Immunity, Sleep and Covid-19 with nationally recognized sleep physician
Dr. Meeta Singh
Dr. Cooper: 0:02
Welcome to the latest episode of the Catalyst Health, Wellness and Performance podcast. I’m your host, Dr Bradford Cooper. And today’s episode was another Red Sea interview. Now we generally record episodes about a month in advance so that you can count on them every week, regardless of what happens with our schedules or that of our guest. But every once in a while, an interview presents itself that is so timely, so important, that we need to, frankly part the Red Sea with our pre planned schedule and make it available to you immediately. This was one of those. Dr Mita Singh is our guest today. Many of you will recognize her as the guest, almost a year ago this month in her original episode, which is number 31, if you’d like to go back and hear it, continues to be one of our most popular of all time. She is a sleep physician who worked with the world’s greatest athletes, from the NFL to the NBA, NHL to Major League Baseball. In the midst of COVID 19, she reached out to us last week and volunteered to come back to provide insights on how sleep can act as potentially the single greatest defense tool with our immunity. We obviously jumped at that opportunity and then fast tracked the editing to get this out to you ASAP. This is one you’ll likely want to share with family, friends and co workers right away.
Dr. Cooper: 1:22
Now, speaking of right away, by now, you’re probably aware of our at Home Wellness Coach certification that’s been approved by the NBHWC, and it is filling up. Due to the interest, we’ve added two more options this summer so that you can finish up prior to the change in the requirements for the national board exam taking place this fall. Now you don’t need to rush, but if you’re leaning that way, don’t put it off too much longer because we do limit registration. We do want to keep it personal in spite of the the online structure that we’re using right now, you can check out all the details at CatalystCoachingInstitute.com or reach out any time it [email protected]. We’re happy any time to set up some time to talk through your specific situation, and any questions you might have. Now let’s talk sleep, immunity and what we can be doing to optimize our current reality in the midst of all that’s happening around us right now with Dr Meeta Singh. Dr. Singh, it is such a privilege to bring you back on to the podcast at a critical time, we want to talk through this concept of immunity and sleep and the connection and what people could be doing on a practical level. So, first of all, thanks for coming back.
Dr. Singh: 2:35
Thank you for having me.
Dr. Cooper: 2:37
Let’s start with a brief explanation of sleep and circadian system. Just as some background for our audience, to set the tone for today.
Dr. Singh: 2:45
So sleep is a normal, reversible behavioral state in which there is perceptual, there’s disengagement from the environment and unresponsiveness to the environment. And Brad, think of this, we spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping. And if sleep wasn’t really serving an essential function, that’s a colossal waste of time, and a major mistake from the evolutionary point of view. Especially when you think about how vulnerable we are to predators and other threats in the environment lying with our eyes shut. So at its most basic level, because sleep forces both the mind and the body to be inactive, rest and restoration can occur now. Now, you know, the circadian rhythms are intrinsic timekeeping clocks that we have that regulate almost all physiological functions on a daily basis. And for us human beings, the master circadian clock or your biological clock, is located in your brain, and it’s synchronized to the local environment by exposure to light and dark. In addition to that master circadian clock, we also have local clocks in almost every cell in our body, physiological functions are under local control and they’re controlled by the master clock. And the master clock is like a master conductor. It’s coordinating the timing and the function off all these clocks and therefore all the functions of the body. Because we have a clock and because we have certain timings that we have to be awake and interacting with our external environment, and at certain timing, we should be asleep. And we should be avoiding the external world. This is actually coordinated. And so this is actually, you know, it’s part of the survival strategy that ensures that we will engage as well as disengage from environments at appropriate times. And, of course, you know, in our 24/7 society human beings, we’re the only animals that routinely ignore this because we often sleep when our biological clock is telling us to be awake and hopefully, hopefully, just in the last few days when people have started working from home, that has changed. So maybe people are sleeping more in alignment to their circadian clocks and to their chronotypes. So let me just define chronotype. Intuitively, it’s easy to understand. It’s whether you’re a morning lark or a night owl, and it’s just your individual, genetically predisposition that modifies whether you prefer to be more active in the morning or, more active in the evening.
Dr. Cooper: 5:44
So coming back into this idea of immunity and the connection here, can you set a baseline for us there? What would be a non technical explanation of our immune system?
Dr. Singh: 5:55
This is how I would explain it. You know your skin and your mucosal surfaces, they act like a physical barrier, and you have some peptides attached to them that will prevent any infection from entering your body, and that is your first line of defense. But once any pathogen you know, a virus, a bacteria, fungus, a parasite enters your body, then there’s an army of immune cells that gets recruited into action. And the actions are of two kinds. First, it’s called innate immune cells, so these will fight any kind of infection. So as soon as you have a pathogen, they go. They try to fight the pathogen, and they have cool functions, like they can eat the pathogen or they can release a poison that would kill them. The second kind of immunity is that if if the pathogen escapes this first line off innate immunity than the second line is called adaptive immunity, that gets recruited and that has a more focused effect. So this takes a few days, and one of the things that happens is that the immune cells now learn about the pathogen. They learn how to mount a focused response, and this immune memory is then stored to be used in future times. If you ever get infected again, those smart immune cell to know exactly what to do so they will, you know, jump, I mean, metaphorically jump in to protect you. And that is how say, for example, vaccines work. So in a very controlled fashion, we introduce a pathogen and then your adaptive immune cells learn what to do. So that if you get exposed to the same pathogen, immune cells then use that stored knowledge and they kill or inactivate the pathogen.
Dr. Cooper: 7:48
So talk me through the idea of I got a flu shot this year, and then next year, I’ll need to get another one. I know the strain changes slightly, but if the body already recognizes it, can you walk us through again in basic sense, why that’s necessary on an annual basis versus okay, you’ve got it. Now your body will recognize it and fight that off going forward.
Dr. Singh: 8:10
The easiest way for us to understand this is to understand the answer is in the question itself. It’s because the flu virus has different strains. And so every year they’re trying to come up with a vaccine that has the most recent strain so that they can protect as many people as possible. In contrast, say, for example, the measles vaccine, right? So we know that pathogen doesn’t change. So if you’ve been vaccinated as a child, then you really are protected for the rest of your life. You know, similarly, the chicken pox. Sometimes you have to give booster shots so that you’re strengthening and adding to that immunity.
Dr. Cooper: 8:55
Alright, let’s jump into the practical stuff. So you’ve given us a good baseline on what’s happening kind of behind the scenes, if you will inside our bodies. Now for the person that’s sitting out there going, I wanna enhance my immunity as much as I possibly can. We’re gonna jump into sleep. But in addition to sleep, what would be some other things that would play a big role in in our bodies immunity?
Dr. Singh: 9:16
use we were just having this conversation with the immunologist who works on our floor, allergists and immunology specialists, and to clarify your innate immunity cannot be boosted, and you wouldn’t want it to be. If your innate responses were stimulated, then you’d constantly feel unwell, you’d have a runny nose, fever, lethargy, depression. So the efficiency of adaptive immunity is a force harnessed by the vaccine. In response to your question, while there many products that claim to boost immunity, that concept doesn’t make sense scientifically, because you never want to boost cells of just one kind, because that’s not necessarily a good thing, and it can actually result with serious side effects. So the best thing you can actually to to maintain your immune system is to adopt healthy living strategies that’ll benefit the entire body, including your immune system. So eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, quitting smoking, drinking alcohol only in moderation and reducing stress. And maybe in today’s world, avoiding infection through regular hand washing. And getting enough sleep.
Dr. Cooper: 10:42
Back to the basics.
Dr. Singh: 10:44
Yes, it is back to the basics.
Dr. Cooper: 10:45
Alright, well specific to sleep. Why is sleep one of, and I would probably say, from my knowledge, the most important piece of the puzzle when it comes to that broader immunity?
Dr. Singh: 10:58
Well, so this is where there has been ample research, so it turns out that you know, again thinking about what the basic function of sleep is. It is to restore a physiological function right, so you really need sleep to restore your immunity. So, firstly, if you get less sleep, it reduces the number off WBC’s, lymphocytes, T cells, B cells, natural killer cells, you know, neutrophils, basophils, all that army of immune cells that we need to attack pathogens. So there’s a study that shows that just one night of partial sleep deprivation the efficacy of natural killer cells, which, by the way, I love that name, declines to about 75% of its full strength. So in short, if you skimp on your sleep, you increase the chance of catching an infection. So there are studies again that show that sleeping less than six hours increased the risk of respiratory infections in military recruits and the general population. And then there was another study, and this, I thought, was really interesting. So, what they did is that there’s an experimental challenge to the common cold, rhinovirus and after that their sleep was manipulated. So if you were sleeping less than six hours, the likelihood of developing the cold after being exposed to the virus increased 45 times.
Dr. Cooper: 12:39
I saw that. That was an amazing study, wow.
Dr. Singh: 12:42
Right? So another way sleep supports your immune system, of course, is by it’s support of the immune system’s memory consolidation function. And that’s how it helps the adaptive immune system. We know that sleep is essential for memory, right, so memory processes in the brain are divided into three phases. During the day, while you’re awake, information is taken in or encoded. During your sleep, this information is then transferred from the initial short term sites to the long term storage sites, and this process is called consolidation. And then, of course, while you’re awake again, you recall this remembered information, so it’s very similar to this, Brad. During the encoding phase, the immune system takes in information about the pathogen, and while you’re asleep, especially during slow wave sleep, this information is consolidated and then transferred to other immune cells. And when we get exposed to the pathogen again, you know, the immune cells retrieved the stored information and charge in to action. And so again, there’s research that supports this. There was a study that showed that sleeping less than seven hours per night in the seven days surrounding hep B vaccine decreased the antibody response. And then there’s another one that looks at healthy adults who got sleep the night after being vaccinated against hep A. So if you’ve got enough sleep, there was a two fold greater antibody concentration, which is what you want to develop one month later, compared to subjects who were kept awake the night after getting the injection,
Dr. Cooper: 14:32
That’s so fascinating. I saw both those studies and the level of differential from enough sleep to not enough sleep was so significant with that being the only variable that’s wow, big time, big time. Alright, so while we’re recording this, we’re in the midst of this whole COVID 19 virus. What role does sleep play in that whole equation? How can individuals who are hearing this utilize sleep as an extra line of defense right now, with everything that’s being talked about?
Dr. Singh: 15:05
Well, I think the take home message, really, for everyone should be to think about sleep as being your best defense. So eventually, of course, we’re hoping that a vaccine comes around. From what we just discussed, you want to be well rested, you know, leading up to the vaccine and then well rested once the vaccine can do what it needs to do. But you want to try and get enough sleep because we know that it first of all, protects you from getting an infection and then helps you fight an infection better.
Dr. Cooper: 15:41
Okay, so once the infection happens, let’s flip this around the other way. What happens to our sleep once we get that infection? Is there any interplay there?
Dr. Singh: 15:50
Well, so again, very good question. There is no doubt that you will become sleepier once you have an infection. So, it’s an old saying that a good night’s sleep is the best medicine for infection. And so this relationship, obviously between the immune system and sleep is, you know it’s bidirectional and more complex. So if you have an acute infection, typically we’ll see enhanced, intensified sleep, and this is considered beneficial. So go for it and get, you know, get sleep and get well rested and recover.
Dr. Cooper: 16:25
Alright, so the virus itself clearly isn’t the only downside we’re facing right now. The whole social distancing, uncertainty, all the things that are going through people’s head. We’ve got increased depression, anxiety, other mental health concerns. Walk us through the roll sleep plays in those because it plays a pretty significant role from my understanding.
Dr. Singh: 16:50
So, firstly, you know, it does feel like free fall, doesn’t it? You know it does, especially the current times, whatever we once held as solid is no longer something we can rely on. And as a doctor, you know, I have watched the progress of the COVID 19 pandemic with, you know, altering measures of fear, frustration, fascination, dread, horror. So first of all, we do need to recognize that mixed in with all these feelings we’re having of anger and disappointment, powerless, blame. It’s grief right? Sadness of losing our way of life. So while on one hand, we have just spent a few minutes talking and telling people to sleep well, you know, people, they may have ample time to sleep, and now they may actually be able to sleep aligned to their biological clocks. But fear and anxiety may actually keep people awake. So people may have difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep. They may feel unrefreshed. They may have difficulty turning their minds off and obsessing that all things coronavirus. And just before we started, I was reading in the news that liquor sales have increased, so using alcohol to help you sleep is always a slippery slope and not to be recommended. For people who have preexisting mental health issues, depression, anxiety they will need more support because sleep, you know, may deteriorate further. It’s nothing like lying awake to make our problems seem worse, right? A terrible time to try and filter out negative thoughts while you’re sleeping. Plus all the more reason to pay attention or try to protect your sleep because if you sleep poorly at night, that means you’ll be more sleepy or tired the next day and then, as a result, you’re less engaged in you know, pleasurable activities or social relationships, right? Less likely to do things like exercise, all of which are coping skills right now, you know, things that we want to do during the day.
Dr. Singh: 19:11
But a short answer to your question is this. You know, sleep and mental health are very closely intertwined. And in fact, you can’t speak about mental health without giving sleep health a seat at that table. Insomnia, or poor sleep can often become, number one, it can predispose you to developing, you know, mental health issues. If you’re trying all the common sense things then maybe we can discuss the common sense things that we can try to get enough sleep after this. But after you’ve done that, if you still continue to have issues, then you know, reach out to your primary care doctor. There is something called a single shot CBT-I. So single shot, one hour long cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia that is meant for acute insomnia, especially acute insomnia that occurs in very stressful situations. And this is something that trained individuals can do. And this would be very, very useful because we know insomnia can worsen so many other things and make you more angry, more depressed, more anxious. And if you can treat this acute insomnia right now that’ll result, less people will progress to chronic insomnia and and it’ll also lesson the amount of money that, you know, health care dollars spend on treating the chronic illnesses that might develop.
Dr. Cooper: 20:50
You mentioned alcohol. Let’s pop onto that one since it came up with the conversation. We know the sales are going up. We know people are leaning on that. My very limited understanding is first glass, probably not a big deal one way or the other. Second class is where you start to see a decrease in depth of sleep. Can you expand upon that? Correct me? Walk us down that path of what people need to know if they are grabbing that extra glass of wine or whatever it might be?
Dr. Singh: 21:18
Number one is, I would say that this would be a time to for sure follow the recommendations that medical societies make about how much alcohol you should be drinking. So I think it’s about one or two glasses for men and maybe one glass for women. You know, alcohol does help some people to relax, and it does make it easier to fall asleep. However, as the night progresses, and as it gets metabolized, it tends to fracture sleep. So especially dream sleep. And so one of the things that might happen, of course, is that you may have really vivid nightmares, and I know a lot of people are already describing vivid, scary dreams because they’re already anxious. The second thing that happens, of course, is that as time progresses, it’s easy to develop tolerance to alcohol, which means you need more and more off the alcohol to get the same effect. And that’s something to watch out for. So that would be number two. Number three is that you know initially, although alcohol initially will increase the amount of deep sleep, you develop tolerance to that, which means that after some time it’s reducing deep sleep. So time to be more extra careful, especially since people are extra stressed. Plus, they may not have somewhere to drive and go to work the next day, right and sometimes people keep that in mind and say, well, you know, I won’t have that extra drink because I do have to get into a car and drive you know, at 7:30 the next morning. But maybe people are going to bed later and that’s no longer as relevant.
Dr. Cooper: 23:12
All right, all right, let’s get into some of the things that people may not be thinking about in terms of our sleep. What are things we might be ignoring? That we haven’t already talked about, that now’s a great time to tune into.
Dr. Singh: 23:24
The first thing I’ll say is that, and this is something I tell everyone that I work with. Worrying about your sleep is going to make it worse. This may create a vicious cycle of poor sleeping, and worrying and worrying will disturb your sleep even if you’re not an anxious person. So it’s important to understand that waking up at night is normal. So remember, we talked once when we talked a long time ago how you sleep in different stages of sleep, and typically, you know you have light sleep, deep sleep, dream sleep, wake up. It’s about a 90 minute cycle, so approximately 90 minutes everybody wakes up most times you turn over, go back to sleep and some people wake up and may worry about it. Others. don’t remember waking up so worrying about your sleep usually make sleep worse. Instead of going down the pathway of thinking, I will not be able to function tomorrow unless I get back to sleep. Try instead thinking I’ve been able to function with less sleep before. I will get by okay tomorrow. And don’t reach for the phone. Don’t start reading the news. There’s nothing good on the news right now.
Dr. Cooper: 24:38
Okay, okay. So easy to say. Don’t worry. Be happy. But, you’re laying there. It’s three in the morning. You were going to get up at 5:30, you’ve heard this episode. You remember Dr Singh saying, well, don’t don’t worry about it, it doesn’t help. What do you do instead? Any tips on what you do instead, are there little things that you can throw in there to say okay, instead of thinking about how tomorrow’s gonna be terrible instead of just taking that positive attitude, which is a great starting point. Are there any little cues you’d give us or things too, to utilize tools that we could implement when that does happen?
Dr. Singh: 25:17
Yes. And that will. It’s not unusual for that to happen. The first question I would ask you is, how do you know it’s three o’clock? So did you turn around and pick up your phone or check the clock to see what time it was in the middle of the night? And that itself will wake you up further, right? You look at the clock. You start making calculations. I went to bed at this time.
Dr. Cooper: 25:44
Wait have you been watching me? What’s going on here?
Dr. Singh: 25:46
Right? Somehow it feels like we’ve had this discussion before. You don’t want to do that. So if you do wake up and you feel like you’re wide awake, then you want to instead, because it’s easy to start thinking about your next day or worrying about your sleep. You want to substitute other things during that time. And, you know, people can try different things so people can do maybe some sort of breathing exercises in which, have you heard about that 4,7,8?
Dr. Cooper: 26:23
I have yeah. Go ahead and explain it though because I think it’s valuable. We’ve talked about it on this show before, but it’s so helpful, especially right now so fire away.
Dr. Singh: 26:30
There’s no perfect way of doing this. Any way you try it, it’s going to work. You basically concentrate on your breathing. You count slowly up to four when you breathe in. Then you hold your breath for seven and then you slowly breathe out through your mouth on you count eight. You’re counting mentally, you know, you can increase or decrease those numbers. It doesn’t really matter, but you’re trying to concentrate on your breathing. The other thing you can do is something called progressive muscle relaxation, in which you start with your tippy toes and then you work up concentrating on muscle groups and you first tense and then relax and go up that way. You could do other mental exercises like, you know, counting backwards, subtracting three from 100. Or you could read a book, a relaxing book using a book light in which the light is on the book rather than pointing towards you. Or you could listen to a podcast, not this one, a boring podcast.
Dr. Cooper: 27:46
There we go!
Dr. Singh: 27:46
Or, you know, books on tape. Anything that stops that cycle of thinking and commanding yourself to sleep, you know, watching for sleep and thinking I’m not able to sleep. Now, a lot of people will say you should and you could go get up and go to another room and do something quiet and relaxing, not involving electronics. This would be also not a bad time for some sort of spiritual exercise. Prayers, reading a spiritual book, meditation. The whole point is to take the anxiety part of the equation out.
Dr. Cooper: 28:30
One of things I’ve been doing recently and you know, I struggle with my own sleep is I’ll go ahead and get up and I’ll journal and I’ll have my day timer there. And in the past, I’ve kept the day timer out of the equation. But I’ve found that if I could just put down the things I’ve been thinking, I need to do this and this and make sure that, just spending that 2-3 minutes gets that then out of my head and I usually can then go back to sleep. Any suggestion along those lines, but also, do you recommend the journaling? Do you think that’s not such a good idea? What would be your feedback on that?
Dr. Singh: 29:04
Actually, there is a, you know, speaking of journaling, there is definitely a time to daily journal, but maybe do it before you actually fall asleep. So the recommendation is if you are overwhelmed with worries and anxieties in the middle of the night, try to have a time earlier in the evening, so not too close to your bedtime and actually call it your worry time in which you sit down with a journal, or a computer, or a laptop and and you, you know, write down a list of all the things that you are maybe working on the next day, you may be stressed out about. And the whole point is to do it mindfully and do it regularly so that in the middle of the night, if you do wake up, you can at least try saying to yourself, well, you know, I’ve already
Dr. Cooper: 30:10
got a plan.
Dr. Singh: 30:11
Yes, I’ve already worked on a few things. Now you know it’s, again, it’s very easy for you and I to say this. These are habits that you have to slowly form. And for a while, Brad, you may be forming these habits without getting an immediate return.
Dr. Cooper: 30:30
Sure, and that’s important to stress. These are not, just like exercise or eating well, these do not create that immediate, boom, everything’s wonderful now. That’s a great point.
Dr. Singh: 30:40
This is not uncommon amongst sleep physicians and therapists, when they say that when you’re working with, you know, when you’re giving these solutions, you’ve never been successful unless the patient or the whoever you’re working with doesn’t hate you. Because these sound unreasonable sometimes in the middle of the night. So, you know, we’re asking you to trust yourself and us in trying to do these on a regular basis to see what happens. The whole point of this therapy or the whole point of doing these is to form a non judgmental and a happy relationship with your sleep. So the ability to be awake at three or four in the morning without getting mad at yourself. Because getting mad at yourself will definitely awaken you further.
Dr. Cooper: 31:39
Sure. So just to clarify that this worried time, this worried journaling, whatever you call it, you want that to be a couple of hours before bed. You don’t want to be going to bed going, okay, I’ve got a whole list of worries. Now, let’s try to sleep you. And is there a general time? And I know everyone is different, but would you say two hours is kind of a good range?
Dr. Singh: 31:59
I would say 3 to 4 hours. You want to do it kind of,
Dr. Cooper: 32:02
right at the end of your work day, right? Wrap those up and then close that book and move in to your relaxing time.
Dr. Singh: 32:08
Yes. And in fact, you know, now that we’re talking about it. Maybe set an alarm 3 hours prior to your bedtime to remind yourself to do it so that you don’t get aggravated in the middle of the night.
Dr. Cooper: 32:22
And say oh! I forgot to do that. Very good. All right. So we talked about in the middle of the night. Let’s talk about the rest of the day, you mentioned before, and our message here is move, fuel, rest, and connect are the four cornerstones of health and well being. You mentioned, essentially, all of those too are gonna help your sleep. Are there any other key daily habits that maybe we haven’t talked about? Maybe people don’t normally think about, that will help. both sleep, quantity and sleep quality?
Dr. Singh: 32:51
Always start with the daytime. So especially in today’s world, it’s really essential to establish a daily schedule, which includes some outdoor activity and daily exercise. And this is essential because creating a schedule will give us some stability in life and help, you know, give us some control over our day to day activity. The second thing is daily exposure to outdoor light, which is really essential because it strengthens our circadian system. And so that’s something I would suggest that you know, if you’re living in a beautiful place like Colorado, that makes it easier. You just have to open your window. But if you’re living somewhere where there isn’t enough outdoor light, then maybe open your window you know, turn on some bright lights.
Dr. Cooper: 33:49
So pause there just for a second.
Dr. Singh: 33:50
Dr. Cooper: 33:51
So you mentioned the window. I’ve always thought mistakenly, obviously, that you need to be outside in that. Does literally just opening the window and having bright sunshine coming in while you’re sitting at your desk, or sitting reading a book somewhere else. Does that actually make a difference or does the glass block the valuable components there?
Dr. Singh: 34:11
No, no, that does make a difference. Of course, it would be best if you stepped out doors. But many times when people have, you know they’re working, they may be tethered to their desk and and if you can’t really move, you don’t have time to step outside, then a window becomes really, really valuable. Again, I’ll say, if you’re in the habit of taking naps, especially during these days, if you’re working from home, do not exceed 25 to 35 minutes because if the nap is too long. You’re not going to sleep at night. You know, you want to keep up, definitely, you need to keep up with your social contacts. Remember, it’s physical distancing, not social distancing. So pick up the phone, video chat, speak with others as this is essential for us. You know, all the times, Brad that we’ve complained about, how technology makes us lonely. Let’s utilize it to share, you know, to actually reach out to others. And, you know, share your concern with others, don’t bottle it up. Now at night, again it’s very essential, and this advise doesn’t change. You know, you want to establish a regular bedtime and waking up time and of course now we may have the luxury of sleeping more aligned to our circadian clock. So you want to also build a good, winding down schedule. And many times, we use alarm clocks in the morning. But maybe it’s time that we had an alarm clock that told us that now, you know, there are 35 to 45 minutes till we have to go to bed. So maybe, you know, a hot bath, stretching exercises, again, meditation, prayer, reading a book, listening to a book or a podcast. All these things could be part of your winding down schedule. And note, playing video games or checking social media is not winding down. It’s a distraction. And, you know, there are some don’ts like, and we’ve touched on that, you know, avoid excessive alcohol ingestion two to three hours before bedtime. Do not, you know, smoke or chew tobacco. It’s a stimulant. Avoid caffeine, too close to your bed time. That includes, you know, sodas, tea, chocolate. Avoid heavy, spicy, sugary foods, maybe a light snack. And then keep your bedroom cold and dark. Well ventilated. Block out all distracting noises. Eliminate light. And, of course, reserve your bedroom for sleep and sex because, you know, you don’t want to start working and doing other things in your bedroom, because then that’s what you associate your bedroom with.
Dr. Cooper: 37:01
Right, we’ve got a lot of folks out there right now and their kids are on a little different schedule than they are used to. Any tips that could make a difference in that arena?
Dr. Singh: 37:10
Okay, so that’s a very good question. I have three teenagers at home, right now.
Dr. Cooper: 37:15
So you’re really a pro.
Dr. Singh: 37:17
So here’s the thing. That’s a good question because yes, we know teenage and young adults do have a tendency to be a night owl. But again, don’t underestimate the power of artificial light here. And it’s always a good idea to remind people of that study. It was actually done in Colorado, in which they took folks, they took a week long camping trip and so with no artificial light. So after the study, all the participants, because they spent more time exposed to natural light and less time to artificial light, researchers found that their bedtimes and wake up times had shifted, so they were moving up two hours earlier. So the night owls in the group showed the greater shifts with the timing of their internal clocks. So night owls started looking more similar to earlier morning types. In other words, night owls were keeping earlier to bed and earlier to rise schedule, and they were now saying they were feeling alert during the day. And this was a week long camping in the Colorado Rocky Mountains in July.
Dr. Cooper: 38:34
So there is a difference between the night owls and the larks, as you mentioned before but habits still drives a significant part of that.
Dr. Singh: 38:43
Right, so remember, your circadian clock is synchronized on a daily basis by exposure or, you know, avoidance of light. And so, you know, your circadian, so my son who is a night owl, his circadian, the timing may be slightly longer, which makes him a night owl versus me. But it’s also what he’s doing right up to his bedtime. So if he’s going to, you know, play a video game or be on the computer right up to the time he’s going to go to bed, well, artificial light is going to suppress melatonin. This is not new. So again, having that 45 to 90 minutes of no electronics, video games, etc is going to be very useful. And remember, parents are also going to bed a little later right now, right? So if we do both these things if we try to have or request our teenagers to not be on their computers or electronics very close to their bed times. And since we are ourselves going to bed slightly late, I think that there may be a happy medium here.
Dr. Cooper: 39:57
You mentioned a couple of tools here. Let’s talk about a couple tools. So the blue light blocking glasses, the artificial light machines that you can get. Is there a role for those, for example, your son playing the video games? If he were to wear those blocking glasses, would that be helpful? Or is that more just barely at the margin? And then, by the same token, for the artificial light that you can buy, obviously that can help you shift your circadian. But is there help in using that, let’s say late morning at in your office when you’re not able to get outside until later in the afternoon?
Dr. Singh: 40:33
You know in answer to that question, it really depends on a couple of things. Number one is that there is a difference, Brad, there’s individual difference to the way individual clocks respond to light. So there’s a difference between how much light you need to shift somebody’s clock. And if you’re very sensitive, you know, even a little bit will do it. If you’re not as sensitive you might feel a bigger, you know, a lot larger amount of light. So that’s one thing to keep in mind. The second thing to keep in mind is how interactive is this device that you’re interacting with, right? So I would say there is definitely, there is a role for, you know, blue light blocking glasses. Because if they still want to work on the computer, then there is a chance that some of the light does get diminished if you’re using these glasses. However, you know if you’re playing video games, I think it would be more effective in my son’s case if he was reading a textbook versus playing a video game.
Dr. Cooper: 41:49
Sure, just the mental aspect.
Dr. Singh: 41:51
Yes, yes. So that should would also play a role.
Dr. Cooper: 41:56
All right, well, any other, kind of final wrap up things that could make a difference right now, with people trying to enhance their sleep? Things that we haven’t chatted about, up to this point, anything that we’ve missed?
Dr. Singh: 42:07
The one thing I want to say, I have to say this is deeply personal. Understanding the stages of grief is important, and it’s also important to remember that the stages of grief are not linear. They can happen in any order. So you know, it’s not a map, but it provides us with goal posts. So, for example, in today’s world, you know that could be denial in which you say, you know, we say, well, this virus won’t affect us. It’s in China, it’s far away. It can be anger, you know, you could be mad, my conference got canceled. You’re taking away my activities. Then there’s bargaining, you know? Okay, I will social distance for a couple of weeks so that everything gets better. And, of course, there’s sadness, because we don’t know where this will end. And then finally, there’s acceptance that this is happening, and now I have to figure out how to proceed. And, like I said, any of these stages can happen at different times of the day, the same day. So acceptance as you can imagine is where the power is going to lie. And I find that if we can find control, if you can control the things we can control, like I will wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn to work from home. I can build a new daytime routine even though I’m at home and my kids think that they can call me whenever they’re hungry. You know, I can facetime my parents who live far away. I can choose not to check the news every few minutes. You know, I can make sure that I’ll make time for bed tonight. I can make sure that I won’t drink that second cup off coffee in the afternoon or I will avoid drinking an extra glass of wine. I think that’s something we can all strive for, and I think that’s what we should at least try on a daily basis.
Dr. Cooper: 44:08
Powerful, what a great way to wrap up. Dr. Singh it is so good to have you back. Your episode is still one of our most popular we’ve ever had. There’s a good reason for that. And, it’s just a joy to have you on the other end of the mic.
Dr. Singh: 44:20
Thank you so much. Thank you for giving me a platform to speak..
Dr. Cooper: 44:26
Thank you, as always for joining us. We’re grateful that Dr. Meeta Singh for insights and trust that they provided you with some practical, actionable tools and strategies for you and your family right now. Folks, you likely have access to a wellness coach through your organization. Take advantage to that right now. If you’ve never done it before, give it a try. If you’d like some assistance, if you’re an organization and you’d like some assistance in putting that in place and you see this as a key time and it’s just not there right now. Reach out to us. We’re happy to help you set that up. One new item of note, and I’ll share more as it develops, but I want to get it out there. We have launched the new YouTube channel called the Health and Wellness Coaching Channel. It is just out of the gate. But if you’re a YouTube fan, if you like that kind of format, feel free to subscribe, and that’ll kind of give us a sense of how much interest there is and what types topics you’d like to hear. So that’s the Health and Wellness Coaching channel on YouTube, and we hope you find that helpful to you as well. As always, if you ever have questions related to health and wellness coaching, whether how it fits into your own career or ways to enhance your organization’s employees wellness program, please reach out to us, [email protected] or our website CatalystCoachingInstitute.com. This is Dr Bradford Cooper signing off, make it a great rest your week and I’ll speak with you soon on the next episode of The Catalyst Health, Wellness and Performance Podcast.