Insomnia and Sleep Issues with Dr. Michael Breus [Episode #413]
Welcome to the Feel Good Podcast with Kimberly Snyder. Our goal is to help you be your most healthy, confident, beautiful and joyful! Our topics focus on health and wellness (physical, emotional/mental and spiritual), holistic nutrition, medicinal plants, natural rhythms and cycles, beauty, meditation, self care and rituals, spirituality and personal empowerment.
Feeling Good means we are healthy, balanced, peaceful, confident and joyful, right in the midst of our perfectly imperfect lives. Feeling Good requires us to tune in and nourish our whole selves, which is made up of the four Solluna Cornerstones: our food, our bodies, our emotional well-being and our spiritual growth. Feeling good naturally leads to also looking good, in a much more powerful way from glowing skin created from within, a beautifully healthy body, radiant energy, and a greater level of overall well-being and personal growth.
Every week, we provide you with interviews with top experts in their field to support you in living your most beautiful, inspired and joyful life, with a focus on physical health, wellness, meditation and spirituality and personal empowerment.
I’m your host, Kimberly Snyder, founder of Solluna, New York Times best-selling author and nutritionist. I’m so grateful and honored we found each other!
I am so excited to have my very special guest, Michael J. Breus, who is an award-winning medical writer, a clinical psychologist and both a diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Listen in as Michael shares the many issues that cause sleep deprivation, knowing your chronotype, and tips on how to get a good night’s rest!
Michael shares his expertise on what causes sleep deprivation…
What is the so-called sludge that is said to detoxify from your brain at night…
Pharmaceutical drugs and the alternative to not sleeping, and how it detrimentally affects your health…
What is blue light and how to reduce its effects…
We discuss what is recommended for patients who have sleep issues due to anxiety and depression…
What are chronotypes and its history…
Why women need different sleep at different times in their menstrual cycles…
About Michael J. Breus
Dr. Breus has supplied his expertise with both consulting and as a sleep educator (spokesperson). For over 14 years Dr. Breus served as the Sleep Expert for WebMD. He also writes The Insomnia Blog and can be found regularly on, The Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and Sharecare.
Dr. Breus has given hundreds of presentations to professionals and the general public. He has published original research and worked on grant funded projects and clinical trials. He lectures all over the world for organizations, hospitals and medical centers, financial organizations, product companies and many more. Dr. Breus has been in private practice for 19 years and recently relocated his practice to Los Angeles.
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The intention of the Feel Good Podcast is to well…help you really Feel Good in your body, mind and spirit! Feeling Good means feeling peaceful, energized, whole, uniquely beautiful, confident and joyful, right in the midst of your perfectly imperfect life. This podcast is as informative and full of practical tips and take-aways as it is inspirational. I am here to support you in being your very best! I have so much love and gratitude for you. Thank you for tuning in and being part of the community :).
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Kimberly Snyder: Okay, hey beauties. Welcome back to our Monday interview podcast and I am super excited for our guest today, who happens to be a personal friend of mine. He’s amazing, his name is Dr. Michael Breus PhD. He’s an award winning medical writer, 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 is popularly known as the sleep doctor though, and he’s been on the Dr. Oz Show dozens of times. We actually met checking into the Dr. Oz Show. They put you in the same hotel, so we met in line a couple years ago and then we periodically run into each other. He’s fantastic, he has so much information on sleep. I cannot wait for you to hear about everything he has to say.
Fan Of The Week
Kimberly Snyder: All right beauties, before we get into our interview today with Dr. Bruce, I want to give a quick shout-out to our fan of the week and her name, or his name, hard to tell sometimes, is Mike Hills 1207, and he or she writes, ‘The title of your podcast is perfect. Since the first show I listened to that my sister shared with me, I keep going back to listen to previous podcasts and/or eagerly awaiting new ones to be posted. I’ve shared this with friends because I want to pass on the love and support you provide. Thank you for being my inspiration during my morning runs as that is when I dial in and it makes me happy for many, many miles.’
Kimberly Snyder: Oh Mike Hills 1207, thank you so much for being our Fan of the Week. Thank you so much for your beautiful review. I am so grateful for you being in our community. I send you a virtual hug wherever you are listening to this right now. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Share The Podcast& Write A Reviewon Itunes
Kimberly Snyder: And beauties, for your chance to also be shouted out as the fan of the week, please also just take a minute or so out of your day to leave us a review on iTunes. Super easy. I know sometimes it’s like we put off stuff, I know I do too sometimes, but maybe today is the day where you just take a moment, pop over there, leave a review, and from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much in advance because it really helps the show grow and helps people organically find the show, which is what we want for people to benefit from this information, it can really change people’s lives.
Kimberly Snyder: So thank you so much in advance and also a little reminder to please subscribe to the show, if you haven’t yet already. It’s a really great self-care thing to do for yourself, so you stay tuned in to motivation and inspiration and you don’t miss a Monday interview podcast or a Thursday Q&A podcast. All right, all that being said, let’s get right into our interview here with Dr. Michael Bruce.
Interview withMichael Breus
Kimberly Snyder: So Dr. Breus, thank you so much for being here with us today. It is exciting to have you.
Michael Breus: Oh, thanks for having me. I’m super excited to be here.
Michael shares his expertise on why there are so many issues with sleep today
Kimberly Snyder: Dr. Breus, I think I read somewhere recently that something like 50 million Americans have sleep disorders, which range from insomnia to sleep apnea, all these different iterations. Why are there so many issues with sleep today? Do you think it has to do with electronics and blue light and people being stressed, or is there some sort of physiological reason? What is going on right now? Why aren’t people sleeping well?
Michael Breus: So first of all, I’m glad you noticed, there’s so many people that haven’t figured this out yet. There was actually data that came out within the last probably month or so just looking at something called sleep apnea, which is where people stop breathing in their sleep. It’s now estimated that over 980 million people have undiagnosed sleep apnea around the world. That’s almost a billion people, not in the United States, mind you, but around the world, right? So it’s almost a billion people out there with a sleep disorder. I mean that’s crazy when you think about just the number of folks that have that.
Michael Breus: So to answer your question, why? Why do so many people have sleep disorders? What’s been going on? I think there’s different reasons based on the sleep disorder, so as an example, with sleep apnea, I would argue, not in all cases, but in many cases being overweight is definitely a risk factor and as we know here in the United States, there are a lot of folks who are overweight and also quite a few people that are obese. I mean you don’t have to be big in order to have sleep apnea, but most people that have sleep apnea unfortunately are big and so that’s certainly one of the reasons why we’re starting to see this. Of course, anatomy has a big effect on sleep apnea as well.
Michael Breus: If you’ve got big tonsils, big adenoids, those kinds of things. If you move on over to something like insomnia, the reasoning is very different. While, it doesn’t matter if you’re big or you’re small, you can certainly have insomnia. But that a lot of times has to do with stress. One of the things I can tell you, Kim, is since 9/11 I’ve had a backlog of people wanting to see me for insomnia, since 9/11. So it’s really, 75% of insomnia is either stress or depression and insomnia, it affects almost a third, a third of the population.
Michael Breus: I mean if there’s 400 million people in the United States… 30 million people at any given time are not sleeping too well. So it’s just, it’s rampant and I think the biggest reason is people don’t put it as a priority. I mean, you’ve noticed it, you and I have had many conversations about how important sleep is and you’ve said how you want to educate your group, your tribe of people to learn more and understand, I mean, sleep is healing. Why would anybody do anything to affect their body’s ability to heal? It just doesn’t make sense to me.
Kimberly Snyder: Well, I think like you said, historically, some people don’t really value sleep. They kind of siphon it off at either end. They’re like, “Oh, well I’m going to focus on eating. I’m going to focus on getting to the gym and exercising.” And maybe not really understanding sleep’s effect on balancing our hormones and autophagy and detoxification that goes on in our brain. One thing I’ve heard a little bit about too, speaking of detoxification, Dr. Breus, sorry, I didn’t mean to call you Dr, Breus, I know you said I could call you Michael, but-
Michael Breus: Call me Michael.
The so-called sludge that is said to detoxify from your brain at night
Kimberly Snyder: What’s up with this so-called sludge that is said to detoxify from your brain at night. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?
Michael Breus: Absolutely, so one of the things that we know is that during stage three and four sleep, one of the things that we know is that it’s kind of like a waste removal and we get out all of the bad proteins that are building up in our brain. Amyloid proteins, something called tau. These are things that have been linked to things like Alzheimer’s, dementia, cognitive decline.
Michael Breus: So one of the big things that we’re always talking about with people is, “Hey, think about something like this because stage three, four sleep actually helps keep your brain healthy, helps keep that out there for you.” And people don’t really think about it that way because longterm effects could be disastrous. And that’s really where autophagy hits hard, right? That’s when we start to see people really understanding more about something like autophagy, which is that cleansing out of the system. But sleep has a dramatic effect on it.
Pharmaceutical drugs and the alternative to not sleeping and how it detrimentally affects your health
Kimberly Snyder: So let’s say we start to understand how important sleep is and then some, and after this I want to get to some natural solutions, but if it’s between not sleeping and not having proper autophagy and potentially really disrupting your hormones and taking pharmaceutical drugs, I mean this is a hard decision that a lot of people have or family members. I mean, we know Dr. Breus that, sorry, Michael, there’s millions and millions of people are in pharmaceuticals. I mean, what? What is your take on that, if the alternative is just not sleeping and really detrimentally affecting your health?
Michael Breus: Right, so to be fair, there are definitely people who require pharmaceutical intervention for sleep. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. Now these people might be in very specific medical situations. These people might be in very specific mental health situations, things of that nature. So there’s a lot of different people out there that can definitely have some pretty significant-
Kimberly Snyder: Well what percentage would you say that is, of people that are medicated? Is that like a high percentage, a fraction-
Michael Breus: Well that’s a great question, Kim. I mean, here’s what I would tell you, is in my practice, almost every patient that shows up shows up on drug and they’ve been on drug for extended periods of time. So a lot of times the first thing people are saying to me is, “Well, my Ambien, my Restoril, my Sonata isn’t working any more.” And so the first thing I say to them is, “Well, why do you keep taking it if it’s not working?” You know what they say to me?
Kimberly Snyder: What do they say?
Michael Breus: They say, “Can you imagine how bad my sleep would be if I didn’t take it?” So what we’ve got is we’ve got this fear, right? So once somebody gets on a sleeping pill, then they’re afraid to come off of it, which keeps them on the sleeping pill. So not only are some of these things highly physiologically addictive, but there’s a mental addiction that goes along with these as well, and a fear and that’s the thing that we really have to break. And so I would argue that probably anywhere from less than 15% of the people that are on sleeping pills probably need to stay on sleeping pills.
Michael Breus: Now, to be fair, I don’t want anybody listening to just pull themselves off of their sleeping pills, okay? That is a dangerous thing to do. You have to do a drug taper, you have to do it with a physician, preferably your prescribing physician, things like that. So please, please, please don’t just cold turkey stop taking your sleep meds. Number one, you’ll end up being awake for three or four days. Number two, it could be quite harmful, but I would argue that most people don’t need a drug to help them sleep.
Michael Breus: Now there are people where supplementation can be helpful. There are people who just have, by the way, an underlying medical disorder that looks like a sleep disorder. An example of that would be hyperthyroidism. When people’s thyroid is overactive, it actually looks like insomnia. So again, going to a sleep specialist and learning more about what could this be? Turns out to be very, very important. But no, to be fair, not everybody needs to be on a pharmaceutical. I would argue that most people do not.
Whether a baseline test of all organs is important to do and what those tests consist of
Kimberly Snyder: So when you see patients at your clinic is one of the first things you do, sort of a baseline test of all organs. Like you mentioned thyroid. Do you think that’s important to do initially?
Michael Breus: I do, so what I do is a little bit different than what many other sleep specialists do because I work with physicians and so they’ll order the blood work and we do a full screen. So we look at everything from thyroid to iron. We look at vitamin deficiencies, we look at mineral deficiencies, things like vitamin D, magnesium, things like that. So the first thing we want to figure out is could there be something deficient or could there be something wrong with the system that’s causing this sleep problem, physiologically? Then the next thing we look at is, could this be mental health? Remember if it’s insomnia, 75% of the time it’s either anxiety or depression.
Michael Breus: So that’s the second area that we start to look at. And then we also look at environment, right? So could it be, you mentioned earlier in our conversation about blue light is blue light causing problems? It is causing problems. It’s not the biggest offender, but it’s definitely causing problems. If I had to pick the biggest offender of sleep, I could easily say that, that was caffeine, right? It’s arguably the most abused substance in the world. It by far affects people’s sleep and I guarantee you, Kim, there are people in your audience who are saying, “Ha, sleep doctor. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” They’re saying, “I can drink a cup of coffee and go right to bed, no problem.”
Michael Breus: So here’s the truth. We now know that people do have different caffeine sensitivities. However, caffeine is a stimulant, whether you like it or not and it doesn’t get metabolized as quickly as most people think. On average, the metabolization of caffeine occurs between six and eight hours. So if you stop drinking coffee at let’s say 3:00, 2:00 to 3:00 in the afternoon, six to eight hours later, only half is out of your system. So what we really want to see people doing is stopping caffeine by about, like I said, 2:00 PM so at least half of it can be out of their system, so they have a greater opportunity to sleep. Now people-
Whether chocolate is a stimulant and how much is too much
Kimberly Snyder: What about chocolate, Dr. Breus? What about chocolate as a stimulant?
Michael Breus: There’s nothing wrong with chocolate. My wife told me long ago if I started getting on media and telling people that they can’t have chocolate, we would be divorced before the end of the day, that’s number one. Number two, there’s not enough caffeine in chocolate to really make that big of a difference. Now to be fair, if you eat a three pound Hershey bar before bed, it’s going to have an effect.
Kimberly Snyder: I am one of those people, Michael, that eats chocolate, even a little square or a few, I pretty much eat chocolate almost every night after dinner. It calms my sweet tooth, I don’t know, it just makes me feel settled, so I’m very happy to hear that. So 2:00, 3:00 okay, that’s interesting because a lot of people, we meet for lunch or not even lunch meetings, coffee meeting, tea meetings and so, “Oh, I’ll just have a green tea.” And all that caffeine, there’s still caffeine in green tea, if you’re not having coffee. That is still going to have a hyper effect on your sleep then.
Michael Breus: there’s no question about it. I mean, I would argue that caffeine is easily our biggest offender, if you will, when it comes to sleep and people don’t even think about it because it’s so ubiquitous, it’s everywhere. Almost anywhere you go, I mean, I went to get my haircut the other day. They were like, “Hey, do you want a cup of coffee?” I was like, “Uh, what time is it? Like what’s going on here?” So I think that, that’s a big thing that a lot of people don’t really think about. Environmentally, we also look at things like blue light, right?
Kimberly Snyder: Yes, yes.
What is blue light and how to reduce its effects
Michael Breus: And so when we look at blue light, here’s how blue light works. So first of all, it’s not blue. It’s actually, it’s called cyan, C-Y-A-N and that is considered blue. That is a particular wavelength of light and so when we look at wavelength, it’s between 450 and 480 nanometers. And what that does is, when that light, which by the way, blue light is in every LED, every regular white light that we see, when it hits a particular cell in our eye, called our melanopsin cells, which we have a couple of million of in each eyeball.
Michael Breus: It actually sends a signal to our brain to turn off the melatonin faucet, right. That’s bad for sleep. This is the reason why we don’t like blue light at night, but we do like it in the mornings. So getting as much sunlight in the morning as you possibly can will help clear the brain fog, but you don’t want light at night. That’s why I personally use things like blue light blocking glasses. We have specialty light bulbs that you can buy for like less than 20 bucks. They can sit in your bedside table lamp, things like that.
Kimberly Snyder: Wow, that’s interesting because I actually did think blue light was more blue, which is why when you put your phone in night mode it kind of looks more red, so it’s-
Michael Breus: So that’s an interesting point, Kim, in that if you put your phone in night mode, it does no good. It doesn’t help you one-
Kimberly Snyder: What? Why?
Michael Breus: Because all it’s doing is, it’s not changing the actual wavelength of light, it’s just changing the brightness.
Kimberly Snyder: It doesn’t do anything for your brain. It does nothing?
Michael Breus: Nothing.
Kimberly Snyder: Wow, so you do have to get the blue light blocking glasses.
Michael Breus: Yeah, especially if you’re going to look on your phone and to be fair, look, I don’t have a problem with people watching television to fall asleep. I even do it. But what I don’t like is if you’re on your phone right before bed, you’re emotionally tied to whatever it is you’re looking at. Whether it’s Facebook or email or trying to get to a high score on candy crush or whatever, right? All of that is not sleep inducing. So what we want is calmness before bed. We want people to chill out. We want people to be mellow, we want people to read, we want people to meditate, we want people to pray, we want people to do all the relaxing things they can do to help themselves fall asleep.
What is recommended for patients who have sleep issues due to anxiety and depression
Kimberly Snyder: And you mentioned, Michael, there’s the caffeine, there’s the blue light and you said a lot of the insomnia is related to anxiety and depression, which again, unfortunately is a huge category besides straight sleep pharmaceuticals where people are also medicating. So what do you say to your patients that have these… you mentioned meditation and chilling out, but I mean as a doctor, what do you say to them when they come to you and you check out their organs, you check out their lifestyle, cut the caffeine and you know it’s anxiety and depression. What do you say to them or what do you recommend?
Michael Breus: So in that instance, I use something called cognitive behavioral therapy. So as a clinical psychologist, that’s one of the things that I’m trained to do. And it’s really fascinating, Kim, you’d find this interesting. It turns out that cognitive behavioral therapy, specifically the kind that’s been developed for insomnia actually works better than all of the sleep drugs out there, works longer and faster. It takes a little while to get involved with it. But once you get through that portion of it, it works quite well.
Kimberly Snyder: Well, is that one-on-one because Michael has books everyone. He has so many offerings. He has his own blue light blocking glasses too, by the way. But is that, I mean you don’t need a clinician to do the therapy with?
Michael Breus: Well, you do. It depends, there are some online courses. I actually have some online courses on my website that people might find interesting, specific for insomnia and there’s-
Kimberly Snyder: Oh cool.
Michael Breus: Yup and there’s even something called Sleepio, which is actually an online cognitive behavioral therapy therapist. They have an AI whole thing and it’s actually pretty impressive if you want to know the truth of the matter. So there are definitely resources for people. If you don’t have the time or you don’t know how to contact a cognitive behavioral therapist, there are definitely resources that can help you get there.
Kimberly Snyder: And one thing you and I talked about, that’s a very practical tip, I’d love for you to share about with our listeners, is journaling before bed to get stuff out of your head. Could you tell us about that? Because anybody can do that right away.
Michael Breus: Absolutely, so one of the biggest things that a lot of people tell me is, “I can’t turn off my brain before bed.” In fact, it’s probably the number one complaint that I hear and so one of the things I’ve taken to is, I’ve taken to having people do what I call a worry journal. So whether you have a journal or it’s just a piece of paper, you draw a line down the middle and on one side of the line you write down every problem that you are thinking about and on the other side you write one solution.
Michael Breus: Now that solution could be Google this idea and see what’s out there. It could be make an appointment with a doctor. It might not solve the entire issue, it’s one step in that direction. What we’ve discovered is that it helps lower people’s anxiety quite a bit, but I do recommend you do that right after dinner, not right before bed. Right before bed there’s a different kind of journaling that I like people to do and that’s gratitude journaling.
Kimberly Snyder: I love this.
Michael Breus: There’s actually, believe it or not, Kim, there’s data to show that if you’re thinking about positive thoughts before bed, it actually not only helps you fall asleep faster, but it gives you more positive dreams.
Kimberly Snyder: Wow, I mean, I 100% believe that. I love that. I love it, Michael, how you are incorporating these practical ways to just, pen to paper, get it out of your head, be grateful. I mean it’s like there’s a simplicity to it, but a real power that sometimes we’re always looking for these complex solutions and more supplements and more this and that. But it’s like, “Hey, I’m worried about this. Probably shouldn’t think about it right before bed. I should probably write it down a few hours earlier.” I love that. That is something I have not heard any other sleep expert really talk about.
Michael Breus: Well, let me tell you another one along those lines that I think you’ll find fascinating, is one of the biggest issues that I’ve noticed, and this is only recently that I’ve discovered this and I did this for myself, is a lot of people wake up in the middle of the night. Now, to be fair, I’m not one of those people that generally wakes up every night.
Tips on what to do when you wake up in the middle of the night, and what not to do
Michael Breus: But on occasion, I certainly wake up at 3:00 in the morning for no reason. Now, here’s the problem, it’s the very first thing that 90% of people do, is they look at the clock, which is absolutely the worst idea. Because you end up doing the mental math and then instantly you realize, “Oh my gosh, I only have two hours left to sleep, or three hours left to sleep,” or something like that, right?
Kimberly Snyder: Yes, you start to freak out. You start to stress yourself out.
Michael Breus: Exactly, exactly, that’s the thing that I want to change. So here’s what I tell people to do, is if you have to look at the clock, which unfortunately most people do, is be positive. So when I looked at the clock this morning and it said 3:00 AM instead of saying, “Oh crap, I got to be up in three hours.” Here’s what I said to myself, “This is awesome. I’ve got an opportunity to get three more hours of sleep. If I get them, that’s going to be great. If I don’t, I’m going to just rest and relax and still allow my body to rejuvenate.” Most people don’t know, but about an hour’s worth of just resting is worth about 20 minutes of sleep or so from a rejuvenative standpoint, so-
Kimberly Snyder: What do you mean by that? Like you’re lying down, like-
Michael Breus: What I’m saying is, is it’s not a one for one ratio. Resting can actually be beneficial for many people. And so what I oftentimes tell people is, look, don’t worry if you’re not falling back asleep in the middle of the night. Number one, stay positive. Number two, just realize that about an hour’s worth of rest is worth somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes worth of sleep, generally speaking. So don’t worry, just relax. Your body is taking care of itself. For some reason you woke up. Close your eyes, relax. If you can return to sleep, that’s awesome. If you can’t, don’t worry about it. The key here is to avoid the worry, right? I tell people all the time, sleep is a lot like love. The less you look for it, the more it shows up.
How positive thoughts can help those who are unable to fall asleep
Kimberly Snyder: Oh, that’s some wisdom right there, Michael. I like that. Now well, what about sometimes we hear, “Oh, if you can’t sleep, don’t force it. Get up, read a book, do something.” What do you think about that?
Michael Breus: So I would argue that in most cases, that’s probably not the best advice, only because the reason that, that recommendation came about was because people were lying in bed just getting pissed off that they weren’t asleep. With my method, where I’m telling people to think about positive thoughts, be more positive and just relax and rest. I would argue that you’ll get more from my technique than you will from any other one, which is get up and go do something. Now look, if you wake up 45 minutes before your alarm, go ahead and get up, start your day.
Michael Breus: I don’t have any problem with that. But if you wake up a couple or three hours before your alarm, as long as it’s not frustrating you, as long as you’re not getting pissed off, then stay in bed. If you’re getting pissed off, get yourself out of bed. Don’t do anything that’s major. If you can, listen to some music, if you’re going to read something, where blue light blocking glasses, so you don’t tell your brain it’s morning, things like that to be smart.
What are chronotypes and its history
Kimberly Snyder: Michael, one of the fascinating parts of your work and your research I think, which I have never heard of before you, is this idea of chronotypes because just like we have different specific diets that suit different genetic constitution or our specific bodies are so different. We all like different clothes, there’s so much individuality and sometimes I feel, well often we’re just lumped into like, well you need this much sleep and it’s very general. So can you tell us about your whole chronotype philosophy?
Michael Breus: Absolutely, yup, absolutely. So historically we used to only think of chronotypes as early birds and night owls and to be fair, many people may not know the term chronotype, but they’ve probably heard of somebody being described as an early bird or a night owl. That discovery was made in the late ’60s, early ’70s. Then in kind of mid ’70s towards the end, people started thinking about, well is there some type of person that’s in between an early bird in a night owl and we started to call those people hummingbirds. Then my contribution to the literature is I believe that insomnia has a particular chronotype, at least certain types of insomnia do. And so I added that part to the literature and now I created a quiz.
Michael Breus: It’s online, people can take it for free and they can end up learning what their chronotype is. Now you might be asking, “Well, okay, so who cares if I’m an early bird or a night owl or whatever, Michael, why is that important? Once you learn what your chronotype is, you can actually determine the perfect time of day to do just about anything. Hormones turn out to be incredibly predictable, but the start time is based on your genetics, on your chronotype. So if you’re an early bird, what I call a lion, you’re going to wake up at 4:30, 5:00 in the morning. But if you’re a night owl, what I call a wolf, your brain doesn’t want to wake up until 7:30 or 8:00. But if you forced your brain to wake up at 6:00, when it doesn’t want to wake up until 8:00, it still produces melatonin and gives you brain fog and makes you feel like crap all day, so-
Kimberly Snyder: Wow.
Michael Breus: Right, exactly, so understanding what your chronotype is actually gives you an entire key into the most productive times of day that you can possibly have. I mean, in my book, I’ve actually been able to accurately identify the perfect time of day to have sex, eat a cheeseburger, ask your boss for a raise. Literally you name it.
Kimberly Snyder: What about exercise? So first of all, can you define chronotype? So we know exactly what we’re talking about. I should have asked you in the beginning.
Michael Breus: So a chronotype is your genetically predetermined sleep schedule.
Kimberly Snyder: Okay, so it is specific to sleep?
Michael Breus: Correct.
Kimberly Snyder: Okay, so based on that, is there a time, like some people should not exercise in the morning?
Michael Breus: Yes, absolutely, so depending upon your chronotype, again, early bird, middle, night owl and insomniac, I call them different things, but you’ll learn that once you take your quiz, there’s a lot of information out there that you’ll learn that will be super duper helpful and exercise turns out to be one of them. So in my book, I actually break it out by type of exercise. So I do team sport, yoga, weightlifting, or cardiovascular and there are slightly different times for each one, depending upon your chronotype. But we know that people will actually perform better, it will require less effort and then they will actually be more motivated to exercise at certain times during the day.
Kimberly Snyder: That’s amazing.
Michael Breus: I know, it’s super cool. It’s all real science.
Kimberly Snyder: Yeah, there really is something to all those terms that people used to toss around, the night owl. I mean-
Michael Breus: Absolutely.
Similarities between Michael’s philosophy and Ayurvedic medicine
Kimberly Snyder: And it’s interesting because in Ayurvedic medicine, Michael there’s Pitta, like different body types, Vata, Kapha are said to wake up at different times. So it overlaps with that.
Michael Breus: It does quite nicely actually. You’re not the first person to talk with me about the similarities between my philosophy and Ayurveda. I think they’re very similar actually.
Chronotypes that would do well with implementing napping
Kimberly Snyder: Are there any chronotypes that would do well with more napping or napping in general?
Michael Breus: Well it’s actually interesting. There’s some chronotypes that do better without napping. So for example, the insomniac, people with insomnia should never ever nap. It’s just really a bad idea because it lowers sleep drive and makes it much harder to fall asleep. As far as napping is concerned though, I would argue that people who are night owls probably should not nap because it’s going to just make it harder for them to wake up. So super early birds would be people who could be good nappers or middle of the road hummingbirds or what I call a bear, would would be good nappers. But if you’re a night owl, you probably don’t want to nap very much because it’s just going to make it harder to fall asleep. And if you’re an insomniac for sure, napping is out of the question.
Kimberly Snyder: So you mentioned this is like our predisposition. Is this genetically related? Like you see a whole family of bears, a whole family of night owls.
Michael Breus: Yes, absolutely, it’s funny you’ve mentioned that. I was talking with one of my clients this morning and it was our first interaction and she was telling me all about her history and she said, “Yeah, my grandfather can’t sleep, my father can’t sleep and I’m up in the middle of the night.” So yeah, there’s no question. There are strong genetic tendencies for your chronotype and for things like sleep disorders or insomnia.
Michael Breus: One of the easiest ways to figure out your chronotype, if you’re questioning it, like after you take my quiz and you say, “Hmm, I’m not too sure, is look at your parents because this is something that you inherit genetically. And so this is based on something called the PER3 gene, it’s a variation that occurs on that particular area. That’s where we get our chronotypes from and so we can look it up genetically. I mean if you send me your 23andme data or your ancestry.com data, I can show you exactly what’s going on.
Kimberly Snyder: Oh my goodness, so it’s not something that you can alter with lifestyle. Your chronotype is your chronotype, as much as you want to be a morning person. Maybe you’re a night owl and you cannot make yourself be a morning person.
Michael Breus: Yes, thank you for identifying that. I’m so tired of people turning to me, saying, “I want to do the miracle morning 5:00 AM wake up crew.” No, thank you. Literally only 15% of the population should be waking up at that time. Literally only 15%.
Kimberly Snyder: Well, I mean we just went through this whole thing about individuality, but if you had to give a general ideal waking up time, based on what you were saying earlier about getting sunlight in the morning and so on and so forth, what would you say that is?
Michael Breus: Well, unfortunately, I have to tell you it’s different for early birds versus night owls. So I’m a night owl and I get up around probably somewhere between 6:15 and 6:30. But I don’t go to bed until midnight, every night.
If there’s a certain amount of hours of sleep we need
Kimberly Snyder: Wow, you only get six hours of sleep?
Michael Breus: That’s correct.
Kimberly Snyder: And you feel like that’s what your body needs, it’s not the seven to eight that they usually say we need?
Michael Breus: Eight hours is a myth. It doesn’t work.
Kimberly Snyder: Nobody needs eight hours?
Michael Breus: Very few people need eight hours. In fact, sleep works in 90 minute cycles and the average person has five 90 minute cycles. So if you do the math, five times 90 is 450 minutes, which is seven and a half hours, the math doesn’t even work.
Kimberly Snyder: Well, unless you’re like an athlete or-
Michael Breus: I’m constantly trying to get people to understand that if you keep… the reason that I only need to sleep six hours or six hours and 15 minutes is because my sleep schedule is incredibly consistent. I go to bed at midnight, I wake up at 6:00, that’s what I do. My body knows exactly what to do and when to do it and it works out great. As long as you’re consistent, you will be pleasantly surprised at how well it works.
Kimberly Snyder: And you don’t need too much caffeine, even with six hours?
Michael Breus: I barely drink any caffeine at all to be honest with you. I mean there are many days I go without caffeine completely.
Kimberly Snyder: Wow, see, because maybe I got to read your full book, Michael because we talked a lot. I’ve seen your shows. But I feel like for me, if I don’t, maybe this is a myth in my head. I feel like if I don’t get eight hours, I feel a little groggy.
Michael Breus: So first of all, remember that you’re a mom, right? And being a mom can be a lot more difficult than stuff that I’m doing. And you might need a little extra sleep now that you’re a mom, because I’ve seen pictures of that gorgeous child of yours and I’ve met your child before and they’re awesome. So there’s a lot to your life. You’ve got a lot of stuff going on, hun. So you might need a little bit more sleep, right? Everybody’s sleep need is different and it changes over time.
Why women need different sleep at different times in their menstrual cycles
Michael Breus: And I’m glad you brought this up because this is something, Kim, that not a lot of people bring up during podcasts, but I think it’s very important, especially for your crowd, is women need different sleep at different times in their menstrual cycles. Nobody talks about this. But I’ve got women who tell me they need more sleep just before their period and less sleep after their period. So we create different bedtimes and wake up times that work better for them and it makes perfect sense.
Kimberly Snyder: When you say we create bed… like with your clients, you’re actually creating a schedule for them to stick to?
Michael Breus: Yes, absolutely, absolutely, I do.
Kimberly Snyder: And that’s key, it sounds like that’s really key in your program.
Michael Breus: It is, we also do full on genetic testing. We do blood work, we do like, you name it and it’s in there, dude.
Kimberly Snyder: Besides caffeine, I imagine alcohol is a big sleep downer.
Alcohol and sleep, and when to drink it
Michael Breus: Well there’s a really big difference between going to sleep and passing out, right? And unfortunately a lot of people don’t seem to know the difference. So I talked to a lot of people about alcohol. While alcohol does make us feel relaxed and in some cases sleepy, it actually is one of the worst things possible for our sleep. It keeps us out of the deeper stages of sleep. And remember that waste system we were talking about with autophagy and getting those bad proteins out? Alcohol prevents the stages of sleep that do that. So we don’t want a lot of alcohol on board just before bed. Again, alcohol is the number one sleep aid in the world. I know more people use that to help them fall asleep than anything else.
Michael Breus: But you need to be wise in your use of alcohol. So it takes the average human body approximately one hour to digest one alcoholic beverage. So if you have two glasses of wine at dinner, you need to give your body two hours to digest that. So if you stop drinking by 8:00 and you’ve had two glasses of wine, by 10:00 you’re good to go. So those are the types of rules that I give people. It’s simple, straightforward things. I’m not saying you can’t drink caffeine. I’m just saying stop by 2:00 PM. I’m not saying you can’t have alcohol. Just give yourself two hours or one hour per drink, so that way your body can settle through it and metabolize it out. Things like that make it a lot easier.
Kimberly Snyder: I love the practicality of your work, Michael. Thank you so much. I could literally talk to you for hours and hours. This is obviously a topic of great interest. Everybody wants to sleep better. Thank you for dedicating your life work to this.
Michael Breus: Oh, well you’re so kind, Kim. Thanks for appreciating it. Trust me, if I didn’t have people who wanted to hear my research and support my work like you and all of your tribe and your fans, I’d just be a guy in a laboratory. So thank you for giving me the opportunity to share this information and thanks to all of the listeners. Hopefully you guys have learned something and we’re going to be getting some better sleep.
Kimberly Snyder: Yes, yes, and beauties please go to, we’re going to link to all this in the show notes, but as Michael was speaking about his chrono quiz is at chronoquiz.com that’s C-H-R-O-N-Oquiz.com. And also Michael, what is your website where we can learn more about your books and your products and your programs?
Michael Breus: Of course, it’s thesleepdoctor.com and if people want to check me out, I’m also on Instagram and Facebook with The Sleep Doctor as well.
Kimberly Snyder: That’s awesome, easy to remember, very practical and again, I just have to say I love how specific and practical this is. It’s not general, it’s not vague. It’s very prescriptive, which is wonderful.
Michael Breus: Thanks, I’m excited about it and it’s very easy for people to follow, that’s the goal.
Kimberly Snyder: Amazing, well again, thank you so much, Michael and thank you so much beauties for tuning in. We are so grateful for you being in our community. We love to come together and support each other, as always. Please remember to subscribe to the show if you haven’t yet. That way you never miss an interview on Monday or a Q and A podcast on Thursday. We also have daily inspiration for you on Instagram at @_kimberlysnyder and all of our information, plus these show notes is of course on our website, which is mysolluna.com. We will see you back here on Thursday, beauties for our next podcast. Till then, thank you again so much, we love you. Have a great day and take great care of yourself.