In this episode, we explore how to achieve the ultimate goal in life: a good night’s sleep! My guest, Dan Pardi, is a sleep researcher and educator at Stanford and Leiden University in the Netherlands. Dan is also the CEO of HumanOS.me, an operating system that helps people master their healthy lifestyles.
In this episode, Dan details how to optimize sleep and understand sleep behavioral changes so a good night’s rest can be achieved. We talk about issues affecting the sleep cycle, measuring markers of sleep, midnight awakenings, and so much more.
Bite-sized action items to go from dreaming to streaming your podcast.
· 5:25) – Sleep Optimization
· (11:46) – The Loop Model
· (12:33) – Sleep and Metabolism
· (18:52) – Late Night Snacks
· (21:43) – Issues Affecting Sleep Cycle
· (28:51) – Measuring Markers of Sleep
· (33:37) – Midnight Awakenings
· (43:29) – Sleep Behavior Changes
· (53:47) – HumanOs
Hey, this is Dan Pardi and you are listening to the Airborne Mind Show.
Misbah Haque (00:38):
Hey guys, Misbah Haque here. Thank you so much for joining me today. And welcome back to the show. Before we get started, I would love to point you to two places. And number one is if you’ve listened to the show in the past, and you’ve enjoyed it, you’ve been entertained by it or you’ve gotten something out of it, please head over to iTunes and leave a review with your thoughts. It is the best compliment that you can give, and you have no idea how much it would help. Number two, if you are a coach, and you are interested in communication, connection and conversations, you might enjoy this course that Dr. Megan Kayden, who’s a clinical psychologist and myself have put together called The Art and Science of connection. If you realize the value in communicating, asking better questions, listening and helping your clients feel seen, heard, and understood, then this might be a good fit for you. If you want to check out the details around that head over to the airbornemind.com.
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Today, my guest is Dan Parti, this guy is an absolute genius. There’s conversations that you have, from time to time where you realize, I do not have the data to conduct a meaningful conversation with this guy. And that was certainly my initial reaction when I started talking to Dan. But then the other side of that coin is you have people who have the ability to really communicate and articulate complex topics in a way where you understand and you walk away, feeling a little bit smarter. And so that’s Dan, he is known as the “sleep guy”. And that’s how he was introduced to me. So that’s what a majority of this episode is really about. But ever since this episode, I’ve had a chance to have multiple conversations with him offline. And he continues to surprise me with the breadth of knowledge that he has regarding just health overall. He is the CEO of humanOs.me, which is a behavioral model to promote health fluency, skill development, and lifestyle insights.
What really fascinates me about the work that Dan is doing is taking all these layers of health, right? Sleep, nutrition, stress management, exercise, etc, etc. And being able to strip these layers down to a point where it can be accessible for the everyday individual, such a demographic that we may not even be thinking of right now. And they may not even be listening to this podcast, right?
The people who will probably never walk into a gym, they’re never going to pursue individual design, get personal training, or really scratch the surface of pursuing a fitness journey. Right? So how do you distill some of these things down into a way where it appeals to them and it feels doable for them. That’s something I found really fascinating. To learn more about and to work on in some ways. Dan also does research with the Zeitler lab in the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department at Stanford, and in the departments of neurology and Endocrinology at Leiden, University in the Netherlands. He investigates how lifestyle factors like sleep, influence decision making, cognitive performance, and metabolism.
I know you’re gonna walk away feeling a little bit smarter from this episode. So I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did. More importantly, I hope you do something with it. Dan, welcome to the show.
Misbah. It’s great to be here. Thank you for having me on.
Misbah Haque (05:25):
I have heard a ton about you from kosher at rival strength, Shauna, and you are actually very, very close to us. So I’m hoping we can meet in person sometime soon. And I was really fascinated by a lot of the work you’re doing around sleep. For those of us who may not know, give us just a little bit of background, a little bit of context on what you’re doing with humanOS and sleep optimization.
I’ll start with my academic career. So I gosh, I get the question. You know, how did you get into sleep, and honestly, it was very serendipitous. I started to work for a pharmaceutical company that had a drug for narcolepsy. And I knew nothing about sleep or narcolepsy. And I’ve never been in the pharmaceutical industry before. But pretty quickly, I developed a love for both the medication because it’s a very interesting, complex drug G, HB, and for sleep, and it’s sort of how it serves as a window to understanding the brain and the body. And how much of a fundamental part of our, of our health it is. So I worked in medical affairs, I started the medical affairs department at jazz, which does post-approval, scientific and medical support on approved products. So after it gets approved by the FDA, we are in a department that works in the marketplace, basically to run, create research, grants, and education and interact with thought leaders and things that it was a great job.
And about 2010, I left there and I actually decided to pursue my own Ph.D., I had my own line of questions that I wanted to hunt down related to sleep and metabolism. So I pursued that. And I had previously before pharmaceutical work, I had finished a master’s in exercise science. And I always knew I wanted to go back for my Ph.D., I just didn’t think it would take that long. But every year when I go to the associated professional sleep Society meeting, one of the hardest choices for me to make was okay, which session am I going to go to if there’s five that are happening at the same time and one’s on sleep in the brain sleeping, metabolism, sleeping immunity, and there’s so many so much interest. So I decided to narrow down and really focus on sleep and eating behaviors, metabolism, and weight. And at the same time, when I started my Ph.D., it took about six months, and I developed a behavior model designed to help people implement good knowledge about their health and their lives. This stemmed from a personal experience. I was doing cancer research earlier in my career, and my dad was diagnosed with cancer, and I tried to help him.
So I gave him a bunch of information that I thought could, and he would listen proudly, but it didn’t change his behavior at all, we kept having that same conversation over and over again. And after he passed away, I thought, it’s really if you’re in the position to try to help somebody be healthy. Just giving people information is often not enough, it’s really important to have the right information, or at least do the best job that you can to really interpret what the information actually says well, but then you also need to understand humans and what’s going to make them actually implement something or not.
Now, I admit this point, it’s very difficult to get family and parents to actually listen to you because you’re a kid, they change your diapers, but still, it was I sort of used that moment to say, Okay, this is if, if I’m going to be working in this field, which I, which I am and which I want to be, then I need to understand what drives humans to so that led to this Genesis of what’s called the loop model to sustain healthy behaviors. And that is, that says, so let’s look, look at these different elements of what gets a human to drive in a certain direction.
And one of them is so it’s the very easy explanation, or the executive summary of the model is, why should we do it? In order for somebody to adopt and sustain these behaviors long-term, they should understand why they should do it, how to do it, if they’re doing it, and if it’s working. So the first part why then that’s sort of like where you see people write books about any sort of a subject. This is the thesis, the explanation about why this is the right way to go and why it’s important. Now a person doesn’t necessarily need to have Ph.D. level knowledge about it, but they should be fluent in a subject well enough to be able to converse with their friends. And because if you can’t, then the information is familiar but not You’re not fluent in it. And you have to be able to, I think, recount that to be able to implement that into your life.
And then second, you might really get the concept of what an idea is about? But how do you then implement that across a 24 hour period? Do you have the skills? Do you need to develop some skills? What are the things that you need to do to figure out how it fits into your day? And then the third part is, am I doing it and this is sure, we can have a great understanding of what something is, we can have the skills to do it. But let’s say four or five months out after learning something, what’s going to make sure that you’re continually engaged in that behavior, right, because our health is not determined by us trying things, occasionally, our health is really determined by the pattern of living that we have across 24 hour period of a week, or 168 hour period of sorry, 24 hour period of day or 168 hour period of a week. Right, that is that sort of platform, that’s our canvas that we get to work with.
And then the last part is me, is it working? Right? So why should I do it? How do I do it? Am I doing it and isn’t working? And that’s sort of a different level of feedback, right, though? What am I doing? It is? Am I doing the things that get me results? And then No, is it working is that that’s sort of looking at deeper level assessment that can be cognitive performance, mental performance, or excuse me, physical performance, it can be blood work, can be all sorts of ways to then look at the body and say, What is my what’s the status of my health, according to this marker? How do I compare to the population?
What is my trajectory? And that tends to be more of a periodic assessment. And yeah, so that’s that, from that model, I developed a humanOS, which is an application entirely dedicated to trying to fulfill those different buckets. We soft-launched a couple of months ago, and we’re having our more full launch coming this week, which is exciting.
The Loop Model
Misbah Haque (11:46):
That’s really interesting, because it seems you can, not only get more higher quality feedback this way using that type of a system. But you can also catch where somebody is within that loop and maybe address or tweak the path that they’re on a little bit more efficiently.
Yeah, absolutely. Now, even though I describe the loop model, in that sequence, the reality is in the world, you could start with some sort of health risk assessment, right? That could be kind of the last part, right? The model, or you could just start by getting a Fitbit and you’re starting to engage in your health in a different way. And then all of a sudden, you want to know more about our steps. Good for me, right? So there’s all sorts of different paths that a person can take into that loop. But that’s it’s easy way to describe it in that order.
Sleep and Metabolism
Now you will circle back to this. But you mentioned sleep and metabolism. What are some of the correlations that you found from studying this in such an academic setting? And then also getting to really have some empirical data and testing it on humans? What are some of the patterns or the correlations that you found between sleep and metabolism?
In the early 2000s, there was a signal that sleep and wait did associate. And so early studies by Janet Marlington, David Digis, and others at Harvard, they sleep-deprived people. The sleep-deprived people for 88 hours. So this was a sleep deprivation study, and then they measured their blood. And they found that in their blood, there were pretty strange alterations in the hormone leptin. And they weren’t looking in that specifically, but they just sort of captured that that was a signal that was perhaps interesting follow-up studies kept looking at this leptin signal. And if just for the listener, if you’re not aware, Leptin is an adipokine, or a hormone that is released from fat. So we used to think that fat was just this inert substance that kept us warm and provided energy, but we now know that it is actually an exocrine gland. So it releases over 50 different substances, most of which are inflammatory, some of which actually will help to control metabolism and signal to the brain that you are, this is the amount of energy that you have stored in your body. So that leptin is that signal.
And so when leptin levels go down, then in well-functioning leptin, energy regulating system, that the brain says, okay, energy stores are dropping, then what I’m going to do is initiate a conservation program, which is then going to make me hungrier, and it’s going to make me hold on to the calories that I take in so that my body fat levels rise back up. And the way that I’m going to know that my body fat levels are rising back up, it’s because as triglycerides are stored in the adipose site, more leptin is created and then more leptin goes to the brain. And that signal once that signal reaches the brain, it says okay, alright, then I can basically turn off that conservation mechanism. So that’s generally how that system works. And when you are sleep-deprived, leptin would go down. So you can basically see that that is a signal to then over-consume and store. Right, so that was some of the original metabolic work that said, maybe there’s something here, but epidemiologically. So looking at trends and associations across populations, it was very clear that if you were a short sleeper, so you were sleeping less than the recommended seven and a half, seven to eight and a half hours per night, then you are at higher risk for being obese. In fact, if you’re sleeping less than six hours per night, your risk for being obese is 55% greater than if somebody sleeps seven hours or more.
So pretty significant, and all of these signals that were starting to come in or making people think, yes, there’s something here. So that led to follow-up research. And actually, the leptin piece became a bit confusing, because some studies showed that there were alterations in leptin, some showed that there weren’t new studies came in that show that there were also alterations in ghrelin, which is another peptide that’s involved in energy regulation. Ghrelin is not released from fat, but it’s actually released from your stomach. And it’s done so in a bit of a different way. So it’s called an episodic hormone. So in between meals, leptin will start to rise after several hours after you’ve eaten and that’s what makes you hungry again. And so when Red leptin reaches the brain, it starts to make you crave food, it makes food taste even better. And so another thing that was found when under sleep deprivation is that growth would go up, right? So remember, ghrelin, the hunger hormone, leptin really could be considered a satiety hormone. So both of those hormones were moving in, in the direction that would make you hungrier.
So that was very interesting work. Further studies were kept looking at different metabolic kinds of assessments to see what else is probably involved. One other one that’s quite interesting is the endocannabinoid system. So arachidonic glycerol is one of the anandamide compounds that is part of the internal endocannabinoid system. So yes, this is the system that cannabis is affecting. It is a major homeostatic regulatory pathway in the body that helps with inflammation and a lot of things. And so, what is one of the most common side effects of smoking weed?
For some people, it’s getting the munchies. And under sleep deprivation, in the afternoon, you see, people that are sleep deprived have higher levels of rock’n’roll, glycerol in the afternoon, and that correlates very well with increased hunger levels for palatable food. So not just any food, but food that people consume, that they find rewarding. These are the things the donuts are the stuff that you try not to eat, but pizza doughnuts, the list goes on. It’s and all of that relates to energy density, right. So energy density is favored by the central nervous system.
Because what you end up with when you’re a baby, you don’t necessarily know. But over time, you actually created a Pavlovian association so that you don’t, you’re not tasting calories, you’re tasting properties of sensory properties of the food. And when you eat a doughnut for the first time, or the first second time, there is an association between the caloric load and the sensations that are received from eating it. And then the brain learns that this is a dense package of calories. I like that. And so yeah, we all have certain different food preferences, but generally, human beings really have energy density. And that’s why I think pizza has a lot of cheese and dough and stuff on it. Donuts, ice cream, and all this. Why is all good food? Why is all good, good tasting food bad for me, it tends to share those properties that make it taste good. And that also makes it easy to overconsume.
Late Night Snacks
Now, this leads me to how, when it comes, when the sunsets and we start to trickle into nighttime, there’s a lot of people who are in the boat of getting hungry as they’re getting closer to bed, right? And so eating late at night, how does that affect your sleep? If it does at all?
It does. And interestingly, I wear an aura ring. And they use this to track my sleep, it’s probably the best sleep tracker on the marketplace. Currently, it’s consumer-wise. I also wear a Fitbit too. So I try to compare those. And we could talk a little bit about technology, my opinion about them but generally, what I tend to notice is the earlier that I eat, the deeper my sleep is, and we haven’t yet talked about sleep stages, but generally, there are two stages of sleep that we enter into over the course in the sleep period and one of them is called non as called REM sleep rapid eye movement and the other one is called nonrem and out of non REM there you can break that down into stage one and two, and then what’s called slow-wave sleep.
And it is the slow-wave sleep that is really associated with physically restored sadness memory consolidation. This is the phase of sleep where you release more growth hormone which helps with recovery. And you also purge what are considered potentially neurotoxic substances that accumulate during wake time activity from just using your brain and can build up these protein aggregates, which are considered beta amyloids are called beta amyloids, which we know are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. And so these are kind of a natural part of high energy usage areas, the brain, and then during this phase of sleep, slow-wave sleep, you clear them. It’s a cerebral spinal fluid squirted up into the brain, and when it cleanses, it brings it out of the brain through something called the glymphatic system. And so, eating late at night actually seems to alcohol not quite as intense as alcohol, but can diminish the amount of slow-wave sleep that you get in the first part of the night.
Or it can just very interestingly change the architecture of your sleep so that maybe you get more of your slow sleep later in the evening. But it seems to diminish it. And so you don’t really want to have a big meal late at night. Now that and the next question is, can you have some calories? And that question has not yet been addressed thoroughly. But interestingly, ghrelin, if you remember that hormone that I was talking about previously, ghrelin might be a deep sleep promoter. So you want to have a little bit of hunger by bedtime, but you don’t, but you don’t want to be so hungry that you can’t sleep. And it’s sort of that delicate balance because a little too much hunger is alerting and can prevent you from going to sleep. So you have to find that balance.
Issues Affecting Sleep Cycle
Misbah Haque (21:43):
So similar to food, I mean, you mentioned alcohol a little bit, but how about when we think about alcohol, CBD THC, any of these things and how they would affect your sleep cycles throughout the night.
Alcohol is one of the worst sleep stealers that there is, when you drink it, it makes you drowsy at a certain point. So there are different stages of central nervous system depression. So the first stage is actually exciting. So there’s disinhibition that takes place of neurons, and then that leads to a behavioral excitation. That’s why we drink it, you go to a bar, you have some drinks, and you’re sort of that social lubrication that happens and you feel energized. You keep drinking and you feel sedated. And then you can, the next stages are hypnosis, coma death rate if you just kept going, right. And obviously, just having a couple of glasses of wine per night or whatever, you’re going to eventually feel sedated from that, that might help you go to sleep.
The problem is that as well, for one, the ethanol is acting at GABA receptors, and it’s therefore directly modifying the sleep stages and seems to lighten them. Secondly, when it’s metabolizing, out of the system, it goes through another alerting phase, right, and that can then also lighten sleep. And so one of the reasons why people have terrible hangover overs is one of the byproducts of alcohol, acid aldehyde being processed, and that gives you a headache, but also because people feel they really get terrible sleep. So alcohol is not a good way to get to sleep. It’s not a good sleep aid. But what I would say is that if you’re going to drink then try to drink earlier in the night and have it out of your system by at least an hour or two before you get into bed. Got it.
Misbah Haque (23:38):
And then does this change at all if we now are looking at something CBD or THC?
So the research on there’s a lot of excitement about the potential of CBD and THC the different cannabinoids on, on sleep. And there’s not great research. Yet in terms of volume. Some studies point to it being potentially beneficial for sleep, some point to it not having a really meaningful effect. One alarming factor is sort of this unfortunate duality of CBD, hemp, reducing your inflammation. And that’s good, right? So if you have Alzheimer’s disease, and you’ve got an inflamed but potent, inflamed brain, then reducing your inflammation is a good thing. Same time, some work that came out, not that long ago, has shown that CBD actually directly interferes with memory formation and neuroplasticity. So that’s the problem.
That’s a problem. If you’re consuming it regularly, I think that you’re probably not going to experience an effect where you don’t remember anything from the day before. It’s not as powerful as a benzodiazepine and causing retrograde amnesia or it’s not that, but it is if you’re taking it day by day, every night to sleep I just think more work needs to be done. And is there a way to counteract that with another compound on board? What about if you’re taking in the whole plant and you’re taking in the terpenoids? And luminol, and, you, myrcene, and other things that come along with the plant? So there’s, it’s a very complex question. And we don’t have great data on it yet. I do know that some people feel it just gives them tremendous sleep. And I’d say use conditionally, I also think that there’s real potential for middle-of-the-night arousals to then take in some CBD or cannabis or some THC to help you go back to sleep, particularly depending on the strain, an Indica strain. And that might help you get a few more hours of sleep, which is better than none.
Misbah Haque (25:48):
So I guess that leads me into that question of us feeling we are able to get more sleep using something that, versus the actual cycles that you’re going through? Is there a bit of a difference there? Like our perception of Oh, yeah, I got a super restful night of sleep. But in reality, maybe,I don’t know you skipped a stage of one of the cycles that we’re talking about, is that something that can happen?
Absolutely. There’s a lot of things that matter. In terms of the quality of your sleep, sleep quality is really a reflection of what the Hypno grant or the measurement of sleep across the night, did you get into the adequate depth of sleep? Did you have adequate times in REM, where the cat and concatenations are the continuity of sleep, as you’d see, or at least standardized? Now, that’s not always synonymous with sleep satisfaction.
Sleep satisfaction is the subjective feeling that I got a good night’s sleep last night, which is based on hysteretic processes. So not just what happened last night, but what’s been happening in your life recently. And we all have an experience where we didn’t get quite the sleep that we wanted, and we performed fine the next day, and conversely, where you got what you consider to be a good night’s sleep, but you actually didn’t perform very well, that following that you felt groggy, you just didn’t feel you got a great night’s sleep. So there is not one stage of sleep that we know is predictive, that if you get this amount of it, you’re going to feel this way, unfortunately, so I like to focus typically on measures of sleep satisfaction. So how sleepy
What do you feel? What’s your alertness? So about reaction time? What’s your mood, mood, and perspective is one of the most sensitive aspects of sleep, good sleep, and sleep loss. And so we tend to be less optimistic. The next day, we tend to have some people particularly affected, they have a poor mood if they don’t get the sleep that they need. So sleep loss affects all of us a bit differently. Some people will just get really sleepy, others won’t. But they’ll start making strange decisions, or they’ll feel moody. And you have to kind of understand what are the signals that you’re getting when you are sleep deprived. And for a former person that I used to work with? At my company? Great guy, but he was amazing.
He could get very little sleep, he was in investment banking beforehand. And when he could get four hours a night and come up the next day and feel fine. But his decision-making was definitely different when he was sleep-deprived than he was when he got pulled into my sleep. So you have to look for what is what? Where are you? Where are your sensitivities? Where do you pick up that you’re not when you don’t get good sleep? I know for me, verbal, I get tired, I feel that, and then verbally, I have a hard time finding words. And I sort of slur my words. I’m drunk. And that association between sleep loss and alcohol being drunk has been made many times and it is a good comparison.
Measuring Markers of Sleep
Misbah Haque (28:51):
So some of these markers that you just talked about, alertness and maybe its mental acuity and mood and stuff that. How are you measuring that throughout the day? Is that kind of a scale of one to 10? And your perception of how you’re feeling?
There are different ways to do it, depending on the situation. So if you’re in a clinic, you can do something like a sleep clinic, you can do something called the psychomotor vigilance test. It’s a Pvt. It is a reaction time test that you do not get better at with practice. Okay, yeah. So typically the most standardized one is a 10 Minute Pvt. And what you have is somebody’s looking at this device that they’re holding in their hands, and there’s one button on the screen and, and there’s one little square, there’s one button on the device and one little screen, and in the screen, it’s blank. And then you’ll see these digits start to count up in milliseconds. And as soon as you start to see them change from zero, you have to push the button as fast as you can. And what changes is the interstimulus interval? So the time between when it starts and stops is going to change. So you can’t predict if sometimes it could be really quick Sometimes it could be a long lag between when it starts again.
So you just basically have to concentrate on this boring thing that’s part of the test. And your ability to see what they would look at is their median reaction time over the course of 10 minutes, it’s sensitive up to three minutes, you can even do it up to 20 at times, or 15 minutes. And that’s really brutal. It’s not fun to do. But what’s interesting about that one is its general marker of central nervous system arousal. And so all different cognitive functions, executive functioning, and it’s different, the different domains are going to be fueled or affected by your state of arousal, central nervous system arousal, things attention, and alertness.
And so I really like that test, I think it’s a good one. But then there’s a huge panoply of different types of tests that you can do that are trying to parse, are there, how are you performing in this given task, impulsivity, or, memory, working memory. And those are all for the for lab, generally, I think over the course of the day, while subjective feedback can be misleading, I think, just checking in with yourself before, in a non-clinical population, and just trying to make that form that relationship between how do I feel today, and what did I do yesterday? And how did I sleep, and then tighten that up. And for me, that helped me discover even though I’d seen research on it, that if I eat earlier in the night, I sleep deep, more deeply on average.
Misbah Haque (31:29):
That’s really interesting. So it does take a little bit of experimentation on your part, and awareness, really around some of these details that we may overlook.
Totally. And sometimes that self-experimentation is simply confirming what we know and to be in the literature. There’s some there’s little there’s more power to it, right? When you’re like, Yeah, I’ve experienced that myself. So that’s one thing. I also get good sleep, I definitely modify my light environment. We haven’t talked about circadian rhythms yet. But circadian rhythms are basically repeatable 24-hour processes, usually between 24 and 30 hours, that’s they, they’re going to repeat sometime in that window of time. patterns that repeat, in a shorter time frame are called ultradian, rhythm rhythms, and then patterns that repeat after 30 days longer than 30 days are called infinity and rhythms. And this is going to be things, tide pools, so even beyond us, but outside of our environment, so, so, the moon and elk shedding the velvet of their antlers, right? There are things that just take place over the course of one year.
Within a 24 hour period, you have hormones that will wax and wane, you’ll have cell cycle repair and growth processes that are orchestrating in the background that are happening at a very specific time of day, you have digestion and eating patterns. So, we don’t wake up 10 times during the night because we’re hungry, even though we haven’t eaten in eight hours. But because we’re not our body’s not used to eating during that time, or going to the bathroom as often as we do during the day. And so the body is very much attuned to the time of day. And sleep itself is actually a circadian rhythm. And that’s one of the reasons why if you usually go to bed at midnight and wake up at night, on a night that you go to bed at four and wake up at noon, you got the same amount of sleep, but it will not be as restorative as it was as it would be if you went to bed during that same period of time.
And that’s part of the reason that part because the brain, the brain, and body are used to doing certain behaviors. It’s what if you do something repeatedly night after night, the body sets it up to try to optimize that behavior for that time of day.
Misbah Haque (33:37):
Wow. So I guess what this leads me to is one of the most common questions that I got in preparation for this episode. And I want to see if this is related to circadian rhythm at all. But really, it’s waking up in the middle of the night. So I had some people who woke me up three times in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Even if I had cut myself off at a certain time, for any beverages or liquid still seems to be happening. And there’s another boat of people that still wake up in the middle of the night. Even if they don’t have to go to the bathroom. It’s just that I’m up at 3am clockwork, and I can’t fall back asleep for a little bit. Does any of this have to do it correlate with circadian rhythm at all?
It does. Now I should say that a nonclinical sleep population will wake up 15 to 20 times per night. That’s totally normal. As you get older, you remember more of those awakenings that you did when you were younger. But every time you turn over, rollover over the night. That is considered either micro arousal or full arousal but you don’t transfer those into long term memory you don’t remember those you could have 20 arousals at night you go to bed at let’s say again midnight, wake up at eight and feel I was out the whole time. But so some arousals are normal. We remember more of them as we age so it feels like we’re waking up more often. But there’s also a risk for when we wait that the longer that period of being awake is, the more that you’re going to remember it as arousal.
Now nocturia or having to go to the bathroom during the night is a separate issue, that can also cause you to wake up. But the body is always looking at ways to habituate common behaviors. So, if you go to if you wake up and you go to the bathroom at three let’s say, three in the morning for three or four nights in a row, your body is now, this is the time that I go to the bathroom. So it’s now used to getting up and peeing. So if I ever have the urge in the middle of the night, I just try to fight it and go back to bed. And usually, I can, if I can’t, it’s usually because I had too much liquid the night before. Now, there are other conditions that can lead to nocturia. One of them is misaligned circadian rhythms. So the period of light and darkness that you live in changes regularly.
And that is a very common part of the modern world because we have artificial light. And so some nights we might go to bed or 10. Other nights, we go to bed at one some nights. And so we have to live in the state of social jetlag. And as a result that can really mess up your circadian rhythms that can cause circadian misalignment, one manifestation or one symptom of that can be middle of the night arousals.
The other thing is, is if you just have the sort of, have, you have a lot going on in your life, mentally, the when you go to, when you wake up later in the evening, you’re more likely to then if you’ve got a lot in your mind, you start to think about those things that are happening in your life, it can be stressful, it can be exciting, but it’s some energy that can then keep you awake. And what you do at that moment, it depends on just how severe it is. Sometimes people will get out of bed for a little bit and come back to bed to try to get some sleep, I tend to listen to a podcast so I can get I’m not listening to my own thoughts, but somebody else’s. And then that will actually usually help me go to sleep faster, for sure, or may have to go to sleep, where I wouldn’t have been able to at all. And that’s usually the worst if you have to get up at six, but you woke up at four and, you just got a little window there where if you only read if you get up now you really didn’t get enough sleep for the night, you’re gonna feel sleepy all day, can you eke out a little bit more.
And so what I usually do is I, I have my phone turned into the off position close to my bed. And if I’m ever in the situation, I’ll just put my headphones on, and I’ll put on a podcast, and then I’ll leave, I’ll lay there and I’ll just do some deep breathing. And I’ll just try to relax and realize that okay, this little thing might be out of my control. So just sort of enjoy the moment, I’ll have some quiet wakefulness. And oftentimes, I’m able to drift back to sleep.
Misbah Haque (37:50):
So it seems in order to break this habit of waking up multiple times in a night, you and I guess align the circadian rhythm a little bit, you almost have to just roll with it, you have to fight the urge to kind of get up and try to get yourself back to sleep. For example, if you have to go to the bathroom, you said, kind of, unless it’s absolutely necessary getting up and going. But really kind of going through that period where you’re, trying to just kind of roll with the punches. And then over time, it may kind of align itself again.
I think that’s good advice for somebody that doesn’t really have a clinical issue where they have nocturia, they just can’t make it to the morning. And that can be a different situation for older people. Or if you’re worried that getting up in the middle of the night is a really bad thing. You can also tell yourself, actually, it’s not right, you do get up multiple times a night. So if you wake up, walk to the bathroom, come back and pee and get back to bed, you can still have a full great night’s sleep because it doesn’t it’s not necessarily going to be disruptive to your next day functioning and that so that that’s a sort of the other, I would say I try to fight it. But if you can’t, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. And then I would maybe see, get some clinical help to see what else might be going on?
Do you have some blood sugar regulation issues that might occur usually due to circadian rhythm, rhythm problems that might be causing an adrenal response late in the night? That’s a possibility as well. So you might actually try to take, some supplements that affect glucose metabolism to preserve blood glucose level. So things like cinnamon, or mulberry late in the evening might be helpful as well.
Misbah Haque (39:47):
And that’s a really good point because you mentioned how the other end of that coin is not to worry so much about it. And I think of somebody who’s waking up, let’s say at 3am. It’s very easy. Easy to get angry, get a little bit of stress, oh my gosh, I have to wake up in two hours,, I’m not going to get a full night’s sleep and that stress or that thought alone could almost elevate your, awakeness at that time and disrupt you from falling back asleep again, versus kind of being able to regulate yourself internally and being alright, this is all good. I’m just gonna take my time and get back to sleep. So just that perception of what it’s doing to you, it seems that can have an effect on you falling back asleep as well.
Most insomnia, there’s many different types is really an anxiety disorder versus a sleep issues. Sleep is a symptom, sleep loss is a symptom, but it is an overactive mind. And so if we’ve ever had heartache, if we’ve ever had something really stressful happening, worrying about money or your job, or, or you’ve just been excited, you’ve got an interview tomorrow, or that your mind is active, and particularly when you have activity over activity of the amygdala. And this is the fear center of the brain. We know that people that have PTSD, that fear center will associate it with an area of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex. And also with areas, the brainstem that are involved in wakefulness, the area of the medial prefrontal cortex is what actually generates slow wave sleep, and it has inhibitory connections to those areas.
So basically, it will, on the hand, suppress slow-wave sleep, and then it will actually activate arousal centers in the brainstem. And so when you worry, it has a direct effect on shutting off sleep. And what’s interesting about insomnia is that oftentimes, there can be some totally foreign reason for why you’re anxious. But then once you start sleeping poorly, the poor sleep itself leads to the anxiety around sleep, which then causes this vicious cycle. And so the best way to address insomnia tends to be things CBD, or sorry, excuse me. CBT. So cognitive behavioral therapy CBT CBT might not be the ideal combination. And that has more to do with just helping you relax, doing some deep breathing before bed, even doing some deep breathing in the middle of the night. Now, in most chronic Islam, Samia is sleep maintenance, not sleep initiation. So once you have a real chronic sleep issue, you can go to sleep fine. Typically, when you wake up in the middle of the night, you can’t go back to sleep. So that is a more common chronic sleep issue form of chronic sleep issues.
But it has a lot to do with relaxing the mind. And so I’m excited about some technology that might come out. So maybe some, transcranial direct current stimulation that can directly sort of override an anxious brain to then help put it into a better pattern of brain activity that leads to sleep, you can maybe try what is called binaural beats, where you put headphones, to different earplugs into you put your headphones in, and then you put on and there’s this sort of sounds a speaker that’s off, and it plays this vibration, and then that can actually help to calm down the mind and train the mind, try to listen to a podcast, get your get away from your own thoughts, all these things are, are worthwhile to try because again, some sleep is better than none. And if you can, if you’re going to, if you’re going to be up for 90 minutes, you can cut it to 45. That’s great. That’s a win.
Sleep Behavior Changes
Misbah Haque (43:29):
That’s so interesting. This kind of makes me think about behavior change kind of what we started talking about in the beginning, where a lot of times, when you tell somebody that, they if they’re getting five hours of sleep per night, and, they should be getting seven, a lot of times they may even know that they should be getting seven, but they look at their lifestyle. And it’s like, well, it’s just not doable. I’m at work from this time, this time I have kids, I have this going on and that going on. How do you what are some strategies that you found in terms of addressing changes within sleep for people, behavior changes within sleep, because it can be a touchy subject, just food is for some people to kind of let go of this behavior pattern of maybe it’s doing too much throughout the day, I’m certainly guilty of that at times where it’s I’ve overextended myself.
And there’s just it’s physically impossible for me to get more than this amount of sleep because I’m doing x and y. So it may be cutting back on some of those things. But I’m curious, is there anything that you’ve uncovered when in conversations that you’ve had with people on how to better effect behavior change around some of this stuff?
So this goes back to the human glass and I feel I’m very optimistic about technology and its role and being built to help us in some ways, and there’s different ways that it can help. But I honestly think that sort of a tacit purchase spective about technologies that it’s going to do stuff for us, it’s going to be, but the way that I think it helps us, it helps us to be better. Again, it’s helpful when it helps us be better. So if it’s either a reminder of like, hey, clot class time at revival is coming upstart to pack, right, that’s a, that’s a useful trigger in your world. Here’s the schedule, so you can plan your week. If you’re getting your daily steps, you can set a goal. And your goal can be 10,000 steps a day, and you can get feedback within the day to let how you’re doing at a time when you can already do something about it. But what happens, for example, with low step trackers is that people stop, they don’t really use them, they use them for a couple of weeks. And the idea is like, yeah,, he’s for a few weeks, I sort of got an idea of how much I’m stepping. And then I just lost interest.
But there’s the friction of recharging, it just sort of didn’t exceed the understanding of why how valuable it is. I really like tech this, because it’s so simple to wear on your body and you but in order for it to be helpful, you have to empower it with value, you have to say, okay, steps are actually something that is a valuable part of my overall physical activity practice, right, it’s margin of low-intensity activity, how that this does a good job tracking steps, and how steps is sort of like again, fits into that whole ecosystem of other things that I also do. And then also how my physical activity practices then trying to address sort of part of my overall health practice of sleep and eating well, etc, and how that, overall, all the efforts I’m making is trying to solve this problem that I get. And if you sort of understand this chain of causation with any bit of tech, then you’re much more likely to then view it and say, okay, I’m gonna, I’m gonna actually, I’m not gonna just wear this device, I’m going to attend to it.
So I like to think of these sorts of techniques, this type of technology is performance-enhancing versus just tracking. Right, right. And in order for it to do that, you have to understand why. So that goes back to the behavior model of do I really understand the value of it because if not, it’s way too easy for you’re just triggering and rewarding people like, hey, go get some steps. And congratulations, you did. That tends to not be enough unless it’s helping you do something you want to do, if you don’t really want to do it, you’re just going to stop using it.
The same goes with sleep, right. So this step tracker is sort of the most common example. But obviously, there’s association. So physical activity, if you get adequate amounts of physical activity during the day, it’s going to help you sleep, that’s one thing you can do, you can also modify your light environment. So that day, evening, and night, you’re getting adequate amounts of physical light, similar to sleep. So what matters is light, timing, intensity, and duration. So you want to have at least half an hour of sunshine outside every day, the light intensity is much stronger outside than it is indoors. And so go for a walk, eat outside, but just get some outside time for sure. And in the evening, you want to modify your light environment. So if you imagine you were outside without any artificial light, as the sun goes down the tone and the intensity of the light changes, and then you might be sitting around a fire, make the light in your home and your environment like that.
And one thing that you could do is you can wear glasses so that if you’re watching television or using ]iPad or screens, you can then filter the blue light because it is that blue light signal that is telling what is considered retinal ganglion cells in the back of the retina, that is actually daytime. And so you want to create virtual darkness, which then will make you see, but you’re not telling your brain that it’s the day. And when you do that, if you do it consistently, then you can actually have a really robust circadian rhythm, all systems of the body are going to function better. all body systems, mental systems. So memories improved physical performance, and recovery is improved. It’s really one of the most important aspects of our health. And we’re just coming into appreciation, and it’s fun in my position to be able to talk about it and evangelize its importance.
Misbah Haque (49:00):
I love that you said that you have to empower it with value, because you’re right. I mean, there’s so many options out there now, in terms of tech that you can use to track your sleep and see the quality of sleep, see how stressed you are and all sorts of stuff. But if you don’t have that intrinsic motivation to actually,, use it to make some type of change or apply it in some sort of way. I mean, it is one of those things where you might use it for a month, a couple of weeks and then eventually stop using it.
If you see it as a cancer-sparing device then the friction of charging the battery once a week is de minimis or if you see it as this thing that if you’re just sort of wearing the latest tracker because you got it as a gift. It can’t really help you. And that’s why I really like the human behavior model, the educational platform so all of our courses are peer-reviewed, and we try to then elegantly take huge volumes of information, read all the original papers, and then put it in to say, okay, what are the key learning objectives that can then help direct somebody in their life on this subject.
And what I love about that is if you learn something the right way, you have that as almost like a mental skill for the rest of your life, you’re much more likely to be able to capitalize on that and exploit that information for your benefit for the rest of your life doesn’t mean that you will, but it means that you can write you don’t forget what riding a bike looks what you wonder what it means when you understand that. And so there are so many different subjects that do affect our health.
And what I’ve also come to realize is that it’s not about just teaching one subject, because let’s say I’ll just randomly choose one keto, right, you pull that out of the air, it’s popular right now. Yeah. Right. So people have an understanding about keto, and they’re excited about it. But in order for you to understand it and its place, then understand what we can learn from veganism and the Mediterranean diet, and the Paleo diet. All these different types of diets actually inform our broader wisdom base for nutritional decisions in our lives. And let’s say you’re really an acolyte of just one methodology, let’s say veganism, and somebody comes along and form some criticism that sort of undercuts your motivation to do that your all your efforts could then fall to the wayside, right, your ability to actually want to continue to work towards it is going to be undercut. And so that’s why I don’t think that we need to necessarily try to be professors on everything. But I think in order for us to help to self-regulate our health, across our lifespan, we have a really active role in that.
And it’s great to work with coaches and your allied health professionals, including your doctors, but nobody’s going to make more decisions about your lifestyle than you will, and you have an opportunity to become really good at it. And we have one place that we want: we’re creating tools and tools, techniques and methodologies that are aimed to help you become an expert at it. That’s our goal to have you become an expert at your personal health practice.
Misbah Haque (51:58):
I love that. And there’s so much in this episode that I mean, I learned, and it’s something I want to go back and re-listen to. There’s also many questions that I still haven’t get a chance to ask, and I would love to have you back on at some point to kind of continue the dialogue. And I’m sure it raised a couple more questions for the listeners and a couple more questions for myself as well. Is there anything else that you would like to leave listeners with?
First of all, thank you, and I’d love to come back in the future. So I accept. I’d say one thing is that I think the person who is dutifully attending to their own health is a learner. So it’s not that you’re going to then learn everything, but that you’re going to continue to engage in learning, and trying and testing and pursuing. There are things that I do now, that I didn’t do years ago, even though I was just as passionate and interested in health. And then there are things that I do now that I did back then too, but picking up little techniques and modifying how you kind of understand yourself. That’s a really, I think, smart approach. And so, with humans as the goal is, can you become more informed about what’s known about health in the world?
Those are those opportunities, can you become more informed and knowledgeable about yourself and your body? And then are you better at putting it all into practice? And so think about those three different silos? Am I going to be smarter next year than I am right now at my health? And am I going to be wiser about what works for my body? At this time, my life? And am I better at actually putting that into practice? And I think if you think about those three things you’re going to be that’s a good approach. It’s that there’s not an end of that it’s a path.
Misbah Haque (53:47):
Absolutely. Where can we follow your journey in your work and what you’re up to? And how can we kind of support you in this process?
So I’d say come on over to humanOs.me we’ve got basically a basic and a Pro Plan. I’ll just tell you a little bit about the offering but we have you can integrate multiple different devices so probably 40 different services from Garmin and tomtom and Fitbit etc. And then we also have daily recipes that are of different styles. So paleo cooking skills courses that you can take online and we also have about 14 different courses now with more on the way and then also daily even daily workouts and our workouts we this could be a whole other episode I’d really like to chat with you about them but they’re really they’re modular and they’re snacks so they actually a nice accompaniment to something that’s more a whole training program but if you have a few minutes can you just get some movement into your day and that’s a lot of our a lot of the way that human wise is executed on is in this little snack. So even in our courses, all the courses are broken into one to three-minute lessons. So if you have some time on the bus, you can just pull that up versus Instagram and then do something that you’re actually going to feel good about.
Misbah Haque (55:03):
Yeah, that was another topic that we, I’ve heard Shawn, talk to me a little bit about. And even Craig, Craig is a client of revival strength who mentioned that he was kind of talking about your system as well. And for sure, I would love to kind of dig into that some other time. But thank you so much, Dan, for coming on, and dropping tons of knowledge. I would love to have you back on at some point. But yeah, let me know if I can do anything for you in the meantime.
Hey, thank you, Misbah. It’s been a real pleasure. And I look forward to chatting with you again in the future.
Misbah Haque (55:40):
Thank you so much for listening, guys. I appreciate you tuning in and lending me your ears before you take off. If you are a coach, or you’re simply of the mindset that your ability to connect is your greatest asset, then please head over to the airbornemind.com Dr. Megan Kayden, who is a clinical psychologist and I have put together a course called The Art and Science of connection. So if you place a high value on communication conversations, listening, asking the right questions, and helping people feel seen, heard, and understood, then you might find some of this interesting once again, that is the airborne mine.com. Secondly, if you can head over to iTunes and leave a review with your thoughts. It is the best compliment that you can give. Once again. Thank you so much for listening, guys. Until next time.
Resources we may have talked about:
HumanOs.me – Dan Pardi’s personal health program that integrates applications and provides unique healthy recipes