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The Surprising Reasons You Can’t Get To Sleep, with Dr. Shane Creado

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

The amount of sleep we get every night plays a huge role in our overall health and mood. Just getting a couple hours less sleep than needed can cause major problems in the long run. What’s worse is many people have no idea why they have trouble sleeping in the first place. In this episode, sleep expert Dr. Shane Creado helps us identify the biggest sleep stealers that rob us of a good night’s sleep.

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Dr Daniel Amen:
Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen:
And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr Daniel Amen:
The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years. Using tools like brain SPECT imaging, to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
Tana Amen:
The Brain Warrior's way. Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to brainmd.com.
Dr Daniel Amen:
Welcome everybody. We are so excited to have Dr. Shane Creado on, and just think of this as sleep week. Dr. Creado is a psychiatrist, he's a sleep specialist. He works in our clinic in Chicago, North of Chicago. We love him. He and I collaborate on lots of patients. He's super smart, very articulate, and his new book, Peak Sleep Performance: The Cutting-Edge Sleep Science That Will Guarantee a Competitive Advantage. Shane, welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast.
Dr Shane Creado:
Thank you so much for having me, and I just want to say, Daniel that you inspired me to start writing books. When I first joined in the clinics, you said, "You got to write a book on sleep," and so it's finally here. So thank you for this opportunity.
Dr Daniel Amen:
Right, and you said, "Well, there's so many books on sleep. What do I have that's different?" You're also a sports medicine psychiatrist.
Tana Amen:
Oh, that's interesting.
Dr Daniel Amen:
And, we went to an NBA game together, and we talked to one of my favorite NBA players, Kyle Korver, and just how important sleep is to performance. But it's just not athletic performance, it's work performance, it's life performance. And whenever anybody asks me about my routine during the pandemic, I always start the night before, and how I get ready for bed.
Dr Shane Creado:
That is so true. And, it goes from everything from sports performance to work performance to great health, which is what we do here at Amen Clinics. And, as you rightly said in the Bright Minds protocol, sleep is a pillar of brain health. And if we don't optimize our sleep, our brain health really can't get to the next level of functioning. So this book will hopefully focus on sleep, not just for athletes, but for everybody. This book has all the tools needed for everyone to have access to the sleep skills used by elite athletes, that everyone can implement today.
Dr Daniel Amen:
So, let's start by talking about what hurts our sleep. What is going on in our society-
Tana Amen:
Especially right now. Like I think we need to really discuss about what's happening during the pandemic and how that's disrupting people's sleep.
Dr Daniel Amen:
You mean like chronic fear?
Tana Amen:
Right.
Dr Daniel Amen:
This thing I call it, the global amygdala hijack.
Tana Amen:
Right. Yes.
Dr Daniel Amen:
We have a global amygdala hijack.
Tana Amen:
I think it's really important to really address the current situation, and things are going to be different going forward.
Dr Shane Creado:
Absolutely. So we know that there's already been a sleep pandemic, in a way, because insomnia has been so widespread. Add to it the anxiety, stress, fear, things that are out of our control, it's going to magnify the problem. Because sleeping is the most vulnerable thing we do. And if you were in danger mode-
Tana Amen:
Oh, that's true.
Dr Shane Creado:
... In that in our brain scans, as well. If we are in danger mode, if we're anxious, then it's just, we're not going to be able to fall asleep. Our brain will not let us sleep, because we are hardwired to protect ourselves. And that means staying awake or being light sleepers, which will in turn sabotage our ability to deal with stress once again, which sets up a vicious cycle. A lot of people are talking about their pandemic nightmares. There's a difference between nightmare disorder, which is severe, and general nightmares. In fact, studies have shown that nightmares can actually be protective. They prime the brain to respond to terrifying situations. And they say people respond quicker to strange, scary situations when they have had nightmares on and off.
Tana Amen:
Yeah.
Dr Shane Creado:
Unfortunately, if you're in danger mode, your brain tends to do things in its sleep, like dreams, that you experience during the day. So you'll have scarier dreams, you'll have nightmares. If you're anxious, you won't get enough sleep, so your brain will compensate by getting more dream sleep, which will actually fuel more nightmares. So yes, people are saying [crosstalk 00:05:20].
Tana Amen:
I'm sorry, does anger affect your sleep the same way as anxiety, or is it different?
Dr Shane Creado:
It's very similar, because anxiety, your danger mode can result in us going into fight or flight mode.
Tana Amen:
Okay.
Dr Shane Creado:
Fight mode is the anger component to that danger response.
Tana Amen:
That's so interesting. Because I see people so angry right now. And so I just wonder how that's-
Dr Daniel Amen:
So there's a way to manage this stress. People are smoking pot. We had a hysterical interaction with my Dad before he died. He got into my Mother's-
Tana Amen:
The best last conversation ever recorded in history.
Dr Daniel Amen:
... Hemp gummies. He got into her hemp gummies.
Tana Amen:
She didn't tell anyone she was taking hemp gummies. But she didn't know you are only supposed to have one.
Dr Daniel Amen:
But people are resorting to marijuana, they're resorting to hemp gummies, they're resorting to alcohol or sugar before bed. How do those things impact sleep?
Dr Shane Creado:
Those things will adversely affect your sleep. Because, the sugar crash comes along eventually. Now in my athlete population, if it's the night before a big game, we can talk about foods like tryptophan, foods filled with GABA, high-carb foods, slow carbs can help you sleep better. But if you're eating sugar throughout the day, if you're in danger mode, if you're using marijuana, that's going to set you up for failure in the longterm, because those are really going to interfere with your rhythms, your biological rhythms. It's really simple when you break it down, in terms of the evidence-based strategies to optimize your sleep. You need to synchronize your circadian rhythm, or the melatonin and cortisol balance. And you need to synchronize your sleep needs, your sleep thirst, or your homeostatic drive. Once they're in-sync, you'll be able to fall asleep when you want to, wake up when you want to.
But because people are resorting to marijuana throughout the day, gummies, they're going to feel hungrier, they're going to have the munchies, they're going to resort to unhealthy foods, they're not exercising. Structure and routines have fallen off. That will disrupt your sleep. So daytime routines are as important as nighttime routines. People talk about sleep hygiene, having a to-do or a worry list a few hours before bedtime. Having fixed wake-up time. Those are all well and good, but if you are doing things to sabotage your rhythms during the day, it will impact your nighttime sleep.
Tana Amen:
So let's talk about wine for one second, because people always talk about this how, "I have a glass of wine to sleep at night." But I notice that if I have just a tiny bit of wine on occasion, it doesn't really disrupt my sleep very much. I have it earlier than before I go to bed, not right before bed. But if I drink, if I have a larger glass of wine, I don't drink very much. But that definitely disrupts my sleep. So, how much, is there an amount that can people drink, because people are going to ask, they always ask, "How much can I have?"
Dr Shane Creado:
I would never prescribed alcohol to anyone.
Tana Amen:
All right, let me rephrase it. How much can I get away with?
Dr Shane Creado:
Well, people say wine has some benefits because of the resveratrol in the skin of grapes. So you can always have resveratrol through helping with those benefits.
Tana Amen:
I don't think that's why they're really having it.
Dr Shane Creado:
Exactly. So, I would say if someone wants to have an occasional glass of wine, then that's okay if you don't have any liver or other severe brain health issues. But you need to, as you rightly said, have it a few hours before bedtime.
Tana Amen:
Right.
Dr Shane Creado:
Sure, a nightcap will help you fall asleep easier, because it's a depressant to your nervous system. But a few hours later, when your brain is going through a withdrawal since it's out of your system, your brain will wake up in the middle of the night. So a lot of people say that, "It helps me fall asleep, and I don't know why I'm waking up at 3:00 in the morning." It's precisely the alcohol that can be contributing there.
Tana Amen:
Right.
Dr Shane Creado:
Also, alcohol-
Dr Daniel Amen:
And it's a diuretic.
Dr Shane Creado:
... Contributes to sleep apnea. It is a diuretic, so you're going to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. It will be harder for you to fall asleep, because now your brain is not just awake, it's also going through mild anxiety in a way in the brain's receptors, in terms of withdrawing from that alcohol. And alcohol can worsen sleep apnea. It makes your muscles relax.
Tana Amen:
Right. And, you made a really good point about getting up and going to the bathroom. I even notice that I changed my supplement routine, because I take a ton of supplements. I was taking it right before bed. Well, that meant I had to drink a ton of water right before bed. And that was really disrupting my sleep. So just changing some of those things can be helpful too, I think.
Dr Shane Creado:
Yes.
Dr Daniel Amen:
Well, Shane helped us create our supplement, Put Me To Sleep, which we're really excited about at BrainMD. But, before we have to finish our first podcast, let's talk about a couple of other sleep disruptors. What do you think about caffeine?
Dr Shane Creado:
Caffeine will disrupt your sleep, because it's a stimulant, so it's going to keep your mind alert, but it doesn't mean that you're going to get away with it in the longterm, because your sleep debt will catch up with you. That's one thing. The other thing is, you might need more and more caffeine, because tolerance may build up. You may start off with a couple of cups in the morning, every day. And before you know it, the next month you may need three or four cups, just to keep going. So if you feel you need a stimulant like caffeine to keep you up, you're obviously not getting sufficient sleep. I've said this before, each one's brain needs different amounts of sleep. If you're getting six hours of sleep, but your brain needs eight hours of sleep, then you're running on fumes because every week you lose 14 hours of sleep. So, I'm not a fan of caffeine. There's other ways to be more alert, like better sleep, better quantity and quality of sleep.
Tana Amen:
I have a question. It seems like some people are more effected by cutting their sleep short, even if it's by a small amount. I know if I sleep a half hour less, just a half hour. I need eight and a half hours. But if I sleep a half an hour less than I know before I'm ready to wake up, I feel sick. I mean, it seems like sleep affects people differently. You'll just sludge through it. But I literally feel almost like there's something wrong with me, I'm coming down with something. Is that common?
Dr Shane Creado:
Yes. It's more common than you'd think, and people don't realize it's directly connected to their sleep. "Well, I'm crabby all the time or I wake up with a morning headache. I don't want to talk to my wife in the morning. I'm a little slow getting started." And those are all little clues to me that they're not getting the optimal sleep that their brain needs. So you pick up on this. Other people who have inflammatory conditions, or elite sports people, they know the difference. In fact, the 30-minute sleep extension studies have been done at Stanford. And they found that even 30 minutes more asleep, even if the athlete is getting what they think is enough sleep, you can boost your basketball shooting accuracy by 9.2%. [crosstalk 00:12:33]-
Tana Amen:
... My head.
Dr Daniel Amen:
It's all in your head.
Tana Amen:
It's all in my head.
Dr Daniel Amen:
When we come back, we are going to talk more about the things that disrupt your sleep, but also the things that help your sleep. Stay with us.
Tana Amen:
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Dr Daniel Amen:
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