Sleep The REAL Enhancement For Better Health

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

If you’re having a hard time sleeping, have sleep apnea or snore, then this episode is for you. Today, we’re going to talk about how you can enhance your sleep to get you back on track to a better health.

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Donny Osmond: Hi. I'm Donny Osmond, and welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way, hosted by my friends Daniel and Tana Amen. Now, in this podcast you're going to learn that the war for your health is one between your ears. That's right. If you're ready to be sharper and have better memory, mood, energy, and focus, well, then stay with us. Here are Daniel and Tana Amen.
Dr Daniel Amen: Okay, welcome back everybody to The Brain Warrior's Way podcast. We're so excited that you have tuned in with us. Tana and I are here with Shawn Stevenson, bestselling author of Sleep Smarter, creator of The Model Health Show, featured as the number one health podcast on iTunes with millions of listener downloads each year. We're so excited to have Shawn with us. We are talking about sleep. We talked about how important sleep is and what are the things that disrupt sleep. We're going to finish this series with ways to enhance your sleep. And we talked about shift workers and I was actually feeling a little depressed at the end of it because it is now been classified as a carcinogen. That's awful. And as a nurse you did shift work.
Tana Amen: Well, this was a big problem and I wanted to... Since we're in the solution section now, Shawn, I wanted to just touch on this really quickly because there are people out there. As somebody who did this for a long time, I know at least part of the culture that goes along with shift work, and a lot of people do it because it's the best time that they can do it that way they can be with their kids during the day, which means they're not sleeping. A lot of people do it for financial reasons. As you said, they'll work double shifts as nurses. And a lot of people do it because they actually like night-shift and sleep better during the day. They're kind of vampire-ish.
So, in any case, what I noticed was knowing that is really important. But what we found was you mentioned something about sleeping for long periods and then trying to rearrange the schedules, and that's what a lot of night nurses do. Not to the degree that you're talking about, because we don't have that option. But what they would do is they would schedule their three days on at the end of a week, three days on at the beginning of week. So they've got six days they're not sleeping during the night, and then they would have eight days off. And it was a little bit better than doing the one on, one off; one on, one off. So I like that. The other thing is that I noticed we had an opportunity to sort of take a nap, but there was nowhere to take a nap. So, if we created those things... So I wanted to just kind of touch on that. But what about people who actually like... Because I actually noticed that most of them were overweight and not healthy because they don't sleep much during the day. How do we sort of address that for the people who really like working at night? And how do we address that, that hormone issue?
Dr Daniel Amen: And then we have to do, cause we only have about 10 minutes, we have to do all the ways to enhance sleep for everybody. But let's start with this.
Shawn Stevenson: Okay, perfect. So, as we talked about in the first episode was the impact that it has on fat loss. And I had a great sample size to work with working at a university for so many years of working with a lot of nurses and a lot of premed students and seeing that their before and after of being... Before they started clinicals and then after and the impact that it had on their bodies. And so what I would recommend is this, for people who that is your lot in life and you are passionate about working overnight, that is what you are passionate about and is striving to do, is we have to set up a normal natural cycle as much as possible, even though it's abnormal. All right?
So what that would entail is number one, and this is one of the big sleep tips for everybody, is to sleep in a dark room. Now, Cornell University did a study and they had the person sleep in a otherwise dark room. They put a light the size of a quarter behind their knee and that was enough to disrupt their sleep cycle, just that tiny little light because your skin has photoreceptors that pick up light and send information to your brain that, Hey, it might be some kind of a daytime, maybe the sun's coming up, and they can throw off your sleep rhythms. So this is specifically for people out... If we're not talking about shift work, if you're live in a suburban area or a city, environment where you've got artificial lights coming in, not natural moonlight. If you're just, you're not in a place with they're street lights or a neighbor's porch light beaming into your house, you're fine. Humans have existed with moonlight for a long time. It's the artificial light. But those working the shift work... And so for people in our environment where they are experiencing that artificial light, get some blackout curtains. They're not very expensive. They're super popular now. And just get those set up in your house.
Tana Amen: Well, and I wear a sleep mask. I find that that can be helpful.
Shawn Stevenson: That's helpful, but your skin, as well, picks up that light.
Tana Amen: Interesting.
Shawn Stevenson: So people who are working the night shift... And you've got to get your room black, as dark is possible so that that sunlight is not beaming in because your body loves sunlight and it helps to set your sleep cycles. So that can actually, it's a good transition to one of these specific tips for everybody and that is to get more sunlight. And the sun actually, crazy as this is going to sound, it increases your body's production of cortisol. Now, that might sound a little bit bad, but cortisol is not a bad guy. It's just when it's produced at the wrong time and the wrong amounts that it can cause problems. And, also, sunlight helps your body to produce more serotonin, and serotonin is a precursor for melatonin.
So it's just this cycle. It kind of like, it's the height man. Sunlight helps to get the hype man out for the real show at night when you are getting that good high quality sleep. And so I actually cited a study in Sleep Smart, and this was published in the journal Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, it found that exposure to sunlight significantly decreases cortisol levels later in the day than when compared to being exposed to dim light during the day. So that good strong sun exposure helps to set your body up for good sleep at night. And how many people spend of their days inside of a building, inside of their cars and they're not getting [crosstalk 00:06:02]?
Dr Daniel Amen: That's why we're all deficient in vitamin D. Like, 80% of the population has sub optimal levels.
Tana Amen: I know one thing that we do and that some people might be able to do is we will often go for, we'll have walking meetings. So you do a meeting on your phone but you walk so you're outside and it's really helpful.
Shawn Stevenson: Perfect. So I want to give some power tips really quickly because this is what we focus on here is you just said it, do your meetings, go for a walk. Do it outside if at all possible. If you can set a timer on your phone to get away from the cubicle dungeon and go outside, maybe have your lunch outside. Also, there are for those individuals who feel like you know, maybe they live in an environment where it's very difficult to get outside, you can utilize things like light boxes, which are clinically proven to be effective for things like seasonal effective disorder.
There are even earbuds that emit this light that is found to be as effective. I don't know if you know about this, Dr. Amen.. I learned about this from Ben Greenfield and he introduced me to the the team that makes these and they've got studies now finding that just putting this bright light into your ears helps to get your body to produce those normal daytime hormones, which, again, sets you up for great sleep at night.
Dr Daniel Amen: I read that. That is so interesting. All right. We only have about four minutes, so I'm going to say something and you only say a sentence back, cooler room.
Shawn Stevenson: Cooler room, that's thermal regulation. The cooler, the better. What you want to do is aim for between 68 and 62 degrees is what's clinically proven to be effective.
Tana Amen: Perfect.
Dr Daniel Amen: Completely dark, you already said that. Noise free. Actually, people who live in urban areas have a higher incidence of dementia and it may be the noise.
Shawn Stevenson: Yeah. What we can do there, number one, if you can, move. Number two, you can use devices that produce a little bit of white noise, earplugs, things like that, [crosstalk 00:07:59] stuff.
Tana Amen: I wear earplugs.
Shawn Stevenson: But that one's tough.
Tana Amen: Yeah. I wear earplugs.
Dr Daniel Amen: Gotcha. So we talked about gadgets before. The next one is...
Shawn Stevenson: Well, we don't have a solution for those.
Dr Daniel Amen: We have a solution, which is blue light blockers.
Tana Amen: Well, somewhat. We have somewhat of a solution.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, and turn them off before you go to bed and don't... I mean so-
Tana Amen: I don't answer email late.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... people I know read in bed. Reading a scary novel at night.
Shawn Stevenson: Oh wow. I think fiction is great because it turns off that analytical part of your brain. But scaring yourself, that feeling of being scared is a production of stress hormones.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right. So don't read Dean Koontz.
Tana Amen: Read romance novels.
Dr Daniel Amen: I always tell people, no, go to the old Testament and read Leviticus, Deuteronomy, it'll put you right to sleep.
Naps. What about people who take maps?
Shawn Stevenson: Oh, this is juicy, this one sentence here. So first and foremost, I'll give two quick things. If you feel like you are... like you can not make it through the day without a nap, chances are your sleep quality at night is in question and we need to focus on that. But sometimes a good nap is a good nap. But we are forced... There's a hormonal shift that happens when you go to sleep, you just have to be mindful of that and make sure that you keep your naps short.
Dr Daniel Amen: Scents. So what scents are good for sleep?
Shawn Stevenson: Oh, this is so good. So there's a research showing that Jasmine, lavender, specifically. Even utilizing... there are essential oils or even having house plants can actually be beneficial. NASA used certain house plants to help to create a better environment for oxygen production by the plant and pulling out carbon monoxide in your room so that you can have a better quality of air when you're sleeping.
Dr Daniel Amen: Supplements.
Shawn Stevenson: Supplements. So I like to start natural first as close as we can get to things that people have been using for thousands of years. So this would be basic things like camomile tea, kava kava, valerian is a little bit stronger of a sedative-
Tana Amen: I like it.
Shawn Stevenson: ... but these... Say, I'm sorry?
Tana Amen: I like it. I like valerian tea.
Shawn Stevenson: Yeah, valerian is right on point for people and it's been used, again it has at least hundreds of years of use in culture. And then we get into the more synthetic things like the 5-HTP, like tryptophan, and even melatonin is also on the table in spa treatments.
Dr Daniel Amen: Yeah. And we also like magnesium with, we think it's just amazing.
Shawn Stevenson: I think it's the most [crosstalk 00:10:26].
Dr Daniel Amen: Sean Stevenson, author of Sleep Smarter, our friend, creator of The Model Health Show. How can people connect with you and become part of your community? Because I think brain warriors will actually fall in love with you and you could help support them on their journey to be healthy and happy.
Shawn Stevenson: Perfect. Well, thank you so much. People can find me where they found this podcast, any podcast platform you're listening to this on. It's called The Model Health Show, so it's The Model Health Show. And I'm very honored to say, as you mentioned, we're often features the number one health podcast in the US and it's just really a... What we do is we focus on creating masterclasses, each episode on whatever the particular subject matter may be. Maybe it's fat loss, maybe it's insulin resistance. We did an amazing show with you and that was such a great experience talking about all the things that create a healthy brain and a happy life. And people can also check me out online at where we've got videos of the episodes. I do some pretty epic articles and you can find Sleep Smarter there as well and anywhere that you purchase books.
Dr Daniel Amen: Great.
Tana Amen: Love that. Thank you so much.
Dr Daniel Amen: Thank you so much. What a joy. We'll have you back on again, and I'll look forward to seeing you soon. Thank you, my friend.
Shawn Stevenson: Thank you so much, Daniel.
Dr Daniel Amen: All right, everybody, stay tuned. We have some amazing shows coming up for you.
Donny Osmond: Thanks for listening to today's show, The Brain Warrior's Way. Why don't you head over to That's where Daniel and Tana have a gift for you just for subscribing to the show. And when you post your review on iTunes, you'll be entered into a drawing where you can win a VIP visit to one of the Amen clinics. I'm Donny Osmond, and I invite you to step up your brain game by joining us in the next episode.