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How To Get a Good Night's Sleep And Not Wake Up Drained [E018]

Without a doubt, the number one symptom we hear in practice is fatigue. Dr. Anthony Pasek and Dr. Bryan Joseph reveal the top reasons you may be getting bad sleep. Get the latest scoop on what you can do to combat your sleep issues and get a good night’s sleep, and boost your energy levels during the day!

Table Of Contents

An Introduction To Get a Good Night’s Sleep

An introduction to good night's sleep
Photographer: Kate Stone Matheson | Source: Unsplash

Dr. Bryan: Welcome to The Wellness Connection podcast, giving hope, igniting health, and shaping a brighter future. It’s time to get connected.

Dr. Bryan: All right, welcome back everybody. Here are again at The Wellness Connection show. I am with Dr. Anthony Pasek once again.

Dr. Anthony: Afternoon, Dr. Bryan.

Dr. Bryan: Welcome. How are you today?

Dr. Anthony: I’m fantastic. How about you?

Dr. Bryan: Great, great, great, great. It’s hard to believe we are already on episode 18. You can find this episode on TheWellnessConnection.com/E18. We’ve got a fun topic today.

Dr. Anthony: Sleep, one of my favorites.

Dr. Bryan: Over 15 years of private practice, I can easily say that the number one symptom that’s been listed the most amount of times in 15 years has been fatigue.

Dr. Anthony: Yeah, for sure.

Dr. Bryan: We’re going to work on today having a discussion around the topic of what creates fatigue, specifically trouble with people sleeping, and what are some practical tips that you may be able to do to improve your sleep so you’re not running to coffee and running to sugar and running to all these different things that most people will use as stimulants, but trying to really just restore and revitalize your body through the way nature intended, which is a good night’s sleep.

Dr. Anthony: Yeah, that’s great.

Why We Can’t Get A Good Night’s Sleep

Dr. Bryan: Dr. Anthony, why don’t you start us off? On the topic of sleep, what are some of the reasons, in your opinion, that people run into sleep issues in the first place?

Dr. Anthony: Yeah, there’s several for sure. Number one could be a whole topic that we’ll go into from a few different aspects, but light exposure. For most of our existence as humans, we were kind of adapted genetically to following the sun.

Dr. Anthony: The sun comes up, we start our day. As the sun goes down, the light lessens. We might be around a fire or a lantern or … Up until very recently, no electronics, no overhead lights, no TVs, no cell phones, no computers, none of that stuff. Now we’re kind of living in artificial light all day long. The sun goes down and you can sit in front of your 80 inch TV or play on your iPhone or do your taxes up until midnight and then you try to go to sleep. That blue light ultimately can sabotage your good night’s sleep. That’s a huge topic.

Dr. Bryan: It’s amazing to me how many people come in and either check the box of insomnia or just never feeling like they’re waking up awake.

Dr. Anthony: Right, right.

Dr. Bryan: Based off what you just said, it seems like okay, we’re meant to follow a circadian rhythm, like the cycle of the sun, right?

Dr. Anthony: Right.

Breaking the circadian rhythm

Dr. Bryan: When we break that rhythm, then it’s going to reap some type of side effect, if you will. One of the side effects is, as what you’re saying, is if you’re not following the pattern of light of when it gets dark, you’re meant to actually rest, and you’re using artificial light all the time as a stimulant, whether it be your phone, like you said, or a screen or television, your body’s never knowing truly when to get into that rhythm of a restful state. Is that right?

Dr. Anthony: That’s right, yeah. When we have that blue light exposure from our devices and technology, it actually keeps your brain from making melatonin, which is what a lot of people end up taking to help fall asleep or even potentially in the middle of the night if they wake up, taking that, which can be helpful. That can be a good nutrient to use for some people sometimes, but ultimately if it’s because of a mismatch of your light environment, then you’re kind of paddling upstream a little bit.

Dr. Bryan: The number one thing that I hear people say when it comes to poor sleep is that they blame it on their bed, right?

Dr. Anthony: Sure.

Caffeine, stress, and other stimulants

good night's sleep coffee
Photographer: Mike Kenneally | Source: Unsplash

Dr. Bryan: You always hear people say like, “I just think I need a new mattress.” I’m sure the mattress companies are making a killing based off of everybody stimulating themself because of light and other reasons, but what are some of the other common reasons that you may hear or be aware of as to why people may struggle with habing a good night’s sleep?

Dr. Anthony: Probably what people tell me the most is that they can’t turn their brain off. My gears are constantly turning. I’m worried about money. I’m worried about my family. I’m worried about work the next day. That’s a big overlap into the stress system. Stress and sleep and cortisol and your adrenal glands are all pretty intimately related. Typically if somebody is not managing their stress very well, then it’s very hard for your brain to shut down and actually allow itself to fall asleep.

Dr. Bryan: That makes a lot of sense. All right. That’s a couple reasons why people’s sleep could be bad. What else comes to mind?

Dr. Anthony: You mentioned caffeine, stimulants, things like that. People who are tired and not sleeping well probably rely on some coffee, some stimulant to get started throughout the day. Then they get that afternoon energy dip after lunch and guess what? Probably going to have another cup of coffee. Then by the time your brain and your body are saying it’s time to sleep, you’re so stimulated that you cannot fall asleep.

Dr. Bryan: The stimulants are staying inside your body at that point and it hasn’t had an opportunity to even wear down.

Pain and other discomforts

Dr. Anthony: They sure can. Some people are a lot slower metabolizers of caffeine and that can be a real common reason too.

Dr. Bryan: A reason that I hear often is pain, right?

Dr. Anthony: Sure.

Dr. Bryan: People that are just simply uncomfortable. They’re laying in a certain position and positionally it’s uncomfortable for them on their hips, their knees, their back or their neck. Some of that could be because of their mattress or their pillow, but some of it could be from other deformities or injuries or issues that they have in their body that have not been healed.

Dr. Anthony: Yeah. They could be inflamed chemically from foods that they’re eating or from not moving, sitting at a desk job all day, not having proper spinal alignment, not being checked chiropractically for that. Yeah, definitely. Pain is a big one. At the end of the day you’ve got to figure out why it’s there in the first place, but a lot of people do end up relying on taking pain pills or sleeping pills to fall asleep. That’s kind of a vicious cycle, needing stimulants in the morning and then a sedative in the evening. Really as we look at this from the root cause, what’s actually driving the problem? We’ve identified some of those.

Dr. Bryan: Stimulants can be stressors. Stimulants can be caffeine or other oral stimulants that you’re taking.

Dr. Anthony: Sure.

Dr. Bryan: Stimulants can be light, right?

Dr. Anthony: Yeah.

Dr. Bryan: Noise, right?

What An Ideal Sleeping Situation Looks Like

Ideal Sleeping for a good night's sleep
Photographer: Kinga Cichewicz | Source: Unsplash

Dr. Anthony: Yeah, that’s a huge one. As we look at like what an ideal sleeping situation would be, we just tell people your bedroom should be like a cave. It should be cool. It should be dark, very, very dark, meaning like if you’ve got bright street lights coming in, that can be a distraction. If you’ve got a lot of electronics going on in the room, if you have a TV on while you’re falling asleep, all those things can be distracting, but also some people say, “Oh you know, every little noise I hear when the house settles, that wakes me up.” We’ve used a sound machine to sleep ever since our daughter was born. I can hardly sleep without those things now. They’re great.

Dr. Bryan: I was going to say, so many kids do that with the white noise or the background noise and then they almost get addicted to that sound machine and then it helps you, soothes your mind a little bit and filters everything out so you can fall asleep.

Dr. Anthony: I’d rather you require a sound machine than Ambien every night to fall asleep though.

Dr. Bryan: I would agree.

Dr. Anthony: That would be preferential for sure.

“I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead”

Dr. Bryan: I would agree. I would agree. All right. I think something that often gets misunderstood or maybe misconceived is a lot of like optimal performers really, really like … They speak so highly and they almost make it sound like you get a trophy for not sleeping sometimes, like, “The earlier I get up, the more I can get done. I’m an ultimate achiever and I can make all this stuff happen.” Why is there a fallacy to that? Why is a good night’s sleep is so vitally important in order to be well?

Dr. Anthony: Yeah. I’ll sleep when I’m dead, is that sort of mentality, but ultimately if you’re not sleeping you will die. It’s really that basic. We know now that really seven to nine hours per night is pretty much the optimal zone. You definitely can have too little. That’s mostly what we’ve been talking about, but you can have too much too. There really is a sweet spot there. If you are outside of that range, for most people, they have a higher risk of insulin resistance, developing diabetes or just having blood sugar problems for a few days, high blood-

Dr. Bryan: You mean when they sleep too much?

Get that optimal quality of sleep

Dr. Anthony: Either way, too much or too little, outside of that zone. If your sleep is not really optimal in getting into quality sleep, usually most people struggle with too little, you end up with inflammation, high blood pressure, high blood sugar. Then perhaps most importantly, we sleep for a reason. That’s how our brain heals and repairs itself. It also sort of files away all the information that we were processing through that day. It sort of solidifies memories. It turns short-term and the long-term memories. The big problem there of course is when you look at dementia, Alzheimer’s, cognitive decline, if you’re not sleeping, you’re basically building up this problem in your brain that does accumulate.

Dr. Bryan: You don’t always get a trophy when you don’t sleep. What you’re saying is you may end up running into a chronic disease or illness.

Dr. Anthony: Most of the time, yeah. It’s pretty significant, but that perspective is one that’s hard to overcome in people who are really high driven executives or athletes where it’s like you’ve just got to go, go, go. Ultimately you just have to understand that it’s really not optional. It’s pretty essential for health. It’s one of the foundational pillars to be healthy for sure.

The Power Of Taking Naps

taking naps for a good night's sleep
qPhotographer: Sam Solomon | Source: Unsplash

Dr. Bryan: With that said, what’s your take on naps because so many people that don’t sleep well seem like they have to rejuvenate themselves halfway through the day? What’s your take on that?

Dr. Anthony: Personally, I love naps. Our colleague Dr. Jay, he said he’s taken a brief nap for, I don’t know what his stat was, everyday since 1995 or something like that. That’s a cool stat. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a power nap. I think there’s some research that says the length of time is pretty important. You don’t want to do 2 hours necessarily, but 15, 30 minutes, even maybe up to an hour is probably good. Some cultures actually have what they, I don’t remember what they call it, but it’s like they split sleep into two chunks.

Splitting sleep into two chunks

Dr. Anthony: Let’s say you were living in a very, very, very hot climate or something. You’d get up with the sun and then in between maybe 11 and 2 it’s incredibly hot so you might lay down and take a little siesta and then have some work to do in the evening, and then potentially not even sleeping through the night all the time and maybe sleeping for a few hours in the beginning part of the evening, waking up in the middle of the night when it’s very cool to do activities that you couldn’t do during the day and then falling back asleep.

Dr. Anthony: There are a lot of cultures that don’t have seven to nine hour chunks, but they tend to get that much per day. I think napping can be awesome. If you have to rely on it and you’re really dragging, then that would suggest there’s some kind of problem.

Dr. Anthony: Along those lines, just a brief sidebar on that I think is interesting. People who take antidepressants and a lot of other medications like anxiety medications and things like that, they … Many times people will take those at night because it’s kind of relaxing and it calms you down, but it can actually keep your brain from getting into the deep restorative phases of sleep. You might be quote unquote sleeping, but you’re really just kind of sedated and your brain is not really getting that deep restorative good night’s sleep that you need. A lot of times those patients are like, “Man, I sleep nine hours. I wake up feeling pretty tired and I’ve got to have a nap during the day.” They’re really not ever getting that good sleep.

Breathing challenges when sleeping

Dr. Bryan: Got it, got it. Another issue that I tend to cross with a lot of patients when it comes to sleep is breathing challenges, whether it be sleep apnea that’s gotten really, really large, whether it be snoring, whether it be just dry mouth, those type of things. Do you hear that a lot yourself?

Dr. Anthony: I do. That was a controversial topic in our field for awhile. Oh, you shouldn’t have to rely on a CPAP machine, but really I think now I’ve kind of settled on if you really have significant sleep apnea, until you figure out what really the ultimate underlying cause is, a CPAP machine can be literally life saving. I mean it will get you to the deep restorative sleep you need and keep you from having a heart attack or really worsening your dementia or anything like that, but I have found, just totally anecdotally, I don’t know why or where, but a lot of patients have found that gluten sensitivity makes their sleep apnea worse. If they’re completely gluten free, tending to get better, and then if they get exposed, really relapsing back into that condition pretty badly.

Dr. Bryan: We did an entire episode on why you should consider being gluten free. Actually it’s episode nine. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to that, you might want to look for that episode specifically to see if it makes more sense to you why people are moving away from gluten as fast as they are.

Dr. Anthony: That was a great episode.

How To Improve The Quality Of Sleep

Dr. Bryan: Yeah. Earlier in the episode today we were talking about people can’t turn their mind off. Let’s just say I want to work on improving the quality of my sleep. How do we reverse engineer some of the solutions that somebody can benefit from? How do I decrease the stimulants? How do I get my mind to settle down? How do I reduce stress? How do I make myself comfortable while I sleep? How do I make my good night’s sleep better?

Block The Blue Light

Block The Blue Light for good night's sleep
TrueDark Elite Boxed Set

Dr. Anthony: Yeah, for sure. There’s several areas there. The first one, let’s hit on light first, would be either not being exposed to blue light by essentially not engaging with technology in the evening for maybe two hours or more before bed. If you do have to do that, you can use blue light blocking glasses. There are several available on the market. Some of them are really dark red and they really block out all of the blue and green light.

Dr. Anthony: You can wear these glasses that I’m holding up right here. They’re called TrueDark brand. There’s several other ones. You can wear those and watch TV. You wouldn’t even notice a difference after a while. The red ones are a little bit more aggressive, but I’ll just tell you from my personal experience, I used to sleep like a champ. The last few years have not been as great. I’ve been working on implementing a lot of these strategies and I’ve found that the red glasses in the evening, it’s almost like taking a sleeping pill. It’s to the point where I’m feeling like I’m falling asleep when I’m wearing those. That helps quite a bit.

Dr. Bryan: A lot of people might not know what you’re referencing when you’re talking about these glasses. I know we talked about it again in another episode. Dr. Jason brought them up too in one of the bio-hacking episodes.

Dr. Anthony: Right.

Dr. Bryan: I think it might’ve been maybe episode 15 or 16. However, what we’ll do is we’ll provide a link and a picture on this episode’s webpage to show people what those glasses look like and then where you can get them. They’re relatively inexpensive, right?

Blue light blocking apps for your devices

Dr. Bryan: But there’s been a lot of healthcare discussions centered around trying to reduce the stimulation of light from technology. This is one of the devices that’s really an easy way for you to do it. We’ll try to provide that for you.

Dr. Anthony: Sure. There’s other apps that you can use on your devices, on your cell phone, on your laptop. There’s things like F.lux and Twilight and other things, and most devices now have a built-in blue light filter or night mode.

Calming the brain through meditation and journaling

meditation and journaling for a good night's sleep
Photographer: Dingzeyu Li | Source: Unsplash

Dr. Anthony: Coming back to your bullet points though, as far as brain winding up, I find a lot of people, when they improve the light situation, their brain activity calms down a little bit, but if it’s really like, “I just cannot turn this thing off,” there’s several strategies you can do. Meditating right before bed can be super, super helpful. There’s several different options for that. There’s apps you can get on your phone. You can just do it yourself, freestyle, get a CD, whatever works best for you, but that’s a good way to just sort of get re-centered, focus on your breath and just kind of quiet that stuff down.

Dr. Anthony: I’ve had some success myself and with other patients looking at like what we would call night journaling or, just off the record, it’s like a brain dump. You’ve just got all this stuff circling around in your head. Just keep a little pen and pad next to your bed, jot it all down. Just get it out on paper.

Dr. Bryan: Yeah, I found that to be very helpful myself.

Dr. Anthony: Just like, it’s out. Okay. It’s written down somewhere and if you really need to have that material to review the next day, you can save that, but a lot of people who preach that philosophy say it should be out and you should crumble it up and destroy it and never look at that piece of paper again because it’s out of your brain and you don’t own that anymore.

Dr. Bryan: A little purge.

Dr. Anthony: It’s like, exactly, a purge. I’m trying remember what your other questions were there. We’ve got light. We’ve got brain activity.

Nutrients for better sleep

Dr. Anthony: Oh, let’s talk about nutrients. There’s some nutrients that are very beneficial for sleep. Magnesium, super, super helpful, especially if you take it right at bedtime. When people have muscle cramps, aches and pains, especially if you combine it with other anti-inflammatories, that can be very helpful for a good night’s sleep.

Dr. Anthony: I have found, with again, with myself and with other patients, that they really will start reporting like, “Wow, I’m having dreams again,” or like, “I’m having really, really vivid dreams,” which in my experience is a good clue that your brain is getting that deep restorative sleep. Vitamin D can be super helpful right at bedtime as well. There’s other things that we mentioned initially like melatonin. I do just want to say that there is some new evidence that melatonin may be not safe to take all the time forever. There’s a risk of some damage to the retina based on it based on stuff that I had heard from that.

Dr. Bryan: Interesting, yeah.

Dr. Anthony: Just be aware of that. There’s other nutrients like 5-HTP, which is related to serotonin, and things like theanine which are calming, and passionflower and valerian, a lot of herbs that are just kind of calming and restorative, but at the end of the day I find if you really need those things and rely on them to sleep, there’s some underlying issue that hasn’t been addressed. Your brain’s not turning off. Your light situation is bad.

Taking in food before bedtime

Dr. Anthony: Then one other thought, not so much related to nutrients but just food, this is where we have to customize this to certain people. Some people do really well with having a snack right at bedtime. Some people do really well with having a fat or protein snack. Other people do really well with having a carb snack. It depends on your level of activity. It depends on your blood sugar situation. Are you overweight? Are you lean? Other people do well by fasting for several hours before they go to bed. There’s a lot of experimentation to be done with that. The old adage like a warm glass of milk in the evening helps you to fall asleep for some people, maybe almond milk instead of-

Dr. Bryan: Oh, how about a warm glass of tea? Maybe with some chamomile tea, right?

Dr. Anthony: Exactly. Yeah. There’s something to that, but really there’s no one size fits all approach for that type of thing. It just requires individualization for you.

Dr. Bryan: Well, I think so much for me when it comes to a good night’s sleep is paying attention to your environment.

Dr. Anthony: Sure.

Check Your Environment

Check Your Environment for good night's sleep
Photographer: Christopher Jolly | Source: Unsplash

Dr. Bryan: Your environment is going to tell the story of why you’re struggling to sleep. When I say environment, I reference what is the temperature of your room? What does your bed look like? Is it firm? Is it too soft? Is your pillow accurate or is it too large or too small for you? Do you have adequate blankets or covers that are comfortable for you? Also when I say environment, I talk … Just like what you said about food and what you’re eating before you go to bed, if you’re going to bed after you just drank four cups of coffee and made some chocolate chip cookies, you’re probably going to struggle to sleep that night, right?

Dr. Anthony: Sure.

Dr. Bryan: Although some people can, but that’s just not ideal in terms of the environment that you’re trying to get your body to be ready to rest. Also when I say environment, the sounds. To me … This is just for me. A lot of times instead of watching television until I am about to fall asleep, I’ll just switch it to music.

Dr. Anthony: Definitely.

Listen to some soft music

Dr. Bryan: I find some soft music that I listen to that just lets my mind idle down. While I’m going through that stage of purging my thoughts like what you said, like whether it be writing them in a journal or whether it be just speaking them out loud to my significant other or to the kids, just to get them out of my head. It’s happening while the music is slowing down my mind.

Dr. Bryan: I think your environment has a lot to do with it. Then even too, like in a house with kids, we’ve got three kids right now, if somebody else outside of your bedroom has got the music blaring, or they actually got their friends over and there’s a slumber party or if there’s a television show that’s on like volume 75, that’s going to affect the way that you sleep as well. I mean, it sounds pretty obvious, but so many people’s environments have those stimulants around them so frequently.

Drop the temperature

Dr. Anthony: I personally am a hot sleeper, meaning I tend to be really warm, so I like the room very, very cold, if not even like having a fan blowing on me, whereas other people might be the opposite and feel like they really want to bundle up and like wear pajamas and a blanket and a sheet and all that stuff. Really you just have to kind of go to your own preference for that, but I think for the most part, at least the room and the environment should be cold, according to kind of our best understanding, because that actually triggers our sleep production. Having our body temperature drop, the sun is going down, just like most of our human history, the sun’s down, it gets cooler. That signals our body to start shifting into a good night’s sleep.

Dr. Bryan: Nature doesn’t seem to make too many mistakes. That’s the wild part, is the more that you learn about health, it’s really following as much as you could observe in nature.

Dr. Anthony: You’re exactly right.

Dr. Bryan: Light, sounds, temperature when it cools down, you try to reproduce what you see in nature in so many ways.

Dr. Anthony: Right.

Dr. Bryan: When you go against the grain, when we actually try to do something that’s opposite of nature, that’s usually when these disruptions or diseases develop.

Get back to nature once in a while

Dr. Anthony: Yup. Now we’ve got all this technology to counter all that awesome technology that we had, to get back to nature when really we could just go live in the woods for a while, you know?

Dr. Bryan: That’s so true. That’s so true.

Dr. Anthony: I notice myself when I’m camping, I hardly ever sleep any better. Just being out with the natural rhythm of the day and it’s just rock solid sleep most of the time.

Dr. Bryan: You speak to another good point there. Being in an environment outside where you’re breathing fresh air also is a huge part of the environment that’s going to affect your sleep.

Dr. Anthony: Yes.

Dr. Bryan: Most people, when we’re working inside or in the winter when you’re inside, because there’s cold, cold weather, you’re rarely actually breathing fresh air. That makes a big difference.

Dr. Anthony: Not getting sunlight on your eyes and your skin, that’s huge.

Closing Thoughts: Try To Sleep Like A Rockstar

Dr. Bryan: Hopefully you were able to take away some tips as to how you can improve your own sleep environment so that you can wake up not feeling like you’re dragging the entire day, but you can actually feel rejuvenated, because as Dr. Anthony said, without quality sleep, eventually, I mean, I hate to be this bold, but you can die.

Dr. Anthony: You’re exactly right.

Dr. Bryan: You need to recover. There’s no way around it. You will burn yourself down if you do not get some opportunity to recover. If you found this episode helpful, we ask that you continue to do as you’ve been doing. Share it with other people, someone that’s complaining that they have no energy, somebody that actually says that they need an afternoon coffee every single day, somebody that’s going to the gas station, grabbing those 5-hour Energies left and right, those are people that probably don’t have the best sleep habits. Do them a favor and share this episode and allow them the gift of actually improving their own health. Dr. Anthony, any closing thoughts on your end?

Dr. Anthony: Oh boy. Try to sleep like a rock star. It will save your life.

Dr. Bryan: All right, you can find this episode at TheWellnessConnection.com/E18. Until then, we’ll talk to you soon. Have a great day.

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