Speaker 1: Welcome to the Gladden Longevity Podcast with Dr. Jeffrey Gladden, MD, FACC, founder and CEO of Gladden Longevity. On this show, we want to answer three questions for you: How good can we be? How do we make 100 the new 30? And how do we live well beyond 120? We want to help you optimize your longevity, health, and human performance with impactful and actionable information. Now, here's today's episode of the Gladden Longevity Podcast.
The Gladden Longevity Podcast is provided for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your medical condition. The use of any information and materials linked to this podcast is at the listener's own risk.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Welcome, everybody, to this edition of the Gladden Longevity Podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Jeffrey Gladden. I'm going to have the pleasure today of being with Dr. Michael Breus. It's spelled B-R-E-U-S, Michael Breus. Michael is a clinical psychologist, but he's also a clinical sleep specialist. He's one of only 168 psychologists in the world that have passed the sleep medicine boards and become certified in sleep. He's written a couple of books, one in 2017 called The Power of When, which we'll discuss on the podcast. It has to do with a concept called chronotypes that I think you're going to find very, very interesting.
Then we talk about routines related to sleep. We talk about when's the best time to have sex. We talk about exercise, caffeine, and we talk about some really interesting ways to navigate sleep. I think you're going to come away with a much better understanding of your own sleep, your own sleep requirements, when to go to sleep, how to go back to sleep if you're not able to fall asleep in the middle of the night, et cetera, et cetera. So this was a really fun conversation, and I'm looking forward to you being able to hear it.
Welcome, everybody, to this edition of the Gladden Longevity Podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Jeffrey Gladden, and I'm here today with sleep doctor, The Sleep Doctor, actually, Michael Breus. Michael, it's great to have you on this show.
Dr. Michael Breus: Thanks for having me, Jeff. I'm excited to be here and talk all things longevity. Let's talk about it.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah, absolutely. Now, what the audience doesn't know is that Michael and I have actually, this is actually the third time we've recorded this podcast. The first few times we had technical glitches. So we're back for an encore here, but I assume that we're going to have even more interesting information. The other two were pretty dynamic, quite honestly. We had a good time. So hopefully you'll get to-
Dr. Michael Breus: Absolutely. We'll have a good time again. Don't you worry.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah. Hopefully, you'll get to partake in all of that. So, Michael, talk to us a little bit about your concept around sleep. So, I think one of the interesting things that you've come up with and in your book, Energize, and some of The Power of When, I think, is a really interesting concept, too, two books that Michael has written, and he talks a little bit about the chronotypes of sleep, “chrono” being the word for time. Maybe we can start there. Maybe you can introduce the audience to this concept of the chronotypes.
Dr. Michael Breus: Sure. Absolutely. So, number one, thanks for having me on. I certainly appreciate it. So, yeah, I'm known as the chronotype guy. I mean, I'm known as The Sleep Doctor, but I'm also known as the chronotype guy, for sure, and what does that mean? So, a lot of people have never heard the term chronotype. However, many people actually understand the concept already.
So, Jeff, if you've ever been called an early bird or a night owl, those are chronotypes. So, you go back to the '70s, there was a group of researchers and they noticed that some people reacted differently and like to wake up early in the morning and go to bed early at night, and some people like to stay up late at night and sleep in the morning. So they created this quiz, if you will, or a psychological measure called the Morningness-Eveningness Scale or Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire.
So then, we decided, "Okay. Well, we're going to call morning people “early birds”. We're going to call evening people “night owls”. By the way, we came up with the term for people in the middle, we call them “hummingbirds”. I have no idea why. I think it's the dumbest, right? I think somebody was on a bird theme, and I think they just went for it, right?
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: I can see hovering, but I'm not sure humming, right?
Dr. Michael Breus: Right. Exactly. I'm right there with you. I'm right there with you. So, this kept going, going, going, and people started doing research looking at, "Hey, if somebody has this propensity, is something different about them?" So, a couple of guys got into the genetics of it all and they discovered, "Hey, this isn't a choice. This is actually in your human genome."
So, it turns out there are 74 different markers for sleep. About 10 to 12 of them are specific to something called your circadian rhythm, which has a lot to do with your chronotype. So, if you go to the PER3 area of the human genome, there's something called the single nucleotide polymorphism or a SNP, which means that one of the two building blocks got flipped one way and that made you an “early bird”, and then if it got flipped the other way, that made you a “night owl”.
So, again, we're starting to understand more getting into the genetics of it. It's not a choice any longer. You can't just say, "Hey, I'm going to wake up at 4:30 in the morning and everything's going to be great," because your genetics may not allow you to do that.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah. So, what you're saying is your genetics are setting your circadian rhythm, or your genetics are setting your cortisol release, or all the above or something. Something is happening.
Dr. Michael Breus: All of the above.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: All the above.
Dr. Michael Breus: So, that's exactly the way to think about it is our circadian rhythms are set and that setting is called your chronotype. So, what I call chronotype, to give people an easy analogy, is call it your chronotypical swim lane, if you will. So, if you're doing laps in the pool, you try to stay in your lane. When you stay in your lane, guess what? You're more efficient in your strokes. There's less friction. You swim faster. You get a better workout. Exact same concept holds true with sleep. Once you know what your chronotypical swim lane is, if you can follow it, everything gets easy.
So, I'll be honest with you. I wrote this book, now it's going on seven years ago, The Power of When, and I figured, "Look, if I'm going to do this, I better do it all myself. So, I better figure out how this works." So I've always been a night owl my whole life ever since I was a teenager. I never grew out of it. So I said: "Okay. Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to go to bed every night at midnight for the next however long and just see what happens. Allow myself to wake up naturally because I want my natural circadian rhythm to come to this-"
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: That's a really interesting point, this waking up naturally. I think this is a really interesting point what I want to circle back to because one of the things I did when I left cardiology was gave myself the privilege, with a few exceptions, catching a flight or something, of not setting alarms and allowing myself to wake up naturally, right?
Dr. Michael Breus: Exactly.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: I think that's maybe the flip side of the coin of when you go to bed but allowing yourself to sleep as much as you do. So anyway, we'll get back to that, but okay. Yeah.
Dr. Michael Breus: So, when I allowed myself to wake up naturally, here's what happened. I'd go to bed at midnight and I was waking up around 7:30, naturally. Not bad. Nothing super fantastic. Not great, but not bad. After about three weeks, I was naturally waking up at 7:15. Hadn't changed a thing. Just kept going to bed at midnight, going to bed at midnight. Another three to five weeks went by, all of a sudden I'm waking up at 6:45. Again, completely naturally. I haven't changed my exercise routine, my supplementation, caffeine, alcohol, nothing. Before I know it, my body won't let me sleep longer than six hours and about 15 minutes. So look, I'm the sleep doctor, okay?
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: You're right.
Dr. Michael Breus: I'm letting people know eight hours is a myth, okay? Everybody has an individual sleep need. Once you figure out your chronotype, it can actually condense your actual sleep cycle. So, I wear an Oura ring, and I measure my sleep, right? So, I measured my sleep during this whole process. Guess what? The percentages of the stages never changed, just the amount changed, right? So, I was still getting what I needed.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah. So, you're still getting the slow wave sleep that you need. You're still getting the REM sleep that you need.
Dr. Michael Breus: Exactly.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Did the disturbances, where you're awakening but not really fully awake, did that go down or stay the same?
Dr. Michael Breus: Almost completely ameliorated.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Ameliorated? Okay.
Dr. Michael Breus: So, what I'm getting is solid, good, deep rest, and I'm getting a ton of it.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: So, you're an efficient sleeper, right?
Dr. Michael Breus: Exactly.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: You're in bed for six hours or six hours and 15 minutes, let's call it. You're asleep for six hours, and you're efficiently sleeping. What are the genetics around that because some people seem to be inherently inefficient sleepers?
Dr. Michael Breus: Absolutely. I would argue, and this is my personal opinion, it all has to do with timing or the power of when you go to sleep or when you do just about anything. So, the title comes from the idea of adopting identification of your chronotype, adopting said chronotype, even if it's just for sleep and then seeing how it affects the rest of your life. The good news here is, and I've had this conversation with you. We both have a dear friend, Joe Polish, and Joe likes to say, "You always look for the dominoes in life."
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: That's right.
Dr. Michael Breus: The one thing that you can do that affects multiple things.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: That's right.
Dr. Michael Breus: Sleep is the domino of health. There's no argument by anybody in the field.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: 100%. Yeah, 100%.
Dr. Michael Breus: We can get sleep right by just, and it's so simple, Jeff, if you just ... I have a quiz. So go to chronoquiz.com, and you can figure this out. We'll put it in the show notes. You can figure out your chrono type fairly quickly. Now, let me be fair about something. 30 questions on the internet is only so accurate, okay? Now, if you do 23andMe, they actually have a report for morningness and eveningness on 23andMe.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: They do. Yeah.
Dr. Michael Breus: If you do ancestry.com, there's a way that you can look at it there. So, this is something that you can identify and then follow. It's a secret key is the way I tell people because it's like, look, if your body was always wanting to do something at another time and you just went and did that activity at the time your body wanted to do it, your body's going to do it better, right? It's going to be more efficient, and that's really the crux behind the whole idea.
So, here's the crazy part is all of these chronotypes actually predict hormonal changes throughout the 24-hour cycle. So, if I'm an “early bird”, my melatonin turns off at 4:30 AM. My cortisol turns on at let's say 5:30 AM. I'm up by 5:45 AM, 6:00 AM, and I'm off and running. Then it's a very predictable pattern throughout the day for people who do that, but if you're a night owl like me, my cortisol doesn't turn on until 6:30 AM and my melatonin doesn't want to turn off then at all. So, I'm struggling in the morning times, but at nighttime, I got no problems because, again, everything is pushed differently because of this chronotype.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: So, let me ask you this…
Dr. Michael Breus: Sure.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: So, you go to bed at midnight. Over the weeks, basically, your sleep condenses into a very solid, restful, rejuvenating sleep based on going through the various stages of sleep…
Dr. Michael Breus: Correct.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yet what you're telling me is when you wake up in the morning, you're still not a morning person. It's still a bit of a struggle for you. Is that what you're saying?
Dr. Michael Breus: So, yes and no. So, it used to be, and then I started a new morning routine, and that’s been what's really made the difference. So, number one, waking up naturally always makes my mornings better, always, always, always.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Agree.
Dr. Michael Breus: If I wake up to an alarm that it's this caustic noise or dogs barking or person yelling, nothing's good about that, right? So, waking up naturally is certainly better for you. That's number one, but number two, I do three different things right as I wake up.
So, number one, I swing my legs over and put my feet touching off the floor and I'm sitting up straight and I take 15 deep breaths. This is merely to just center myself and clear some of the cobwebs and bring me present.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Is there a meditative element to this or is this more just a physiologic activity?
Dr. Michael Breus: It's really more physiologic at that point because I do my meditation a bit later. This is really more just wake up my respiratory system.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Got it.
Dr. Michael Breus: Then I'm sitting on my bedside table. I have a glass with at least 15 ounces of water, and within 20 minutes, I walk outside and I get 15 minutes of sunshine.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Nice.
Dr. Michael Breus: So, there's three different things I'm doing, and I want to explain the science behind each and every one of them, right? So, the breathing is really exactly what I said it is. You've been lying flat on your back or on your side. Your lungs have been literally crushed by your body all night long. Sitting up straight and not jumping out of bed and springing to do something where you're probably going to get injured, but taking a nice, slow, deep approach and breathing to open that up. I actually use my arms too to help me open up my chest-
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Nice.
Dr. Michael Breus: ... to be able to do that type of breathing. The water is critical. Most people don't realize it, but sleep in and of itself is a dehydrative event.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Very dehydrating. Yeah, very dehydrating.
Dr. Michael Breus: Yeah. You lose almost a full liter of water from the humidity in your breath, and if you're a mouth breather, forget about it. You're going to wake up and you're going to be like a prune. So, getting that 15 ounces of water is critical, critical, critical. Now, I want to bring up an interesting point here is a lot of people, the first liquid that passes over their lips is caffeinated, okay? This is a terrible, terrible idea, and I'm not against coffee. I want to be clear about that. I got a cup of coffee right here, okay?
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: No, but it's a diuretic. It's a diuretic. That's the problem.
Dr. Michael Breus: Exactly. Exactly. You're already fricking dehydrated. You're going to turn into a raisin before this whole morning is over if you drink a bunch of caffeine. Here's the thing. Most people are drinking that caffeine to try to give them some energy. It doesn't work that way. You know this better than anybody. In order to remove yourself from a state of unconsciousness, you need two hormones to jack up in your head, one is cortisol, the other is adrenaline.
Look, if you've got a brain that's got cortisol and adrenaline running around it, when you pour caffeine on it, it does almost no good. I mean, let's be honest. If you compare cortisol to coffee, that's like comparing cocaine to weak tea, right? So, wait 90 minutes. After you wake up, cortisol levels go down, adrenaline levels go down. Then when you drink your coffee, you actually get a little bit more bang for your buck. Keep it to one cup if you possibly can, but again, in my morning routine, it's all about hydration.
The final 15, and I call these the three 15s, the final 15 is within 20 minutes, I get outside and I get fresh sunlight. So, no sunglasses, straight sunlight. So, there's a lot of different reasons why this is good. Number one, if you can do it while the sun is rising, that's so good for your eyes. The rods and cones in your eyes, as you're slowly getting that level of light and energy actually helps wake them up in a very unique way, which is very healthy for them, number one.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: That's me.
Dr. Michael Breus: Yeah, but number two, there are melanopsin cells in your eyeballs, and these cells when blue light, specifically 460 to 480 nanometer wavelength light, hits your melanopsin cell, it sends a signal to your brain to turn off the melatonin faucet in your head. That turns out to be really important for brain fog, right? So my morning routine really clicks me in and allows me to get to some of the places I need to go. After I finish the morning routine, I do two-
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Let me just comment on that.
Dr. Michael Breus: Sure.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: I love that morning routine. I think there's a lot to be said for the waking up gently and of moving.
Dr. Michael Breus: Absolutely.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Then one of the things that I do is I do drink water. I keep water in the bathroom right next to the bedroom, so to speak, and I'll go in there and I'll drink water as the very first thing. Well, I may use the bathroom first and then drink water, but yeah. Actually, if I get up in the middle of the night, I keep water there too so that I drink water as I'm going back to bed.
Dr. Michael Breus: It's smart.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Right? Because otherwise, I feel really dehydrated. So, I like-
Dr. Michael Breus: I was going to double tap on one quick thing. A lot of people out there, they like to have an alcoholic beverage with their meal in the evening time like a glass of wine or a beer or scotch or something along those lines. A lot of people, that's commonplace. Here's the thing to remember, folks. Alcohol's a diuretic as well, right? So, if you're drinking beer before and you're not drinking water and then you go to sleep and you have dehydrative sleep and then you wake up and you drink coffee, you're really not doing your body any favors. We were talking, Jeff, about the dominoes of health. I think there are three. I think it's air, water, and sleep. That's what I think it is.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah, I think so, and I think to your point about alcohol, you've probably noticed this if you've had things to drink. In our practice, people wear Whoops and Oura rings and Apple watches and whatever, but a universal finding is that when people are having something to drink, their sleep gets wrecked. They don't sleep nearly as well. They don't go through the same stages. The quality isn't as good. They don't wake up feeling as good, and part of it may be the dehydration.
I actually have a theory that part of the reason that we sleep poorly on certain nights is the time of night we go to bed. I happen to be a morning person. So, I'm good if I go to bed by let's call it early. Let's say I'm in bed by 9:00 PM.
Dr. Michael Breus: 8:30 PM?
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah, 8:30 PM, 9:00 PM. I'm good, but if I'm up at 10:30 PM, my recovery score the next day will be trashed. I think I'm out of sync.
Dr. Michael Breus: You're not in your swim lane.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Not in my swim lane. Yeah, exactly. I feel it the next morning as well. So, it's important for me to do that too, but I love the sunlight too. You could even think about if you had the opportunity to step outside and get your feet on the grass and get a little bit of-
Dr. Michael Breus: So, let's talk about grounding, yeah. So, what I do is I walk my dogs in the morning and that's how I get my sunlight, and then I take my shoes off and I sit with them in the backyard. I put my feet on the earth and I play with my dogs, okay? So, I do two very interesting things there. So, one is grounding, the second is unconditional love, right? So, what's awesome about dogs is they love you, love you, love you as long as you feed.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: That's right.
Dr. Michael Breus: It's rare to find time in your day when you can just for yourself receive that emotion, receive that love, right? I mean, it's so, so, so important to the human condition to get that every day.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: It's massive. It's massive. You know what's interesting? Your background is psychology.
Dr. Michael Breus: It is.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Mine's obviously medicine, but in either situation, if you sit down with a client, and I know you're not seeing clients at this point, but nonetheless as a professional, and it's true if you're an accountant or a lawyer or anything else, quite honestly, we basically walk into work and we're there to give, right? We're there to give. We're not there to receive. We're actually there to give. I've had an insight actually recently that if I go into that same situation and I meet with a client and I actually remind myself, "No, I'm actually here to receive," because in receiving, I'm actually validating that person. I'm actually acknowledging who they are, and I'm actually listening to them, which is me actually understanding.
There's nothing better you can give somebody than to actually understand them. They don't need information as much as they need to be understood, right? So, you do that, and all of a sudden it changes the whole spectrum of everything, and all of a sudden love can flow into that relationship because you don't have this wall up against, "No, I'm here to do this. I'm the plumber. I'm here to fix your pipes." You go into it to receive.
So, what you're starting off with here is you're sitting there to receive unconditional love, and then by default, you reciprocate that, right? I mean, there's no way to receive that and not reciprocate it. So what a great way to start your day. Cool.
Dr. Michael Breus: Right? It's super cool. So, here's how I think about it from a Michael Breus mindset standpoint. When I wake up in the mornings, my head's like a shotgun. I've got a thousand ideas. Once I do my three 15s, it's like the ideas just start popping, popping, popping, popping, and I'm like, "I've got to slow this down because it's overwhelming to me." As an entrepreneur, you know what it's like, Jeff.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Sure.
Dr. Michael Breus: I mean, you just start thinking and thinking. So, in my head, here's what I end up doing. So, before I get the dogs ready, I do four 10-minute meditations. I have a headband. It's called a Muse. I'm terrible at meditating and this headband saved me. I use it every morning and I try to do at least two meditations and sometimes I get through four. I always end it with a five-minute gratitude meditation, so I can get some of that clearing, right?
Then when I'm with the dogs, it gives me the receivership of love, right? Then I do breathwork with some friends, and then I do my fitness. So, it's like I get the love from the dogs, I get the energy from that. I'm walking outside, so I get the energy from the sun, and it really sets my day up. Dude, I go from being a shotgun to being a sniper like that. It's unbelievable.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah. That's awesome. That's really, really awesome, and it sounds like it's adding the meditation in on top that's actually quieting your mind and enabling you to come back as more of a sniper than a shotgun. Yeah.
Dr. Michael Breus: Exactly.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Beautiful.
Dr. Michael Breus: That's really been working well. So, when you take all of this and you wrap it into the idea of chronotypes, it gets really, really interesting. So, what I'm famous for is not the three chronotypes because that's been around since the '70s. I'm famous for discovering a fourth chronotype, an irregular chronotype, that oftentimes results in insomnia.
So, my contribution to the literature was I said: "Look, here's a genetic form of insomnia, very close on the human genome, very simple to understand. Let's create a category for it." So what the chrono quiz will do is it'll give you a category of one of four different possible chronotypes. Now, to be fair, I changed the names because I wanted to use animal names. Kind of funny if you're ever in a publishing setting and you're talking about what to create the names for each avatar. Somebody said crystals, somebody said colors. I said animals. Turns out nobody wants to be a platypus, Jeff. Nobody wants to be a porcupine.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: I talked to a couple platypuses. Perry and I had a conversation one time and he wasn't that excited either.
Dr. Michael Breus: See what I mean? I understand it, definitely. So, coming up with names, and then I came up with animals that actually fit the chronotypical schedule. So, “early birds” turned into “Lions”. “Lions” usually have their first kill at dawn, and these people have an interesting personality profile. They have a tendency to be the COOs of the company, not necessarily the CEO, not the visionary, not the person who started it, but the orderly person, the person who makes a list every day and goes from step one to step two, to step three, almost militant in their thinking.
They love to get up at 4:35, 5:00 in the morning, do their morning workout, and all that crazy stuff, but to be a “Lion” isn't as great as it's cracked up to be. A lot of people are like: "Oh, I wish I was a Lion." Dude, if you're a Lion, dinner and a movie is out. You've been up since 4:30 in the morning. Come on. It's not going to work. Socially, there's no universe for “Lions”, unless you're dating another “Lion”, then things might work out pretty well for you, right?
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Right.
Dr. Michael Breus: So, as a general rule, “Lions” are the thing that a lot of people wish they were. Makes up about 15% of the population. “Bears” are people in the middle. That “hummingbird”, I changed that to a “Bear”. Now, “Bears” are 50% of the population, 5-0. So, one in two people is a “Bear”. Turns out we've had over a million people take the quiz. There are “early Bears” and there are “late Bears”. So, within that category, there are some people that do like to go to bed a little bit earlier. Some people that do like to go to bed a little bit later, but generally, these people like to go to bed around 10:30 PM, wake up around 7:30 AM. They're somewhat extroverted. This is the workforce. These are the people that get shit done are “Bears”, for sure.
The “night owls”, we turned them into “Wolves”. So I am a “Wolf”. I'm a “night owl”, but that is changing in me as I get older, and we're going to talk about that in just a second.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Is that because you're howling at the moon? Is that part of your ritual? You go outside. You've got a morning ritual.
Dr. Michael Breus: I do have a lot of rituals, now that you've mentioned it. Maybe I should howl at the moon.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: I'm wondering what the evening ritual is. Yeah, I think it's howling at the moon, right?
Dr. Michael Breus: Well, I do have an evening ritual. We can talk about that too.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: I knew you did. I wanted to circle back to that. Good.
Dr. Michael Breus: We'll get that. We'll get there. So, as a “night owl” or a “Wolf” is what we call them, it's interesting. These are my artists, my actors, my visionaries, my CEOs. These are the people that see, see, see in the future. They hate mornings. They really don't like working out. They love risk taking. These are my troublemakers, right? These are the people that show up at the party at 11:00 PM and stay till 2:00 AM, but they're super nice people and they like to hang out and they're very creative. I mean, if you ever talk to one of your creative friends and you say: "Hey, when did you get your inspiration?" They almost never say 2:00 in the afternoon. They almost always say: "Oh, it was 3:00 AM and I was smoking weed and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and all of a sudden, boom." Something happens for them.
So, that's an interesting one, but the real interesting group are the “Dolphins”, and that's the insomniacs. So, I really wrote the book, The Power of When, for these people because they have such a hard time. They crave long bouts of sleep, but their sleep drive is very, very short. They're very similar to “Lions” in terms of they like to go to bed early and get up early, but they have got a lot of anxiety, so much anxiety to the point that it oftentimes turns them into insomniacs and prevents them from being able to get good sleep. So, imagine being that early, early person and getting crappy sleep on top of it because of anxiety, that's what a “Dolphin” really looks like.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: So, let me ask you this. So, do you think that somebody could be a natural born “Bear”, “Wolf”, “Lion” or whatever, and they go through life events and they end up with high degrees of anxiety, and based on that anxiety, they morph into being an insomniac? Or are you thinking that the insomniac is more, genetically, just pre-programmed, and the fact that they can't sleep starts a cycle of anxiety about sleep that then makes it harder to sleep? Or what are we talking about here?
Dr. Michael Breus: So, I think it's both because I think there's more than one flavor of insomnia. I think there is a genetic form of insomnia, which is what we've been able to identify with the quiz, but there's also a learned insomnia, being in a bad situation, environmentally speaking: loud noise, all these different things, being in an abusive situation, being in a poorly controlled environment... All of those types of things can certainly contribute to anxiety, which then can contribute to a sleep disorder as well.
So, I think we see it in both camps there, which I find pretty interesting as a general rule, but here's the funny part is people go through all the chronotypes, right? So, when you're an infant, you're a “Lion”, right? You go to bed early, you wake up early, right? That's what happens with babies.
Then when you hit toddler stage, you're a “Bear”. You're going to bed around 7:30, you're waking up around 7:30, doing your toddler thing. Once you become an adolescent or a teenager, what do you want to do? You want to be a “Wolf”? You want to stay up late and sleep late. This is a natural circadian progression. I want to be very clear about this. This isn't choice. This is exactly what your biology is asking you to do.
Once you hit about 18 or 20, you level off. You keep a chronotype for about 40 years or so, and then you start to change again. So, you ever notice how your grandparents want to eat dinner at 4:30 in the afternoon?
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah.
Dr. Michael Breus: That's because they phase delayed backwards or advanced, rather. They phase advanced backwards. So, now, their melatonin is kicking off earlier in their cycle, which means their digestion wants to happen earlier, which means they want to eat earlier. So, when we get older, we may move backwards, and to be fair, Jeff, that's the position that I'm in these days. I'm finding it very difficult to stay up until midnight these days. I'm finding myself falling asleep closer to 11:00 PM, and in some cases closer to 10:00 PM, and I'm finding myself waking up not at 6:15 AM, but at 5:15 AM or even sometimes at 4:45 AM, which is ridiculous. I don't want to be awake then. I'm a “Wolf”, but I guess I'm not.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Interesting. That's interesting. So, couple things jump out at me. One is, and just so people understand this, if you have kids, we all think that babies need the most sleep, but I think some of the stuff I've read in the past, and you can correct me if I'm wrong here, I think teenagers actually need the most sleep.
Dr. Michael Breus: They do. They do. So, it's really interesting. When we look at infants versus teenagers, the amount and the quality of the sleep is a little bit different, but it's very similar in respects to total need, right? So, infants are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping for physical development. Teenagers are sleeping more for emotional development, right? So, those are of the bigger differences there, but boy do they both need a lot of sleep during those periods of time, for sure. Absolutely.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah. So, we can talk about how school schedules probably don't really marry up to what the brains of adolescents need, which is an interesting thing when-
Dr. Michael Breus: Yeah. Well, school start times have been a really interesting dilemma. I'm on a political action committee here in California, where we're trying to change school start time, specifically, for adolescents and teenagers. The small kids, they can go to school at 7:00 AM. They're up already. Who cares? It's the adolescents, and the double problem is they're also young drivers, right? So, you've got 15, 16, 17 years old. So, they're getting their learners permits. They're driving to school. They're driving carpools of other children, and they're exhausted. Their brains haven't woken up yet. So, we're really looking at very big problems.
Interesting study done at the University of Minnesota, where they looked at the first period, and when they changed the school start times, every single kid, this was adolescents, by the way, full letter grade increase just by having them start an hour later.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Wow.
Dr. Michael Breus: Full letter grade. So, B students turned into A students.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: That's awesome. Yeah. I mean, we've known for a long time that that's really been out of sync, if you will, with the adolescent brain as development, but I was not aware of that data. That's really pretty exciting to see. So, yeah.
Dr. Michael Breus: Oh, it's unbelievable.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: I'll sign your petition even though I'm not in California.
Dr. Michael Breus: Yeah. Well, I'll get you to sign the petition. One of the things that's interesting with adolescents in particular is trying to figure out how to get them to fall asleep because they're not tired. Their circadian rhythm wants them to stay up later. So, one of the things that I talk about with them is what is a bedtime routine, what does something like that look like. For an adult or for a child, I have a system, and if you're okay with it, I'll break it down.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah, no, let's circle into that because that's been something we want to get back to. So, what is your bedtime routine or talk to us about your advice there.
Dr. Michael Breus: So, what I do is I tell people all the time you need runway to land the plane. You can't just be lying in front of the TV with your head bobbing every 60 seconds saying: "Gee, I think I should go to bed." Because then what happens is you go into the bathroom, you take off your clothes, you wash your face, you brush your teeth. You're wide frigging awake at this point, right? I mean, it's not a good system, right?
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah, you may as well take a cold shower, right?
Dr. Michael Breus: I know. Exactly. So, here's what I tell people all the time is if you're having dinner at home or you get home from dinner or whatever and you're in for the night, number one, go ahead and change into your bed clothes, right? Be comfortable. Make your life easier. Have a bedtime. You'll know what it is based on your chronotype. Then approximately one hour before the bedtime, so let's say your bedtime is 11:00 PM, set an alarm on your phone for 10:00 PM, so that you have to physically turn it off and it reminds you: "Hey, I need to start getting ready for bed."
Here's what you do is you take that hour and you break it up into three 20-minute segments, 20 minutes for just shit you got to do. So, in our house, it was getting kids backpacks together, getting sports equipment, packing lunches, things like that, getting my briefcase together, whatever, just to make my morning easier. 20 minutes for some hygiene, so wash your face, brush your teeth, do all those things. By the way, if we've got any people listening who wear makeup during the daytime, one little hint, take your makeup off by 7:00 PM. Most people don't think about it, but when they wander into their bathroom at 9:30, 10:00 at night, they literally turn the brightest lights on in the bathroom to be able to take all of the makeup off. All you're doing is dosing yourself with blue light. It's so stupid. Do that at 7:00 PM. Who cares if you're wearing makeup at home, right? It shouldn't be an issue, right?
Then the final 20 minutes is for some form of meditation, relaxation, prayer, whatever gets you there. If you want to watch an old episode of Seinfeld, I don't give a shit. Go for it. Do what helps you relax.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: One of the things I found is that the TrueDark glasses help, those amber glasses. They will, I don't know if it's true for everybody, but they flip a switch in my brain. When, all of a sudden, I start looking through amber like that, within two or three minutes, I can feel the click, and it's just like: "Oh, my brain is shutting down." And it feels good, quite honestly.