The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast Episode #118 - Dr. Michael Breus
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. Dr. Breus was recently named the Top Sleep Specialist in California by Reader’s Digest, and one of the 10 most influential people in sleep.
Dr. Breus is the author of The Power of When, a bio-hacking guide book proving that there is a perfect time to do everything, based on your genetic biological chronotype. Dr. Breus has supplied his expertise with both consulting and as a sleep educator (spokesperson) to brands such as Hastens Mattresses, Ebb Therapeutics (FDA approved insomnia treatment), Princess Cruise lines, Six Senses Hotel and Spa, Lighting Science Group, Advil PM, Breathe Rite, Crowne Plaza Hotels, Dong Energy (Denmark), Merck (Belsomra), BOSE, iHome, and many more.
For over 14 years Dr. Breus served as the Sleep Expert for WebMD. Dr. Breus also writes The Insomnia Blog (on www.thesleepdoctor.com) and can be found regularly on Psychology Today, and Sharecare.
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9:45 - Dr. Breus' Personal Story
14:30 - chronotypes
17:20 - why do we have chronotypes?
18:00 - the genetic link
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21:50 - Insomniacs
24:30 - The Insomnia SNP
25:10 - the lion
26:10 - the bear
26:40 - the wolf
27:50 - the dolphin
28:30 - using the book for better communication
31:45 - exercise for a chronotype
33:50 - BLUBLOX: Blue-light Blocking Glasses For Sleep, Stress, And Health! Go To BluBlox.com And Use The Code melanieavalon For 15% Off!
37:10 - chronotypes and lifespan
40:50 - helping dolphins and wolves to function in society
42:05 - what is the most important, when you go to sleep or when you get up?
43:15 - getting blue light in the eyes
43:50 - resetting melatonin
44:50 - getting less than 5.5 hours of sleep (it's Bad!)
45:25 - naps
46:45 - catching up on the weekends
48:15 - average amount of sleep
48:35 - coffee in the morning
50:55 - getting morning light
51:20 - grounding
51:50 - intermittent fasting
Melanie Avalon: Hi, friends, welcome back to the show. I am so incredibly excited about the conversation that I am about to have. It is with a legend in the sleep world, and I really truly mean that. I'm here with Dr. Michael Breus. He is the author of four books actually, The Power of When, The Sleep Doctor's Diet Plan, a book called Good Night, and a new book called Energize! Go from Dragging Ass to Kicking It in 30 Days. I'm almost overwhelmed with all of the content that we could cover in this episode. But basically, Dr. Breus has really revolutionized the common perspective on sleep, on circadian rhythms.
After reading his book, I realized just how myopic my own view was when it comes to circadian rhythms, and biology, and why we do, what we do, when, and how we should do things for the best timing of everything. Then on top of that, that's just the sleep and the timing thing. On top of that his new book, Energize! actually connects all of that to body types. So, if you guys are familiar with endomorphs, ectomorphs, mesomorphs, the role of movement, energy, it's just a overwhelming world of information. So, I'm really excited to see what we talk about on today's show. Dr. Breus, thank you so much for being here.
Dr. Michael Breus: Oh, you're so kind. That was like the nicest introduction ever. I love it.
Melanie Avalon: It comes from my heart, and this is a fun fact. I've done, hundreds of interviews on this show. I have the most notes for this interview I think of any interview I've done. There was just that much information of like 30 pages of notes.
Dr. Michael Breus: I don't know if I can get through 30 pages. We'll see.
Melanie Avalon: I know. We'll just see where it goes.
Dr. Michael Breus: Maybe, we'll have to do a Part 2.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, so, I bet listeners are super familiar with you. But for those who are not I mean, you're everywhere. You've been on the Dr. Oz show, Oprah, CNN, The View, Anderson Cooper, you've been named the top sleep specialists in California by Reader's Digest, one of the top 10 Most Influential people in sleep, you're a clinical psychologist on the diplomat of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, I could go on and on. But in respect of time, I will not. So, to start things off-- I just have so many ways I want to go with this. But a little bit about your personal story. What made you so interested in sleep, did you have just an epiphany one day?
Dr. Michael Breus: I did not go. It's kind of a funny story. I had zero interest in sleep in graduate school. So, I wanted to be a sports psychologist when I went to the University of Georgia. I wanted to teach athletes how to run faster, and throw harder, and do all those kinds of fun, cool things. I created a dual degree from the Department of Clinical Psychology and Department of Sports Psychology at the University of Georgia, and when you do a Clinical Psychology, graduate PhD, when you're done with it, you do a residency very similar to what an MD would do, where you go someplace and kind of practice all the cool stuff that you've been learning for the last four years.
I was very interested in eating disorders in athletes. The very best residency program was at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi of all places. I was interested in learning about eating disorders in athletes that way I could combine my clinical interests with my sports interest. To be honest with you, I couldn't get in. It was the top program in the country and only the Harvard's, and the Yale's, and the Princeton's of the world got in. I went to Georgia top 20 program, but wasn't Harvard. But they had a sleep track that they were advertising for, and they said, if somebody wants to come and do a specialization in sleep, we'd be happy to take you. So, I applied for and got the sleep track because what I figured is, I just transferred as soon as I got there.
So, just because you're not going to let me in the front door of your program, it doesn't mean that I'm not going to be in your program. [laughs]. It just means that I'm going to find a way to get there on my own. So, I got to University of Mississippi, first day there, raised my hand, said, I want to transfer and they said, "Hold on, Michael, you need to fill the spot. You can transfer after you've done six months." I said, "Okay." I went to do the transfer, and by the third day, I absolutely fell in love with Clinical Sleep Medicine and I knew I would never change what I was doing.
I have this really unique situation. I get to help people almost instantly. It's crazy. There are some people I help in under 24 hours, in less than a week, in one week's time. Some people, it takes longer, but it was really so different from my role as a clinical psychologist because doing that stuff, it could take weeks, months, even years before you see any treatment gains. I like helping people quickly and sleep really does that. So, I just kind of burrowed in and decided to become a sleep specialist. So, I did that, did the residency, completed it, then did a secondary one on neuropsychological testing. That was another area of interest and then went into feel.
So, I started out as a Clinical Psychologist working at a sleep center, and while I was there, my boss told me, he said, "Michael, by the way, we want you to take and pass the sleep medicine boards." I raised my hand and I said, "Dr. Demartini, thank you. But that's a medical board and I have a PhD." I said, "I don't think I can actually do that." He said, "Actually, you can. There's a two-year window where non-MDs can take the medical boards without going to medical school, and you need to take them, and by the way, Michael, if you don't pass, you're fired." So, I said, "Okay, no problem." So, I figured I had a job for a year. There was no way I was going to take and pass the medical boards without going to medical school.
I came home and I told my girlfriend who is now my wife. At the time, I was like, "Lord, I got the job. This is awesome." I said, you know, unfortunately, it's only going to be for a year because I have to take the medical boards, and she was like, "You didn't go to medical school? How are you supposed to take the medical boards?" I said, "Exactly." Then, about a week later, when we were sitting on the couch talking and she turned to me and she was like, "I think you could do it." I said, "What are you talking about?" She said, "I think you could pass the medical boards." Like, "Come on, who does something like that?" She said, "Honestly, I think you could do it." That was pretty much all it took. She challenged me, and I took one year, and I studied. There were 14 or 15 different textbooks. So, I taught myself neuroanatomy, neurochemistry, neurophysiology, pediatrics, general medicine, and I'm one of 168 people that have actually taken and passed the sleep medicine boards without going to medical school. And that's kind of
Melanie Avalon: You don't have to convince me twice about the power of sleep. Out of all the things I do, especially, with this show and Biohacking in health, I am obsessed with sleep. I know like that the extent I go to like all the things, the blackout curtains, the EMF canopies, the red lights--
Dr. Michael Breus: Oh, awesome. We can talk about all that.
Melanie Avalon: With the canopy, I put it up, and I read some things saying, you could actually make things worse and I was like, "Oh, I don't even know." So, I took it down. But I think I became so obsessed with sleep because we can talk about the chronotypes that you've discovered or researched. I'm definitely a dolphin, the Resident Insomniac. It forced me to deal with that.
Dr. Michael Breus: It does, doesn't it?
Melanie Avalon: It does. Actually, recently--, so this week, I've been going through a lot of stuff family wise and I've realized, I was having this actual epiphany thinking about it, I was like--, it made me realize how much I value sleep because with everything that's going on, for me to perform in life and be healthy, and be able to show up like I have to value my sleep. So, I just want to thank you because before reading your book, and before people are exposed to your work, I think, there's this idea that there are early morning people and late night people, and then on top of that this idea that really we're all morning people if we just got our act together.
Dr. Michael Breus: Right. So, not true. Yes. It's funny that you keyed in on that. Another biohacking friend, I'm sure you know, Dave Asprey?
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I've had him on the show.
Dr. Michael Breus: Yeah. So, Dave's a close friend, and when I came out with the book, The Power of When and talked about, it's okay to be a night owl, and there's times when you can be a night owl and be productive. He called me up, and he was like, "Thank God, somebody is talking about this," because he's a night owl as well. It was really funny, and it was so funny, because then he turned and he said, "I want to make The Power of When required reading for all Bulletproof counselors and things like that, so they can really understand. He actually had everybody at Bulletproof take the quiz. The quiz I'm talking about if people are interested, if you go to chronoquiz.com, you can learn what your chronotype is, and we're going to talk all about chronotypes in just a second. But yeah, it was crazy that he called me up and he was like, "Thankfully, somebody is talking about this stuff."
Melanie Avalon: It's so incredible, because especially in the biohacking world, so many people will be like--, "But really, if you just did the things like you would be a morning person." I'm like, "No."
Dr. Michael Breus: It's genetic. It doesn't work that way. Look, I'm 5'9" and I'm never going to dunk a basketball. It's just not in my genes to do it. I'm a wolf. I have been for a very long time. I am starting to change a little bit as I get older. I'm 53 years old and my melatonin production, I keep track of it, and it's starting to change a little bit, which we can talk about as well. But this is genetics guys. You can't choose to be a morning person. In fact, lots of people have what we call lion envy, where they're like, "Oh, I wish I could be a lion. Michael, teach me how to be a lion," those kinds of things. I'm sorry. I can push you in that general direction, but it's pretty miserable, especially, if you're a night owl like me.
Melanie Avalon: I'm full of lion envy--. I'm #lionenvy. So, the chronotypes, what is the evolution of them? Why genetically are there these four chronotypes?
Dr. Michael Breus: So, it's very interesting. First of all, just to be very clear, I'm not the first person to come up with chronotypes. There was a great group of researchers back in the 70s. they came up with something called the morningness-eveningness questionnaire, where they started to notice that some people seem to do better in the morning, and some people seem to do better in the evening. So, they put together a group of about 30 or 40 questions to try to identify these people. That was in the 70s, and then it started to morph a little bit more in the 80s and 90s, when we started to map the genome, and started to really understand like, there's some interesting genetic things we had no idea about. It turns out something called the PER3 gene.
Now, just to be clear, there's over, I think, 40 different chronotypical genes that can affect your chronotype. But the biggie is PER3. What they discovered was the length of that gene, almost like a telomere, the length of that gene helps determine if you're a morning person or an evening person. So, that in and of itself is irrefutable. It just is what it is. If you wanted to be a morning person, you can't make your PER3 [laughs] shorter if you wanted to. It's very interesting when you start to look at it from a genetic standpoint. What we decided then at that point was is there must be three chronotypes. So, there's the early morning, there's somebody in the middle, and then there's the night owl. And that looked actually really good from a genetic standpoint. It made a lot of sense. So, then, they started to change the vernacular, and there was an early bird, there was a humming bird, that's the people in the middle, and then there was a night owl. Then, I came along. [laughs]
I had some very interesting patients that just did not fall into these categories. That was difficult because when you have somebody that you're trying to treat, it was tough, because I just wasn't being as effective as I needed to be. So, I had a patient who came in who was an insomniac. True story. We tried everything. I tried cognitive behavioral therapy, I tried blackout curtains, masks, I mean, everything you could think of. I tried on this woman. It was terrible--. It was terrible, she just couldn't get to sleep, and she slept in late. She was falling asleep at work. So, I brought her back in and I was like, "All right, pal, now tell me what's going on?" She was like, "Look, Michael, if I could just sleep in a different time zone every day, I think I'd be fine." I was like, "What do you mean by that?" She was like, "If I could just go to bed at one, wake up at nine, and get to work by 11, my life would be perfect."
Melanie Avalon: Okay, yes. [laughs]
Dr. Michael Breus: I said, "Oh, well, why don't you just do that?" She said, "Well, I have kids, I have a spouse, and I have work, and my schedule doesn't fit that." I was like, "Okay, well, let me see if I can fix that." So, I asked her if I could call her boss, and I did, and I talked to her boss. I said, "Look, I think we have an issue here. Would it be possible for her to come in at 11 and leave at like seven?" He said, "Honestly, Michael, I don't care when she comes in. I'm firing her at the end of the week." He said, "She falls asleep in meetings or work product is not up to par. If you want to do the experiment, let's do the experiment." This was on a Monday. I said, "Great." So, I called her up, and I said, "Look, you don't have to go to work until 11, but you got to stay till seven," and she was like, "That sounds perfect." We've talked with her husband. We said, this is going to be a one-week trial, we just want to see what happens.
So, I call back on Friday to her boss. Lo and behold, he says to me, "I got three more employees I want you to talk to." Those are the first words out of his mouth. Not like she's doing amazing. He's like, "I got more people for you." Turns out, it was perfect for her, her work product was improved. It was literally like it flipped the magic switch in the back of her head. She was awake at meetings, she was productive, everything really worked well. What I realized is that she was an extreme night owl, who just could not adapt to the daily schedule. So, I started to really think about it and said to myself, "I wonder how many other people are out there like this person." Then, I started to notice that her anxiety got in the way of certain things. She would tell me things like, "You know, I just can't seem to get things done, I feel like, I'm a little bit on the OCD side."
I started to really try to understand who she was. She was my first dolphin, basically. So, she didn't fall into the early bird, she didn't fall into the night owl, and she didn't fall into the hummingbird. So, then I started to dig into the genetics of it all and I actually found a genetic polymorphism called the single nucleotide polymorphism or what we call a SNP that actually identified her, and there's a lot of people with this polymorphism. So, I was like, "Holy crap. I think I found another chronotype." So, now, I have this fourth chronotype. Now, it's interesting, I decided I wanted to write a book and tell the world about this whole chronotype thing.
When you're in the marketing meeting for a book and you're trying to discover what to call these different avatars if you will, here's what's interesting. I decided to use animals and we learned very quickly. Nobody wants to be a porcupine. Nobody wants to be a platypus. So, what I was doing was I was trying to find animals that actually represented the chronotypes that they would be. So, lions represent early birds. So, lions actually get up before dawn, they have their first kill before dawn, and they have a lot of the lion 'esque' characteristics. By the way, lions make up about 15% of the population, and everybody wants to be lion, just saying. I personally have no interest in being a lion. It's not as good as it sounds. Number one, you get up way too early. Number two, socially, it's not as much fun. Dinner and a movie is really tough for a lion, because to be honest with you, they're exhausted by 8 o'clock at night.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, that's my dad.
Dr. Michael Breus: Mm-hmm. So, it becomes a social issue. It's fun, but let me tell you something. Lions are pretty militant thinkers, too. They go from step one to step two to step three to step four. They're really good COOs. They're good at giving people orders and thinking through complicated situations. They don't necessarily do a lot of the work itself or maybe they did in an earlier life. But now, as they get older, they have a tendency to be more in management and things like that.
Next, we move on to the bears. Bears make up what used to be the hummingbirds. That's actually the largest population. Believe it or not, 55% of the population are bears. They're the people that get the work done. They're the people that are more extroverted, they're the people that really society functions around. If you wanted to pick a chronotype to be, I'd like to be a bear more than anything else, because quite honestly, all of society is built on a bear schedule.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, social norms. That make sense.
Dr. Michael Breus: Then there's night owls, which I call wolves. Again, wolves are nocturnal creatures. They hunt at night, they do most of their stuff at night. So, they represent evening people like myself. Night owls, we make up also about 15%, and we're weird. We're usually the weird, creative, artistic types. My artists, my actors, my musicians are usually wolves. We don't show up at the party until like 10:30 or 11:00, but we stay there till 3 o'clock in the morning and we have a lot of fun. We're very loyal friends, we really enjoy being social, but we actually are introverted. So, that's why we stay out late, so that we have small groups to be social work. We're not great in big groups, but we're really good in small groups.
What's interesting is, if you just look at the lion, the bear and the wolf, and you think back to hunter gatherer days, these people have been around since the dawn of time. So, if you lived in a village, the hunters were the lions. They got up before dawn, they got food for the village. The bears were the people that tended to the village, tended to the children, tended to all the things that went on in the village. Then the night owls turned out to be the security team. They were up anyway. They might as well do that. So, we knew about these three different chronotypes for quite some period of time. But then, I introduced the dolphin idea, and that threw a lot of things on people's heads. We were able to identify-- Dolphins make up about 10% of the population. They are a lot like lions, they like to get up early, but unfortunately, they've got just the touch of anxiety with them, almost OCD like. So, they might make a list every day, and follow it from step one to step two to step three. But if they don't go through their entire list and do it perfectly, they get upset.
Whereas a lion would go through their list and say, "Oh, okay, well, I got some things done today. Maybe, I'll get some more stuff done tomorrow." So, dolphins have that anxiety component to them that can make it difficult. They're also usually health conscious, usually have insomnia, and they can be difficult to deal with. I really wrote the book designed for dolphins. That was very fortunate that book came out about five years ago. It's called the Power of When. It really took off. We've sold actually over 100,000 copies of the book. It's so funny, because I didn't really think it was going to become sort of a communication tool, because that's what it's turned out to be.
I get letters and emails from people all the time, and they say, "I read the Power of When, and now I get along with my spouse." Because I know when they're in a good mood, and when they're in a bad mood. I know when they're going to focus or when they're going to be emotional. So, I bring up topics during those periods of time, and also, we get lots of stuff done. So, it was really fascinating to me. I also got letters from parents, which was really cool. Parents were like, "I now know when to talk to my kid." So, I have two almost grown teenagers, a 19-year old and an 18-year old. But when they were younger, if I went into my daughter's room in the morning to wake her up, she would say-- I would say, "Hey, Carson, you know, what have you got on the plate today for school?" She'd be like, "Ah, leave me alone." If I walked into her room at 5 o'clock in the afternoon and I say, "Hey, Carson, what did you have on your plate today for school, I'm in there for 90 minutes and I get to have a relationship with my daughter. What's more important than that? Nothing. So, it really turned out to be a fascinating time to come out with a book that really gave insight into when people are in different moods, and how that's driven by your hormones, and what that all means.
So, there's over 220 studies in the book, we look at when should you drink coffee, when should you drink alcohol, when should you have sex? That's the biggest chapter everybody seems to want to know about. People are fascinated by it. So, the book was going along great. Then my friend, Stacy Griffith gave me a call. We were actually in New York. Whenever I'm in New York, she's the founding trainer of a company called SoulCycle. It's like an indoor bicycle, spinning class type of thing. Every time I'm in New York, I go to her class which is lots of fun, and we have a great time. She writes to me afterwards, and she was like, "Michael, I have the same problem," because we chitchat all the time. She was like, "We have a problem." Both her clients, and my clients all say the same thing that why am I exhausted? It's like, I do the things that are supposed to do, I move the way I'm supposed to move, "Why am I still tired?"
So, when we sat down and we thought about it, we said, "Well, what if we could further define chronotypes?" Maybe, we're too general. Maybe, we need to understand-- We now understand chronotypes based on sleep. But one area we don't understand chronotypes based on is movement. So, we really started to look at the literature and that we did based on body type. So, if people remember way back when to high school biology, you probably remember it or in physical education class, they probably said, "Well, there were three body types. Endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph." Now the good news is, is that's actually accurate, there are three body types. But what we discovered was when we asked-- so, about a million people have taken the quiz now. So, we sent out a survey to people, about 5,000 people said, "Hey, will you take this body type quiz? We want to see kind of how it all pans out," and what we discovered was, there are certain exercises that are better for certain chronotypes based on their body types.
So, as an example, if you're a bear, and you're a ectomorph, meaning that you're kind of a little bit on the heavier side, then exercise turns out to be an incredibly difficult thing for you to get motivated for. So, we created exercises that don't require you to have a lot to do to motivate yourself to do them by stretching, or just bouncing up and down, doing jumping jacks, things like that. So, what we ended up doing, Stacy, and I came up with a hypothesis that actually turned out to work very well. But we asked people to move five times a day for five minutes time. There's different things we ask people to do at different times. The first one is oftentimes stretching, the second one is oftentimes bouncing, the third one oftentimes is building like muscle strength, there's balance, things like that. Here's what's cool about it. You only spend five minutes five times a day doing it, and it helps propagate energy all day long.
So, what it does is, it keeps your body in movement, number one, which is highly important, but it's not big movements. You don't have to break a sweat in order to get the energy and motivation from it. You just have to do it for four or five minutes. So, what we now have got in my new book, which is called Energize!: How To Go from Dragging Ass to Kicking It in 30 Days is we've got all of the great sleep information layered on top of this body type information. So, we've gone the next extra step. Now, we're teaching people how to sleep and how to move. To be very honest with you, we didn't want to take on the nutrition component. It was just too hard. There's so many different ways you can look at nutrition. But intermittent fasting is definitely something that we know is helpful, and this also gives people great energy. So, we've got a full 24-hour program in Energize! So, we focus in on intermittent fasting, then we do specialized movements, and then we do your specialized sleep schedule.
Melanie Avalon: Speaking to what you said, it was so interesting reading the Power of When because I took the quiz, I was a dolphin, everything about the personalities and the sleep schedule really identify with me, but then getting into all the chapters about when to do the different things, that's what really sold it for me because I was like, "He knows." I'd read the sex chapter and I was like, "Oh, my gosh, he knows [laughs] or when to see the therapist." So, it was absolutely incredible. Super random question, do you know-- have you seen any literature on how the different chronotypes correlate to lifespan?
Dr. Michael Breus: So, it's interesting. Yes, I have. Well, so first of all, one thing is people's chronotypes change over the course of their life. Actually, everybody goes through every single chronotype believe it or not. But to answer your question more succinctly, we know that wolves like me, we die early. Because we are big risk takers, and we have a tendency to not be great on the nutrition side, not be great on the exercise side. I personally have to literally force myself to exercise every morning. Otherwise, if it goes past like noon, generally speaking, I'm done I'm just not interested in exercising. So, we do know that wolves are--, they have more medical problems, they have shorter lifespans, more depression, more suicidality, things like that. So, we're always concentrating on that area.
But back to my first point, we actually move through many of the chronotypes throughout our lifespan. So, if you think about it, when you're a baby, you're a lion. You go to bed really early and you wake up really early. When you're in middle school grade school, you're a bear. Going to bed when the sun goes down, getting up when the sun comes up. Then, when you're a teenager, you turn into a wolf. So, I mean, I don't know about you, but I could stay up until two and sleep until 12 every single day when I was like 15, 16 years old you know. Then, once you hit adulthood, you kind of lock into a chronotype. But about my age, which I'm 53, we start to see melatonin production begins to get earlier in the evening. We see a natural fading of melatonin production, and that can actually make people become an earlier chronotype. So, as an example, I'm a wolf, but I'm finding myself starting to naturally wake up much earlier than I want to. So, now, I'm having to try to self-adjust my bedtime. So, it's very interesting, but we all do have a tendency to go through them.
Melanie Avalon: The thing I'm just thinking about more with all of this is like with the dolphin, specifically, seemingly needing from a biological perspective, like you talk about how their cortisol rhythms are different from the other chronotypes, and how they actually need less sleep than the other chronotypes. I'm just wondering what the implications are on that--
Dr. Michael Breus: On a long term? So, nobody really knows what that's going to look like long, long-term. Because to be honest with you, I just kind of came out with the vernacular five years ago. So, people really weren't looking at this group of people. What I can tell you though is, I would argue that dolphins would probably have the second shortest lifespan from the standpoint of we know they've got lots of anxiety, we know they've got lots of health-related issues, more times than not they are an insomniac, which we know can shorten lifespan as well. Not tremendously, but a little bit. But I would say that if we were looking at who's going to die the youngest, it's probably wolves, then it would be dolphins, then it would be probably lions, and then bears. Bears are going to be the stalwarts, they're going to last the longest for sure.
Melanie Avalon: I hope they do more studies on that SNP and the implications.
Dr. Michael Breus: Yeah, it's very interesting to look at all of those data. But the Energize! book is one that's takes it to the next step. So, in the first book in Power of When, I did have chapters on exercise, yoga, team sports, and weightlifting, but I really wanted to get into general movement, because honestly, people don't go to sleep because they want to. People go to sleep to wake up and have energy, and spend time with their friends and their family, accomplish their goals. People are always looking for energy. So, I decided to put it on its head a little bit and say, "Let's figure out how we use sleep movement and fasting for more energy."
Melanie Avalon: The protocol that you do prescribe for dolphins and wolves, is it prescribed to get them in line with society? Because it's still--, I see the ideal schedule, and it's still very early to me. Is that because you're making it so that we can function in society, if you could pick your own schedule?
Dr. Michael Breus: It would be a little bit different depending upon your chronotype. So, because-- let's be honest. Well, although I will tell you this, the pandemic definitely helped chronotypes and I'll explain why. This is one of the only times I think in the universe where we could say the pandemic did something good. What happened was is people stopped going to work. People were in quarantine, people were shelter in place, and guess what, you didn't have to have a two-hour morning routine. So, what ended up happening is, at least for night owls like me, we could sleep later. People were rolling out of bed at 8 o'clock throwing on a ball cap and getting on Zoom. So, that's a very different scenario than waking up at 5:45, and doing your stuff, and getting in the car, and driving to work, and dealing with traffic. I think, the pandemic may have helped some people, but yes, the book was designed to help people basically morph themselves back into general society. Although, bears don't really need that though, don't have that issue.
Melanie Avalon: Question. What is more important? Because this is often hotly debated when you're trying to tackle your sleep issues. When you go to bed or when you get up?
Dr. Michael Breus: When you get up by far. It's much more important. There's two things that happen when you wake up in the morning that are critical to the overall sleep process that are biological in nature that many people don't realize, and they both have to do with melatonin. So, number one, when you wake up at the exact same time or pretty damn close to it every single day including the weekends, several things happen. When you open up your eyes and light hits your eyeball, you have a very specific cell in your eyeball called a melanopsin cell. The particular wavelength of light that's important here is blue or what we call cyan. This is from 460 nanometers to about 480 nanometers. It's present in sunlight and most forms of artificial light. When that wavelength hits your eyeball, it sends an electrical signal-- chemical and electrical signal to a specific area in your brain called your suprachiasmatic nucleus, and that sends a signal to your pineal gland that says, "Hey, turn off the melatonin faucet in this person's head."
So, to backtrack in summary, when you wake up and you open up your peepers, when light hits them, it turns off the melatonin faucet in your brain. You want to do that very, very consistently, because then all your hormones know what to do. Because once Melatonin is turned off, everything else turns on. Adrenaline, cortisol, norepinephrine, epinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, all of those things are at lower levels or not even present during sleep, because sleep is a function on to itself. But there's a more important thing that a lot of people don't know about, and that's that actually, after you get the sunlight that turns off the melatonin faucet, it really re-sets your melatonin clock. What it does is, it tells melatonin when to be produced that evening. So, it's kind of like setting a timer once you wake up to know when melatonin needs to go off again. So, what ends up happening here is, if you wake up at multiple different times, your brain doesn't know when to turn on melatonin at night. So, in actuality, what time you wake up 100% determines how sleepy you get, when you get sleepy, and when you'll fall asleep.
Melanie Avalon: So basically, regardless of the sleep situation the night before you get a chance to reset everything the next morning.
Dr. Michael Breus: It's perfect. Now, there are some caveats here. So, number one, here's the problem. Let's say, you normally wake up at 6:30 every day, and let's say you decide, it's Friday night, you want to go out with your friends, you tie one on, and you don't get home until 2 o'clock in the morning. Now, the question becomes, "Michael, do I need to get up at 6:30 the next day?" So, the answer is yes. However, my big caveat for people is, I never want people getting less than five and a half hours of sleep. When you go below five and a half hours of sleep, you really see motor function decline dramatically, and that's when people really get hurt. Driving a vehicle, stumbling, exercising, what have you.
So, if you stayed out until two and normally you would get up at 6:30, I'd want you to get up at 8 o'clock, because I'd want you to get five hours of sleep in that particular scenario. But generally speaking, you're going to be dragging ass all day from doing that because I don't want you taking naps during the day. But don't get me wrong. naps are fun, and I don't have a problem with naps. But generally speaking, naps are terrible for dolphins, because anybody with insomnia should never take a nap because it just lowers your sleep rhythm.
Melanie Avalon: I do not take naps.
Dr. Michael Breus: Yeah, dude, you can't take naps. It would be a mess if you took a nap. So, I think people can really function that way, and I think, it will work as a tendency to work out pretty well.
Melanie Avalon: So, in that case where you're sleep deprived that day and you don't take a nap, are you allowed to go to bed earlier that night?
Dr. Michael Breus: No, you shouldn't. You should go to bed at your normal bedtime. So, if you normally went to bed at midnight, then you try as best you could is to stay up until midnight. Again, the data is very consistent. Now, one thing that people always ask me about, which I think dovetails nicely with conversation we're having which is, "Hey, Michael, can I catch up on my sleep on the weekends." Because people like, "Look, dude, I just can't go to bed at the same time or wake up at the same time during the weekend. I'm going to catch up on the weekends, and it feels so much better to sleep in until 9 o'clock."
So, let me tell you the data. There was a study that came out about six months ago, which really answers this question thoroughly. I think, it was 50 people, and here's what they did. They got five hours of sleep during the week, and eight hours of sleep on the weekend. So, pretty extreme. Five hours, below my threshold for sure. I had been nauseous the whole time. Here's what they measured. Focus, memory, mood, and attention every single Monday for six weeks. So, remember, five hours during the week and then Friday, Saturday, Sunday night, they get eight hours of sleep. Here's what they found is every single week, patients got worse, not better. Their memory declined, their attention declined, their focus declined, and their mood declined. But here was the most important aspect of the study at least to me, when they interviewed the patients and they asked them how did they feel? They felt great on Mondays. They thought they had no detriments whatsoever.
So, here's the instance where your brain is telling you, you're fine and your body is not fine. So, for folks out there, I'm sorry to say, you got to sleep roughly the same amount every single night. If you have a bad night, your body will absorb it. Don't worry, don't go to bed earlier, you're not going to fall asleep. Don't take a nap. Do yourself a favor, stick to the schedule, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how well it works.
Melanie Avalon: I wonder if they had done that study where the total amount of hours equaled the equivalent of eight hours every night if it would have been the exact same findings?
Dr. Michael Breus: So, the goal was to sleep-deprived people, and then let them do the catch-up sleep on the weekend. In my estimation, I'd rather see a study where people were getting six and a half hours, because quite frankly, that's about the average that I'm seeing out there is most people are logging in somewhere between six and a half, and seven and a half hours. Generally, speaking during the week, and then they're logging in somewhere between seven and a half and nine on the weekends, and most people try to catch up on the weekends. But again, it just doesn't work very well from a biology standpoint.
Melanie Avalon: You kind of dismantle the idea of coffee in the morning. What are your thoughts on caffeine and coffee?
Dr. Michael Breus: Here's the thing. Caffeine has no nutritional value whatsoever. Nobody needs to have it in their diet, it's not a necessary thing. Yet, it is the single most abused substance in the world. More people abuse caffeine than any other substance out there. So, the question is, why? What good does it really do for us? Here's the deal. In order to exit a state of unconsciousness, you need two hormones in large amounts. You need adrenaline and cortisol. When adrenaline and cortisol wake you up in the morning, and you've got adrenaline running around your brain and cortisol running around our brain, if you compare adrenaline and cortisol to caffeine, it would be comparing cocaine to weak tea in terms of how powerful it is. So, what happens is, is people say, "Oh my gosh, I'm so exhausted. I'm going to drink my cup of coffee." In truth, what they really are is dehydrated. Most people don't know it, but you lose a full liter of water every night just when the humidity in your breath, and the sweat and oils from your skin.
Remember, caffeine is also a diuretic. So, when you do drink that coffee first thing in the morning, all you're doing number one, you're not getting the benefits of the energy of caffeine, because you've already got something that's far more energetic in your brain. So, you're really getting the side effects, number one. Number two, caffeine is a diuretic, so it makes you pee. So, you've already dehydrated, now, you drink caffeine and get more dehydrated. What do you need to do? You need to drink water, This isn't rocket science here. I tell people every morning they do 3:15s. Takes 15 deep breaths, what you do is when you wake up, sit on the side of your bed, don't lie down, sit up, and then take 15 deep breaths. Wake up your respiratory system and become present. It's one of the most important things that you can do to start your day, have yourself a good intention like, "Today, I'm going to do X, Y, and Z, I'm grateful for X, Y and Z, and get yourself moving."
Second 15 is drink 15 ounces of water. You should be sitting by your bedside, you should have it there the night before, and if you can, grab that water, and walk outside, and get 15 minutes of sunshine. Remember, we were talking before about blue light, the best source of blue light is the sun, and we love it in the morning time. In fact, there's even data to show that if you wake up before the sun comes up, it's really good to watch the sunrise because it comes out, and peaks out over, and affects your eyes in a very unique way, and actually, helps your eyes and your body wake up for the day. So, I'm always, always arguing for 15 minutes of sunshine. I add to that. I take my shoes off and I put my feet on the earth, it's called grounding. I don't have a lot of data on its effectiveness, but I have to be honest with you, it feels really good. I don't know why it just feels good. So, I put my bare feet on the ground, and I hang out with my dogs in the morning while I'm doing that. There's nothing like a little unconditional love in the morning to start off your day. If you do those three things every day, you're going to crush it.
Melanie Avalon: I love it. So, listeners, don't wear the blue light blocking glasses in the morning, please.
Dr. Michael Breus: No, bad idea. In the evenings, sure. But in the morning, nah, you don’t them.
Melanie Avalon: Maybe, one last topic we can cover really quick. From Energize!, you've mentioned how you do talk about intermittent fasting. Since, so many of my listeners, practice fasting, I've actually-- so on the Intermittent Fasting Podcast on so many episodes, because in the beginning, we just like catch each other up, me and my co-host. I've been just like sprinkling in all these things I've been learning from your books. So, intermittent fasting, what are your thoughts on it for the different chronotypes and body types?
Dr. Michael Breus: I am a big, big fan of intermittent fasting. I've been doing it myself for about three years on and off. I've definitely found that it gives me more energy. But one of the things that I discovered was that if I intermittent fast, I need to do it based on my chronotype which was unique. You don't hear about many people talking about this. But I'm a wolf, and so, just to be clear, I hate breakfast. I love breakfast food like it's my favorite food, but I'm just nauseous in the mornings like as most wolves are, we're just not morning people. I tell people all the time. The only thing I hate more than mornings are morning people, they're just too damn chipper. They're eating their breakfast, they're having a good time. I'm not a fan of lions, just to be clear.
But I can't eat breakfast in the morning time. So, I started to realize that my intermittent fasting schedule was leading me later and later, and because I stay up later till midnight most nights, I could eat later and not have any disruption in my stomach, I get gastroesophageal reflux, things like that. So, I would encourage people, if you learn what your chronotype is, then consider fasting on a chronotypical schedule.
Melanie Avalon: We had a question from a listener and this was my theory about it. She started intermittent fasting and she would have great energy during the day with a later eating window. But she found that when she opened her window earlier, that she got tired. My theory about-- after reading your book about the chronotypes was maybe she was something like a bear where she naturally had an energy lull in the middle of the afternoon, but because she was fasting, when she would eat later, the fasting was like keeping her alert. But then when she would revert back to eating around that time, it kind of put her back into needing the nap mode. I don't know.
Dr. Michael Breus: So, there's that, but there's also the fact that carbohydrates make you sleepy. So, depending upon what she had for her late afternoon snack or lunch, which probably had some carbohydrates in it. Remember, complex carbohydrates, the easiest way to produce serotonin in the brain is to eat a Snickers, no or a muffin. So, when you go and eat a sandwich, that's actually what happens, too. So, many people feel sleepy after lunch, simply because of the content of their food. What I'm oftentimes telling people to do is, you want to try to avoid that and avoid carbs, then do yourself a favor and have a salad with some protein and try to avoid as many carbs as you can.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I love that. Well, listeners, you have got to get both of these books. I promise you, they're life changing. There's just so much in there. You talk about emotional energy, the role of guilt, which is-- I feel so absolved of guilt with my sleeping schedule and being a dolphin. So, I just really wanted to thank you for that, and I'm actually in that line of gratitude. The last question I ask every single guest on this show, and it's just because I realize more and more each day how important mindset is. So, what is something that you're grateful?
Dr. Michael Breus: Wow. I'm grateful for a lot of things. I'm grateful for my family and their ability to deal with all my craziness for sure. I'm grateful for my openness to new experience and trying new and different things. I'm also grateful for my men's group, I have a men's group that I meet with every single morning and we do breathwork and meditation together from 7:30 to about 8:15. There's like 30 of us from around the world, and we get on, and we do that every morning. I'm grateful that I have the ability to be on things like podcasts, and be able to educate people about sleep, and how to get a great night's sleep. So, thank you for asking. That's a great question.
Melanie Avalon: I cannot thank you enough for your work. It's life changing, it's personally affected my life, and I know it's going to affect so many of my listeners.
Dr. Michael Breus: Oh, well, thank you. It makes my heart feel good.
Melanie Avalon: Because we actually got introduced, it was like through a friend, not even in the biohacking sphere. So, super grateful for that. Grateful for everything that you're doing. Listeners, I'll put links in the show notes to the books. Are there any other links you would like to put out there?
Dr. Michael Breus: I would just tell people, if you want to know what your chronotype is go to chronoquiz.com, and if you want to learn all about the new book, go to energizemyself.com, and you can buy the book, and there's a cool pre-order program. So, Stacy and I are creating videos that you'll get before the book comes out that'll teach you all of the science, and you'll be able to be ahead of the game if you're so interested. But it's a great book. It's a lot of fun, and we had a lot of fun writing it, and I'm excited that it's going to be out in December.
Melanie Avalon: Awesome. I will put links to all of that in the show notes, and thank you again, this has been so fantastic. I would love to have you back on the show in the future, maybe, go through some more of these 30 pages.
Dr. Michael Breus: I'd be happy to do that. One of the things we didn't get a chance to talk about maybe, we can do it next time is, there's a lot of like gizmos, and gadgets, and things out there that are not so great. There's some things that are really good, we can do that, we can talk about mattresses, pillows, all of the equipment that people have out there, because there's a lot of stuff out there that I think are important for people. So, let's do that. Let's get another one of these on the books.
Melanie Avalon: That will be great. Enjoy the rest of your day.
Dr. Michael Breus: Thanks, you, too. Take care.
Melanie Avalon: Bye. Thank you.