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Dr Michael Breus: The Sleep Doctor, Hacking Jet Lag & The Power Of When

Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.

Guy:  This week we welcome to the show author, speaker, comedian and internet Youtube sensation Dr. Michael Breus. He is a Clinical Psychologist and both a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He was one of the youngest people to have passed the Board at age 31 and, with a specialty in Sleep Disorders, is one of only 163 psychologists in the world with his credentials and distinction. Dr. Breus is on the clinical advisory board of The Dr. Oz Show and appears regularly on the show (>30 times in 4 years).

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Questions we ask in this episode:

  • Why is sleep so important and what happens if we don’t achieve quality sleep
  • What supplements can we use to help us sleep?
  • How can we improve our home environment for sleep?
  • We were intrigued by your book – The Power Of When. Can you explain a little about the book.

 
Get More Of Dr. Michael Breus
http://www.thesleepdoctor.com/

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Full Transcript

Guy
[00:00:30] Hey. This is Guy Lawrence to 180 Nutrition, of course. And welcome to another episode of the Health Sessions where we’re constantly connecting with leading global health and balance experts to share the best and the latest science of thinking of powering us all to turn our health and lives around. And this week, our awesome guest is Dr Michael Breus, also known as, “The Sleep Doctor.” Now, I have to say, I loved this episode. His enthusiasm and knowledge for this topic was amazing. Now, we’ve covered sleep a few times on the podcast before, but again, there was so many nuggets of wisdom to come out of this and the way I thought about sleep and my own personal sleep and how we apply it. And obviously, we know how passionate Stu is about sleep as well. And it was just great and I have no doubt you’re gonna love it.
[00:01:00]
[00:01:30] He covered things from jet lag to circadian rhythms to what we can do and hacks and tips and all sorts of stuff. And it was awesome. And if you aren’t familiar with his work, Dr Michael Breus is a clinical psychologist, and both a diplomat of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, and a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He has a specialty in sleep disorders and is only 1 of 163 psychologists in the world with these credentials and distinctions. He also appears as a clinical advisory board of the Dr Oz show, and appears on the show on a regular basis. So yes, he knows what he’s talking about.
[00:02:00] The other thing that I wanted to mention is that thanks for the iTunes reviews, guys. I really appreciate it. iTunes have made it easier than ever now to leave a review on the podcast, and if you are listening to our show on a regular basis, we’d really appreciate a review just to continue to help get this message out there, and more people like yourselves can listen to the show. And the other thing is, we are currently running a promotion for all our podcast listeners.
[00:02:30] So if you’re struggling to eat healthy on a consistent basis and want to check out our convenient whole 180 super food, have a smoothie in between work meals, it’s super simple. Getting all nourishing and natural ingredients to save you snacking on bad food choices. Just come back and we’ve got a whole host of other products on there as well, of course, that will help you be the best version of yourself in your nutrition daily. You get a 15% discount code. So if you just head back to the 180 website, which is obviously 180nutrition.com.au, and enter the code 180PODCAST during checkout. All the podcast listeners get a 15% discount on our fantastic products.
Anyway, check it out. That’s 180PODCAST is the discount code. And let’s go over to Dr Michael Breus. Enjoy.
[00:03:00] Hi, this is Guy Lawrence. I’m joined with Stuart Cook as always. Good morning, Stuart.
Stu
Good morning, Guy.
Guy
And our awesome guest today is Dr Michael Breus. Michael, welcome to the show.
Dr. Breus
Thanks for having me, Guy and Stuart. I really appreciate it. It’s gonna be a lot of fun.
Guy
Yeah, it’s gonna be fantastic. Stu’s a kid in a candy shop as always with this topic. So we’ll see what happens. But the question I always ask everyone on the show when they come on, Michael, is if a stranger stopped you on the street and asked you what you did for a living, what would you say?
Dr. Breus
I would tell them that I teach people how to be better in bed.
Stu
Yeah, there’s a conversation starter right there.
Dr. Breus
[00:04:00] Usually that’s my one-liner and it gets me pretty far. So when I talk with people, usually the only thing I have to say … They ask me what I do for a living and if I say I’m a sleep doctor that’s usually all about I have to say. Although, I will tell you that some people wonder if I’m an anesthesiologist or not. That’s the only level of confusion. But most people know either me or about the profession of sleep medicine.
Guy
Yeah, beautiful. What led you into this work in the first place?
Dr. Breus
[00:04:30] So I didn’t grow up saying, “Gosh, I want to be a sleep doctor now!” I mean, I’m 49 years old and when I was in college, I don’t even think there were sleep doctors. I mean, certainly not like the way they are now around the world. So I graduated from undergraduate with a degree in psychology, and then I went to graduate school and received my PhD in clinical psychology. And clinical psychologists in the States, we have to do a one-year internship or residency program. And when I went to my residency program, there was a rotation that you could take in sleep and sleep disorders. And I thought, “That’s gonna be kind of cool. I want to learn more about sleep.” It was interesting.
[00:05:30] And I had worked my way through graduate school in the electrophysiology department. So I know how to take apart and put together every kind of machine that can read a signal from your body. So whether it’s EKG or EEG or EOG or EMG. All of the E’s and the G’s, I know how those machines all work, and that’s how I worked my way through graduate school. And it turns out that the sleep department uses the biggest one of them all. It’s a 27 electrode machine, and I knew how to work it. And so they gladly accepted me into that part of the internship program, because they didn’t have to teach me a lot of the things they were gonna have to teach other people.
[00:06:00] And honestly, by the third day I absolutely fell in love with clinical sleep medicine. I get the opportunity to help people that fast. It’s literally unbelievable. I mean, in some cases, I can change somebody’s life in literally 24 hours. And when you look at classical clinical psychology, it can be weeks, months, even years before you see treatment gains. And so, for me, I like the speed that I get to move. I like to fix people quickly, and honestly, when you change somebody’s sleep, you change their life.
Guy
No doubt.
Stu
So tell me why sleep is so important. And perhaps, more importantly, what happens if we don’t achieve quality sleep?

Dr. Breus
[00:06:30] So it’s a good question, but it’s hard to answer. So we know what happens when the body doesn’t sleep. We don’t necessarily know all the reasons as to why we sleep or why sleep is even important. But when you look at sleep deprivation, which is the lack of sleep, it’s individual, right? So I’ve been a six-and-a-half hour sleep for my entire adult life. But my wife, she needs eight-and-a-half, right? If she got six-and-a-half, she would be horribly sleep deprived. If I get six-and-a-half, I feel great.
[00:07:00]
[00:07:30] So one thing is, sleep deprivation is relative, but once you figure out if you’re deprived or not, here’s the bottom line. Sleep affects every organ system and every disease state. There’s literally nothing you do that isn’t affected by your sleep. Whether that’s immune function, that’s decision making, that’s reaction time, that’s moodiness. It spans the human experience through every form of emotion, through everything that can possibly go on. If you’re not sleeping well, it has an effect. Just to put a period on the end of the sentence, a recent study just showed that the more sleep deprived you are, the faster cancer cells multiply. Just think about that for a second.
Stu
That’s an early warning signal right there.
Dr. Breus
[00:08:00] That’s a huge [inaudible 00:07:39] there, right? It’s like, “Holy cow! That’s amazing!” So folks out there who are listening … And I’m not the guy that says everybody has to get eight hours, okay? Because I don’t get eight hours, so why would I tell everybody else to get eight hours? If you can figure out what you need for sleep and get it on a regular basis at regular timed intervals, you’re gonna see a tremendous improvement in your overall health.
Guy
[00:08:30] Yeah, fascinating. It’s interesting, isn’t it, with sleep, because like you’re saying, we’ve been podcasting four and a half years. And one of the things that keeps coming up is sleep. But in the health space where we’re at, most people don’t seem to address their sleep. I mean, we get a lot of people looking at weight loss and maybe stress reduction and nutrition and things like that. But sleep always seems to-
Dr. Breus
All related to sleep.
Guy
All related to sleep. But in the outside world, it seems to be the other way around. Everyone’s looking for external things to fix things. But if they addressed the sleep first … Is that where you come at it from? It’s like, okay, maybe their lifestyle’s not great or there’s different aspects … Or do you attack it on every level?
Dr. Breus
[00:09:00] Well, it’s interesting. Remember, I’m an actively practicing sleep specialist. So for 17 years, I’ve had an office where people show up in my office with sleep problems, right? They may have insomnia. They may have sleep apnoea. They may have narcolepsy, restless legs, periodic limb movements, sleep walking, sleep talking. You name it. Believe it or not, there are 88 different sleep disorders out there. 88. Who knew you could screw up your sleep 88 different ways, right? But I’ve seen them all now at this point in my career.
[00:09:30]
[00:10:00] But that’s really the clinical side of sleep. Looking at diagnosis, assessment, and disorder. What I’ve really moved into in the last probably three to four years has been the non-clinical side of things, which is an area where you see a lot of people who are podcasting and healthy, and some of the people that you’re discussing, live. So we talk about nutrition. We talk about exercise. We talk about overall health and things like that. Not necessarily diagnosable, problematic disorders, syndromes, situations. And so, when you start to look at sleep from that perspective, it gets even more interesting. Because, quite frankly, I can help more people that way.
[00:10:30] In my office, I can only help about 30 people a day. So I’ve got 30 slots. That’s what gets filled. I read my sleep studies. And don’t get me wrong. It was great, but it was exhausting because I couldn’t scale. I couldn’t help lots and lots of people. And so, what I really wanted to do was find ways to help bigger groups of people. So I started to look at exercise, nutrition, supplementation, habits that you have before bed, behaviors, lifestyle changes, all of those things. And what I discovered was, if you change some of those you can actually affect your sleep. In some cases, better than the known treatments that are out there.
[00:11:00] As an example, when a patient comes to me and says, “Hey, I’m not falling asleep well,” or, “I’m not staying asleep well,” traditionally, if they went to a medical doctor they might get a prescription for a pharmaceutical. But is that really all that helpful? In my mind, I would say it might be immediately helpful or it might help break the cycle of insomnia. But if you have a sleep problem and then you take a pill, you now have two problems. You have a sleep problem and a pill problem.
[00:11:30] And now the data’s very, very clear. For something that I do, which is called cognitive behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy actually works faster and better than traditional pharmacotherapy. So it’s amazing and it lasts longer. I mean, it’s more powerful. The data is very, very clear on it, but yet there aren’t a lot of these practitioners out there, and people have to really get involved and change their lifestyle. And of course that’s the hardest thing to get people to do is to change their-
Guy
So tell us a little bit about cognitive behavioral therapy, because I’m not aware of that at all.
Dr. Breus
Okay. So it’s in multiple phases. And if people want to learn more about CBT, if you go to my website thesleepdoctor.com, there’s a whole section there where it’s got all kinds of definitions and things like that. But briefly, it’s basically a two-phased approach. Phase one is where I give my patients a sleep diary and they document, “I went to bed at this time. I woke up at this time. I woke up this many times at night.” That kind of stuff. And then I look at that and then I will actually assign them a different bed time and a different wake up time.
[00:13:00] This technique is called sleep restriction, which is phase one of cognitive behavioral therapy. So we actually change their sleeping times. I only allow them to go to bed at a very particular time and wake up at a particular time, and that time, by the way, is restricted to six hours or less. They can’t take any naps during the day because I’m building up their natural sleep deprivation to use in my favor. Because I want them tired because if they don’t … Let’s say, one of you came to me and you said, “Michael, I can’t sleep.” I said, “Okay. We looked at your sleep diary. I want you going to bed at midnight. I want you waking up at 6:00 AM.” Take no naps throughout the day, go to bed at midnight. In 7 to 10 days you’ll be so damn tired you’ll start falling asleep like this.
[00:13:30] Then the next part is extending that for a couple of weeks and then they stop waking up in the middle of the night. Once I can lock and load somebody with six hours of solid sleep, then I can slowly start to inch that out. Maybe have them go to bed 11:45, then 11:30, then 11:15, then 11:00. The key there is only moving in 15 minute increments one week at a time. If you do it too fast, screws the whole thing up.
[00:14:00] Now in the midst of going back and extending their time, that’s when the cognitive portion comes in. So I will evaluate … I have special assessment tools like questionnaires that help me identify when people have miscognitions about sleep or what we call cognitive distortions. So somebody might say, “If I don’t get eight hours of sleep it’s going to affect me for the whole next day.” Well that’s not true. I mean, let’s be honest. How many of us out there have not gotten eight hours of sleep and we’ve been just fine the next day? How many people have gotten six hours of sleep and been just fine the next day? We identify these thoughts, these negative thoughts that people have, and then we challenge them and that’s the cognitive part of cognitive behavioral therapy.
[00:14:30] I start with the behavioral part, which is the sleep restriction. Then I move to the cognitive part, because I gotta get them sleeping. Because once they see that they’re sleeping better, they’ll do more stuff that I want them to do. But I gotta get their buy in early on, and that’s why I use the sleep restriction first.
Guy
Interesting. So there’s like a mindfulness practice there for them to start observing the way they’re looking at things.
Dr. Breus
[00:15:00] Yeah. And so, when you take mindfulness in particular, you have to be a little careful when it comes to sleep. Only because, mindfulness really has a tendency to center somebody and bring them into the here and now. I mean, that’s what mindfulness does. It brings you there. You have to be careful with mindfulness because you don’t want people doing mindfulness training just before sleep, because sometimes it can be very activating and it can actually give you energy. And so you want to be careful.
So in my mindfulness work with people, I might have them do mindfulness work three, four hours earlier in the day. Still important work to do. Still important thinking and functioning and all of those types of things. But you just have to be a little careful about doing it too close to bedtime because you don’t want to screw up peoples’ sleep.
[00:15:30]
Guy
Interesting. And what about the quality of sleep versus the length of time you sleep?
Dr. Breus
[00:16:00] So this is perfect. I’m so glad you asked about this because so many people don’t. People oftentimes just think about the quantity of sleep. I sleep six hours or this many minutes or whatever. Sleep is a quality game not a quantity game. And that’s the big secret within sleep, is making sure that you have quality sleep. And believe it or not, the easiest way to improve the quality … There’s two. There’s two really simple ways to improve the quality of your sleep. One is 20 minutes of daily exercise. The data is super consistent that people who exercise regularly have much better sleep. But number two is going to bed, and more importantly waking up, at the exact same time every single day.
[00:16:30] The wake up period is actually like hitting the reset button on your circadian rhythm. And once your brain really starts to understand … For me, it’s 6:30 wake up time. And that sucks on Saturday and that sucks on Sunday, but you know what? I’m up. And here’s what’s worse. If I lay in bed for an hour, I feel like crap the rest of the day. Do you know what I’m saying? So really being super duper consistent actually helps improve the quality of that sleep because your brain knows, “I’m going to bed at this time. I’m waking up at this time. I’ve got of stuff I’ve gotta get involved in here. Let’s go.” And it really improves the overall quality of sleep.
Guy
Interesting. So routine’s key, isn’t it?
Dr. Breus
Routine is it.
Guy
Because it’s interesting because sometimes I’ll go to bed and literally I’ll have five or six hours and I feel … I’m just on and it’s great. And then other times you can have an eight hour sleep and I’m dragging my feet and I’m thinking, “What have I done?”
Dr. Breus
[00:17:30] So there’s a couple things to think about with that. So number one, remember that we sleep in sleep cycles. So there are these cycles. So we go from wake to stage one, stage two, stage three, four, back to stage two, and into REM sleep. That little dance step that you go is very particular and people all follow the same one. That little cycle is approximately 90 minutes. And so, you were mentioning bio hacking before and talking about that. One of the things I tell a lot of my patients is, “You need to sleep in 90 minute segments.” So that’s seven and a half hours or that’s six hours. Do you see what I’m saying? Because if you wake up in the deeper part of a sleep cycle. You’re doomed. I mean, it really sucks.
[00:18:00] Have you ever taken a nap and felt worse, not better, after taking the nap?
Guy
Totally.
Dr. Breus
[00:18:30] That same thing will occur if you wake up out of the middle of a sleep cycle. And so, learning how long your sleep cycles are can be very advantageous for you to figure out exactly how it works. I use a sleep tracker to track my sleep, and what I discovered was is I don’t even have 90-minute cycles. My cycles are about 78 minutes long or so. Now, granted, I have a sleep laboratory. I can figure this stuff out pretty easily. And for folks out there who don’t necessarily have access to a sleep lab, what’s cool is now we’re starting to see is that there are some fairly accurate sleep trackers on the marketplace.
[00:19:00] And that’s something that’s worth discussing, too. I think, historically, when we look at people who’ve gotten into the field, it’s easy to give recipes. It’s easy to count calories. It’s easy to count steps or get workout routines. But how do you measure sleep? You wake up in the morning. Well, was that a 37? Was that a 95? I don’t know. I can’t get on a scale. I can’t measure my gait and see how far I stepped. I can’t measure calories. So it’s been very difficult until fairly recently to be able to actually metric sleep. Once we’re able to do that, that’s where it gets interesting. That’s when we can start messing around with it and tweaking our sleep to our benefit.
Guy
Yeah, right. And, sorry Stuart, I’ve gotta ask one question in there. Because you mentioned the word nap. Are they effective, or should we use them or not?
Dr. Breus
[00:20:00]
Absolutely. So as an example, let’s say that you guys came to me and said, “Michael, I can only get four and a half hours of sleep last night.” We know that’s not enough sleep for anybody. I don’t care who you are, that’s not enough sleep. So strategic napping can actually be highly effective, and there’s a couple of different kinds of naps. There’s what I call a power nap, which is 25 minutes or less. And then there’s a full cycle nap, which is a 90-minute nap like what we were just talking about with sleep cycles. So you can play around with those. And of course, that gets into the discussion a little bit of what’s called polyphasic sleep. I don’t know if you guys are familiar with that term. But it’s when people will sleep for small increments throughout a 24-hour period, and they don’t require as much sleep.

Guy
Right, okay. But if you’re, say, having your eight hours sleep but then you’re still requiring naps during the day, then you might want to question that?
Dr. Breus
[00:20:30] If you sleep roughly eight hours a night and you’re still tired, the very first thing I’m concerned about is the quality of the sleep that you’re getting during those eight hours. Because you shouldn’t need more sleep. I mean, when we look at the spread, it seems to fall somewhere between seven and nine hours seems to be average across the population as to what people need. Once you start needing more than nine hours then I’m reasonably confident that the sleep that you’re getting isn’t good sleep, or you’ve got depression or narcolepsy. So those are the other things that you have to, on the back end, look for as a sleep specialist.
[00:21:00] When somebody walks in to me and says, “I’m sleeping 10 hours a day.” I’m like, “Phew!” So first thing I do is I do a depression screen. Next I start looking for narcolepsy. If neither one of those pops, then I’m sending them to the sleep lab because I want to figure out what’s going on with the quality of that sleep.
Guy
Interesting.
Stu
[00:21:30] Right. Got it. So I was going to ask for tips for those struggling to sleep, falling asleep or staying asleep, but I think I’ll rephrase that as to what would be perhaps the top inhibitors to sleep? So what are we doing routinely that is really destroying our sleep that, perhaps, we might not be aware of?
Dr. Breus
Well, okay, so what I’d like to do is I’d like to give that answer to you, but in a format of steps that people can take to be able to improve their sleep tonight, for your listeners. If that’s okay.
Guy
Perfect.
Stu
Okay. Great.
Dr. Breus
[00:22:00] So step number one is to have a consistent sleep schedule. We talked a little bit through that, but just again, it’s the wake up time that’s the most important. So if you choose 6:30 as your wake up time, I don’t care if you’ve stayed out until 4:00 in the morning at the pub on Friday night, your ass is up at 6:30 in the morning on Saturday. Because even a 30 minute sleep in shifts your entire internal biological clock. It affects your genetics. Once you do that, you’re screwed at that point. So you really need to be as consistent as you can. Now, I’m not saying to the minute, but within 5 or 10 minutes of your normal wake up time, and that’s important. So step one is a consistent wake up time.
[00:22:30] Step two has to do with caffeine. So we know caffeine’s the most abused substance in the universe. Most people don’t know, though, that caffeine has a half-life of between six and eight hours. So I ask people as step two to stop caffeine at 2:00 PM, because that gives them enough time for at least half of that caffeine to be out of their system, because we know when about half of it is removed then you shouldn’t have any problems either falling asleep or staying asleep.
[00:23:00] Now I guarantee you there’s somebody who’s listening to this who’s saying, “Sleep doctor. He doesn’t know what the heck he’s talking about. I can drink a cup of coffee right before bed and fall right to sleep.” I guarantee you there are people out there that are thinking this right this very moment.
Guy
I know some of them.
Dr. Breus
That was gonna be you?
Guy
No, but I know a few people that do for sure.
Dr. Breus
[00:23:30] So here’s the deal. There are actually different caffeine sensitivity levels that’s been discovered for people, and that’s a genetic component. But more importantly, most people who can fall asleep after drinking a cup of coffee, number one, they’re so damn tired it’s overriding the effects of caffeine. But more importantly, if I attached electrodes to their head, they can’t get into the deep stages of sleep with caffeine on board. So remember how we were just talking about getting that deep, refreshing sleep and that quality sleep? Caffeine obliterates that. It keeps you in very, very light sleep. It’s fragmented. You wake up a lot. You’re not gonna feel particularly refreshed. So for people out there, stop caffeine by 2:00 PM because it will help you not only fall asleep, but get into deep sleep, which is critical.
[00:24:30] Step number three has to do with alcohol. So there’s a really big difference between going to sleep and passing out. There’s a big difference. So we gotta talk about that, because alcohol is the number one sleep aid in the world. More people use alcohol to help them fall asleep than anything else out there. That will probably change over the course of time, and it will probably move towards cannabis. Especially here in the United States where we see there’s 28 states that have made marijuana medically legal, and there’s several states that are now making it recreational. I live in California, right outside of Los Angeles, and January 1 across California marijuana is gonna be legal for recreational use. So you bet your bottom dollar that people are gonna be using it for sleep.
[00:25:00] But back to alcohol. We know that it takes the average human body approximately one hour to digest one alcoholic beverage. So here’s what I figure. Take three hours before lights out and stop drinking then. That will allow you to have two or three beers at the pub or glasses of whine or shots of whiskey, whatever your pleasure is, and have it not affect your sleep. Half of the reason that you have a hangover is dehydration. The other half is alcohol’s effect on deep sleep in that it doesn’t allow you to get into that deep sleep, very similar to the way caffeine affects you. So step three, stop alcohol three hours before bed.
[00:25:30] Step four is exercise. We’ve talked about that a little. 20 minutes of daily exercise, best thing you can do. But some people actually get jazzed up from exercise, so you want to probably stop exercising roughly four hours before lights out. That way it allows your body to cool down, you don’t have a lot of those endorphins going so it doesn’t prevent you from sleeping.
[00:26:00] And the last one, step number five, is every morning within 30 minutes of waking up, get 15 minutes of sunlight. So most people don’t know this, but sunlight actually turns off the melatonin faucet in your brain, and that’s part of the reason people have brain fog and harder to get up in the mornings, and things like that, is because this melatonin faucet is still going, going, going. So by getting that sunlight, boom! It just levels it, stops it, and you wake up better.
Guy
Beautiful. Fantastic. I just feel for those people back in the UK.
Dr. Breus
Yeah, I’m gonna do a quick summary. Step one, have one wake up time. Step two, stop caffeine by 2:00 PM. Step three, stop alcohol three hours before bed. Step four, stop exercise four hours before bed. And step five is 16 minutes of sunlight every morning.
Stu
Great. Fantastic. So I’m just gonna come at it with another question as well-
Dr. Breus
Fire away.
Stu
[00:27:00] So Type A personalities – and I put myself in this camp as well – the overactive mind, constantly on, whirring away like a machine. So what about those who struggle to stay asleep, perhaps wake up at 2:00 in the morning and are instantly switched on with a racing mind? What do we do to tackle that?
Dr. Breus
[00:27:30] So there’s a couple different things. So first of all, we have to discover why does somebody wake up at 3:00 in the morning? Which, by the way, is the most common complaint I hear. I don’t hear nearly as much people telling me, “I can’t fall asleep,” because people are so damn exhausted. What I do hear is people say, “2:30 in the morning, 3:30 in the morning.” And it’s really interesting because it’s usually a very particular time. People say, “3:37 I wake up every day. I see the clock.” That kind of stuff. So there’s a couple of things to think about.
[00:28:00] So number one, why might you be waking up? Well, there’s some data to suggest that blood sugar could actually have an issue here. So when people are having sweets at night, it spikes their blood sugar, and then the blood sugar … You fall asleep because the carbohydrates help you fall asleep, and then that blood sugar tanks and it gets really, really low, and then your brain says, “Holy crap. There’s no sugar. That’s my food.” And so it spikes your cortisol to produce insulin to then get you going again. Well guess what? Spiked cortisol at 3:00 in the morning is gonna wake your butt up pretty quickly. So being able to have steady blood sugar across the night can be actually effective.
[00:28:30] So this is a trick I just learned. So I don’t know if you guys have ever seen this stuff. It’s called manuka honey. It’s raw honey. And it can be any. It doesn’t have to be this manuka, but just raw honey in general. One teaspoon of raw honey before bed, it’s very difficult to metabolize the raw honey and it actually keeps the blood sugar nice and stable throughout the night. Now, if you’re diabetic or you’re doing paleo, that’s not gonna be so good. So at that point you can look at treatment-resistant starches like plantains, green bananas is another one. People can have, again, before bed to maintain that level of sleepiness and stay asleep.
[00:29:00] Let’s say, okay, you tried that but you’re still waking up at 2:00 in the morning. What’s the strategy? What do you do? So number one, don’t look at the clock. Don’t. Because you instantly do the mental math. And you can’t help it. You’ll say, “3:37. I gotta wake up at 6:30. Crap! I gotta be up in three hours.” And then you try really hard to sleep, sleep, sleep. And it never frigging works. [inaudible 00:29:17] all this autonomic arousal. You’ve increased the sympathetic nervous system to the point where you’re up, you’re going. So number one, stop looking at the clock.
[00:30:00] Number two, if you don’t have to pee, don’t. Most people say, “I’m up, I might as well get up. Go to the bathroom and pee.” Here’s what happens. When you go from a recumbent position to a sitting position to a standing position, your heart rate increases. Most people don’t know this, but your heart rate needs to be at 60 or below to enter into a state of unconsciousness. So by sitting and standing you just made it twice as hard for you to go back to sleep. What you gotta start doing is thinking about things that can help reduce that heart rate. Whether that’s deep, diaphragmatic breathing. Whether that’s meditation, yoga. Whatever you can do to stay flat and keep that heart rate down, you have a far greater likelihood of being able to fall back asleep and get back into that rhythm.
[00:31:00] But let’s say you can’t fall back asleep. You wake up at 3:30, now it’s 4:30. You’ve been breathing. You’ve been doing yoga. You’ve been doing everything. Nothing is working. Go ahead and get up. Go ahead and get up, take no naps during the day, but don’t – I repeat – don’t go to bed early. That’s the worst thing that you could do no matter how exhausted you are. And this is a classic mistake that all of my insomniacs make, is they say, “Oh my gosh, I’m so exhausted. I only slept for three and a half hours last night. I’m gonna get into bed a couple hours early to catch up on my sleep.” Sleep is a lot like a baseball game. If the game starts at eight and you show up at six, you just see batting practice. You don’t see any game. And the same holds true on the bedtime side of things. If the game starts at eight and you show up at 9: 30, they don’t restart the game for you. But you can really manipulate it so you can keep that schedule, you’re gonna be doing much better in general.

Guy
Wow. That’s a fantastic tip. Truly, I can relate to so many things you just said then.
Stu
[00:31:30] Yeah, that’s really good. It’s interesting, as well, because you mentioned the honey and the blood sugar as well. Because I had a particularly good night’s sleep on Saturday night, and we actually had quite a late meal and I had a big strip of pork belly. So it was a huge lump of fat. And I just put that down to, “Well, there’s all the fuel I need to get me through the night.” And it just worked.
So it’s a really interesting point. It’s very informative [inaudible 00:31:46].
Dr. Breus
[00:32:00] So that’s really thinking through that whole idea that your gut is a chemistry set and whatever you stick in there it’s gonna have long-reaching affects. And you’re fasting for six, seven, eight hours, and so your body really has to look at energy expenditure in a unique way. It really has to understand what’s going on, and you feeding it three pieces of chocolate cake before you go to bed screws it all up.
Guy
Interesting. And is that, you mentioned the heart rate as well then. I’d never heard that before. Is that why maybe heat and the temperature of the room can affect our sleep?
Dr. Breus
[00:32:30] So that’s a little different. So sleep actually follows your core body temperature rhythm. So all of us have a 24-hour ish core body temperature rhythm, and what happens is your core body temperature will slowly go up, go up, go up, go up, and then around 10:30 at night it peaks and then starts to go down. When it starts to make that crest and goes down, that’s a signal to the brain, to the pineal gland, to release melatonin. So when the room is too hot, your temperature can’t go down, and that’s where the heat problem tends to come in. Does that make sense?
Guy
[00:33:00] Okay. Yeah, it does. And one more question. Sorry, there’s so many things that are popping in now.
Dr. Breus
As many as you want.
Guy
If you were to fly to Australia this week, how would you-
Dr. Breus
I did it three weeks ago.
Guy
Oh, did you? How would you tackle the jet lag?
Dr. Breus
Okay. So it’s very particular in what you have to do. So jet lag is tough and it’s complicated. It depends upon the direction of travel. It depends upon the length of travel. It depends upon the timezone that you leave from and the timezone that you get to. So I’ll relay to you my experience of what happened for me.
[00:33:30] So I live in Los Angeles, so it was 12 hours to get to Paris, and then from Paris it’s another 4 … No, is that right? No, it’s 16 to go to Australia, right?
Guy
That sounds about right.
Stu
From Los Angeles, yep.
Dr. Breus
[00:34:00]
[00:34:30] So it was 16 to get there, and so I was China the week before, so that’s why I was thinking that. So Australia, very, very interesting. When I left here, 16 hour flight, I was going to arrive there at 6:00 in the morning and I had to walk off the airplane, take a shower, get dressed, and do filming all day. And I had to do videos and interviews and all this stuff all day long. So how do I do that? So what I did was, we left in the evening, and it was 16 hours, so what I did was, I looked in that 16 hour window and I said, “Okay, I’m gonna try to stay up as late as I possibly can, and push my six to seven hour sleep towards the back half of my trip.” So that way I wake up roughly an hour before the plane lands, and I will have gotten my six-and-a-half to seven hours because I’ve changed my circadian cycle by staying up.
[00:35:00] Now, is it easy to do? No, it’s not easy to do. So what I had to do in order to keep myself awake was use light therapy. So remember, light turns off the melatonin faucet. So by using special light therapy glasses, I could actually be able to not become sleepy. I also used a little bit of melatonin. So melatonin plus light was able to … Well light was able to keep me awake, then I took melatonin and then it put me to sleep, and then as soon as I arrived in Australia I worked a full day, went to bed at my normal midnight time – but I took melatonin about 90 minutes before – when I woke up I had my light therapy. I had zero jet lag. Zero.
Guy
And what about if it was the other way around?
Dr. Breus
[00:35:30] It’s a little bit harder on the other way around, but you can time it roughly the same way. You just have to be very careful of the timing. Here’s the good news for you guys and for all of your listeners and viewers, is I’m coming out with a new app called, “Time shifter.” And you plug in your trips and it’ll help you determine which flight is best for your level of jet lag. It will also get you recommendations before and after the flight of what to do to slow down or eliminate jet lag.
Guy
That’s amazing. When’s that coming out? That would be so cool.
Dr. Breus
We think it’s gonna come out the first quarter.
Guy
Okay. Please let us [crosstalk 00:36:01].
Stu
Right. I think it will be quite a popular app. So you’ve mentioned melatonin as well. Are there any other supplements that you would deem to be useful in the toolkit of sleep?
Dr. Breus
[00:36:30] Yes, I would. One of my favorites … Actually, I might have some sitting around here. Let’s see what that is. Ah, here we go. Magnesium. I don’t know if you guys ever do any magnesium. Magnesium’s huge. And actually I’m putting out a blog either this week or next on magnesium, so people want to check it out they can with all the science behind it. But magnesium does a great job of calming people down. Your body has over 300 different reactions that require magnesium, and most people are actually magnesium deficient. Unless you’re eating a bushel of kale a day, you’re just not getting enough magnesium in your body. So I’m big on recommending magnesium supplementation, particularly at night because they can have a very soothing, sedating effect on people. So I like magnesium.
[00:37:00] I only like melatonin when you’re doing things like jet lag or shift work, or have to move your schedule around. Most people don’t have a melatonin deficiency. Until you’re aged like 55 or 60 where melatonin production starts to decrease, then melatonin supplementation, I think, makes a lot of sense. But up until then you probably don’t need it, again, unless you’re a shift worker or jet lag or away on weekends and things like that.
[00:37:30]
[00:38:00] Other supplements that are the most well studied supplement is probably valerian. Most people know about valerian root. By the way, it stinks. It smells terrible. Valerian to me is just disgusting so don’t even bother with it. But it turns out that a mixture of valerian plus hops – like the hops you put in beer – actually seems to work very, very well. There’s a particular ratio that people can look for that can be helpful as well. And then you start to look at some of the other things that are well-known like 5HTP, [inaudible 00:38:02], things like that.
[00:38:30] But you gotta be careful. Number one, you’ve got to worry about interaction effects. What other medications could you be taking that could have an effect on this? Could some of the supplementation affect other medical situations going on in my body? Again, things to check out with your doctor and/or research, learn more about because that really becomes critical. But I would say, looking at those things for supplements can be actually quite good. And, again, first quarter … Well, second quarter next year, I’m coming out with my own line of supplements. So I’ve finally got to the point where I said, “I just don’t like what’s out there and I’ve got to make it myself.” So that’s where I’m at.
Stu
In the interim as well, I know lots of people are very aware of magnesium, but there are lots of different types of magnesium. Is there any specifics that we should be looking at?
Dr. Breus
There are. Oh, gosh. I’m gonna look this up while we talk. Oh, here we go. Benefits of magnesium. Stress reduction. Magnesium citrate is the one I like the most. I’m just double-checking here. Yeah, citrate. But magnesium comes with all kinds of things. I mean, it helps with PMS. Magnesium helps with pain. Magnesium helps with ADD and ADHD. Even some studies on diabetes. It’s actually pretty amazing. I mean, if you’re looking for general health, sleep, stress, magnesium, you’re looking at about somewhere between 100 and 350 milligrams a day.
Stu
Right, okay. Great. Citrate. Good stuff.
Guy
Great tips, eh?
Stu
Absolutely.
Guy
[00:40:00] What about our home environment, Michael? Like what can we do around … Straight away I think about the lighting and the TV and all these things that are going on.
Dr. Breus
[00:40:30] Absolutely. So let me tell you about my bedroom. In my bedroom here’s what you’ll see. We have a king size bed. Right next to me is my French Bulldog. Right next to him is our Chihuahua. Right next to him is my wife. And then on the other side of my wife is the cat. And you can probably hear my dog barking right now, because he is. There’s a big screen TV. It’s on almost all night long. I’m the sleep doctor and I’ve got that as a bedroom. So what does that mean? It means that everybody’s an individual, and rules don’t apply for every single person out there. I can tell you now, if our dogs are not in the bed, neither my wife or I sleep well. We like them there. We like knowing where they are. They’re warm. They’re cuddly. Whatever.
[00:41:30] Now, I have a French Bulldog. He snores like a freight train. So I’ve got him down towards the end of the bed with his snout facing out so the snore goes out. So [inaudible 00:40:58] combinations. There’s no big hard and fast rules, other than when you’re looking at light, that’s a big one. And so, for light, I actually have specialty light bulbs in my house. Lets see if I’ve got any over here. Ah, yeah, I got one right here. So this one’s really cool. This is called, “Good night.” It’s a light bulb by a company called, “Lighting science.” They’re less than $20 a piece. So if you go to lighting.science you can find them there. This is a bulb that has a filter inside it and it filters out the blue light. So I can have a bedside table lamp right next to me, full on going, and it will have no effect on my melatonin production whatsoever, as long as I’ve got this sucker in the lamp.
Guy
Right. There you go.
Stu
Fantastic.
Dr. Breus
The other stuff is basic. You want to stay cool. You want it to be dark. You want it to be quiet. It’s really up to you and your bed partner as to what works for you. And that’s really the key factor is trying to figure out what works.
Guy
Beautiful. Yeah, it’s interesting because the technology in bed as well now it can be very accessible very easily.
Dr. Breus
Well see, that’s a little bit different. I don’t have a problem with television because, look, television is 25 feet or 5 or 6 meters across the room. And by the way, when people fall asleep with the television on they’re not watching it, they’re listening. Their eyes are closed and they’re just listening and listening and then, boom, they fall asleep. It’s actually a fairly good distraction technique. 90% of televisions have a timer in the software now. So just set the timer and it turns off.
[00:43:00] But having your phone right next to your bed, it’s evil. And let me tell you why. It’s because when you pick it up it’s emotionally charged information the second you get it. When I’m watching TV to fall asleep, it’s a rerun of Seinfeld or something like that. Not something that I need to pay a lot of attention to. But if I’m looking at Facebook or Twitter or getting news feeds or reading emails, there’s an emotional component that comes with that and that causes a certain amount of physiological arousal, which makes it very difficult to fall asleep. So charge your phone in another room. You don’t need the EMF’s near your head anyway. And just try to get some good rest.
Guy
Beautiful. You don’t want to be checking emails at 9:00 at night, that’s for sure.
Stu
Very good advice. I really like the phrase, “Emotionally charged,” as well, because you’re so right. The moment we get into the social media spiral it is all about us and what we know, and it turns on that thinking brain whereas, the Netflix … I mean, that just turns it right off. Zombifies us, which is great.

Dr. Breus
Absolutely. So I’m probably the only sleep doctor in the universe that says it’s okay to fall asleep with the TV on because I do it.
Stu
If it works for you. I like it.
Guy
There you go. I can see time’s getting on, but I wanted to mention quickly your book that you had. The Power of When. Because I love the title of that-
Dr. Breus
Thank you.
Guy
And instantly, even some of the things that you’ve said probably play into that. Can you just share a little bit about the book for us?
Dr. Breus
Sure. So the book The Power of When is all about timing based on your internal circadian rhythm. So most people may not have heard of the word chronotype before, but they’ve probably heard of somebody being called an early bird or a night owl, right? Those are chronotypes. It turns out that there aren’t two, there’s four. And so I created a quiz. So everybody out there, if you want to – we can put this in the show notes – if you go to thepowerofwhenquiz.com, you can take this quiz and figure out which one of these four chronotypes you are.
[00:45:00] Now that’s all fun and good but, Michael, what do I do with that information? Here’s where the book got really interesting was, once I know your chronotype then I know what your hormones are doing for a 24-hour cycle, because everybody’s hormones are very particular and they follow a very similar pattern night after night after night. And so, as an example, if I’ve got somebody who’s an early bird, I know that their melatonin switches on at like 8:00 at night. Whereas, a night owl, their melatonin probably doesn’t switch on until almost 11:00 at night. Now think about that for cortisol, for estrogen, for testosterone, for every single hormone in your body there’s big differences based on your genetics.
[00:45:30] This is all genetically-based. I didn’t make this stuff up. I didn’t just cobble together a couple of things. If you go to 23andMe or one of those genetic websites, you can actually get information about a very particular gene called the PER3 gene, and that’s the one that controls sleep drive and timing of sleep. But once you know that, I can tell you the best time to have sex, eat a cheeseburger, run a mile, ask your boss for a raise, you name it. It’s great.
Stu
That’s fascinating.
Guy
That’s brilliant. I’m getting that book. 100%. Yeah.
So just to wrap up the show, Michael. Because we ask a couple of questions on every podcast. And the first one is, what are your non-negotiables to be the best version of yourself each day?
Dr. Breus
My non-negotiables for being the best version of myself each day. That’s a good question. I try to do something for my body, my mind, and my soul every day, and that will vary from day to day, and different things happen because I travel a lot or I’m home a lot. I would say that’s probably the biggest non-negotiable, is throughout a 24-hour cycle I’m gonna do at least one thing for my body, one thing for my mind, and one thing for my soul each day.
Guy
Love it.
Stu
Right. Perfect. Yeah.
Guy
Good stuff. And what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Dr. Breus
The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given. That’s actually an easy one. I was in college and I had some extra money from working the previous summer, and someone told me to buy Apple stock and I did. Best piece of advice I’ve ever received.
Stu
You know what? I was chatting to a friend of mine at the beach on Sunday and he said the very same thing. He bought Apple stock. He also bought Facebook stock. And he had an investment mentor and they said, “You’re crazy. This Apple, they’re never gonna go anywhere.” And they did.
Dr. Breus
[00:47:30]
[00:48:00] There you have it, right? I mean, when you look at health advice, I think from a health advice perspective, the best advice I’ve ever really been given is drink water until your urine is clear, that way you know you’re hydrated because hydration turns out to be such an important factor in everything that we do. And some of the best spiritual advice I’ve ever really been given, I would have to say, is probably you’re not as important as you think you are, and the world is a big place but you can make a difference in it. So give it a shot. And that’s paraphrasing quite a bit, but I’m not the most important thing in the universe, but I can have an effect on my life and I might be able to help other people as well. So that’s always a good thing at the end of the day to try to do that.
Stu
Yeah, fantastic.
Guy
Totally. Fantastic, mate. And so, for everyone listening to this, where can we send them to if we want to find out more of all your work?
Dr. Breus
Sure. So if people want to find out more about my work, you can go to thesleepdoctor.com, that’s my website, or thepowerofwhenquiz.com, to take the quiz.
Guy
Beautiful. Beautiful. Because I watched one of your Facebook Live videos this morning as well, so for all our listeners, mention that as well.
Dr. Breus
[00:49:00] Yeah. So every Wednesday morning I do this thing called Wake Up Wednesday. It’s at 7:00 AM Pacific Time – so that’s US Los Angeles time – and I answer questions live for about 40 minutes. So throughout the week, when people send me questions – email, Facebook, Twitter, whatever – we collect them all and then we have one time every Wednesday, and I answer everyone that I get during the week. So some days I can be talking for 25 minutes. Some days I could be talking for an hour. And I go through every single question.
Stu
Brilliant.
Guy
Yeah, I watched one this morning and it was awesome, so I definitely recommend everyone to check that out as well. For sure.
Dr. Breus
Oh, thanks.
Guy
No worries. Well, Michael, look, thank you so much for coming on today. It’s clear that your enthusiasm shines through with this topic. And that was absolutely brilliant. And I have no doubt everyone’s gonna be looking at sleep a little bit different after listening to this today. We really appreciate it.
Dr. Breus
Well, I’m honored to be part of your podcast. I want to thank you guys for giving me the opportunity. I am very passionate about sleep as most people can tell, but you gotta be passionate about something, right?
Guy
Totally.
Stu
You do. Totally do. Thank you so much for sharing [inaudible 00:49:44], we really appreciate it.
Guy
That was awesome.
 
 

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