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Why Bad Sleep Is A Risk Factor for Mental Illness

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

This week’s series of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast has featured powerful lessons from Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen’s End of Mental Illness live class and challenge. The subject of this episode is how poor sleep habits can negatively impact the brain. Many people are unaware that sleep is a major risk factor for cognitive issues such as dementia, and therefore it’s crucial that we take steps to better our circadian rhythms to stay healthy and energetic throughout the day and keep mental illness at bay.

To take The End of Mental Illness Brain Health Revolution 6 Week Class and Challenge, visit https://endofmentalillness.com/brainhealthchallenge/

Read Full Transcript

Daniel Amen, MD:

Welcome to the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel. Amen.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

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.

Daniel Amen, MD:

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, BSN RN:

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:              Hi, this is Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen:                      And I’m Tana Amen.

Dr Daniel Amen:              We’re so excited you’re with us. For this week’s series, what we’re doing is we’re playing the live class from the end of mental illness.

Tana Amen:                      We wanted you to join us on this journey because we had such a good time in our class and the people who joined us had just saw such incredible transformation that we wanted to share the challenge with our tribe. So, we wanted to share this with you and we hope that you will join us in the challenge.

Dr Daniel Amen:              The S in Bright Minds is sleep issues. It’s just so important. 60 million Americans have sleep related issues. Things like chronic insomnia, sleeping pills, sleep apnea, can devastate the brain. And what we see in sleep apnea, actually the brain looks like it has early Alzheimer’s disease with these pitting decreases across your parietal lobes in the top back part of your brain. It’s not good for your brain, because your brain is the most oxygen hungry organ in the body and any oxygen debt stay damages the brain. So, when you sleep, your brain cleans or washes itself and this study’s really interesting. Soldiers who got seven hours of sleep at night were 98% accurate on the range. Those who got just six hours were only 50% accurate. Think about that.

Tana Amen:                      One hour less.

Speaker 3:                        Five hours, 28% accurate, four hours, they’re dangerous.

Tana Amen:                      So now, think about that. How many times have you gone, “Oh, I didn’t sleep last night. I got like two hours less but I’ll just push through. I can do it. I can do anything.” I mean, I say it all the time, especially through college, “I can do anything for a short amount of time. Lack of sleep, no problem.” It is a problem. Two hours less made them 25% as accurate. So, that’s just a huge problem when it comes to your life.

Dr Daniel Amen:              So, I like this comment from this Skylark, “Better to give the body a good foundation of health and nutrition before trying to do cleanses or fats.”

Tana Amen:                      Yes, I agree.

Dr Daniel Amen:              “Your body needs the tools before it can do detox safely.” I just think you should be detoxing all the time.

Tana Amen:                      Live in a detox state but that doesn’t mean you have to fast.

Dr Daniel Amen:              So, shift work, I’m doing this program, Tana is actually going to help me with it, with the Newport Beach police department. And police officers, firefighters, first responders, nurses often have shift work and there’s a toll to those of you that are doing shift work. A higher incidence of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, inflammation, it negatively affects your hormones and can increase cognitive impairment. So, let’s just go through these risk factors.

Tana Amen:                      I quit after four months of working nights because I thought, “Oh okay, I’ll figure it out. I’ll adjust to it.” Yeah, my way of adjusting to it as a trauma nurse, I was so afraid I was going to fall asleep, I was eating M&Ms all night. I was eating M&Ms and drinking coffee all night, and then I’d start to fall asleep every morning when I was driving home. Then I couldn’t sleep during the day because my brain just doesn’t sleep during the day. And then I found myself heading for a center divider one morning, and I’m like, “I’m done. That’s it.” So, for me it was four months before I realized this lifestyle is never going to work.

Dr Daniel Amen:              And did they teach you how to manage shift work?

Tana Amen:                      Of course not.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Isn’t that crazy? You’re in a medical center. You’re in a world class medical center at Loma Linda, and they put you on nights but they don’t teach you how to do nights.

Tana Amen:                      Oh, and they put you on nights and you worked double shifts. That’s fun.

Dr Daniel Amen:              All right. So, how do you manage shift work? Brain envy, make it a priority. Before work, you want to plan your light exposure during the day. A bright light box, and Brain MD has a brand new light box, so you guys should put the link so they can see it, in your morning to reset the circadian rhythm. Limit caffeine to 12 hours before sleep. The time to exercise is before work, not after work and limit shift changes to try to allow your body to adapt. After work, limit bright lights, low dose melatonin. We have a brand new sleep product coming out called Put Me to Sleep, so excited about it. It’s chewable, it’s got lower dose melatonin, but along with theanine and 5HTP and magnesium. I’m so excited about it.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Make sure you have a routine, sleep and wake up at the same time. Avoid meals and alcohol two hours before bed. People put themselves to sleep, especially police officers, with alcohol. It’s just a way to manage the stress, but it’s actually over time increasing their stress. Blackout shades, really important. I know that’s important for you.

Tana Amen:                      Oh no, I’ve gone around the room with duct tape and covered every single light source I can find. I had duct tape over everything. The the stupid fire… what is that, the fire-

Dr Daniel Amen:              Smoke alarm.

Tana Amen:                      The smoke detector. Everything in the house has got duct tape on it.

Dr Daniel Amen:              What if you’re a contractor and never work the same hours each day?

Tana Amen:                      That’s tricky.

Dr Daniel Amen:              It’s tricky. You have to make it a priority. I was eating M&Ms, coffee and drinking Coca Cola.

Tana Amen:                      See? Is that a nurse?

Dr Daniel Amen:              Probably.

Tana Amen:                      Yeah.

Dr Daniel Amen:              So, bedtime routines and things to calm you down: bath, soothing music. On Brain Fit Life, our online app, we have hypnosis. One of my favorite tracks is hypnosis for sleep. Lavender, the scent of lavender.

Tana Amen:                      I found the best lavender bedtime tea by Buddha Teas or something. Oh my gosh, it smells so yummy and it’s just so soothing right before bed. Every night that’s my-

Dr Daniel Amen:              You should put a link on tanaamen.com. So, you can improve your memory tomorrow by getting better sleep tonight. So, basically with all of the Bright Minds risk factors, know if you have it, avoid things that hurt it and then do things that help it. I mean, that’s so simple. And so for sleep, you want to avoid caffeine, a warm room. You are freezing me out.

Tana Amen:                      No, no, no, no.

Dr Daniel Amen:              I have never had to wear pajamas since I was like seven.

Tana Amen:                      67.

Dr Daniel Amen:              And now-

Tana Amen:                      The room needs to be 67.

Dr Daniel Amen:              I’m buying all these pajamas because she’s freezing me out.

Tana Amen:                      It’s the only way I can sleep. I sleep like a baby if it’s freezing cold and I am up all night, it just drives me crazy-

Dr Daniel Amen:              It’s reminding me of when I was in the army and we’d do-

Tana Amen:                      Aren’t you happy?

Dr Daniel Amen:              … Drills in the middle of-

Tana Amen:                      Aren’t those good memories?

Dr Daniel Amen:              In the winter-

Tana Amen:                      Good memories.

Dr Daniel Amen:              … We’d have to be in a tent for three months in the… No, those were not good memories. Just give me a moment. I just need a moment.

Tana Amen:                      67, that is my sleep temperature.

Dr Daniel Amen:              A warm room is problematic for sleep. Your gadgets, turn them off. Alcohol, all of these are bad for you. So, a dark room with no noise except sometimes we have sleep enhancing music. I don’t know if I told you that I’ve been-

Tana Amen:                      You’ve told everybody repeatedly.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Billboard’s new age artist of the year, two years in a row, because of music for Bright Minds.

Tana Amen:                      Even though he’s never been a musician.

Dr Daniel Amen:              But I create the music with my friend Barry Goldstein. But our album, Feel Better Fast and Make it Last, I think it was like the number five album last year. That’s pretty cool. But we have sleep strategies; sleep music for you, hypnosis as we said, and then supplements can help. All right, these are the 11 major risk factors that steal your mind. Next time, we’re going to talk about supplements for your brain and I hope those of you that are watching, that you engage in the challenge that we have for you.

Tana Amen:                      Are we getting people sending their stuff in?

Dr Daniel Amen:              People, we want you to fill out your online survey each week so that we can know-

Tana Amen:                      Enter you.

Dr Daniel Amen:              … If you’re better, if you want to be entered into the challenge, and we want to know [crosstalk [00:10:06] your progress and your questions. In fact, we might have time to answer a few more questions. Why don’t you look at that while I give you your tasks for week three.

Tana Amen:                      Okay.

Dr Daniel Amen:              So, day one, right, do I have a mental health challenge? There’s a questionnaire to help you realize that. Download it, fill it out. You don’t have to send it in, but we just want you to say you did this. Day two is decrease your screen time even just by 15 minutes a day because screen time can mess up your sleep. Day three, get 20 minutes of sun or take 5,000 international units of vitamin D. I pretty much want all of my patients to take that to get a high normal level. Day four, find 20 foods you love that love you back. We’re going to give you a handout with a hundred brain healthy foods. Just circle 20. Find 20 more foods you love that love you back. Six, hypnosis for sleep. So, we’re actually going to give you the download. And day seven, limit sugar, and we’re going to help you track that. So, these are the week three tasks. Do them. And we have just a couple of minutes, do you have a question you’re going to answer?

Tana Amen:                      There are some great questions and they’re just hilarious.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Okay, we have four minutes.

Tana Amen:                      Okay so, I don’t even know where to start, but this is so good. Let’s see. What are more foods that we can eat to give us Omega 3s rather than taking supplements, which are rather expensive? I’m a huge fan of trying to take the supplement because it’s just a higher dose and a cleaner source.

Dr Daniel Amen:              It’s purified.

Tana Amen:                      Right, it’s purified. But, because you would need to eat a lot of fish, basically you need to eat a lot of fish, you can get Omega 3s in other sources, but they’re not the right kind of Omega 3s, and you’re going to end up getting some Omega 6s.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Well so, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has an app called seafoodwatch.org and it’ll tell you the healthiest, cleanest, most sustainably raised fish. And sometimes farm fish is okay, and they will tell you, eat this, don’t eat that.

Tana Amen:                      Right, but eating several servings a day, you can end up running into problems. Several people we know who ended up with high mercury levels. You just have to be careful. So, that’s one of the issues. Blue green algae, but again, it’s a supplement. So, you’re into that same supplement-

Dr Daniel Amen:              Somebody has a question, where do we get the materials for the assignments? So, underneath the live class there should be links to the surveys and actually, I don’t see the link to all live class… Survey Monkey… Oh, for class resources such as downloads go to, and there’s a link, endofmentalillness.com/brainhealthchallenge. So, there’s a link for you underneath the video.

Tana Amen:                      So, there’s a couple here you might want to answer. So, but there’s one here that’s funny. What do you take when you puke when you take fish oil? So, there are some people who are really sensitive to the big capsules and some people who are just super sensitive to the taste of fish oil. One thing I recommend is a big, say a teaspoon or a big tablespoon, of almond butter or something like that that’s heavy to keep it down. It might make you feel a little better.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Or how have it after you eat. For me, initially, I had to have breakfast or lunch and then I would take my supplements afterwards and they wouldn’t bother me.

Tana Amen:                      Me too, but I need something sort of fatty and heavy to keep it down for me.

Dr Daniel Amen:              There are some liquid fish oils. We’re actually going to have a liquid fish oil coming up that tastes amazing. So, watch out for that coming soon.

Tana Amen:                      This one’s really good.

Dr Daniel Amen:              What is, which one?

Tana Amen:                      There’s a whiplash one here.

Dr Daniel Amen:              How does whiplash cause brain injury and how soon would symptoms appear? If a baby or toddler suffers a head injury do you recommend a brain scan or wait and see? Does insurance ever cover brain SPECT scans? Okay, there’s three questions there. Whiplash damages your brain because, people think of it as a neck injury, but what’s on top of your neck? It’s your brain. It slams the front, slams the back.

Tana Amen:                      Like shaken baby.

Dr Daniel Amen:              It can cause [crosstalk [00:14:51] shearing, damage to blood vessels, scar tissue, and the symptoms actually may not show up for a couple of months because it takes time for the scar tissue to actually form in the brain. If a baby or toddler suffers a head injury, if they have any neurological symptoms, the first thing is making sure they get a CT scan so that they don’t have a bleed. Probably I wouldn’t recommend a SPECT scan until they’re about four or five. And yes, insurance often will cover SPECT, generally not for psychiatric problems because that has nothing to do with the brain, but for things like dementia or traumatic brain injury or toxic exposure or infections, insurance companies often will cover it.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Generally you have to fuss with them a bit. All right, well, we are out of time. We are grateful to the thousand people watching, and over this next week we’ll probably get seven or 8,000 people watching. Thank you. The end of mental illness begins with a revolution in brain health, and our goal is to create brain warriors. Please pre-order The End of Mental Illness, .com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, anywhere great books are sold. If you preorder it and then go to endofmentalillness.com, we’ll give you all sorts of gifts because we want to create brain warriors.

Tana Amen:                      If you’re enjoying the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe so you’ll always know when there’s a new episode. And while you’re at it, feel free to give us a review or five star rating as that helps others find the podcast.

Daniel Amen, MD: If you’re considering coming to Amen Clinics or trying some of the brain healthy supplements from BrainMD, you can use the code podcast 10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at amenclinics.com or a 10% discount on all supplements at brainmdhealth.com. For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.