Sleep and the Brain

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

How you can help your Brain take you off to sleep more deeply. 20 Ways to enhance your sleep and rest better. Awake relaxed and renewed the Brain Warrior Way.


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Dr Daniel Amen: Hi everybody, this is Doctor Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen: And this is Tana Amen.

Dr Daniel Amen: Today we're going to talk about sleep. Which is just so important to your mental health, to your brain health, to your relationships, to work, to everything in your life.

Tana Amen: Yes. This is one that's very personal to me. As somebody who has struggled a lot with my health, had a lot of difficulty with sleeping in the past, and with hormonal imbalances, and medication. We want to talk to you about how to turn that around if you're struggling with sleep.

Dr Daniel Amen: To know why this is important, people who get less than six hours of sleep have lower overall blood flow to their brain and they make bad decisions.

Tana Amen: So-

Dr Daniel Amen: Decision making gets worse when your sleep is worse.

Tana Amen: I know some of you think you're special. We know a lot of people who are selling programs about, "How to Learn to Sleep Less." We're just going to come out and say it, it's not good for your brain.

In one study done by the military, soldiers who slept seven hours or more were 99% accurate on the range the next day.

Dr Daniel Amen: 98.

Tana Amen: 98? Okay, 98% accurate.

Dr Daniel Amen: They're really good.

Tana Amen: 98% accurate on the range the next day. Soldiers who got one less hour of sleep; they slept six hours, it cut it in almost to half.

Dr Daniel Amen: So, to 50% accurate?

Tana Amen: Right. They were 50% accurate. One less hour again was almost cut in half again.

Dr Daniel Amen: So, five hours of sleep was like 38% and 4 hours of sleep was 15%.

Tana Amen: It was downright dangerous.

Dr Daniel Amen: Downright. Dangerous.

Tana Amen: All these programs telling you to sleep four hours? Forget it.

Dr Daniel Amen: New research shows that when we sleep our brain actually cleans or washes itself. It gets ready for the next day. Sort of like at home, it cleans up. If you don't clean up for a month at home imagine what your home would actually look like. That's what happens with chronic insomnia ... For your brain.

A lot of people want that quick fix, so they'll reach for Lunesta or Ambien or Unisom. Benadryl. It's not a good long term solution.

What we're going to do is give you lots of tips today. We're going to do it in three ways. Sleep envy, people hear me talk about brain envy, you gotta care. Well, you gotta care about your sleep. Get serious about it. And then, avoid anything that hurts it.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: Those are sleep robbers.

Do things that enhance it.

The sleep robbers are a warm room.

Tana Amen: Right. I like the room really chilly.

Dr Daniel Amen: You do.

And people sleep better-

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: When it's a little bit cooler.

Cool pillows-

Tana Amen: Yes.

Dr Daniel Amen: Have actually been shown to enhance sleep. Light in the bedroom.

Tana Amen: Yes.

Dr Daniel Amen: You sleep with a mask.

Tana Amen: Not only a mask, I have total blackout shades. Our room is completely dark.

Dr Daniel Amen: If we go and travel, you really want blackout shades.

Tana Amen: I ask ahead of time.

Dr Daniel Amen: Noise.

Tana Amen: Yep.

Dr Daniel Amen: Gadgets in bed.

Tana Amen: Earplugs. I actually use earplugs too.

Dr Daniel Amen: Gadgets. Turn them off.

Tana Amen: Including gadgets, for me, that includes things like lights on computers or lights on certain gadgets that you keep near your bed. They can actually disrupt your sleep.

Dr Daniel Amen: Going to bed worried or angry, where you can turn your thoughts off.

Tana Amen: Yeah. Journaling or praying just before or meditating just before bed is a really good idea to sort of clear that stuff out. Journal it. Get it out of your head before you go to sleep.

Dr Daniel Amen: Or saying sorry.

Tana Amen: Absolutely. Going to bed mad is really not a good idea.

Dr Daniel Amen: Or, you know, "I'm upset about this, but I love you. We'll talk about it tomorrow." Just that sort of touch connection.

Certain medications. Like asthma medications or antihistamine's, cough medications, stimulants can disrupt sleep. As can caffeine. Even caffeine early in the afternoon can disrupt sleep. Alcohol. But a lot of people use alcohol-

Tana Amen: To go to sleep.

Dr Daniel Amen: To go to sleep. The problem is, when it wears off three hours later, your brain rebounds.

Tana Amen: Especially if you have more than one, usually it's much worse.

Dr Daniel Amen: Nicotine. Even marijuana. When they wear off can wake you up.

People who have restless leg syndrome. For that, we actually recommend fairly high doses of magnesium, can help-

Tana Amen: You can at least try that, yeah.

Dr Daniel Amen: Settle them.

There are female issues. Pregnancy, PMS, menopause, perimenopause. This is the one I wanted to highlight. About ten years before women go into menopause, their progesrterone levels start to drop. Well, progesterone is the brain's natural Valium.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: Natural relaxation chemical. When it drops, all of a sudden women get busier brains-

Tana Amen: So ...

Dr Daniel Amen: They become more irritable-

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: Can't sleep. They go to their doctor and they end up on an anti-anxiety drug like Xanax.

Tana Amen: Or anti-depressants.

Dr Daniel Amen: A sleeping medication like Ambien or they start drinking more.

Tana Amen: Right. Or all of the above.

We hear this all the time with women. It's like, "I hit 35 or 38 and I can't sleep anymore." It happens. It's a fairly normal thing that happens. In addition to my thyroid condition, where I take high dose thyroid, that happened to me. And I'm like, "Yeah. This isn't going to work in my life." That was when I started progesterone therapy. You might just want to talk to your doctor and see if it helps. Because for me, it knocks me out cold.

Dr Daniel Amen: Thyroid conditions is another one. Hyperthyroidism or being treated, as you are, for thyroid cancer. It just sort of revs your system up and makes it harder to settle down.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: If you have pain conditions or some untreated psychiatric problems like ADD, depression, anxiety, OCD. Dementia patients tend to-

Tana Amen: Yeah, they have that sundown.

Dr Daniel Amen: Sundown.

People have reflux. You know, any GI issues. For men, they have enlarged prostates and they're going to the bathroom all the time. Snoring can really mess with your mate. Sleep apnea is a huge problem in this country, where people stop breathing. They snore loudly. They're chronically tired during the day. It's just so critical to get that treated. Shift workers.

Tana Amen: That's a killer. As a nurse, I actually took a job in a unit that I really didn't want to work in to get off night shift. It just really messes with you. It's miserable.

Dr Daniel Amen: Stressful events. The death of a loved one. A divorce. A major deadline at work. Jet lag. I know for me, if I'm not really careful about my habits, jet lag can really jump on me.

Those are some of the robbers you want to avoid if you can.

Quickly, we have 22 ways to help your sleep.

A cooler room.

A room that's completely dark.

Noise free or wear ear plugs.

Tana Amen: Yep.

Dr Daniel Amen: Turn off the gadgets.

Tana Amen: How long before bed? Is it two hours? An hour? How long before bed?

Dr Daniel Amen: Well you know, one of the things I do, because I work a lot, is I put blue light blockers on my phone and on my computer. So when it's dark outside the blue light blockers turn on.

Tana Amen: Okay, good.

Dr Daniel Amen: I don't get the white light that turns off melatonin production that helps me go to sleep.

Tana Amen: That's another ... We'll get there.

Dr Daniel Amen: We're really good about not going to bed mad at each other. Try to fix that before to go to bed.

Maintain a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends if you can, because your brain likes routine.

Tana Amen: Actually, I read a study that said it's not necessarily as much about how many hours as much as ... I mean that is critical, but even if you get the same number of hours, but you don't go to bed at the same times, the circadian rhythm gets messed up and it's almost as bad for you as when you miss sleep.

Dr Daniel Amen: A nighttime ritual. Warm bath with magnesium in it. Can be amazing.

Tana Amen: Epsom salts and maybe some lavender.

Dr Daniel Amen: Whatever the ritual. It can be meditation, a massage, listening to a hypnotic tape from Brain Fit Life-

Tana Amen: Right. I often do that actually.

Dr Daniel Amen: There's a great sleep tape.

Tana Amen: I really like that relaxing music-

Dr Daniel Amen: You do do.

Tana Amen: Especially when we travel and I'm in a different time zone.

Dr Daniel Amen: Some people like to read themselves to sleep. I've done that for years and years. I just try not to read Stephen King-

Tana Amen: Get a boring book.

Dr Daniel Amen: Or Dean Koontz. Something I sort of want to read it, I think I should read it, but it can not be-

Tana Amen: Stimulating.

Dr Daniel Amen: Dean Koontz-

Tana Amen: Where you want to stay up all night.

Dr Daniel Amen: Intensity, that won't work.

If you're having trouble sleeping don't take naps.

Sound therapy can be really helpful. We actually have special brain enhancing music made with a special beat to help with sleep at Brain Fed Life.

Sometimes a mixture of unsweetened almond milk, a teaspoon of vanilla, the real stuff, and drop or two of Stevia can help.

Don't eat for two or three hours before bed. A real brand new study where people who ate closer to bedtime had a higher incidence of strokes and heart attacks because your body doesn't like it when you eat after dark. It thinks somethings wrong and you actually have a stress reaction-

Tana Amen: Oh, interesting.

Dr Daniel Amen: To late night eating.

Exercise during the day, not at night.

Tana Amen: Yeah, if I exercise at night or I take a karate class at night, it takes me a couple hours to come down.

Dr Daniel Amen: A trick I read, sometimes I do this on the road, wear socks to bed. Researchers have found that warm hands and feet were the best predictor of rapid onset sleep. So, the room a little bit cooler, but your feet a little bit warmer.

Tana Amen: That's what I like. I like big blankets-

Dr Daniel Amen: Kill the caffeine.

Tana Amen: Cold room.

Dr Daniel Amen: If you wake up in the middle of the night, don't look at the clock. You just don't want your brain going to the bad place in your head.

Hypnosis as we said can be helpful.

Lavender. The scent of lavender in multiple studies have been shown to enhance sleep, decrease anxiety, help your mood.

Natural supplements I like. Like melatonin; 5HTP, especially if you're a worrier; magnesium and gaba.

Tana Amen: I really like this one, I take a significant amount of our time release, our restful sleep, along with 400 sometimes 500 milligrams of magnesium. Then the 5HTP, I don't like it dropping my frontal lobes because that's my brain type. The gaba though can actually be very relaxing. Helps a lot. Like I'm out within 20 minutes of taking that cocktail.

Dr Daniel Amen: If you have to resort to medication, but here we've given you 20 things to do before you do medication. Stay away from benzodiazepines like Xanax and sleep medications like Ambien. I like Trazodone, Gabapentin, sometimes I'll use Amatriptyline with my patients.

We hope this is helpful. Make sleep a priority in your life and your life will be better.

Tana Amen: Thank you.