Dr. Meeta Singh

Dr. Meeta Singh, Sleep Doctor to the World’s Greatest Athletes

Dr. Meeta Singh, Catalyst Coaching Podcast
Catalyst Coaching Podcast

Full Transcript

Dr. Cooper

Welcome to the latest episode of the Catalyst Health and Wellness Coaching Podcast. My name is Brad Cooper and I’ll be your host for today’s episode. We took a look back at our 1st 27 episodes, and you’ve made it clear that sleep is of a great interest to you. Sleep rose to the top in terms of all the episodes we’ve done to this point. So we we looked out at kind of the other experts in this profession, and we found a just an outstanding guest. Dr. Mita Singh is a sleep doctor whose work and research focuses on what she calls coaching the sleep muscle to help maximize performance in both individual athletes and sports teams as well C Suite Executives. She deals with enhancing performance, jet lag management and all the components that go around that and when I say she works with elite athletes, she’s worked with teams in the NFL, Major League Baseball, NHL, and NBA, as well as a number of college sports teams. She’s the service chief of sleep medicine in the section head of medical director at the Henry Ford Sleep Laboratory in Michigan. She did her training in psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic and Sleep Fellowship at the Henry Ford Hospital. She is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology under the American Board of Medical Specialties. As a psychiatrist and sleep medicine sub specialist, she is also a member in Good Standing of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society. This woman clearly knows her stuff, as you will soon discover.

Dr. Cooper

In terms of wellness coaching. If you are trying to figure this out, you’re not sure how this fits into your career, that’s what we’re here for. Results@CatalystCoachingInstitute.com. You can go to the website, a lot of special reports, resources, transcripts at CatalystCoachingInstitute.com. And obviously, if you’re an experienced coach we hope that this has been a valuable resource for you to continue to build those skills. If you’re looking for continue education information about the retreat we have going on this fall, any of those kinds of things, or if you simply want to talk things through, we’re here for you as well. Feel free to reach out any time and now let’s get on with the latest episode of The Catalyst Health and Wellness Coaching Podcast.

Dr. Cooper

Very good. Well, Dr Singh is a huge privilege to have you join us today. Thank you for your willingness to jump on in the midst of all your travel and working with teams and everything that you’re doing. Tell us a little bit about the kind of how you got to this point in the journey in your life. I find it really interesting with your education and the fellowship in med school and all those kinds of things that was before, it’s kind of like you were sleep before sleep was cool. Like that country music song. How’d you end up doing that back then when it wasn’t the daily topic of conversation it is today.

Dr. Singh

Well, thank you for having me on, and you’re right. You know, sleep science is getting much more attention nowadays. Although I have to tell you sleep science has been around for a while so we can come back to why it’s getting more attention now. But really sleep science has been growing by leaps and bounds, and it started almost in the 1950s when REM sleep was discovered and sleep medicine as a separate medical specialization came about about 35 years ago. With that background, I I basically discovered sleep science during my final year. I was doing a psychiatry residency at Mayo Clinic and as elected we do a sleep medicine rotation, and I fell in love with it. When I was looking for sleep medicine fellowships, I was limited to the Greater Detroit area because that’s where my husband, then fiance, was doing his fellowship and one of the first places I interviewed was the Henry Ford Sleep Disorder Center. Now Henry Ford, the Sleep Disorder Center is really unique because at that time it was headed by Dr Thomas Roth. He’s really like the grandfather of sleep medicine. So he’s the editor off the main textbook of sleep. He said he’s been the chairman of almost all the sleep societies. He has received every award possible. So just, very cool. You know, you get to work in close proximity to sleep Einstein, so to speak. You know, so I’d been doing chemical practice here, and how I got into sports is it’s just happenstance. So a few years ago, on the radio I heard a so called sleep expert and they were giving some advice to the local NFL Team. Now I know that the the team physician was associated with Henry Ford Health System, so I basically cold called him and I said, Well, you know, whatever this guy was saying was complete rubbish. And so he turned around and said, Well, why don’t you come and give us a presentation? I know sleep, I mean, I didn’t know, maybe athletes as well as that time. So I went and gave them a presentation, and it’s really been unique. You know, working with athletes is really unique because, as you know you athletes have these really unique lifestyles. Their schedule, their travel, and I really learned a lot on my way along the way. You know, you really learn a lot from even athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, they kind of help you understand the inner workings of a team and athlete, etc.

Dr. Cooper

That is really so interesting, so well let’s go ahead and go to kind of misconceptions. There’s so much information out there about sleep now, and I’m thinking about that radio show you heard. Not necessarily what were those misconceptions. But these days, what are things that you’re hearing, reading, seeing in the headlines that our coaches may have run across that you say oh no no no no noo, that’s the wrong path. Any any guidance along some of those lines?

Dr. Singh

Sure. So here are my three top misconceptions that I like to talk about and they’re all related to awareness or, more specifically, the lack of awareness when you’re asleep. So the first misconception, a myth that people have is that they think they can accurately tell how sleepy they are. Not so much. Because, you know, when you get less sleep on a chronic basis, we adapt to that sense of sleepiness and this becomes your new normal. So you’re not aware of how sleepy you are. However, if you were brought into a sleep lab, you know, on tests off objective sleepiness, then you would be sleepy and on performance tasks. You could be impaired, right? It’s almost like a drunk is the last person in the bar to accurately decide if he’s fit to drive. Right? And one of the things that happens is that sleepiness has this very unique characteristic called masking, which means that when you’re under bright light, if you’re motivated, if you’re up and about, if you’re walking around, you’re less likely to feel sleepy. For example, you’re never gonna fall asleep while jogging.

Dr. Cooper

That’s good to hear!

Dr. Singh

But quiet, boring, dull, sedentary situations will unmask sleepiness, right? So for example,there may be people out there when they listen to this podcast, and they may feel sleepy. Well, it’s not because it has less to do with the fact that I’m a boring sleeper, speaker, sorry. And more to do with the situation that this situation has unmasked sleepiness.

Dr. Cooper

Are there little things that people can do besides put themselves in a boring situation to see if they truly are fine?

Dr. Singh

So the question is whether you know you’re getting enough sleep or not, and one way they’re multiple ways you can tell. Number one is do you try to get or do you sleep longer on your non working days as compared to your working days because that clearly shows that you’re not getting enough sleep on your working days, right? Or do you use an alarm to to wake up? So that would be the second situation. But if I may continue, you know that unmasking leads me to the second myth or misconception that people have, which is that they feel that either they can tell when they’re they are driving and they’re sleepy. When they think that things like, you know, slapping themselves, rolling the window down, singing, chewing gum, etc. will prevent you from falling asleep while driving.

Dr. Cooper

And those don’t work at all.

Dr. Singh

No, they do not work at all. Because remember, driving is a very dull, sedentary, quiet situation. So it unmasks sleepiness. And I always like to talk about this because, remember, drowsy accents are typically more serious, they’re more fatal, because when you’re alone, typically they happen when you’re alone in the car and if you’re driving at 60 or 70 miles an hour, you fall asleep. First of all, you don’t take any corrective measures. You know, because typically in any other kind of accident, you sort of try to correct it, right? And then secondly, you go off the road or you cross the media onto oncoming traffic. You know, that makes it very dangerous.

Dr. Cooper

I think I read somewhere that sleep causes more fatalities than drunk driving. Is that a statistic you’ve come across?

Dr. Singh

Yes, that is absolutely true. That is absolutely true. Now here’s a couple of things that you know that your audience would probably be interested in is that you know, one of the first things that happens when you’re falling asleep is that there is no visual processing going on in your brain. Which means that for the first few seconds, if you fall asleep while driving, your foot is still on the pedal. Your hands are still on the steering wheel and your eyes may be open. But you’re driving like you’re blind, and that makes it really, really dangerous. And you’re absolutely right that drowsy driving now is much more frequent and much more dangerous than drunk driving. And there is no blood test, you know, right now, things may change because I know there’s been research that they’re looking at this.

Dr. Cooper

Yeah I saw some sort of and again, like you said, it’s not available yet, but it seems like there’s something that’s out there that’s almost like a blood alcohol test for sleep that they’re doing. Some testing on that might partly bridge that gap a little bit. Rgap a little bit.

Dr. Singh

Right well, and I will say that if you feel sleepy when you’re driving, you want to pull over and take a nap, pull over safely somewhere and take a nap. That’s the only way to combat that. You know, and it’s not surprising, that you may feel perfectly fine at work because remember, you’re under that bright light, you’re up and about etc. It’s when you get into a car when you’re driving, you know either after shift work or, you know, driving home in the evening that you can fall asleep.

Dr. Cooper

Right. Okay, very good. I got you off track there. What’s number three that you got on that list?

Dr. Singh

Ah yes, well, the third myth again in continuation is that when people say well, I know I don’t have sleep apnea or I don’t snore. Well, you don’t because you’re asleep. So it’s possible people are not aware of what they’re doing when they’re asleep. The myth is that snoring is benign. It’s not in every case, so typically, it’s a bed partner that lets you know that you do snore. And then sometimes snoring is a symptom of a disorder like sleep apnea in which you stopped breathing at night. And that’s increased with, or associated with the increased risk of heart disease and stroke. So you want to get that addressed.

Dr. Cooper

Right. Right. Wow, great start. So you worked closely with professional athletes in essentially all the major leagues. What are some of your primary messages that when you’re speaking of these elite athletes, you try to convey?

Dr. Singh

Typically when I work with the team, one of the first things I focus on is doing an educational presentation on what sleep is all about. The science of sleep. And when I do this initially, I want to talk to the players, the coaches, the athletic trainers, the scouts, the front office, everybody because because you want to involve everybody because if you suggest changes, often it has to be an organizational change, right? Because you maybe suggesting that they change maybe some practice hours. They may decide to spend an extra night somewhere, etc. And my talk, I jokingly say this, but I divide that into three parts. I talk about in that talk is what? So what? And now what? And you know the what part, of course, is sleep and your biological rhythms. And the so what part is when I talk about how the lack of sleep or your biological rhythms, if they’re out of sync, how they can affect each and every aspect off athletic performance and your health. And and then the Now What part of the talk is when we talk about what we can do about it now that the team is armed with this education and that because you know they have to know this. Because sleep is something that’s a private thing that happens in their own bedroom on their own time. So you want to give them this information and let them do and let the sleep happen, right?

Dr. Singh

The second part of my task is focused on helping deliver change. So I do that by working backwards after identifying issues that need to be addressed. So typically, when it comes to athletes or the teams, really there are three large areas where they need help. Number one is they may or may not be sleep deprived, and because of their scheduled etc, they’re not getting enough sleep. And so they need help with that. The second thing, of course, is that they travel. They often cross time zones and they can be jet lagged. So I do help with jet lag management, you know, helping them plan their travel. And then but you know, if I may add at this point that this is really relevant in today’s world because globalization has really hit all major league sports. Teams are going to Europe or Asia in all the leagues to play exhibition or regular season games. And the third part, which is sometimes like the main focus after the educational presentation, is talking to individual athletes or team members and identifying people who have difficulty either winding down or issues with sleepiness or alertness during the day and then addressing that, again on our individual basis. I feel sometimes that because our emphasis is always to make sure that the athlete gets enough sleep. But you will find that there are a lot of athletes out there and a lot of people out there who have ample time in bed, but they’re unable to fall asleep because either they’re too wired, they’re too worried about the next day and then they may have difficulty going back to sleep.

Dr. Cooper

Can we run down that path just a little bit? Because I think that problem is so relevant. I’ll just personalize it, I have a lot of struggles with that problem. I don’t drink hardly any caffeine. And so it’s not a chemical piece there, but a lot of people that I talk to, they wake up at 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning and they just can’t get back to sleep. I know this isn’t a training class, but any kind of hit and run suggestions that people might try in that area?

Dr. Singh

Yeah, sure, but let me just back up here and explain the difference between sleep deprivation and insomnia. If I may?

Dr. Cooper

Sure that would be great.

Dr. Singh

And the reason is because that’s one thing that I see in the media, especially that it’s really sort of mixed up. Sleep deprivation and insomnia are two different categories and two different entities, right, although mathematically both mean you’re getting less sleep. So let me give you an example. So supposing last night I got only four hours of sleep because I got in late from a late flight and got home only a 12:30. Didn’t fall asleep until 1:00. Had to wake up at five in the morning to work. That would mean four hours of sleep, right? So that means that situation is sleep deprivation. But in contrast, what if I got into bed at 10 with the intention of falling asleep? But I was all wired up and worried about talking to you on the podcast today, so I couldn’t fall asleep to one o’clock, and then I kind of slept a little poorly. And then I woke up at five, which was before my actual time that I had to wake up at six. So I mathematically again I got only four hours of sleep, right, but that’s insomnia. So insomnia, that is a completely different kettle of fish. I mean that is inability to initiate or maintain sleep or have no refreshing sleep despite having the opportunity to do so. Does that make sense?

Dr. Cooper

Absolutely excellent.

Dr. Singh

Okay, so now your question was, and again backing up, so that category off athletes, you know, athletes, they’re aggressive. You want them to be aggressive on the field or the you know, on the court or you know, wherever they’re playing, you want them to be all you know, high strung. You want them to play really well. They play these night games, they’ve drunk a lot of caffeine. And then you say, well, now I need you to go to bed five hours later. But they are not going to do that. Right? So okay, so that was my spiel. And this is important because what happens is that all good sleepers are somewhat alike. But poor sleepers are always unique in their own issue that prevents them from sleeping and that’s what you need to address. So now, coming back to your problem. Sorry, it took a long way to get that. So you said you have difficulty,

Dr. Cooper

going back to sleep, so I can pretty much nod off, not immediately, but within 20 minutes or so, and then I’ll wake up, you know, 6 and a half hours later, 5 and a half hours later, and it’s tough for me to fall back to sleep.

Dr. Singh

Okay, so, you know, in general, not just specifically you. In general, if this, for your coaches, if this is a regular problem, especially in older clients, then they should be seen by a sleep doctor. Because sometimes some medical issues may be causing this, you know, early middle of the night or late tonight, and some may like it could be prostate issue or sleep apnea. So putting that aside, it’s important to understand why somebody’s waking up. So one thing it could be, it could be a circadian issue. So morning larks or early morning types who go to bed early will wake up earlier during the day, in the morning, right? And sometimes even if they are early types, more AM types, because evenings are busy. They still may go to bed late. But because you’re a morning person, you will wake up in the morning early. So are you a morning person?

Dr. Cooper

I definitely am. Absolutely.

Dr. Singh

Now what time do you get to bed?

Dr. Cooper

We try to be laying down by 9:30

Dr. Singh

Now what timd do you tend to fall asleep?

Dr. Cooper

Before 10. Probably 15-20 minutes.

Dr. Singh

And what time did you say you wake up?

Dr. Cooper

Two nights a week, when I’m struggling, I’ll wake up 3:30 or 4:00. Most days it’s 5:00 or 5:30. So I’m getting plenty on 4 to 5 nights a week, a couple of nights, though it just doesn’t work.

Dr. Singh

Okay, your situation is easy to explain, and this may apply to a lot of people. So first of all, you have to understand how sleep progresses through the night. You fall asleep into light sleep you have some amount of deep sleep, followed by dream sleep, and you wake up. This is an approximately 90 minute cycle. So you do this all through the night, right? So in the first part of the night you have more deep sleep and because your sleep drive is higher, if you do wake up, you don’t remember these awakenings in the second half of the night because your sleep drive has been somewhat satisfied. You’ll be more aware of these awakenings. So the waking up, may be completely normal. It’s what you do after you’re awake that may make it more difficult for you to fall back asleep. So including turning over, checking the clock, telling time, sure, then and it’s subconsciously when all of this does happen. You know, this just happens automatically, something like subconsciously, you turn around, you tell the time you start making backward calculations to figure out how long you’ve been asleep. How long it’s gonna take you to fall back asleep and what you have going on the next day and so you basically recruit more brain cells and wake them up when you don’t need to. So when you wake up in your case, if you’ve gone to bed by 10:00 by the time 3:30 or 4 o’clock rolls around, your sleep drive is somewhat satisfied. So if you do wake up, you know, I would suggest not looking at the clock. I know you do because you told me specifically 3:30 to 4:00. So those timings are engrained in your brain. And then if you are unable to fall back asleep, then the suggestion is always to go to another room and do something quiet and relaxing in dim light. And the relaxing should not include any sort of screen time. Now a lot of people would protest because they don’t want to leave their comfy and warm beds. And I will say, sometimes it’s okay to, like, maybe read a book you know, or listen to something boring because the whole point is not to think about the fact that you’re not sleepy, because that’s what gets people stressed out. And then instead , just concentrate on something else so that sleep can happen. If you’re not sleeping because you’re worried about some things. I don’t know if you’ve heard about what a worry journal is that you do the worrying earlier during the day, and then I will say the one thing I like to talk to my clients, patients, athletes is to have, you know, to learn meditation or other practices off mindfulness because this the you know, the principles of acceptance non judgment, non striving. Those are all things that you can use on your insomnia when you wake up in the middle of the night. It’s quite easy for athletes to learn this because it’s akin to skill acquisition. You learned this and then you can use it later, right? So does that help?

Dr. Cooper

Yes, I think that’s great. And I think based on the people I talk to coaches and some of their clients, I think that’ll be helpful to a lot of folks. It seems to be a common problem. I got us a little off track there, coming back to the athletes you’re working with, any surprises you didn’t expect to see as you as you took a deeper dive with this group.

Dr. Singh

Well, so when I first started working with professional teams and athletes, I was surprised at how rigorous, intense and long their training and working hours are. From the outside, it looks really glamorous and not just for the athletes. It’s the training staff, the coaches, you know, the scouts, etc. These are all people who come there before the players and don’t leave until the players have left right? So they all lived that same lifestyle. It also surprised me how much all the members of the team were unaware of the health consequences of not getting enough sleep. It’s funny because, you know, when I talk with the athletes, I’m usually talking about the performance enhancing benefits of getting enough sleep. But we’ve always known for a long time what happens to you health wise if you don’t get enough sleep or when you’re out of sync with your circadian rhythms. And I often, you know, older members of the team or will often come up to me after I’m done and asked me whether the health related detriments are reversible. And of course, this is changing. Athletes and teams are much more aware of this now.

Dr. Cooper

Yeah, I was gonna say it seems like all the publicity around. For example, Andre Iguodala as sleep data and LeBron speaks openly about his habits. Has that helped you? Is your audience much more attuned to what you’re saying than maybe they were 7 or 8 years ago?

Dr. Singh

Yes, I think so. I think that if you have good role models in senior, successful players, I mean, that’s really important. That’s really key. It really helps. It helps to, you know, rally the younger players. And then, you know, I’m okay if they athletes want to be competitive with getting more sleep, that’s good. I like that.

Dr. Cooper

I love it. I love it. So what can the coaches bring out of what you’ve learned with NFL, NHL, MBA, Major League baseball players? Instead of being a 27 year old elite athlete, we may be talking about a 42 year old or a 61 year old female executive. What are some of the things that you could pull out that they could maybe apply for their for their clients?

Dr. Singh

You know, I think the most important lesson is that you have to take the client as a complete human being, and you’re looking at the entire story. So in fact let me start by telling you a short story from my interaction. This is about four years ago, and I’ve been working with this particular NFL team for a couple of years. So they knew when I’d come around and I talked about 7-9 hours of sleep and, you know, getting regular sleep, having regular bedtimes, etc. And I was talking to one of the coaches and just jokingly reminding him he needed more sleep. And we just happen to look at his print out. He’d been wearing a the sleep measuring device, okay? And and it clearly showed he’d been averaging, like, four hours in bed and regularly and, you know, a couple of times it was even two or three and and I said, Well, Coach, you’re not getting enough sleep and he says Dr Singh, they’re only 32 such jobs in the world, and that really stopped me in my tracks. What the coach is telling me is that despite knowing what’s the right thing to do for his health and wellness, he is limited by his job. You know, if he didn’t work this many hours, he felt somebody else was gonna take the job. You know, he needed to work this many hours and sleep was just something that would happen. But all coaches, we need to learn and realize that we have to understand where our clients are coming from? You know what drives them? What motivates, what limits them? What really works with them? I will tell you, I did change how I talked to him. And I hope you know, with other other clients too. So now I started negotiating with him. You know, I understand he couldn’t go to bed 7 to 9 hours. But how about increasing his bed time about 15 to 25 minutes every night, you know, how about not using the snooze and instead setting the alarm so that he could wake up at the latest amount he could wake up so he didn’t disturb the last 15 minutes of sleep. Or taking a nap during the day. So just setting more realistic goals so that we could achieve them.

Dr. Cooper

First of all, great job in meeting them, where they are at because that’s what the coaches are doing too. They’re not trying to lecture them. But have you tried to integrate the concept of the cognitive deficiencies that 2-3 hours of sleep are causing his coaching decisions

Dr. Singh

Oh yeah, yes, yes, of course. I mean,

Dr. Cooper

And does he listen or does he just say, Oh, no, no, no, I’m fine, I’m good.

Dr. Singh

Oh no no so Brad, here’s the thing. These are smart people. I mean, they completely understand. They also have that self awareness, you know, they realize what it’s doing to them. But they’re still compelled with these long hours. I mean, you know, we’re talking about an NFL team, but all the teams that you know, they travel frequently. Oftentimes, I mean, they sometimes do a night game and they fly out. They don’t get to the hotel room until six in the morning. And so, mathematically, they’re just not enough hours for them to get enough sleep. Now, I will tell you what I say to that, in response to that, my response is then that you get enough sleep all the way leading up to that day, and then you play catch up later. Like, for example, if I knew that I was going to be on call in three days time, the worst thing I could do to myself right now is get less sleep, because then my pot would start out half empty. Right? So, you know, you’ve probably heard the concept of banking sleep, which is sort of technically not true because you really can’t over sleep. But what you’re saying is you want to fill up that part off sleep before you know you’re going to go into a situation where you where you will get less sleep,

Dr. Cooper

Right, you may not be able to create extra. But at least you don’t go in with a deficiency. Yeah, that’s makes very good sense.

Dr. Singh

And then when you’re done with that situation, then you play catch up. You know, you take a nap, and that’s all that anybody can do. You know, you don’t have to be an athlete to do that. This is the world we live in now.

Dr. Cooper

So let’s run down the jet lag path just a bit. I travel back and forth to Europe from the States much more frequently. Folks are going on cross country flights consistently. A lot of the clients that people are working with, they’re gonna be on a plane you know, once or twice a week. Any tips there that wouldn’t fit into the typical realm?

Dr. Singh

I really enjoy, actually, jet lag work management because it’s really cool because you really use the science if you do it correctly. So I would suggest first of all. The first thing is rest while you’re at home, you want to make sure you get enough sleep. Now, you could try to move your clock, move your bedtimes and your biological rhythms to the destination zone while at home gently over the 34 days prior to a flight. Okay, so, for example, if you were going to Europe from here they are, let’s say, six hours in advance, right? So you could try to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier while in the United States so that it would be less difficult for you, but that is sometimes difficult for people to do because they have schedules and you know, it just doesn’t work. But whenever you’re talking about shifting your biological clocks, use light therapy. Light or melatonin to shift your clock. So let me back up and give you just a short prime of how your circadian rhythmans work. If we have time right now.

Dr. Cooper

Perfect. That’d be great.

Dr. Singh

Okay, so all of us, we have a master clock in our brain, and that clock keeps a 24 hour rhythm. It’s synchronized to the night and day off your local time with sunlight with light and darkness. So when you wake up in the morning, light enters your eye, and so your eye does more than one thing. It’s used for vision as well as for light, for circadian lighting and so light enters into your eye hits your circadian, the biological clock, and it suppresses melatonin and secretes an alerting signal, which keeps you awake during the day. Now in the afternoon, there’s a mild dip in the alerting signal, which is why you kind of feel a little sleepy. You’re tired in the mid afternoon, but then it increases and then in darkness, melatonin is secretive. So when when you take a jet to cross all these time zones to go to Europe, your circadian rhythms lag behind. That’s what jet lag is. And then when you get there. Your circadian clock is kind of scrambling to get in sync with the night and day of the new time zone in Europe, and that’s what the symptoms of jet lag are. So if you were going to Europe, you could use both light and melatonin. You would avoid sunlight before 10 or, no 11 and noon say London time, because exposure to light prior to that would make it worse because you’re trying to shift your clock to an earlier time, and then you could take melatonin at night to help you sleep there.

Dr. Cooper

And my understanding, melatonin is not a quick response. It’s something you need to be taking 2 to 4 hours prior to your planned bedtime. Is that consistent with what you know?

Dr. Singh

Yes. So melatonin is not a sleeping pill. It’s a signal, and it’s a hormone. So when you take melatonin, you’re signaling your brain that you’re ready to sleep. So you know, just a few things about a melatonin. Number one is that you really don’t need very much. You just need about half to maybe one milligram. You should take it two to three hours prior to your projected time that you want to fall asleep. If you take it actually too close to your bedtime, you may not fall asleep and higher doses may also prevent you from falling asleep.

Dr. Cooper

Interesting. The snooze button. I’m not a snooze button user, but, man, I had plenty of snooze button roommates in college and have a lot of friends that they swear by it. Any words of wisdom for those folks that are still hanging on to that tradition?

Dr. Singh

Stop.

Dr. Cooper

I just need one word of wisdom on that one.

Dr. Singh

So let me back up and tell you why. So if you’re going to constantly hit the snooze button and then turn over, go back to sleep, and then again hit the snooze button why are you ruining the last few minutes of your sleep. You know, why not set the alarm to the latest time that you can wake up and still make it wherever you need to be in time. So my suggestion is set your alarm, set it away from your bed so that it’s not within reach. So that when the alarm goes off, you have to get up, get out of bed, go turn it off and then, you know, go to the bathroom or wherever you need to go rather than coming back to bed.

Dr. Cooper

And if someone just can’t get it then that essentially might be a sign that sleep deprivation is a significant factor in their life.

Dr. Singh

Yes, yes, yes, it’s one. It could be either again, the same reasons. Either they’re, you know, they’re a night owl and they’re trying to wake up too early. Or, yes, it’s a sign that you’re sleep deprived, but also remember, people don’t jump out of bed and immediately feel fantastic. That’s a myth. You know. It’s gonna take about 10 to 15 minutes, which is why people like to drink coffee. Because this fantastic thing called sleep inertia, it takes a while. And that’s because, this interesting thing is that your alertness center and your consciousness are two separate centers in your brain. When you wake up, you are immediately conscious of being awake. But it will take a few minutes till the alertness center is completely on board. And that depends on, you know, multiple things. That depends on how sleep deprived you are, how hard or deep you slept, because the deeper the amount of sleep the depth and then the longer the inertia is going to be.

Dr. Cooper

This is so good. So a couple more, when it comes to improving sleep and we’ve talked about some of these, we tend to focus on AM sunshine, exercise, decreasing caffeine, decreasing alcohol, avoiding the electronic devices, kind of general sleep hygiene around temperature and light in that kind of thing. Are there any things off those main aspects that get a lot of publicity that might provide opportunities to enhance sleep?

Dr. Singh

Yes. So you know, I want to talk about three separate things. I want to talk about regularity and timing. But before I do that, I do want to talk about the lure of electronic devices. And how far they can intrude upon sleep. So I’ll tell you, what I have seen is that we lead such busy lives. So when we get home or, you know, for athletes when they get home or to their hotel room, they feel that they deserved to unwind. And most times the unwinding is in the form of either television or playing on the computer laptop, or, you know, scrolling social media or playing with your games etc. Now, first of all, all these activities there, unwinding is the wrong word because they’re distracting. They’re not helping you relax. Plus, they steal time, right? I mean, how often have you looked at the device? And said, well, I’m gonna instagram for 15 minutes and looked up and it’s 45 minutes, right? It’s like the buffet analogy, like nobody has ever walked away from a buffet table thinking you don’t eat enough. You never walk away from social media, any of these electronics websites thinking I didn’t spend enough time. It’s always the opposite. And of course, you know, as you are well aware that these they are highly addicting. But then also all of them have this back lit led lights, and the led lights suppresses melatonin, which is the hormone that signals to your brain that you’re ready to sleep.

Dr. Singh

So really true unwinding begins after you’ve put away the device. And, I would say it takes about 30 to 45 minutes of unwinding sometimes depending on how busy your day was. Like if you’ve had a very stressful day and again, you know, this probably applies to all of us, but especially for athletes. You know, the more stressful day, the longer it’s gonna take you to unwind. Similar to, you know, when a car is going at a very high speed, you want to keep that distance in front of the car in front of you because it’s going to take that much distance for you to break right? So people have to develop good, winding down routines that don’t involve electronics. So that’s one of the things I would suggest. I wanted to talk about regularity and timing, and again, you know, we talk briefly about the circadian rhythm, but if there’s one thing I would recommend is to keep as regular as a bedtime as possible, especially the wake up times not to vary them by more than an hour. So right now I think what many people do is you know, they go to bed at a particular time during their work week. But then when they’re not working on a weekend or whenever they’re off, they delay that time to go to bed really late and then let’s sleep in. And when you do that, this phenomena is called social jet lag, which is, you know, similar to taking a flight and going to the West Coast really messes up your sleep and circadian rhythms. And so that’s one thing I would suggest people don’t know.

Dr. Cooper

Yeah, I’ve read that is, like you said, one of the single most important areas. And it’s interesting to hear you kind of tease that out a little bit.

Dr. Singh

Yeah, it’s really, really key. It really does it, you know, because we’re learning more and more that a lot of the health related detrimental effects off sleep deprivation are also related to the timing. So when your sleep cycle and your circadian rhythms are out of sync, that causes a full lot of issues, and this is really well studied in shift workers. For example, nurses, that’s a big population, and we know that there’s increased risk of cancer, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as diabetes,and Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Cooper

All right, Dr. Singh, your turn. Now sleep aside. We love to give our audience kind of a closer look at our guests and what you’re working with in your health and wellness. So what’s something you’re working on in your your own health and wellness? It could be life, balance, stress, eating, exercise whatever. But do you mind sharing with us a little bit about what’s going on there, some of your struggles and and how you’re pursuing it right now?

Dr. Singh

Sure, you know I do like to exercise on a regular basis, and I do yoga and I play tennis. I don’t know how scientific it is, but I know what works for me is that I I like to exercise in the morning, and my only rule is that I can’t negotiate with myself in the morning. You know, I can’t tell myself. I’m tired I can’t go. I have to go. I have to once my alarm goes off and I’m done with whatever I need to get done. I have to put on my shoes or I have to, you know, pick up my yoga mat. And I have to leave because I know once I get there, I’m likely to do something. It is difficult because I do travel quite a bit right? You know, work life balance. I am very particular about my own sleep. I tried to go to bed at a certain time, wake up at a set time. I am an early morning, person. And so I align my activities to that. In fact, I do tell people not to call me after, say 9:30 or 10 PM because my phone is in the other room. I’m not going to be able to hear it. When I’m at work, I’m totally at work. But when I’m at home, I’m a full time mother and a wife. And that’s what I do full time.

Dr. Cooper

Beautiful. I love that no negotiating with yourself before X am. That’s good stuff. All right, so any final suggestions that you’ve got kind of half our audience is people that just discovered wellness coaching and they’re thinking about maybe going into that as a professional. We’ve got half that are saying I’m already a coach. I’m doing this, but I’m trying to get better, I’m trying to fill my toolbox. Any guidance or suggestions for either or both of those groups?

Dr. Singh

Well, I would suggest that as we move into the future, where everything is measured, especially when it comes to this self quantified movement and as health and wellness coaches, you never want to lose focus of the individual. So as as a sleep scientists, you belong to the scientific community. Typically, we collect data to understand whatever question we’re trying to answer. But now there’s random data being collected, right? So you have to be very careful with that. I don’t know if you’ve heard that old parable. It’s a Turkish parable off the street light.

Dr. Cooper

I don’t know, tell us, I am not familiar with it. Fire away.

Dr. Singh

Well, it’s a policeman finds a drunk man looking for something on the street lights. So he’s asked him what it is and he says. I’m looking for my keys. Se he stopped to help him and then 15 minutes go by. I can’t find anything, he says. Well, when did you last see them? He said, well I actually dropped them in the park, you know why are we looking here? This is because this is where the light is. And we really need to learn a lesson from that because you know, it’s very important to look for answers where the answers actually are not where you think they may be or when they may be easier to find. So when we’re collecting all this data, that’s cool. But well, what is the question we’re trying to answer?

Dr. Cooper

Excellent. What a great way to wrap up. So appreciate you spending the time with us. So many insights. How best can people get a hold of you? You? Are you on Twitter? Any contact information you’d like to provide?

Dr. Singh

So I do have a website. It’s MeetaSinghMD.com, but the best way to get in touch with me with would be either through LinkedIn or Twitter. My twitter handle is @AthleteSleepMD1. And yeah, that would be the best way.

Dr. Cooper

Beautiful. Well, thank you again very much. Appreciate it, and we’ll wrap it up there. What an incredible guest. Dr Meeta, Singh everyone. I’m not gonna do my typical review because we ran a little bit longer than we typically do on this podcast. But the information was just so powerful. I didn’t want to slow it down. Thank you for joining us. I do have a favor to ask if you have been listening and this is is valuable to you if you wouldn’t mind sharing with a friend. We really don’t advertise this, and it is growing. People are sharing it, if you haven’t yet, or if you haven’t subscribed. My understanding is that makes a big difference on the whole algorithm piece. So I really appreciate it if you don’t mind doing that. The other thing I’ll mention the date that we’re gonna publish this episode. If you happen to be listening to it live. And I understand many of you listen too in kind of in a retrospective way, which is awesome. But if you happen to be listening to this live in mid May. We do have an upcoming fast track certification coming up in Colorado, and we’d love to have you join us. Or maybe it’s just an excuse to reach out to us and talk about whether a future one makes sense. So if you’re on that fence, you’ve been thinking about this whole wellness coaching thing and you’re like, I don’t know, does it fit with my career and what I want to do with my life? We don’t know either, but we’re happy to talk that through with you and help you think those things through. Thanks for joining us.

Dr. Cooper

Just a reminder, as always, that journey towards our best self, it gets a lot of talk in the wellness arena. We want to be our best self. Let’s be our best self. Oftentimes, that’s so intimidating because it’s so far out there and I just wanna encourage you. Let’s work towards being are better self. That’s one step. Maybe it’s something that Dr Singh talked about with your sleep. Maybe it’s something you’ve been thinking about. What’s that better step, that better than yesterday step that all of us have an opportunity to pursue today and then carry that out. Obviously with our clients, but with our kids, with our with our friends, with our family members. What is that better than yesterday? We can encourage, not force, but encourage and support in those around us. Make it a great rest of your day. And I look forward to speaking with you soon on the next episode of the Catalyst Health and Wellness Coaching Podcast.