The Sleep Doctor is in the house! Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., is a Clinical Psychologist and both a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He was one of the youngest people to have passed the Board at age 31 and, with a specialty in Sleep Disorders, is one of only 168 psychologists in the world with his credentials and distinction. Dr. Breus is on the clinical advisory board of The Dr. Oz Show and appears regularly on the show (39 times in 8 seasons). Apart from writing the book we’re obsessed with- The Power of When, Dr. Breus has also written The Sleep Doctor’s Plan and Beauty Sleep. He has consulted for large organizations, including Advil PM, Disney, Princess Cruise Lines, and more. He’s been the Sleep Expert for WebMD for over 14 years and principal researcher on numerous grant funded projects and clinical trials. Dr. Breus has been interviewed many times on CNN, Oprah, The View, Anderson Cooper, Rachael Ray, Fox and Friends, The Doctors, Joy Behar, The CBS Early Show, The Today Show, and Kelly and Michael. What hasn’t this incredible man accomplished? Dr. Breus currently resides outside of Los Angeles and maintains a private practice in that area.
I was honored to get a chance to speak with him about chronotypes, your body’s biological clock. Dr. Breus shares with me how to get high quality, restorative sleep. We debunk the biggest myths about sleep- ahem, you must wake up at 5AM to be successful, and more things that may surprise you (social jet lag? Yeah, that’s real).
Here are the biggest takeaways from our conversation:
YOUR CHRONOTYPE IS YOUR BEST FRIEND.
Your chronotype refers your biological clock and propensity to wake up at a certain time and fall asleep at a certain time. We are uniquely wired to experience productivity and alertness during different times of the day. We are all not created equal; in fact, Dr. Breus talks about four chronotypes that go beyond the basic early bird and night owl. He categorized the chronotypes according to certain animal’s sleep behaviors in real life. Want to learn your chronotype? You can take this quick two-minute quiz from Dr. Breus that will offer you more information than you wanted to know about yourself! (I have shared the quiz to so many close friends and family over the years, definitely my favorite quiz.)
Dolphin chronotypes make up 10% of the population are the ones Dr. Breus describes as insomniacs- they typically have poorer sleep quality. The dolphin in real life engages in unihemispheric sleep so that one half of the brain can scan for predators; which Dr. Breus felt was like an accurate representation of the insomniac experience. Dr. Breus reveals that there is a genetic component to insomnia (He also mentions there are over 80 types of identified sleep disorders- WOW!). They are like “lions (see below) but with obsessive-compulsive disorder” according to Dr. Breus. They like organization and making lists but generally have a nervous energy to them. Intelligent with a dash (or a heaping pour) of neuroticism and perfectionism.
Lions account for roughly 15% of the population and they are your early morning hunters, success-driven, analytical go-getters. They are regimented in their thinking and are about getting from point A to point B to point C. Late night plans? Forget it- they’re ready for bed by 9pm.
Bears make up about 55% of the population. Dr. Breus describes them as generally extroverted types that get up around 7am and go to bed around 10pm. They are the worker bees- they can get work done.
Wolves makeup 15% of the population (Dr. Breus is one) and they are the late night creatives. These people are typically the artists and creators. Although wolves may love to perform, they are generally described as introverted. Unfortunately for wolves, they get the short end of the stick when it comes to several health-related outcomes. They have the highest rates of suicide, depression, and medical issues compared to the other chronotypes. But no need to fear- you have the power to make positive lifestyle choices, which matter!
FIVE STEPS TO IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP NOW
I was so tickled when Dr. Breus offered to share his five steps to improve your sleep quality (I was like yes- please do!) The first thing is know your bedtime and stick to one sleep schedule. The second step is eliminate caffeine by 2pm. Caffeine has a half life of about eight hours, meaning that this stimulant can still be in your system hours after you’ve taken that last glorious sip. Third step is avoiding alcohol within three hours of bedtime.Yes- alcohol can induce sleepiness, but it prevents you from reaching deeper stages of sleep as well as dehydrates you. Fourth step- although exercise is an excellent sleep remedy, stop exercising four hours before bed. notice that when I’m working out more regularly, I get better sleep. Last step is to give the sun a nice ‘high-five;’ meaning expose yourself to some sunlight every morning upon awakening to send the signal to your sweet little suprachiasmatic nucleus (the master clock of clocks in your body) that it’s time to wake up!
Dr. Breus plays devil advocate with his argument about cutting out caffeine by 2pm- he points out that some people can eat a piece of chocolate and be up for 48 hours, whereas some can drink three cups of coffee before bed and they can go to sleep just fine. According to Dr. Breus’ research, it has been found that caffeine DOES impact the quality of sleep. Quantity of sleep is one thing, but quality of sleep and achieving restful sleep matters.
BLOCK THAT BLUE LIGHT.
Speaking of sunlight to help wake you up, blue light can serve to help you do just that. Long gone are the days that we were cave dwellers, rising with the bright light of the sun and going to sleep in the pitch dark. Nowadays, we have to adjust to a sleep schedule due to work, school, or life commitments that may not align with our true chronotype. We are exposed to blue lights at night from our environment and screens when we should be winding down for what Dr. Breus refers to as our “Power-Down Hour.”
To make the most out of your Power-Down Hour, it is recommended to prep your mind and body to get high quality sleep an hour before bed. Your sleep isn’t just an on or off switch- it takes time. Blocking out the blue lights that can interfere with our sleep is a start. Engaging in calming activities- reading, meditating, journal writing, doing a crossword puzzle, etc. can help you get into a more relaxed state. In regards to blue light blockers, Dr. Breus wasn’t happy with the products out on the market, so he came up with his own pair of blue light blocker glasses in partnership with Luminere. Dr. Breus gave me a discount code to share with you- use SLEEPDR5 at checkout for 50% off your purchase.
YOU DON’T NEED TO WAKE UP AT 5 AM TO BE SUCCESSFUL. #PREACH
Just as I suspected from being a hard core fan of Dr. Breus’ work- all that information about creating a 5AM early morning ritual to be successful is completely bananas. The myth is “If I get up earlier, then everything will be better and I’ll be successful just like those successful entrepreneurs.” Well, that isn’t the case for anyone except for lions, which account for 15% of the population. Trying to force an unnatural 5AM wake up time for later bears and wolves will backfire- you won’t be able to be so productive let alone think. Dr. Breus and myself are amused by the false information out there by people with no understanding of chronobiology that are preaching to you that you must wake up at 5am to achieve certain outcomes like success.
Cheers to a better night’s sleep!
Dr. Michael Breus Website: The Sleep Doctor