If you’ve ever struggled with sleep (or you’re struggling now), it can have devastating consequences on your mental and emotional well-being, and I know this from personal experience. In 2020, I was averaging 2-4 hours a night of sleep, and I wanted to die. Literally.
Thankfully, I was able to solve my sleep problems, with the help of today’s guest, Dr. Michael Breus (AKA The Sleep Doctor). I called him for advice, and he is with us today to talk about optimizing your sleep routine. Michael is a clinical psychologist with over twenty years in the sleep game. He’s been a life-saver, helping me beat insomnia and get my sleep back on track.
And today, Michael’s here to share his expertise and routines that will transform your sleep. He’s going to walk you through creating an ideal nighttime routine, one that sets you up for the most rejuvenating sleep you’ve ever had.
- The age-reversing benefits of sleep
- The importance of regular sleep patterns
- The optimal dose of melatonin for a good night’s sleep
- How gratitude helps you sleep better
- Evening routines for lowering your heart rate
- Why it’s best to ditch the nightcap
- The Sleep Doctor’s Guide to Surviving The Holidays
- Starting fresh with a December 1st resolution
THIS EPISODE IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY:
Organifi makes the highest quality nutritional products, which are made from whole food ingredients (not synthetic vitamins) that I enjoy nearly every day, and have for many years. Visit Organifi.com/Hal, and use the code HAL at checkout to get 20% off of your entire order. I hope you find something there that you love! :^)
Rise by CURED Nutrition is a natural supplement made from CBD, Lions Mane and Ginseng (among others) that helps boost energy, performance and cognitive function. There’s no caffeine, no jitters and most importantly, no crash. Visit CuredNutrition.com/Hal and receive 20% off of your entire order. They have tons of other products as well, hopefully you’ll find something that works for you. :^)
- Sleep Doctor
- Sleep Doctor on Instagram | YouTube | TikTok | Facebook | X | LinkedIn
- Andrew Weil
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Hal Elrod: Welcome to the Achieve Your Goals podcast. This is your host, Hal Elrod. And if you need help with sleep, this is the episode for you. I am talking to my good friend, Dr. Michael Breus, a.k.a. the Sleep Doctor, and he helped me get over my issues of sleep a couple of years ago and he can help you too. He is a double-board-certified clinical psychologist and clinical sleep specialist. He is the expert that the media calls on when they need help with sleep. He’s been on Oprah, Dr. Oz, The Doctors, featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, you name it. Dr. Breus also has a private practice, which he’s been in for 23 years and recently was named The Top Sleep Doctor of Los Angeles by Reader’s Digest. So, I think you get it. He’s an expert. And if you are going to anybody for help with sleep, Dr. Breus is your guy.
Before we dive in, I want to take just a couple of minutes to thank two sponsors and specifically two products that I take every night that help me get a good night’s sleep. The first is Organifi. Organifi, of course, makes some of the highest quality organic whole food supplements, and I take their Essential Magnesium every night before I go to bed. About 90 minutes before bed, I take two capsules and magnesium is proven to help your nervous system relax so that you can prepare for a good night’s sleep. If you want to improve your sleep, try Essential Magnesium. Head over to Organifi.com/Hal. That is spelled O-R-G-A-N-I-F-I, Organifi.com/Hal and use the discount code ‘HAL’ at checkout to get 20% off your order of Essential Magnesium and any other products there that you add to your shopping cart.
And then last but not least, CURED Nutrition is our other sponsor and they make a product called Nighttime Oil. They also make a product called Night Caps, which is the exact same ingredients. It’s in a capsule form and I take that when I travel but at home, I take the Nighttime Oil. And that is a combination of CBD oil and CBN oil, both of which help you fall asleep and stay asleep and feel rested when you wake up. Head over to CUREDNutrition.com/Hal and then just search for Nighttime Oil and you will find either or both of those products. And again, I use those in conjunction with the Organifi Essential Magnesium. I also take the Nighttime Oil as well about 30 minutes before bed. So, you can go to CUREDNutrition.com/Hal and then use the discount code ‘HAL’ for 20% off your Nighttime Oil or your Night Caps. And may the Essential Magnesium for Organifi and the Nighttime Oil from CURED Nutrition help you fall asleep and stay asleep longer.
And to really help you fall asleep and stay asleep, today’s episode with the one and only, Dr. Michael Breus on how to optimize your sleep, right away starting tonight.
Hal Elrod: Michael Breus, it is fantastic to see you, brother.
Dr. Michael Breus: Good to see you, too, Hal. Always. Always a pleasure hanging out.
Hal Elrod: So, I was just talking about how young you are. I didn’t realize your age. And then I thought, I said, “You look so much younger,” and I said, “You know why? Because you sleep.” Right? I mean, that’ll add years to your life. The reason I wanted to have you on today, other than you and I both could have sworn you’re already on the podcast but I was doing a search. I couldn’t find it. I don’t know. You were in the Miracle Morning Movie, which is that’s cooler than being on a podcast, right?
Dr. Michael Breus: Absolutely.
Hal Elrod: You were the sleep expert in the movie, and you’ve been a sleep expert in my life. And when I was going through those difficult time in my life in 2020, sleeping two, three, four hours a night for six months to the point where I was hallucinating and depressed and anxious and just suicidal. And I reached out to you and I was like, “Hey, you’re the foremost sleep expert in the world, let alone in my life,” and helped me out. You gave me some advice on just different ways to approach sleep and some natural supplements to take. And as of late, you don’t know this part, I don’t think, but the new Miracle Morning book that’s coming out now, I wrote a chapter called The Miracle Evening in the book. And it just came because people have asked me for years, what’s your evening routine? And for years, I was embarrassed to be like, “I don’t really have one. I’m the morning guy.” And then you’ve helped me realize and just research and just life go, well, how you end your day is arguably as important or if not a real close second to you start the day, right?
Dr. Michael Breus: Right.
Hal Elrod: And so, with your help, I overcame my challenges with insomnia and sleep deprivation. And if anyone’s going through that, it’s a nightmare.
Dr. Michael Breus: It’s awful.
Hal Elrod: Nothing else matters if you’re not getting sleep. And so, now when I speak to audiences, I always say, “Hey, raise your hand if you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep.” And it is consistently over half of the room whose hands shoot up.
Dr. Michael Breus: Yeah. You know, it’s fascinating. I have the same experience, although I’m there talking about sleep. You’re there talking about waking up and things like that. But I think what that also speaks to is just the stress that’s going on in the world today. And I hope it’s okay to talk about this a little bit because I think everybody’s going through this right now. I mean, if you think about it between the terrorism in Israel, the war in the Ukraine, the economy going ups and downs, we’ve got an election coming up like there are so many things that are arguably pretty stressful for people that I feel like the best option for them is to figure out ways to not have that stress influence their sleep, which then has, as you know, tremendous impacts across your daytime, right? And so, I’m talking with people about things like, “Hey, do me a favor, take a media diet for like 2 hours before bed. Like, don’t watch the damn news because, first of all, there’s nothing good on. I’m just going to let you know. And try to do something that’s more positive.” So, while talking about your evening routine, I think this kind of falls into play for a lot of people, which is if you’ve got a lot of stress going on in your daytime, you’ve got to schedule time to relax and unwind and de-stress. And when you don’t, you’re going to pay for it one way or another, and it’s probably going to be in your sleep.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. Really just some great simple points that you made there and I love the two-hour media fast. So, what I’ll do is if I’m watching anything stressful news or even a movie, right, I mean, there can be movies that are spiking your nervous system, fight or flight, I will then I go, “Okay. I need to either listen to some really peaceful, calming music,” so that that’s in my brain as I fall asleep or I’ll watch, either do a meditation video or even watch some comedy. Right?
Dr. Michael Breus: I was just going to say there’s actually data to show that if you are happy before falling asleep, you fall asleep faster and you have more positive dreams. So, the recommendation is watch a comedy. Go watch an old episode of Seinfeld. They’re hilarious and they’re fun. And it’s fun, fun. It’s not like somebody is making fun of something that’s stressful and trying to relieve that stress there. Or look through an old photo album. I cannot tell you how many times I get people to look through photo albums and they’re like, “I had so much fun remembering times when my children were smaller or vacations that we took.” And you can do that with your partner as well, right? And so, now you have a kind of a fun, cool activity that you can do that’s positive for you, puts you into a positive space, and probably helps you sleep, right? And so, not only take the negative out, which we’ve already identified but let’s put some positive in. And that positive can be anything you want.
I mean, positive for some people might be reading car and driver, just doing something for yourself. Right. Sometimes one of the things I do, my son likes to send me jokes. And so, I’ll look through some of the jokes because they’re actually pretty funny and I feel a connection to my son. And then the next day I can be like, “Oh, I read your joke last night. Really made me laugh,” and then we have that connection there. So, there’s lots of ways, I think, to start to incorporate that some structure and some positivity to your evenings. And a lot of people don’t really think about it that way. They’re like, “Well, my day is structured. Do I really need structure for the nighttime?” Yes, you do. Okay. I’m here to tell you.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. You also do. And that’s where my Miracle Evening idea came from is I’m like, “I need structure to set myself up for peaceful, restful sleep.” Right? Because that’s the thing is our only objective at bedtime is to prepare our mind and body for peaceful, restful sleep. But most people, they’re not intentional about it. Yeah, you were going to say something.
Dr. Michael Breus: Well, I was going to say what most people end up doing, which I think is interesting, is that they kind of wait for that signal from their body that they’re getting tired to then start to even think about, “Hey, I’m going to start to wind down,” versus, “Hey, this is the time every night where I start to wind down.” They’re looking for something that are like their droopy eyes or their bobbing head or something like that. To be fair, by the time you’ve reached that, I’m not saying it’s too late but you’re well past a structured time to understand when to go to bed. And I want to be clear about this. Consistency actually matters with sleep. And the reason that consistency matters with sleep is because your body does things that are consistent. Melatonin rises and melatonin falls on a very consistent schedule called your chronotype, which people may not know.
That’s kind of the big thing that I’m famous for is finding people’s chronotype, which is your internal genetic sleep schedule because that’s based on your melatonin. The closer you get to that, the more efficient your sleep gets and all of a sudden everything starts working a whole lot better. So, the goal is really consistency within your genetic or DNA that what it’s telling us and then all of a sudden everything starts to work.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. So, for me, and I wasn’t this way when I was younger, but now…
Dr. Michael Breus: None of us were, bro.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. None of us were. Ever since I started Miracle Morning, I would say, the structure is so like I run my day, everything’s done at the same time but life’s a lot easier that way. There is no guesswork. There’s, “Oh, it’s 5 p.m. Time to have my old person dinner, as my wife would say.” And I do that, by the way. I talk about that in the new book that I want to give my body three to four hours to digest my food before I go to sleep so I can actually be completely ready to rest. Because if you eat before bed, your body’s working all night even though you think you’re sleeping but your body’s not.
Dr. Michael Breus: Absolutely. And I want to say that’s also a really important point that a lot of people don’t really think about is you don’t want to just be doing something, doing something, doing something, and then, boom, jump in bed. That’s not how sleep works, right? And so, what I tell people all the time is you need runway to land the plane. Okay. Right? And that runway can come in many different shapes and forms. But at the end of the day, if you don’t have any runway, the plane just crashes. You know what I’m saying?
Hal Elrod: Yeah. Part of what you taught me, I mean, we talked about supplementation back when you were coaching me, and you said you take melatonin, and I said, “No because everything is synthetic. I don’t like synthetic supplements.” You said, “How about if it’s made from grass?” And then Herbatonin is what I got on Amazon and I take that to this day every night. And I want to ask you, I don’t know if it’s a misconception you’re going to know this, but I’ve heard conflicting information that no, no, no, if you take melatonin, then your body won’t produce it anymore and then you’re screwing yourself. And I think you told me the opposite of that.
Dr. Michael Breus: I knew exactly what you were going to ask.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. What is it?
Dr. Michael Breus: I knew exactly what you were going to ask. So, I want to be very clear about this point. There have been two significant studies to show that that is not true. You can take melatonin for ten years, stop taking it, and your body will begin to produce it again. It is not like testosterone for men, which does have that effect. So, a lot of people confuse those two. A lot of men out there who do hormone replacement therapy with testosterone don’t understand that once you start that, you’re pretty much on it for the rest of your life. Melatonin is not that way at all. And in your case, what’s also important to recognize is that the Herbatonin comes in the appropriate dosage. Most of the dosages that are out and about in the drugstores and grocery stores of the world are overdosing, 3 milligrams, 5 milligrams, 10 milligrams. I can’t remember if you had the 0.3 or the 1.3. Which one did you use?
Hal Elrod: I started with the 0.3 and then I am at the 3. So, yeah, for me, I think for me…
Dr. Michael Breus: That’s exactly…
Hal Elrod: Yeah. Go ahead.
Dr. Michael Breus: But that’s as high as you ever want to get. I’ve got people who tell me they’re taking 5 milligrams, 10 milligrams. I had one person tell me in the lecture I gave yesterday that they take 20 milligrams of melatonin at night. Number one, that’s just dumb. It doesn’t work. It’s not an accumulative type of thing. Believe it or not, you only require between 0.5 and 1.5 milligrams for plasma concentration levels to reach where you want them to in order to initiate sleep. So, anything more than, like you said, 3 milligrams is really, A, you’re wasting your money but, B, you’re putting a hormone in your body at an excessive amount. And so, that’s when interactions can affect. And so, a lot of people don’t know this but melatonin can affect antidepressant medication, diabetes medication, birth control. So, it’s not just one of those things that you can pull off the shelf and just say, “Hey, I can take it willy-nilly.”
You really need to sit down and talk with the professional like what we did when we worked together back in 2020. And I was like, “Hey, let’s think about melatonin,” then you were like, “Ah, synthetic.” And I was like, “Don’t worry, bro. We’ve got you covered.” So, that’s the way I asked people to do it. And when we look at supplementation as a general guideline, the first thing I tell people is, “Go get some blood work done.” That’s what I told you. I said, “What’s your vitamin D? What’s your magnesium? What’s your iron? And what’s your melatonin?” Once we know those four things, if you have deficiencies in any of those areas, supplement that first. Nobody’s got a deficiency in ashwagandha, you know what I’m saying? You know, it just doesn’t work that way. So, what I tell people is…
Hal Elrod: That was the greatest statement.
Dr. Michael Breus: Right? It’s like, let’s get the body up to the par levels where we need it so that we’ve got enough magnesium for all of those interactions. So, we’ve got melatonin, so we’ve got iron, and so we’ve got vitamin D, and let’s see how your body actually reacts when it’s got all the right stuff in it. Once we see that, then we can start thinking about what other types of things we want to add or remove.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. And I supplement Vitamin D, magnesium, and melatonin. So, I still take all three of those. You know, I want to talk a little bit about de-stressing, like you mentioned this, right, collectively. And that’s the thing. We’re in a time where and I’m sure back in World War II and we’re like, “I’m sure there were times in history and different depending on your geographic region, where life’s scary and you’re like the bomb could drop at any moment.” But I know in my lifetime I’ve never felt a personal or a collective stress like we have since 2020. And then it feels like they just keep doubling down like it’s not getting better. It’s getting worse, right?
Dr. Michael Breus: It is. It keeps going. Yeah. It’s awful.
Hal Elrod: And so, I’d love to chat and we’ll share what kind of what I do and then any other thoughts you have. Like, for me, as I lay down to bed, I talk this in a new book. Part of the Miracle Evening is I want to go to bed feeling peaceful, grateful, and happy. Like, I call it blissful bedtime, right?
Dr. Michael Breus: I like that.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. And gratitude is a big part of it. You mentioned something about you and your son. That’s actually what triggered this for me is you and your son, him sending you funny comedy stuff and it was a cool way to connect with your son. I make it a point to connect with my 14-year-old daughter, 14 going on 24, every evening because it’s harder and harder and harder and harder to connect with her as she gets older, right? I used to snuggle with her, read her a story. Now, she’s like, “Dad, get out of my room.” But I always make it a point to just go in and just ask her how her day was. And last night was arguably the best we’ve connected. I think for an hour she’s going on and on about how she’s crushing it in school and her teachers love her. But the point is, whatever I’m grateful for, and last night I just went to bed smiling, thinking how wonderful my daughter’s doing and how connected we were.
And the thing is you mentioned you’ve got to get rid of the stressful stuff in the evening but that’s not always enough because it’ll creep back in. You got to replace it with something. So, for me, it’s like I’m going to replace the stressful thoughts with grateful thoughts. So, I want to hear any other thoughts, whether it’s on gratitude or just like what we can do in the evening to tune out the crazy world that’s out of our control and really what might we focus on, whether it’s gratitude or something else.
Dr. Michael Breus: Yeah. So, there are several different things that I like to participate in, especially if I feel like my day has had a lot of stress in it. You know, some days are a bit more stressful than others. One thing that is non-negotiable for me is the gym. I’m at the gym every single day. I do it for a minimum of 45 minutes. And then I also have a 20-minute sauna every single day. And that really sets my day up for really being able to handle stress. So, I like to preempt the stress by doing something to create it’s something for my system to say, “Okay. We can handle stuff.” Let’s say you got to be at work early. Maybe you don’t have that opportunity. After work or even during lunch, going for a walk and getting sunlight is definitely going to be something that’s going to be super-duper helpful with stress. But as you start to move towards the evening, you need to start thinking about, okay, what else can I do? So, me, personally, while I’m falling asleep, I actually like to do a gratitude list.
So, I sit there in the dark and I say, and some days the list is long and some days the list is short but there’s always something to be grateful for, whether it’s food in my belly, a roof over my head, health for my children, stuff like that. And so, being grateful has turned out to be such an important part of my life that I never really thought about it much before because I was going along, doing the doctor thing, blah, blah, blah. And you don’t think about it like that. But when you start to really understand gratitude, especially in as stressful a world as we’re in today, like, I’m just grateful I don’t live in the Middle East right now or live in the Ukraine right now. You know what I’m saying? Like, I can’t even fathom how scary something like that would feel for anybody and then being able to sleep. And that kind of brings me to a really interesting point, which is I’ve been working a lot and thinking about sleep a lot as I have in a long time.
And I really think that sleep boils down to one really big factor, which is safety. If you feel safe, you will sleep. And safety comes in many different forms and feeling unsafe comes in many different forms. You can have feelings of physical usafety, financial unsafety, emotional unsafety. And anything like that, it just burns a hole in your head and you can’t fall asleep because you have this fear. Because sleep is…
Hal Elrod: You’re in fight, right? You’re in fight. Fight or flight.
Dr. Michael Breus: Exactly. Because sleep is you’re the most vulnerable you possibly can be when you are asleep. And so, your brain isn’t stupid and it’s saying, “I want to have no fears while I’m trying to do this act because I’m going to get something bad that’s going to happen.” And so, you’ve got to be at that point in your life. And I’m not saying that you can dismiss any fears, but what I am saying is, is you have to come to terms with those fears. You have to have plans for those fears. You have to have escape hatches for those fears. But once that’s in there, then you can get to that point of having acceptance, and then becoming fear less and that’s really where things start to move. And I’m not saying be stupid and say, “Oh, I’m fearless. I can jump off a building.” That’s not the kind of fear we’re talking about. What we’re talking about here is your own personal ideas behind fear. And as you can work through those, then sleep gets much easier.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. Everything you just said, so the first piece around fear is that realizing that you can’t do anything. Like, there’s no point in perpetuating that fear while you’re laying down the bed because you can’t do anything about it anyway. And it’s very often irrational, right? Because it’s like we know the things you’re afraid of aren’t happening right now, and they’re not going to happen in the next 7 or 8 hours. But when we’re thinking about them, our subconscious does not know the difference between what’s actually happening and what’s being vividly imagined, right? So, when you have a nightmare, you wake up and you’re sweating profusely and you’re breathing hard because your subconscious does not know the difference between you’re imagining it and if it were real. The other piece, I love what you said about safety, and I don’t know, it was a few months ago where I had that breakthrough. I had that exact breakthrough, which is, “Oh, it’s all about feeling safe.” And so, I started affirming, “I’m safe. I’m safe in my bed. I’m safe in my home.”
And I live in Texas near the southern, well, not near the southern border, but we have our southern border wide open and there’s cartel and people coming through. And I found myself watching. Friends were sending me videos, “Look, the cartel is coming across the border and like they’re infiltrating Texan towns.” And I started creating this, I mean, literally, I was watching these videos every day, and I had this irrational fear that the cartel is going to come onto our property and I’ve got to protect my family. And it was probably six months ago and it’s like they haven’t shown up. We’re still good, right? Well, I wasn’t sleeping for maybe a month or two because I was creating this irrational fear over something that I had no control over. And it didn’t happen, right? It was irrational.
Dr. Michael Breus: And I think you see that a lot, especially late at night when we’re not bouncing ideas off of other people. So, that’s the other problem is you’re lying there, your partner fell asleep, and you’re thinking the cartel is walking through any minute. And you can’t turn to her and say, “I think I’ve got a pretty irrational belief right now. Can I just run this one by you?” And she’d be like, “Shut up, Hal, and go to sleep.”
Hal Elrod: She would say, “Go to sleep,” or, “Fine.”
Dr. Michael Breus: Right? But that’s what happens is we all – and I want to be clear. It’s not just you that does this. I’ve done this and I’m the sleep doctor for God’s sake. Like, we all do this. And your point, which is a really important one is when we imagine it, it’s still real to us. And that increases that heart rate, right? And causes that anxiety. You know, one of the things I remember telling you early on when we started working together is in order to enter into a state of unconsciousness, you need a heart rate of about 60 or below. And so, whatever anybody does that raises heart rate, bad idea before bed. You really want to do things that lower heart rate. So, what are some of those things? I love meditations. I like doing yoga poses and stretches. One thing I will tell you, though, is you don’t want to do any inversions with yoga poses because then all the blood rushes to your head and that can actually increase your heart rate. It’s not very relaxing.
So, more things like savasana and child pose, things that are very relaxing for you to be able to do I think can be important before bed. I personally like doing breathing exercises as well. So, 4-7-8 breathing, which is one of my favorites. Dr. Andrew Weil developed a technique where you breathe in slowly for a count of four, you hold for a count of seven, and then you push out for a count of eight slowly. And the idea is to dump all that excess carbon dioxide, which then allows your heart rate to come down because it doesn’t have to beat as fast to get new air in. And it works very, very well. Seven cycles of that and people’s heart rate starts to really come down. They start to relax a whole lot more and things start to work out there. Other things can be distraction techniques, right? And so, like we said, now I will admit and I’ve told you this before, my wife falls asleep with the television on and both bulldogs in the bed. That’s just how it is at my house. And to be fair, I love the bulldogs and I love my wife, so I’ve learned how to adapt to that.
Everybody’s situation is different and so everybody’s got to understand there are certain things that are going to make sense and certain things that aren’t going to. But if you like to fall asleep with the TV on because it distracts you from thinking about your worries during the day, I don’t think I care, right? Just stick on the timer, let it turn off 90 minutes later, and everybody’s frickin happy. Think through these different ideas and give yourself the space to find out what works for you. Now, to be fair, a lot of people might turn to me and say, “Well, you want to know what works for me, Dr. Breus? A six-pack of beer.” Okay. I can appreciate that. But at the end of the day, you’re destroying the sleep that you’re getting. And there’s a really big difference between passing out and going to bed. And that’s one of those things that people need to start to think through this idea. Like, if you need to drink alcohol in order to fall asleep, something’s going on, right? That’s not right.
You should naturally be able to fall asleep without the use of alcohol. So, something is happening there. You may want to talk to a sleep specialist. You may want to talk with your doctor. Now, to be fair, unfortunately, with a lot of Western medicine, when we go and we talk to doctors, sometimes they just like to write a prescription and give you a sleeping pill. I’m one of the few people out there who says, while I understand and I think there are appropriate uses for sleeping pills, I think they’re overprescribed and I think too many people take them, and it’s a crutch that many people don’t necessarily need. Now, I want to be super-duper clear for any of our listeners out there, do not take yourself off of your sleeping pill without your doctor’s permission. Things can go wildly wrong. So, if you’re uncomfortable being on a sleeping pill, have that conversation with your doctor and they will slowly taper you off of the pill, hopefully, teaching you how to sleep.
Unfortunately, many doctors aren’t trained in cognitive behavioral therapy to teach them that. So, sometimes you have to find specialists like myself in order to do that. The way to find a specialist like me is you want to go to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s website called Sleep Centers with an S dot org, and there’s a zip code thing at the top. If you punch in your zip code, it’ll actually tell you the sleep centers in your area that would have somebody like me that’s associated with it so you can find some help locally.
Hal Elrod: Got it. SleepCenters.org. Yeah. So, that’s a great resource to you all if you’re struggling with sleep and want some professional help. Let’s talk for a bit here on chronotypes. That’s what you are well known for. In fact, I think it’s what you and I kind of clashed a little bit on the beginning because in my original Miracle Morning book, I was like, “You need as much sleep as you believe you need and you could be a morning person no matter what you’re like. Eh, there’s actually a little bit of nature involved and people are kind of predisposed one way or the other.” Talk about that.
Dr. Michael Breus: So, yeah. So, our first meeting, I don’t know if it was, I certainly wouldn’t call it confrontational but it was one of those situations where it’s like, “Hey, there’s some science that we need to incorporate in here. So, number one, I love the ideas presented in the Miracle Morning. I think they’re important and I love the structure, but there are some people, genetically speaking, like me, who are night owls that mornings are not miracles, bro. Mornings are horrible. But the ideas that you put forth in the morning time can just be done a little bit later for night owls like me. And that’s really what a chronotype is. So, people are out there trying to figure out like, “What is he talking about? Chronotypes?” If you’ve ever been called an early bird or a night owl, those are chronotypes and it turns out they’re genetic. So, I could look at your 23andMe data or your Ancestry.com data, and I could actually tell you how many genetic components that you have that make you an early bird, that make you a night owl, or somebody in between.
My contribution to the literature was I found a fourth chronotype. I found one that was somebody who has a very irregular sleep schedule. I call them dolphins and a lot of anxiety and they make up about 10% of the population. So, when you think about it, it gets really interesting because once you know your chronotype, not only do you know what your sleep schedule should be but I can tell you the best time of day to have sex, eat a cheeseburger, ask your boss for a raise, drink coffee, drink alcohol, you name it, all based on these genetic components. So, if people have an interest, if you go to ChronoQuiz.com, we can put that into the show notes, people can get a chance to take the quiz and figure out what their chronotype is.
Hal Elrod: And Chrono is C-H-R-O-N-O, ChronoQuiz.com.
Dr. Michael Breus: Yeah.
Hal Elrod: Awesome, man. And so, one of the thing that I wanted to talk to you about because we’re coming up to the holidays here and I’ve heard you talk in the past about sleep and the holidays specifically so just share some thoughts on that. You know, what makes the holidays a time where you need to be more intentional or more thoughtful around your sleep?
Dr. Michael Breus: Well, so there’s a couple of different things that seem to happen during the holiday time period that I want people to be aware of. So, number one, the holidays aren’t always happy for everyone. A lot of people are lonely. A lot of people may not have family or may not have relationships with which they can celebrate the holidays. And so, for some people, the holidays turn out to be a time of depression, a time of sadness, or remembering somebody that may have passed or things of that nature. And we have to be respectful of those people and what’s going on for them. So, we have to start to think. And the fact of the matter is, is that can affect your sleep, right? So, we all know that depression can make you feel like you want to sleep all the time, things like that. Also, we’re walking into the winter when the winter months, depending upon where you live, means less sunlight. Now, down in Texas, where you are, you got plenty of sunshine. But if you go up to upstate New York or Massachusetts or those places, lots of cloud cover, not nearly as much sunshine.
And so, sun is really that thing that helps our bodies know when to be awake, when to be asleep, and things like that. And so, the wintertime can present all sorts of issues. Now, we get into the actual cold of it all and so people start turning on their heat. What happens when you turn on your heat? All the moisture pulls out of the air, now your throat gets dry, now you’re in the middle of the night, you’re drinking water. You know, I mean, you need to really, like think through what’s going on. Do I need to change my sheets? Do I need to have a thicker comforter? Maybe I should be wearing socks to bed if I’m cold at night. Maybe my bed partner likes it cool and I like it warm. And how do we coordinate those types of things? And so, I think those all come with winter. But then with the holidays in particular, watch out, because all the food is so good and it’s so full of sugar. And I like eggnog and it’s loaded with alcohol. I love the pumpkin spice lattes and it’s pure sugar and caffeine.
It seems like all of the holiday stuff is super-duper full of sugar or caffeine. And so, number one, you got to put some limits on that. Now, what I used to tell myself is, “Oh, it’s only once a year that I eat this stuff,” but I eat it for like two months, right? So, it’s really more than once a year, right? And so, start to think about that. Be cautious. The other one is you don’t want to do what I call the double whammy, which is I’m going to stay up later than my normal bedtime and I’m going to have alcohol on top of that. Pick your poison. Like, you just don’t want to get stacking up like I had four pumpkin lattes today, I’m going to eggnog in the evening, and I’m staying up until 2:00 in the morning like there’s no universe your sleep is going to be good. So, you really have to have it in. Think through your schedule. Know what works for you. I’m not saying don’t have fun and I’m not saying don’t celebrate the holidays. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. But be thoughtful. Because here’s the problem is if at the beginning of the holidays you screw up your sleep, you’re not going to enjoy most of the holidays. You’re going to be exhausted.
Hal Elrod: I love that. And I want to follow up on that with a bigger picture concept I used to talk about a lot whenever I was teaching, like how to have your best year ever is I talked about treat December like make December the best month of your life because that’s the most effective way you’re going to set yourself up for the best year of your life. And the problem is most people during the holidays, they develop an arsenal of bad habits. And then you mentioned, “Oh, I’m going into the new year where I want to have the best year of my life. So, as I lead into the New Year, I’m going to overeat. I’m going to drink excessively. I’m going to have erratic sleep.” In other words, you’re setting yourself up for a very difficult start to what is supposed to be the next best year of your life, right?
Yeah. So, you handle the sleep piece but I just want to bring people to even zoom out and just think, apply Michael’s advice and, in general, consider how it applies to your going into the new year. You want to go into the new year with momentum, with not an arsenal of bad habits, but an arsenal of really good proactive habits. And so, challenge yourself to actually go to bed at the same time every night during the holidays or at least five nights a week and everything in moderation, if you will.
Dr. Michael Breus: So, I heard somebody do something like that, but they did it just a hair differently. And what they did was instead of having a New Year’s resolution, they have December resolutions. So, they start whatever their New Year thing is that they really want to be on. They start prepping for it 30 days ahead. So, December 1 is your kind of in-training to get to start your New Year’s resolutions. Because I agree, most people do the exact opposite. I can’t count the number of people tell who I’m sitting there watching them stuff their face with Rice Krispie treats and ice cream and cookies and cake. And they’re like, “Yep, crunching away. I’m starting my diet January 1.” It’s like, “Bro, what are you doing?”
Hal Elrod: Oh, totally. Well, Michael, you are obviously a wealth of information and knowledge and wisdom around sleep and life in general. Where’s the best place? I know you’ve had some changes in your work recently. Where is the best place for people to follow you and keep learning from you?
Dr. Michael Breus: Yeah. So, the good news is it’s all still the same. People can find me at the SleepDoctor.com. Also, that’s my handle on Facebook, Instagram, all the different, what is it, TikTok and LinkedIn and you name it. It’s the Sleep Doctor. Come over. Check it out. We have lots and lots of interesting information for people that I think people will really find it. Also, I’ve recently started putting up videos on my YouTube channel, so I really encourage people. If you enjoyed this, check out my YouTube channel. I have almost 400 videos now of every kind of sleep question you could possibly imagine, and really breaking it down and giving people the science as well as some of my clinical experience.
Hal Elrod: I’m going to go subscribe. I’m not subscribed yet. I’m going to go subscribe to YouTube, man. That’s amazing.
Dr. Michael Breus: Absolutely.
Hal Elrod: Cool. Hey, brother, thank you for the time. It is so good just to catch up with you as a friend. And I learned a lot and I hope our audience did too. I’m sure that they did.
Dr. Michael Breus: I’m sure they did as well and I wanted to say thank you for having me on. You know, we’ve known each other for a while, and I can’t believe this is the first time I’m on but I’m psyched that it is. And I just want to thank you for all you’ve done in the community and your constant vigilance in what you do. I think it’s super-duper important and it’s inspiring for a lot of us out there. So, keep up the good work, brother.
Hal Elrod: Awesome. Thank you, Michael. Well, goal achievers, members of the Miracle Morning community, you know I love you. Apply what you learned today. If you need to go back and listen to this, do it. But sleep is, as you know, so crucial and if you’re struggling with it, you don’t have to be. You can actually take control of what you do in the evening and be intentional about landing the plane, as Michael said, so that you start winding down before you get – don’t wait to get tired. Right? Land that plane and have that runway so that you are prepared for restful restorative sleep. All right. Talk to you all next week, everybody. Take care.
Dr. Michael Breus: Sweet dreams.