Michael Breus is a practicing Ph.D. in clinical psychology with a specialty in clinical sleep disorders. He consults with Mattress Firm and with Bath & Body Works and has developed his own signature line of pillows for Carpenter Company under the Sleep Better seal. In this in interview Dr Breus talks about how he first discovered his love for treating clinical sleep disorders and disordered sleep, gives advice to improve quality of sleep, his collaboration with Bath & Body Works, and how between his book: Beauty Sleep, and his many TV appearances he manages to get a good night sleep.

What made you pursue a career in Sleep Medicine?
First of all, I love to sleep. I have a PHD in Clinical Psychology. All Clinical Psychologists have to do a one year of residency, I happen to do mine in a medical center where I had the opportunity to study and learn in a sleep laboratory and in a sleep clinic. Within the first week of working in the clinic I totally fell in love with Sleep Medicine. You can change people’s life in 48 hours and it’s just amazing! If you are able to identify just one problem, and it’s usually simple, you can literally overnight change someone. With classic Clinical Psychology it takes months or even years before I see any treatment gains whatsoever. There are only 153 people in the world who have a PHD in Psychology but who are also certified in clinical sleep disorders.

What do you enjoy most about your career in Sleep Medicine?
To me it is about educating as many people in as many different ways as I can. Many people don’t know a lot about sleep disorders, or what I call disordered sleep. They are different. A lot of people when they think about sleep disorders they think of: Sleep Apnea, Narcolepsy, or Restless Leg Syndrome. I treat all these mentioned sleep disorders, but I also treat people for what I call Disordered Sleep. It is when even after eight hours of sleep you wake up and don’t feel really good. There is a lot more Disordered Sleep out there, and it is just because a lot of people don’t do things they need to do in order to get a better night sleep. A classic example is the use of substances like Caffeine: while coffee has physiological effect it also has an emotional and mental effect. If you slept for eight hours but drank ten cups of coffee during the day, you won’t get a good night sleep.

What is your approach in treating sleep disorders?
I usually look at medicine as the last resort. I just like to look at things at a more natural, holistic, or a behavioral perspective. If I can change the way people think or perceive sleep, then we start to change their overall attitude about sleep. The research shows that the method I use, which is the behavioral method, not only works better than sleeping pills but lasts longer. Sleep is not an on and off switch, it is about slowly pulling off the foot of the gas or slowly pushing down on the breaks. It is a process. We need to give ourselves time in order to make that process occur in order for us to get a really good sleep. People that take sleeping pills sleep, but the quality of their sleep is really not good.

“The research shows that the method I use, which is the behavioral method, not only works better than sleeping pills but lasts longer. Sleep is not an on and off switch, it is about slowly pulling off the foot of the gas or slowly pushing down on the breaks. It is a process.”

What are the benefits of a good sleep or a ‘beauty sleep’ and the side effects of bad sleep?
If you are sleep deprived you don’t think clearly, your cognition or your ability to think is reduced. Your decision making skills dramatically reduced. Reaction time slows down as well. It affects mental stability. Think when was the last time you had a bad night sleep, you don’t want to talk to anybody. If you don’t sleep well it can actually lead to a depression.

What is the connection between sleep and weight?
There is a section in my book: Beauty Sleep, called: From Waistlines to Face Lines where I talk about how sleep affects a lot of different areas. I can talk about statistics to people all day long, the truth of the matter is that people don’t care. So what I try to let them know is about the things that are already important in their lives. My theory is that if you are motivated in one direction I’m not going to pull you out of it, I want to go with you in that direction. Classic example is New Year’s resolution to lose weight, which is the number one resolution with people. There is a ton of research that shows that if you are sleep deprived a couple of different things happen: your metabolism slows down, so even if you are eating well your body is not burning food efficiently so it turns to fat. There are some hormones that are directly affected by sleep deprivation: Ghrelin and Leptin. Ghrelin is what tells your body to eat. Your body has 20% more Ghrelin when you are sleep deprived. And 15% less Leptin, which is the stop eat hormone. There is a great study at the University of Chicago where they laid out a table with food for people who were sleep deprived. One side of table had crispy cream donuts, cakes and pies. The other side had healthy alternatives. Almost everybody went for the unhealthy food. Because all these high carbohydrates, starch, and sugar foods help produce and hormone called: Serotonin which is calming and relaxing. So your body is naturally craving for bad food when you are sleep deprived.

What happens when you are ‘overslept’?
Because you are waking up from deeper stages of sleep, you actually wake up more tired and feel worse than before going to sleep.

What are some of the most common sleeping disorders?
The most common sleep disorder is Insomnia, when you either can’t wall asleep or can’t stay a sleep, Sleep Apnea, is when people stop breathing while they are asleep, and snoring. 50% of population snores and roughly 1/3 of population has Insomnia. 10% of it is chronic.

What advice can you give to people who suffer from sleeping disorders?
A lot more people have disordered sleep than sleep disorders. If you think you have a sleep disorder you need to see a doctor, or speak to a sleep specialist who can get you in a clinic and try to understand what’s going on. See if there is something medically we can do, or counseling. But if you think you have a disordered sleep: “I woke up and I don’t feel great” or “I just can’t get enough good sleep.” I recommend a bedroom makeover. I have something you can do for every one of your five senses to help you sleep better. Sight: light is the number cause for disrupted sleep. Because light tells your brain to stop producing melatonin which helps you fall asleep. I have people for example use a night light in the bathroom instead of turning on the light at night. Sound: ear plugs if you are sensitive to certain sounds. And if you can’t sleep when it’s too quite I recommend a recording of city sounds. Some people even like to sleep with a fan. Smell: aromatherapy really works. This is why I collaborated with Bath & Body Works creating their Aromatherapy Sleep Collection. There is a real clinical data to support that aromatherapy causes a relaxation response. Your muscles physiologically begin to relax. There are only couple of scents that really work: lavender, chamomile, vanilla, and yin lang. I recommend a pillow mist, such as: Bath & Body Works Aromatherapy Sleep Pillow Mist. Touch: or the ‘sleep system’ as I call it: a pillow, mattress and sheets. You need to make sure they are suited to your room temperute, and you must trade your pillow for a new one if it is looking too old. I’m coming up with my own line of pillows. If you go to sleepbetter.org you can take a test to figure out what kind of pillow works for you. Taste: what you eat before you go to sleep will affect your ability to not only fall asleep but to stay asleep.

How does pregnancy affect your sleep?
Each trimester has a different effect on your sleep. In the third trimester women get little sleep because they are so uncomfortable, also some women can actually start snoring or develop Sleep Apnea. In the first trimester morning sickness can disturb your sleep. Usually the second trimester is best for sleeping. And when baby is born, you need to sleep when the baby sleeps. Also partners should take shifts.

What topics does your book: Beauty Sleep cover?
How sleep affects the way you look, sleep and weight loss, sleep and sex. It also includes a 28 night program to fix your sleep.

What’s involved in one of your sleeping coaching sessions?
I help people with bedroom makeovers, or use the 28 night program to fix their sleep. I also work with fortune 500 and Fortune 100 executives from all over the world who travel a lot, and help manage their sleep.

What projects are you working on currently?
My pillows which are available at JCPenny, Kohl’s, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond. I’m also working with a company to create a reading lamp, and a new natural sleep beverage called: Dreamerz, which you can get on Amazon.com.

What is the best part of being a sleep expert?
I get to talk to and educate a lot of people. My favorite thing to do is to get out there and let people know about sleep and how important it is. I get to do a lot of interviews, and appear on television. Not only do I get to help a lot of people, I also get to see results quickly.

Between your work, book, and TV appearances how do you manage to find time to sleep?
When I’m home I’m 100% at home. I keep a very regular schedule. And if I’m on the road and traveling I know how and when to take naps. It takes a lot of work and commitment but I do a pretty good job at it.

It was a pleasure to interview Dr Breus to find out more about him and his practise visit his website at: www.yourbeautysleep.com and read his blog at www.theinsomniablog.com

The products are available at www.bathandbodyworks.com

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 254 user reviews.

There Are 13 Responses So Far. »

  1. Sleep Apnea is really annoying and sometimes it is an indication of another disease in the body.::.

  2. what i like aromatherapy is the scent which is booth soothing and enjoyable ‘

  3. sleep apnea is definitely annoying and i’ve head that it also affects the heart**:

  4. i snore so much that i can wake up the whole neighborhood by just snoring,“

  5. my father loves aromatherapy because of its soothing effect;–

  6. sleep apnea can also be cure by surgery and some appliance*’~

  7. i don’t like people who are snoring a lot, they can really ruin a good sleep*,*

  8. it is really great to immerse yourself in an air full of Aromatherpay Oils, it is very soothing ‘

  9. sleep apnea may seem harmless but they can really trigger some other bad effects on your health —

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