. So understanding when to wake up or rather when to go to bed so that you can wake up naturally will absolutely put a better start on your day.
Robyn: Interesting. Yeah. I’ve found out through my own experimentation, and I think, you’re suggesting that we all have to experiment and kind of come up with a hypothesis and test it, that for me, an hour before midnight is worth two hours after midnight. And I’m going to wake up between five and six no matter what I do.
New Speaker: There is so much conversation right now about cannabis, about marijuana. There’s some talk out there that the FDA has really been holding back and pushing on keeping marijuana illegal in so many states. Even though it’s really well documented at this point that alcohol is way worse for us than marijuana consumption. You’re going to probably have some comments. I’ve read some research on this, about what does alcohol do to your sleep? What does marijuana due to your sleep? But, now that the FDA is coming out with a drug based on cannabis, there’s some talk about how they just wanted to be first to market.
New Speaker: And so once that’s out there, well, they want to see all these political walls fall down and we’re going to see a lot more use of cannabis. I mean, some influencers, some people in my space and yours are out there selling cannabis, but they’re running a lot of risks doing so, at their brand being shut down and what they’re saying about it and how it’s distributed and lots of issues there. But, what do you think about people who are taking cannabis before bed? It’s being pitched by the marketers just going crazy. It’s just a dog fight out there over cannabis. And lots of claims being made that it’s the cure for everything.
New Speaker: What do you think about cannabis for sleep and what does your sleep lab stuff tell you about that?
Dr. Breus: Sure. So first of all, everybody needs to kind of get a little bit of a basic education behind cannabis. And so cannabis is a lot like wine, in the fact that there’s red wine and there’s white wine, right? So there’s two main types of wine. Well, the same holds true with cannabis. It turns out that there’s two main types of cannabis. There’s something called Sativa and there’s something called Indica.
New Speaker: So, Indica turns out to be the more relaxing, slow yourself down type of cannabis. Whereas Sativa, has a tendency to be more energy promoting and more uplifting. So if you’re looking at cannabis for sleep, specifically for people with real issues of anxiety, pain, PTSD, and things of that nature, you definitely want to stay on the Indica side for sure.
New Speaker: The next question that you have to ask is: “Do I want something with THC or without THC?” So THC is the psychoactive properties within marijuana that gives you that high. Is that good for sleep? It actually is good for sleep, but in a very particular ratio. So it turns out that you don’t need to have a tremendous amount of THC. You just need to have enough to kind of settle you in and make you relaxed.
New Speaker: The real thing that seems to be giving us the good power for the punches as it were, is something called CBD or Cannabidiol. CBD is now being shown out of some studies in Israel and Belgium to lower inflammation dramatically. And inflammation, all kinds of inflammation, now, I’m not just talking about inflammation where you’re sore or you’ve hurt yourself or something like that, but just bodily inflammation based on diet and things of that nature has a major effect on sleep. And so I’m a proponent of cannabis for sleep, but I’m a proponent of well documented research to look at CBD in particular for sleep.
New Speaker: We really don’t have enough information yet looking on the THC side. So, as it stands right now, and by the way, CBD, which is extracted from Hemp, which is one of the genders of the marijuana plant, is perfectly legal in all 50 states. However, if there’s any THC in it, the psychoactive portion, that’s where things can get a little wonky. So, as it stands right now, I can tell you that the data is pretty clear that CBD can and should be quite helpful for sleep.
New Speaker: I’ve written a couple of blogs about this topic in particular, so if people want to check that out, they can go to my website, which is: thesleepdoctor.com And then under my blogs, just type in CBD and you’ll see two or three blogs where I’ve written extensively about CBD in particular.
New Speaker: But you gotta be careful because you can’t just kind of walk into a dispensary and say: “Hey, I need the sleep weed”. It doesn’t really work that way just yet. It’s kind of a little bit of the wild west. You really want to work with somebody who knows and understands it. So maybe the doctor who may have given you your medical marijuana card. Or if you’re in a state where it’s recreationally legal, see if you can find a dispensary where they’re giving educational lectures or sometimes they have almost a concierge who can help walk you through that.
New Speaker: Believe it or not, they’re now actually making, um, disposable cartridges specifically designed just for sleep. So it has the ratio of CBD to THC in it. I’ve never tested any of those, so I can’t tell you how well or not, those work personally, but I can tell you that I’ve had several patients use them and they find them to be highly effective.
Robyn: Now some people drink alcohol because it helps them fall asleep, but then what happens?
Dr. Breus: So there’s a really big difference between going to sleep and passing out, right? And so one of the things we have to realize, is alcohol is probably one of the most toxic substances there is. Really there’s almost no use for it in your body. Yet it’s actually the oldest elixir there is as well. Alcohol, while it makes you feel sleepy, the ETOH the ethyl alcohol, itself actually prevents your body from getting into deep, restorative, physically restorative sleep or what we call Stage 3 and Stage 4 sleep. Drinking alcohol right before bed can definitely make you feel sleepy, but you do not. I repeat, you do not get the physical restoration that you’re looking for.
New Speaker: Believe it or not, Robyn, half of the reason we have a hangover is from lack of deep sleep. The other half is due to dehydration. Which is another major factor because alcohol’s a diuretic, makes you pee, so all of a sudden you become dehydrated very, very quickly. So one of my chief recommendations has always been, I don’t have a problem if you want to have a couple of glasses of wine at dinner because I enjoy wine as well, but you really want to keep it to below three glasses and you want to stop approximately three hours before lights out. It takes the average human body approximately one hour to digest one alcoholic beverage. And that’s where I came up with those numbers.
Robyn: Yeah, it seems like most people who drink alcohol will go to sleep easily and quickly, even if that’s not their normal tendency, but then they just like clockwork, wake up at 3:00, 4:00 AM and then they’re tired the whole next day. What’s that about?
Dr. Breus: So that is exactly what we’re talking about is this complete lack of Stage 3, Stage 4 sleep. And that’s really where the problem lies.
Robyn: Okay. Let’s talk a little bit about the drugs for sleep. And we don’t have to go through them all. But you know, I’ve read so many things about how massively higher your cancer risk is if you use Ambien. And people love Ambien because you take it and you don’t feel tired when you wake up from it in the morning. But now I have a couple of friends who just would take Ambien and then for some reason would stay awake and wander around and do weird things and send very weird texts to people and it’s become kind of an epidemic.
Dr. Breus: Yeah, that can happen as well. So here’s the problem, pharmaceutically induced sleep is not the same as natural sleep. There’s no argument by anybody about that. However, there are some people out there who have such significant issues, whether it’s a mental health issue like PTSD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, you name it. That will require that supplementation isn’t going to work. Natural sleep is never going to get them there. No matter how many cognitive behavioral therapy sessions we go through, there are just some people that need a drug to sleep, and you know what? That’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that.
New Speaker: I don’t want people out there to think all sleep drugs are bad because they’re not. Used by prescription from your doctor in the way that you should be using it, they can actually be very effective. Here’s where the problem comes in, is if you don’t fall into that category, but your doctor doesn’t really know what to do, they just write you a scrip for Ambien. And let me tell you something. Ambien is a powerful, powerful medication. It works and it works well. It barely interacts with anything else except for alcohol. Um, one of the biggest issues is if somebody had a glass or two of wine at dinner and then they take an Ambien even a couple of hours later, it can have a significant interaction effect there. And it can make you do some really weird stuff.
New Speaker: By the way. I oftentimes, if I’m in clinic and somebody comes to me and they say, “I’ve gotten a prescription from my doctor for Ambien, um, you know, but I’m a little bit concerned about using it. What should I do?” Number one, if you’re not getting enough information from your doctor about your medication and you’re uncomfortable using it, call your doctor, get more information, come on over to my website, whatever you need to do to get more educated on something you are about to ingest is going to be important. So that’s fact number one.
New Speaker: Fact number two, never ever, ever drink alcohol when taking a sleeping pill! Number one, from a common sense perspective, I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but I need to say this, it’s just a bad idea. Um, you know, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to add a respiratory depressant like alcohol to another respiratory depressant, like a sleeping pill, because that’s how you end up having a really big problem on your hand.
New Speaker: The other thing to remember is if you are going to be taking it for the first time, don’t take it alone. Have a bed partner or a friend come spend the night so that somebody can kind of keep an eye on you to make sure that you don’t have some kind of weird reaction, like walking around and texting and shopping on QVC or whatever it is that you might have a tendency to do.
New Speaker: The final thing I ask people to do is, if you’re going to try a sleep medication, take it and turn out the light. You don’t need to take it and then go wash your face, brush your teeth, get into your pajamas. Ambien affects people, usually within 15 minutes. Take it while you’re lying in bed, turn out the light, turn off the television and just relax and let the medication do what it’s supposed to do.
New Speaker: Most people do not do that. They take right before they brush their teeth because they keep their pill bottle next to their sink. Keep your pill bottle next to your bed, and that’s when you should take it. A lot of people misuse the medication. Um, and I’m not saying that it doesn’t have those side effects for some people because it does, even if you use it correctly, but generally speaking we can usually narrow it down to some sort of a misuse or abuse.
Robyn: Yeah, I’m embarrassed to say that long before I knew the side effects of Ambien and possibly what it’s actually doing, which isn’t necessarily putting me to sleep. I had it next to my bed and decided a long time ago, just literally don’t fill the prescription, don’t even have it on hand. Just go half a night or a whole night without sleep after something stressful happens at night or whatever has to happen rather than use Ambien.
New Speaker: Because the way I would use it is, if I wake up at 3:00 AM and I start stewing about something, then I start stewing about the fact that I’m going to be tired all day and that I really shouldn’t be awake at 3:00 AM. And then when you’re stressed out, of course you can’t go back to sleep. I would take it because for whatever reason, a half of a five milligram Ambien would knock me out for one sleep cycle. And then I’d wake up and I can go work out hard, I can do anything. It didn’t put me to sleep and I slept all day like happens for a lot of people, it just gave me a good sleep cycle.
New Speaker: But I have read and I’d like to check this out with you. I’ve read that Ambien doesn’t actually put you to sleep, it puts you in a trance.
Dr. Breus: So it really depends upon your definition of sleep. Right? If we look at somebody who’s taking Ambien, they actually do go into official sleep stages. So literally by definition we have to say that people are by definition, asleep. However, if you wake somebody up who’s just taken an Ambien and fallen asleep and you ask them were they asleep? Nine times out of ten, they’ll say no. So there’s a disconnect there. And also the other thing that a lot of people don’t know is after about 30 to 60 days, Ambien becomes less and less effective. And in some cases becomes completely ineffective.
New Speaker: So we’ve got literally millions and millions and millions of people out there who take this drug every single night. And in many cases it actually has almost zero effect because they’ve been taking it for so long. When you look at prescription sleep aids, again, not for people who’ve got major medical issues or mental health issues, but for just the general public, a sleeping pill is good to break the cycle of insomnia for 30, 60, 90 days, once you kind of go past that, it’s really not an effective use of the medication.
New Speaker: And so in our clinic, I’m always telling people, we need to look at ideas for natural supplementation, look at real deficiencies that your body has, fulfill those deficiencies. Then see if you actually would need a sleep aid, like an Ambien, or Lunesta, or Sonata or one of those. But generally speaking, my job, 95 percent of the patients that show up in my office for insomnia, they want to get off the drug. And they just feel like they can’t because there’s a real psychological component to this and uh, people get scared to come off their Ambien.
Robyn: Yeah. That’s why I had to just literally not have the prescription in my house because if I knew it was in my nightstand next to my bed, I would lie there at 3:00 AM and be like: “Don’t take it, don’t take it. You know, we’re trying to not take this more than once a month.” And so I just removed the brain damage of that whole internal debate. But, I found it only worked for me maybe three nights in a row if I was processing some really stressful situation in my life. That’s always been when I have sleep troubles is when something is very stressful. And for some reason my psyche doesn’t seem to get clear on the fact that it doesn’t do its best work at 3:00 AM, but it tries to. So, good stuff on Ambien. Thank you for the feedback.
New Speaker: I think it’s fascinating to learn what sleep labs learned that really busts some of the myths. And I’ve read, and this may be comforting to people, that people will say how much sleep they got at the end of the night and they almost always under report it when it’s tested in a sleep lab. Accurate or not?
Dr. Breus: Yep. That is correct. It’s pretty amazing to be honest with you. It’s just one of those things that you kind of sit there and you say to yourself: “Wow, that’s incredible. It’s really not as effective as I think it’s going to be.” But many, many people misreport how much sleep they get, especially while taking these medications.
Robyn: Yeah. So that may be helpful to us that a lot of times we wake up and we have anxiety about, oh my gosh, I didn’t get enough sleep. And from those who track this, like you, the professionals in the sleep labs, we learn that we usually got more sleep than we think we did. Which is probably why when someone says: “I’m going to go take a nap”, and then an hour later when they get up you ask: “Did you sleep?” And they say, “I don’t really know”. It seems like if you don’t know, you probably did.
Dr. Breus: Yeah, exactly.
Robyn: Okay. Well do you have anything to say about all the endocrine disruptors in our environment? We’re all being bombarded with all these chemicals for the first time in the history of humans, literally 80,000 of them approved for use in our air, food, water, etc. Do you think that these play a role in why so many of us have sleep problems and if so, what do we do about that?
Dr. Breus: So that’s a big question because there’s a lot of different things that are out there. Here’s what I would tell you, first of all, we don’t know the answer. Science hasn’t gotten there. One of the things that people don’t realize is that the very first sleep laboratory was actually in 1946. So when we look at sleep medicine, we’re at it’s infancy in terms of just understanding the basics in terms of what are the sleep disorders and what should we do about them, much less what are all the toxins that are flying and floating around our world, whether it’s, EMFs from WiFi, to some of the sweeteners in our food to sugar. I mean, the list goes on and on, right? I mean, you’ve identified that in many of your teachings. So we really don’t know about all of them.
New Speaker: There are a couple that seem to make some sense. One of them I mentioned just briefly was EMFs. There’s a whole host of people out there who are EMF sensitive. And you know, you could have blown me over with a feather, because I had a patient tell me: “I swear to you there’s something, but every time I walk into my bedroom, there’s a problem. But I can sleep anywhere else in the house”.
New Speaker: And so I actually went to their house and I was like, what could it be? And it turned out that their router for their internet for some reason was in their bedroom. And I couldn’t understand why. So I asked him. They said there’s something about the house structure and it helps the WiFi to go all over the house. And I was like, “Turn off your router. I’m just curious to see what happens”. They’ve never slept better and they’ve kept their router off ever since. So while I can’t necessarily say that there’s an assessment tool out there that can let me know if somebody is EMF sensitive, if you have historically had EMF sensitivity issues, we can tell just by case study that it seems as though that can be affecting sleep.
New Speaker: Other things that I’ve noticed like as an example, and this is a little bit different than a hormone example per se, in terms of that this is a time of life hormone example, but menopause. We know that women have tremendous sleep issues when it comes to peri-menopause, menopause and post- menopausal times in their lives. We know that their sleep is dramatically affected by that. As a matter of fact, they did like a five part blog series just on menopause and sleep. So that could be something that could be important for people as well. But we’re definitely learning more. But I will honestly tell you that the research is in its infancy as it stands right now.
Robyn: Yeah, I think it’s really cutting edge of you to be aware that chaotic frequencies in our environment are real. They do impact people. I feel like the wellness authors out there that I hang out with you and other influencers are really tuned into the power of EMF in our environment. But the average person out there is not. So we have a lot of work to do there.
New Speaker: But I do want to mention a couple of quick things since this is a topic that we’ve covered a lot in the last couple of years, at greensmoothiegirl we talk a lot about EMF. And one of them is that when I installed greenwave filters in the hotspots in my bedroom, I have never slept better than the two nights after that. Yeah. I installed them so that bleeding electricity that we were getting really excessive readings from, I put the greenwave filters in.
New Speaker: I will put a link to the greenwave filters. You could buy them in bulk for, especially where you sleep and where you work in your house, where you spend most of the time in your house. But that helped a lot. Not super expensive. So the two nights after I installed them and then I went and put a sound bar in my room with some speakers and that kind of set me back and I need to figure that out again. But, after I installed them, I slept through the night a full eight hours of sleep, two nights in a row for the first time in probably 10 years. And so yeah, that was really interesting to me.
New Speaker: Another thing I want to mention is that my readers may know that I’m about to move to Park City, Utah after spending 33 years down here in Utah county. I’m going to go into Park City for the clean air. My youngest child just graduated high school. I’m sort of an empty nester, although my kids keep coming home. But I decided against the EMF blocking paint, which I’ve been looking into a because it’s going to be a big hassle. I had to do the EMF blocking paint and then I had to do another coat of nontoxic paint over that. And then I learned from several experts that it also keeps EMF in, doesn’t let it leave. Plus there’s the window’s issue.
New Speaker: So I chose a canopy over my bed. I didn’t want it to look ugly or have to fight my way out of it to get out of my bed. And so I found one, unfortunately it’s like $1,500. There’s a thing that you put under your bed for the EMF that comes up from the floor below you or whatever, and then the canopy. So that is what I’m going to be going with after my extensive research to deal with the EMF issue because I’m serious about protecting my sleep. I don’t want to lie in bed and not sleep. That’s a big waste of time. So, thank you for talking about those several additional things that might affect our sleep.
New Speaker: I would love for you to talk a little bit about, I know that you’ve made some connections between this emerging science that I think like other things, that you’ve touched on is such new emerging science that we don’t come anywhere close to knowing everything there is to know yet. But the microbiome. You know, the human microbiome project I think kicked off something like 20 years ago. And it’s started to really come out what we learned about our second brain and the huge microbiome in our 35 feet of GI tract is only starting to come out in the last 10 years. But what does that have to do with our sleep?
Dr. Breus: So it turns out that the microbiome functions on its own circadian rhythm. And that circadian rhythm follows the sleep cycle. And so when your sleep cycle is off, it makes your bio rhythms off, which makes your microbiome off. And if your microbiome is off, it can actually affect your sleep cycles. So there’s a really interesting two way street. This data is hot off the press. I mean, I’m talking like, you know, within the last six, eight months that we’re learning more and more about how the microbiome affects sleep.
New Speaker: If you’re one of those people who is starting to learn more about the microbiome, starting to become more proactive by looking at prebiotics and probiotics and kind of trying to get your gut in line, which, by the way, I highly recommend, then what you will discover is as you do that, your sleep gets significantly better. Um, literally overnight.
New Speaker: So again, it’s leading edge science here, but we know that your microbiome does function on a circadian rhythm. There are highs and lows during times of heightened bacterial activity and lowered by bacterial activity. Your gut is, like you said, it’s your second brain, so it would make perfect sense to me that your second brain could also influence your sleep, which of course it does. So again, new new stuff, new new science going on. But if you do decide to get a healthier microbiome, I can almost guarantee you that you’ll have healthier sleep.
Robyn: Okay. And this is just taking it one layer deeper and this is super, super ninja stuff here. I don’t know if you’ll have an answer, but I just got home two days ago from Switzerland where I’d been for three weeks. And my boyfriend told me as I was coming home because I said: “Oh my gosh, I always have really rough jet lag coming home from Milan.” Because I fly to Milan and back every single year for like I think eight years now. And I’m like, “Well, I’m not looking forward to the adjustment when I get back”. And he said, “Well, I read that based on, you know, emerging microbiome research that if you take probiotics that you’ll have a lot less jet lag. Do you know anything about this?” I was like, “Why do you know this? I should know this. Why what? You’re not a wellness influencer.”
Dr. Breus: So, we do know that air travel and bad oxygen both affect the microbiome pretty significantly. Right? Because remember, it’s a timing issue and so it’s a circadian issue. And so basically your stomach is in Milan and you’re in Utah, right? And so that takes time for it to catch up. So by loading up on some probiotics or prebiotics ahead of schedule, it makes sense to me that it could be helpful. I’ve never seen any data to support that, but it definitely makes sense to me.
New Speaker: But for people out there who are interested in dealing with jet lag, I actually have a new app out that people can download from the app store. Or actually you can just go to, it’s called “Time Shifter”, so if you go to timeshifter.com/thesleepdoctor, then you can download the app. You get your first two round trips for free and it can be anywhere in the world. And it’s really cool app. It tells you when to get light exposure, when to use melatonin, when to use caffeine, when to nap. And um, we’ve been able to reduce jetlag dramatically.
New Speaker: We’ve been using it for about three years now with the astronauts in the NASA space station. Because they actually have a new day every 90 minutes or so, that space station goes whipping around the moon pretty quick. And so that’s been interesting. We’ve also been using it with Formula One race car drivers. Because they’ve traveled all over the world and they have to be alert to the millisecond. And we’ve had great success with them as well. So for folks out there who are having issues with jet lag, go to timeshifter.com/thesleepdoctor and you should be able to download it for free and check it out.
Robyn: What a cool tip. You know, you’ve shared so many great bits of information and tips about sleep. And I know that people will learn a lot about how to get better sleep and what factors are affecting it. I’m going to ask you two more questions as we wrap up. What’s cutting edge, what are you learning that’s coming out of the sleep labs that people should know?
Dr. Breus: So I would say one of the biggest things lately that I’ve been working with people on is understanding more about supplements and supplementation and specifically body deficiencies and how those can have an effect on sleep.
New Speaker: The biggest thing I’ve recently been learning a lot about is magnesium. It turns out that almost all of us are magnesium deficient. Our bodies don’t actually produce magnesium. And even if we ate a bushel of kale a day, which by the way nobody should do, our bodies wouldn’t absorb it. Because the soil that kale is grown in these days has been overused and isn’t mineral rich and isn’t giving us the magnesium that our body needs to function. I mean there’s like over 300 different things our body does that require magnesium. So one of the things I tell people all the time is you need to look forward and consider magnesium supplementation.
New Speaker: Now I personally have a cardiac issue and so I have to take a very high dose of magnesium every morning because we want the magnesium in my cardiac tissue to be very reactive. But most people don’t require that much magnesium. About 200 to 250 milligrams at night before bed can actually be very, very helpful.
New Speaker: Also, melatonin is something that a lot of people ask me questions about it. Remember, melatonin is a hormone. Most people don’t need melatonin. Most people have plenty of melatonin in their system. However, for jet lag it can be very helpful. But also once you reach age 50 to 55, and I turned 50 this year, I can tell you that you start to understand that melatonin internally starts to slow down, the production rather.
New Speaker: So having a melatonin supplement might not be the worst idea. But you need to be careful of the dosages. It should be between a half and one and a half milligrams. Most dosages out there is three, five and ten milligrams. That’s completely unnecessary and wasteful. And quite frankly, we don’t know what the effects could be longterm. And, as well, as it’s not FDA regulated, so you really have to find good melatonin in order to be able to take it safely and effectively.
New Speaker: But those two areas, melatonin research and magnesium research have been two things that I’ve been really keying in on. I’ll be launching my own supplement within the next three to five weeks and those are things that I’ve decided to put into it, but in very specific amounts and in very certain instances.
Robyn: I’m glad you brought up melatonin because if we hadn’t, we would have left out something really important cause it’s probably the most well known sleep supplement. And I’m glad you said half to one and a half milligrams is the right amount. I do a sleep webinar every year when I get a really great deal from my favorite bed manufacturers, you know, InteliBED.
New Speaker: And I tell people, you know, what I see happening and it’s changed in the last 10 years, is that as more and more people want to try melatonin and they understand how the pineal gland is affected by these weird, unnatural things that we do late at night with blue light in our device addiction. I see the marketers out there putting higher and higher levels of melatonin in their supplements, sometimes five milligrams. And I think I’ve even seen 10 milligrams, which is ridiculous, like you said. And you know, I don’t know what longterm effect that may have on our pineal gland being able to produce it if we’re over supplying. I don’t know. I don’t know that anybody knows that.
New Speaker: But, I feel like the manufacturers are doing it because so many people who know very little about melatonin and our need for it think, well, if melatonin is good, more is better. And so of course they’re going to provide us the five milligrams because people will see it and be like, “Well, so this one isn’t any more expensive and more is better. Right?” So I’m glad you said that.
New Speaker: I wanna ask you a quick question about magnesium because I’ve added that to my, sometimes nighttime supplement regimen. But there are several different types of magnesium and some are better for sleeping than others. Are you talking magnesium citrate or what compound?
Dr. Breus: So that’s the problem, is some people do better with chelated, some people do better with citrate, some people do better with oxide. So you have to try a couple of them. Me personally, I take citrate. I can tell you the brands too that I use. I happen to have a bottle of it sitting here in my office. It is called “Mag SRT” and this one is different because it combines Vitamin B with magnesium. Which actually works out really well for me. And this type of magnesium is called di magnesium malate and it’s 500 milligrams.
New Speaker: So again, there’s a lot of different magnesium out there. You might have to try a little bit to understand. And the first thing you probably want to do is get your magnesium levels checked. That’s not normal blood work that goes on at your doctor, maybe at your functional medicine doctor it is, but not at your regular doctor. So certainly something that people should probably think about.
Robyn: Yeah, good to know. I was taking a broad spectrum b complex at bedtime. I did it for several nights and I kept waking up in the morning and I was just like sweating like night sweats. And I don’t usually have that. And I was like, “What on earth is going on?” And finally I realized, uh oh, niacin is in there. I’m having a big flush. And so don’t take an entire B complex at night. Bad idea.
New Speaker: Let’s go to the last question. What are a few things that anyone can do, who’s having a hard time falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting restful sleep, that we haven’t covered?
Dr. Breus: So here’s what I’ll tell you is I’ve got a super easy five step plan that everybody can use tonight that can be helpful for sleep. Alright. So Step one is to stick to one, wake up schedule. And what do I mean by that? If you wake up at 6:30 during the week, do yourself a favor and wake up at 6:30 on the weekends. The longer you sleep in, the more likely your whole time clock is to shift. and that’s what we call social jet lag. So step one is have one wake up time. You can vary your bedtime if you want to. I wouldn’t, I like to keep things very consistent and that actually allows me to actually need less sleep overall.
New Speaker: Step number two has to do with caffeine. I don’t have a problem if you drink a cup of coffee everyday even two, but you want to stop caffeine by 2:00 PM. Most people don’t realize it, but caffeine has a half life of between six and eight hours. And so by stopping at 2:00 at least half of it is out of your system by 10:00 and that will allow you to fall asleep much easier.
New Speaker: Um, I know a lot of people out there might say, “Oh, I can drink a cup of coffee and go right to bed”. You might be able to, but the truth of the matter is, is that caffeine is a stimulant and it prevents you from getting into the deeper stages of sleep. So while you may fall asleep, you may not get the quality of sleep that you’re looking for. So stopping by 2:00 PM is probably a good idea.
New Speaker: Step number three has to do with alcohol. And that’s where we were talking earlier, you want to stop drinking alcohol approximately three hours before, lights out. This gives your body time to digest those two or three drinks. And again, you’ll be able to fall asleep instead of passing out.
New Speaker: Step number four has to do with exercise. The single biggest way to improve the quality of your sleep is with daily exercise. I’m not talking about running a marathon, okay? You can go out for 20 minutes and walk the dog. Or go to the mall or whatever you want to do and just get a little bit of exercise in will definitely be helpful. But you may want to not exercise within four hours of bedtime because some people get a little revved up from exercise and can make it a little bit more difficult to fall asleep.
New Speaker: And then finally, Step number five is to get 15 minutes of sunlight every morning. You know, for so long, people have been like, “Oh, you can’t get out in the sun. You’re going to get skin cancer”. Look, let me tell you something. I’m not saying go out and roast yourself out there for three hours every morning. I’m saying 15 minutes of direct sunlight. Number one, you get your Vitamin D production, but number two, it resets your circadian rhythm each morning.
New Speaker: So in summary. Step one is choose one wake up time and stick to it. Step two is stop caffeine by 2:00 PM. Step three is to stop alcohol three hours before bed. Step four is to stop exercise four hours before bed and Step five is to get 15 minutes of sunlight every day.
Robyn: Wow. That was absolutely fantastic. So I really appreciate how much really actionable help you’ve given us here. Where can people find you? Tell your quiz url again and where they can find you and your book, of course.
Dr. Breus: Absolutely. Thank you for asking. So if people want to know what their chronotype is, go to: thepowerofwhenquiz.com And you can learn what your chronototype is. If you want to learn more about the book, it’s just that: “The Power of When”. And my website is: thesleepdoctor.com.
Robyn: Thank you so much for this great content and for doing the great work that you’re doing in the world. Dr. Michael Breus.
Dr. Breus: Well, thank you Robyn. You’re sweet to say that. And you know, it’s always a pleasure to have the opportunity to talk with people who have a true value for sleep and value health and who are interested in learning the truth. And I know that’s what you are. That’s what you’ve always been about. And I know your audience really appreciates it. So thank you, it’s been an honor.