Can You Sleep Your Way To Better Health?

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

The grand finale of the memory rescue series is all about sleep. Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen discuss the importance of getting a good night sleep, and what can happen to your brain if you don’t get enough of it. Throughout this series, we’ve learned all about the 11 risk factors that can steal your memory early.


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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen: I'm Tana Amen. Here we teach you how to win the fight for your brain to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD, and addictions.

Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SEPCT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit

Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit

Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We are doing our Memory Rescue Bright Mind series and we're at the end. In bright minds, "s" is for sleep. Chronic insomnia, sleep apnea are associated with cognitive impairment. Also taking chronic sleeping pills can be associated with cognitive impairment, as can benzos.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Benzodiazepines, like Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan are associated with lower overall blood flow. One of the most impressive things that I've learned over the last couple of years is when you sleep, your brain cleans and washes itself. If you don't sleep it's like the cleaning crew doesn't come to your house or doesn't come to your office trash builds up, and then it becomes much harder to do good work.

Tana Amen: I just know this intuitively. I mean, I know now there's a number of studies. I read one study years ago in Lieutenant David Grossman's book about soldiers and how when they don't sleep, if they sleep seven hours, they're 99%-

Dr. Daniel Amen: 98%

Tana Amen: 98% accurate on the range the next day. If they sleep six hours it drops by half.

Dr. Daniel Amen: 50% accurate.

Tana Amen: 50%. Then, if they sleep five hours it drops by almost a half again.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And four hours they're dangerous. It's like 15%.

Tana Amen: 15%. It's crazy. I know that intuitively because I know that when I don't sleep, even just for one night, my sleep is interrupted, I'm not only not nice the next day, I just can't function right. I can't think right. I feel foggy. I make mistakes. It just doesn't work.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, they've actually found that people who get less than six hours, they actually have more accidents on the road.

Tana Amen: That makes sense.

Dr. Daniel Amen: That less than five hours it's worse than-

Tana Amen: Than drinking.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Drinking.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: On the road. There's a book called "Power Sleep" and the author recommends you actually ask people in interviews how much they sleep and if they sleep less than seven hours don't hire them because they're more likely to make mistakes.

As I learned about this research it caused me to change my habit because I like to stay up late, I'm always writing or doing a project. I'm four. Well, you think I'm four all the time. I'm like four years old. I don't want to go to bed. I don't want to miss anything.

Tana Amen: Not me. I'm like, "Night. Night."

Dr. Daniel Amen: When I read these studies I'm like it's ten o'clock. I need to get to bed so [crosstalk 00:03:51]

Tana Amen: I remember when we first started dating you wanted to be out all the time. I'm like, "I don't think I can date this guy." You thought I was going to be this party girl. I'm like-

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, you look like a party girl.

Tana Amen: I'm not a party girl. I need to be in bed by 9:00, 9:30.

Dr. Daniel Amen: You look like a party girl.

Tana Amen: I'm totally not a party girl. I'm like, "I don't know if this is going to work." This was-

Dr. Daniel Amen: I know. We were going to Lakers games and-

Tana Amen: I'm like, "Okay. You're wearing me out. I cannot do this." I'm like, "I like to be home in my PJs cuddled up in a bed really early."

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, and actually that's good for you. When I learned about this, I stopped taking early morning flights because we both travel a lot. I won't take a flight before 10:00 because I'm not getting up at 4:00 in the morning to get a 7:00 flight.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Then, I learned by the imaging work we do here at Amen Clinics that sleep apnea actually looks like early Alzheimer's disease-

Tana Amen: That's crazy.

Dr. Daniel Amen: On the SPEC scans.

Tana Amen: Yeah. I've seen it.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I get these big holes here in the top back part of the brain where we often see it early in Alzheimer's disease. It caused me ... I screen everybody that's got decreases in their brain for sleep apnea because if you don't effectively treat that, someone's brain is just not going to get better because the brain is the most metabolically active organ in the body. Any form of oxygen deprivation damages cells. You're murdering millions of cells every night if you don't get your sleep apnea appropriately taken care of.

Tana Amen: Right. Sleep is a big deal for me and it's been a hard thing for me because of the thyroid medication and all this stuff. If you even move and you like to slay dragons in your sleep, not move. Let's be honest. You slay dragons in your sleep.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Because I am the dragon slayer.

Tana Amen: Oh, my gosh. The kicking and the whatever. I'm one of those people who, if you even roll over it wakes me up. I have to have blackout shades, my eye mask, my ear plugs, five pillows. I bury myself. It's pretty crazy what I have to do to go to sleep.

Dr. Daniel Amen: You need to tell everybody what you're going to do [crosstalk 00:06:06]

Tana Amen: I know. Here's the thing. I am trying to figure out how to get over this and tell myself I don't need to be such a baby about sleep. I'm going out to a survival weekend with Chloe where they don't even want us to sleep in tents. We have to build our own shelter, sleep outside with snakes and bugs and bears, which freaking terrifies me. Okay? I'm actually doing it so I won't be scared, but I'm like-

Dr. Daniel Amen: See, it's new learning.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: If you think of it from a bright minds perspective, it's-

Tana Amen: Well, and-

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's new learning, but the other side, it's also chronic stress. Bad for the brain.

Tana Amen: But I'm also rereading Viktor Frankl's about man's search for meaning and how people can, human beings can adjust to anything. I keep telling myself I do not want to be scared of this and I do not want to have to rely on all of these aids for sleep. We'll see how I do.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Come back. Go to Tana's Facebook page.

Tana Amen: Let's hope I come back.

Dr. Daniel Amen: You'll find out soon how this is going to work. Interventions for sleep: if you snore, get assessed for sleep apnea, avoid sleep robbers, such as caffeine, alcohol, gadgets, a warm room, light in your room, noise, pets, bears.

Tana Amen: Snakes.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Adopt sleep enhancers, such as blue light blockers. As soon as the sun goes down you should put a blue light blocker on your phone. Cool, dark, quiet rooms. Hypnosis can be very powerful. We have hypnosis audios for you on Brain Fit Life. Meditation, irregular sleep schedule, turn off your gadgets at night so they don't wake you up. Supplements, we're big fans. It depends on the kind of sleep problem you have.

Tana Amen: Oh, no. melatonin and magnesium.

Dr. Daniel Amen: For people who have trouble sleeping, melatonin and magnesium is really helpful. For people who are anxious, GABA and magnesium can be really helpful. For people who are worriers, 5-HTP can be really helpful. It depends on the kind of sleep issue you have.

Tana Amen: And teas. I love my lavender and valerian tea. Oh. It's amazing. It's awesome.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Foods that are melatonin rich: tart cherry juice, sour cherries, walnuts, ginger root, asparagus, and tomatoes. Then, healthy carbohydrates for dinner, like sweet potatoes, quinoa, bananas can increase tryptophan, which can increase serotonin and improve sleep. Obviously, you want to limit alcohol, caffeine, and grapefruit at night.

Tana Amen: Oh, I didn't know about the grapefruit.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Can disrupt sleep.

Tana Amen: I didn't know about the ginger root, but that's so funny because in my lavender and valerian tea, I just intuitively love shaving fresh ginger into my tea at night. It's yummy.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Here we are. At the end of Bright Minds. What Memory Rescue is really all about is if you want to keep your brain healthy or rescue it if you think it's headed for trouble, you have to eliminate the 11 major risk factors that steal your mind. Throughout this course we've gone through all of them and if you're struggling with it and you need to know more, get "Memory Rescue," my new book. I'd just be so grateful if you did. If you want to get scanned because how do you know unless you look, that we would love to see you at one of our clinics.

We have clinics in Southern California, Northern California, Washington State, a new one in Chicago, Atlanta, Georgia, Washington D.C., and New York. We would love to see you. We have a whole Memory Rescue program for you. Ultimately it's not hard. It's falling in love with your brain, the term we use called brain envy. Avoid anything that hurts your brain. We talked about a lot of them in the Bright Minds format and do things every day that helps it. The one little tiny habit we will leave you with is a game Tana and I have played with Chloe since she was two. It's just asking yourself every day is what you're going to do today good for your brain or bad for it.

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