On this episode of Meeting Minds, sleep expert Sarah Moe teaches about the importance of sleep and sleep habits and how it affects our productivity.
You have some tips for us don’t you? I feel like we sleep better in the fall.
That’s actually quite common. A lot of people do find that once it does start to cool off and they open the windows at night they are sleeping a lot better. The science behind that is because the recommended sleeping temperature for your bedroom is 65 degrees. The reason the national sleep foundation recommends this is because our bodies are naturally going to attempt to drop to that temperature in the first place. So if you are able to speed that process along it’s that much easier and causes less interruptions in your ability to initiate sleep.
Try it for a few days, you will be surprised. It is difficult for most of us to wake up because our REM sleep happens at the end of our sleep cycle. REM sleep stand for Rapid Eye Movement and that’s the stage where we dream. Because of that we have a natural paralyzation that happens where we are paralyzed so we can’t act out our dreams. I don’t know if you’ve ever woken up and you feel like you can’t move it’s because of those hormones. It’s called sleep paralysis and it’s very common. It’s also why it’s difficult to get out of bed, if you’re groggy and slow to move you were probably in REM sleep.
I love that part when you’re about to fall asleep and you feel like you’re falling and you jump.
That’s very common as well.
It’s common for us in the events world to put sleep off. Talk to us about how that can affect our performance.
It’s common across all fields, it’s an American mindset, I will put off sleep to be more productive. It’s actually incredibly counter productive. If you were able to achieve the sleep that you were supposed to have every aspect of your next day would be more positive. Our sleep impacts everything we do our ability to make proper judgements, our moods, our physical health. Everything is impacted by how you sleep the night before. When you are going to sacrifice your sleep to get more done just know that if you did take that time to get the sleep you were supposed to have then everything you were going to do the next day is going to be better.
There’s so many things that have happened in the history of our culture that have been disastrous based on poor sleep. We were talking earlier about the Challenger (The Shuttle) I remember when I was younger hearing how devastating it was. It was something that could have been prevented. After they did the investigation after the crash they found that it was a faulty o-ring and there was a leak and it caused the explosion. The crew that was in responsible for checking the o-ring was found to have been going on two hours of sleep the night before. So when they found that in the investigation they realized that was something that was poor lack of judgement on their part based off of sleep deprivation.
When we think about going into our jobs or workspaces, especially in the event planning world, when you have these large things you are working with, to be on your game with a good night of sleep will be helpful for everybody.
We are hanging heavy things over peoples heads every day! Thousands of pounds are being raised up.
Imagine if that person who was responsible for that construct was sleep deprived. The three main things that they look for that will decline after sleep deprivation sets in is:
1. Cognitive abilities
2. Reaction time
3. Decision making process
What is it that happens when you sleep that refreshes you?
There are four stages of sleep and each stage does something different. We’re now learning the role that sleep plays in memory. We’ve always known that you can’t have a good memory if you don’t have great sleep. But now we are learning the science behind it including the different parts of the brain involved even the different brain waves that will consolidate memories. They are proving that when we are learning something our brains are in record mode we are taking in this information, it basically sits there. When we sleep it becomes storage. Our brains in stage two sleep will decide if what you processed that day will be stored into longterm or short-term memory. If we’re not having consolidated sleep we’re not able to store those memories and have them accessible the next day.
In college I read that sleep is more important than studying all night, so I would go to bed early rather than staying up all night studying. I would do just fine on my tests.
These poor college students who are pulling all nighters, reading this information, and thinking they are going to be able to retain it the next day and be tested on it, it’s the complete opposite. They would be so much better off learning through out the day, getting a good night sleep being able to consolidate those memories, and then go about the next day.
In the events business a lot of techs are expected to work long shifts, what is the recommended shift?
The average American adult needs 8 hours of sleep, we’ve all heard this. Even now they are saying 7-8 is sufficient. The majority of us are admitting to getting 6 1/2. It doesn’t seem like it’s that much of a difference but that extra half hour does make a huge difference for your abilities of the next day.
That being said, the average person sleeping 8 hours a night will have that be 1/3 of their lives leaving the other 16 for wakefulness. There are a lot of other things that need to happen during wakefulness like commuting to work, taking care of family, social life, all these hours that add up. 16 hours is not only too long of a shift to work, but it’s too long for actual wakefulness. At that point 16 hours is where your body starts to break down and it is to the point of being comparable to alcohol. So after 16 hours your sleep deprivation is going to leave you being impaired the same way to alcohol.
Is it fair to say that the mind needs offline time or rest?
Absolutely, meditation is a huge helpful tip right now, not to replace your sleep but to have a healthy bedtime routine. That’s been proven over years. When you think of the chaos in our lives it’s not just with work, it’s with family with social. It’s important for you to have time to yourself to think about what’s important in your lives, if you want to continue to be busy. Sleep is a huge part of that to help you process your thoughts and feelings.
What is happening that’s causing all this good stuff in your body when you sleep well?
The cool thing about sleep is that it’s a system that requires all other systems. You can’t even achieve sleep without ever other part of your body being involved. I think thats fascinating, when you want to wiggle your toe you don’t need your other systems as such. Everything is incorporated in sleep cardiology, respiratory, neurology it’s all one big crazy neat puzzle.
Even to initiate sleep it takes a lot of little systems together at the exact time so you can get to sleep. It is still unknown, because sleep medicine is so young when you think of the other fields. We’ve really only gotten the research in the last 30 years so we still have a long ways to go but we’ve learned so much to be able to save lives
What are you saying about sleep saving lives?
Despite having the lack of physiological research our elders knew what they were talking about when they say, “drink some chicken noodle soup and go to bed”. One of the first things that happens when we do become sleep deprived is that our immune systems drop. It is easier for you to get sick when you haven’t been sleeping well. That’s because we are not able to fight off simple bacteria that we would be able to on a normal day. That being said, they’ve also classified shift work as a carcinogen, which is something that is likely to cause cancer. After a night of less than 5 hours of sleep, your cancer fighting cells reduce by 70% in your body.
How important is it that an event organizer makes sure that the tech’s get enough sleep?
It’s extremely important, especially from the realm of safety. There’s so many minor avoidable mistakes that happen due to sleep deprivation or fatigue. That being said, it is great to be aware of your team and their needs. If there is a day that’s longer than the others, of course that’s acceptable, but just to be aware that the next day needs to be different so you can make up that sleep and improve your ability to perform.
There are so many physiological implications. Even just heartburn and obesity. That’s a vicious cycle with interrupted sleep. A lot of people will start with a sleep disorder and because of that become obese. Or they will be obese and develop a sleep disorder. Its a vicious cycle. Leptin and ghrelin, two hormones regulated during sleep, play a part in appetite control and burning calories. If you have interrupted sleep or a sleep disorder, and you are obese and trying to lose weight, if you are not sleeping well and have the proper regulation of those hormones you’re already starting the next day behind.
Is it a thing where most people don’t know they are not sleeping well?
Most people who have a sleep disorder are unaware. The people who suffer the most are the bed partners. They are the ones who realize something is wrong usually the reason people will come in for treatment for a sleep disorder.
What are symptoms people should look for?
Fatigue is the number one symptom. Fatigue is like pain. If you break your arm there’s a signal, pain is saying something is wrong. Fatigue is saying something is wrong with your sleep. Unfortunately majority of us have adapted to a tired lifestyle where we think we are supposed to be tired all the time. My first piece of advice would be to practice good sleep hygiene which is what we call sleep habits. Once you get to a point where you focus on removing the negative influencers on your sleep and focus on getting 8 hours of sleep a night, then you still feel fatigued its probable you have a sleep disorder. Over 30 % of the population has a sleep disorder and there are over 115 sleep disorders. The main one though is sleep apnea where you stop breathing at night. It’s estimated over 20 million Americans are undiagnosed sleep apnea.
Are there things that can help you get into a better sleep cycle?
Yes. The two main negative influencers are caffeine intake and blue light. Caffiene is really prevalent in our culture this is not a judgment. Caffeine is important given our busy lifestyles. It is important to know how it works so you are not abusing it as you use it. Caffeine is an adenocine blocker, adenocine is a hormone that makes you feel physically fatigued, makes your eyes feel tired. Caffeine blocks the release of adenocine, when you have caffeinated beverages in your system and you try to go to sleep that when you end up in that phase where my mind is racing and I can’t go to sleep. You’re body wants to fall sleep but the presence of that caffeinated beverage will not allow it.
The average caffeinated beverage has 100 mg of caffeine and caffeine has what’s called a half life. It takes 5 hours for half of that to get out of your system, then 5 hours later the other half will exit your system. If you do drink caffeinated beverages try to stop by 2 pm so it can exit your system.
The second one is blue light, it is huge, number one negative influencers on our sleep. Blue light is the fastest frequency of light. It’s not only telling us to be awake but also when we are sleeping. Spontaneous arousal’s that may be caused by blue light, and can be avoided by not using your digital device before bed. Avoid it for an hour, the national sleep foundation says 2, but I’m a realist.
What about night shift on the new phones?
They are slightly impactful but do not do what they claim to do.
What about sugar before bed I heard it makes you wake up to use the restroom?
That’s one of the few things that will cause you to wake up to use the restroom. A lot of people think they are waking up to use the restroom when in reality they are waking up for another reason and realizing they could use the restroom and then they go.
Other negative influencers?
Sleep disorders. Most people don’t think they have one because we adapt. We think we are supposed to be tired because of busy lifestyles. But again with over 115 of them a lot of us do suffer from them. With bed partners being the ones who suffer most people don’t think this is something I should go talk to my doctor about. Another big part of the problem there, a majority of our Doctors in med school are practicing about 2 1/2 hours of sleep education. There’s no mandatory education on sleep.
You mentioned a sleep study now what is that?
I worked overnights in school doing sleep studies and diagnosing sleep disorders. Patients come in and we put a bunch of wires on them and watch them sleep and see what’s going on. From what we can monitor which is brainwaves, respiratory, your heart, all your systems and how they work together and if there is a sleep disorder present. We treat it and send you on your way.
So does being a tech where you are staying up all night and watching other people sleep what does that do for you?
It’s called hypocrisy. We sacrificed our sleep for yours. I used to ride the bus home because driving home in that state was so dangerous. I used to fall asleep on the bus all the time.
Tell me about someone who wants to consider a sleep study.
Most insurance covers and now is a great time of the year to do it. Most people met their deductibles and now have the rest of the year to different medical procedures. IF you are tired I highly suggest getting a referral from your primary physician and say I’m tired, I’d like to get a sleep study. They will refer you to an accredited lab in your network. You get to go spend a night with an awesome tech and wake up with some answers.
What are things you can do in your routine to get ready, even if it’s not your home?
Yes sleep disorders are prevalent, but for most of us having good sleep habits and a routine will help us to sleep so much better. Stop drinking caffeine at two and stop looking at blue light an hour prior to bed. I also wear an eyemask to bed. Every time I pull down my mask I can physically feel my body say oh it’s time for bed. We are so trainable. It takes 28 days to form a habit but with sleep it’s so much sooner because your body craves sleep so much, it’s adaptable when it comes to sleep habits. I always suggest doing one physical habit that will train your body it’s time for bed.
A nice glass of wine, alcohol is a sedative. But it suppresses REM sleep, so do not have more than the recommended 1. Don’t use excessive alcohol to fall asleep but have a night cap.
They are leaning that a lot of people are having a hard time falling sleep because of worry. They did a study where they listed five things they wanted to do the next day and five things they were grateful for. In that order first remove the worry then be grateful. The ability to fall asleep was exponentially higher for them.
It’s good to keep a sleep journal keep it by your bedside. A lot of time its good to write down your dreams, they can be very telling and you don’t have dream recall unless you wake up out of that specific dream. We have around 5 different REM cycles.
Tell me about zzz-quill.
I am a fan of sleep aids. That is if you have done a sleep study and ruled out a sleep disorder, have good sleep hygiene then yes take a sleep aid. The long – term ramifications of sleep deprivation are so much more negative than actually taking a sleep aid.
Are there other foods that are not good and ones that are good for sleep?
Cherries are one of the only natural sources of melatonin. Melatonin is very frequently mis-used unfortunately because of pharmaceutical companies mislabel them. I don’t know if you’ve ever used them, the way it was marketed was as a natural substance and you can take a natural thing but the melatonin you are taking was created in a lab. You are supposed to talk it 2 hours prior to sleep but most bottles say a half hour. People think it’s going to be this magic sleep aid when in reality melatonin is used in circadian rhythm regulation, which is our bodies time clock. If you take it two hours before you are setting your body up for when it’s time to sleep and not adjusting the shift to much by taking it a half hour before.
It’s good to go out in sunlight in the morning to boost natural melatonin production. So when you wake up and you are able to go outside for ten minutes that’s really helpful.
What other things would you like people to know before wrapping up?
It is really important to be aware of it. I’m not going to sit here and say sleep is the most important thing and you have to go to bed at the same time overnight. If you are suffering everyday, just know there are steps you can take to feel better. We live in the age of information you can google anything. If you are tired there is something you can do about it.
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