Most of us are poor sleepers. Americans currently get an average of 6.8 hours of sleep each night, which is down more than hour from 1942. While experts recommend anywhere from seven to nine hours every night, 40% of us don’t meet those recommendations.

Dr. Michael Breus has made a career out of helping people sleep. Most of us know him as “The Sleep Doctor” for his regular appearances on The Dr. Oz Show. He’s also a Clinical Psychologist and both a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine an a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Dr. Breus joined us for an IVY Ideas Night in LA to share some of his secrets for getting a better night of sleep. After the talk, he sat down with IVY Magazine to offer advice on sleep and to talk about the ways we can all conquer our own exhaustion.   

Michael Breus

Why is sleep such an important topic to study? What are the biggest misconceptions we have about sleep?

Sleep affects every organ system and every disease state. There is nothing that you do that you will not do better with a good night’s sleep. It is essential to all aspects of health and wellness. The biggest misconception about sleep is that people either think that they need too little or too much. Sleep need is individual. For example, I need 6.5 hours while my wife needs 8.

As a generation, have we become worse at sleeping than we used to be?

I think as a generation we have more distractions than we once did. With social media and the internet we have access to stimuli constantly, and this can be disruptive to the sleep process. Sleep is not an on/off switch; it is more like slowly pulling your foot off the gas and putting it on the break. There is a process that must be followed for your body to get physically ready for sleep (e.g., lowering of heart rate and breathing); we can’t just check Facebook and then crash.

Michael Breus

Tell us a bit about your story—how did you first get into the field?

Completely by accident. I did a rotation during my residency and fell in love with clinical sleep medicine.

What are your top 3-4 tips for getting a good night’s sleep?

1) Keep the same schedule of waking up and going to bed, even on the weekends.

2) Eliminate caffeine by 2:00 pm.

3) Stop alcohol 3 hours before lights out.

4) Stop exercise 4 hours before lights out.

5) Get 15 minutes of sunlight in the morning.

What are easy ways to turn off our minds when we’re trying to fall asleep?

Distraction techniques: watching TV to progressive muscle relaxation. Or something more simple, like counting backwards from 300 by 3’s.

Michael Breus

Why do we sometimes feel like we’re getting a great night’s sleep, but then we wake up groggy and tired?

When you wake up during a particular stage of sleep, (REM or stage 3/4) you get sleep inertia or sleep drunkenness.

What are the best ways to track sleep? And how can we use that tracking to make our sleep better?

There are many trackers on the market; the problem is that none of them tell you what to do once you get your data.

Many of us experience at 2:00 or 3:00pm lull in the work-day. What are ways to combat this sleepiness during the day?

That is actually a biological function. Think about a Siesta in Latin American Countries. This is actually when your core body temp will dip by about 1/4 degree celsius. This is a signal to your brain to release Melatonin. An easy way to avoid this is to go outside and get direct sunlight for 10-15 minutes.

Michael Breus

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