Dr. Matthew Hermann of POP Supplements: “Reduce or limit alcohol and caffeine intake”

Stick to a regular schedule- I know this is challenging for those of us who do shift work and have to change our schedules on a regular basis, but if you work a regular job, it’s important to go to bed at the same time every night. Getting a good night’s sleep has so many physical, […]

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Stick to a regular schedule- I know this is challenging for those of us who do shift work and have to change our schedules on a regular basis, but if you work a regular job, it’s important to go to bed at the same time every night.

Getting a good night’s sleep has so many physical, emotional, and mental benefits. Yet with all of the distractions that demand our attention, going to sleep on time and getting enough rest has become extremely elusive to many of us. Why is sleep so important and how can we make it a priority?

In this interview series called “Sleep: Why You Should Make Getting A Good Night’s Sleep A Major Priority In Your Life, And How You Can Make That Happen” we are talking to medical and wellness professionals, sleep specialists, and business leaders who sell sleep accessories to share insights from their knowledge and experience about how to make getting a good night’s sleep a priority in your life.

As part of this interview series, we had the pleasure to interview Matthew Hermann, MD.

Matthew Hermann, MD is the CEO of POP Supplements, a company designed to help those attain better sleep through a fast-acting dissolvable sleep aid. This is inspired through what Matthew took working nights in a correctional facility as a physician. Matthew is currently dual board-certified in radiology and pain medicine. Besides working on POP Supplements, Matthew also has enjoyed adventures such as riding his bicycle across the United States or backpacking through Big Sur.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your backstory?

Of course. I am currently a physician but have done all sorts of projects from building part of the Appalachian Trail to owning a landscaping company. What has guided me in life is choosing adventures that make the world and myself better. My mission now is to create a company that disrupts the sleep supplement market while restoring the quality of life to those incarcerated.

Before I dive into that, I didn’t develop this passion until I started picking up nightshifts in a correctional facility for extra money while I was in my medical residency training. At first, it was strictly for the money. Then, I started to get obsessed with being behind the gate and helping inmates. I started catching sleep on a dirty podiatry exam table in between seeing patients and fielding calls, then was upgraded to an old hospital bed. The job was amazing, but my only problem was the extreme lack of sleep. I was frequently exhausted the next day. Once I figured out the best way to sleep under these conditions, I loved it.

Within the first shift I developed compassion for the incarcerated individuals that I worked with. Their healthcare was terrible, they were appreciative, and their backgrounds screamed of those who were survivors of deep-rooted psychological trauma.

Keep in mind I was still working as a resident physician at a separate hospital during the day. I would usually work from 7:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m., go straight to the prison, stitch people up and field calls all night, then drive back to my job the next day. I think I completed this routine at least 100 times during my last year in medical training.

I can’t function without sleep. Ask my wife. With a proper mindset, great sleep habits, and my supplement, I was able to power through my shifts and pay down my loans.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this particular career path?

I knew I wanted to help those incarcerated. Like most people, I had put this mission on hold with some other goals in my life. I almost forgot about it and found myself in a “rut.”

I was burnt out. After my fellowship at Stanford, I chose to reset my life. I felt like for years I was living day-to-day. It was time to rebalance my spiritual portfolio.

I decided to ride my bicycle across the country. It took a couple of weeks to get used to the rhythm of riding and most of my day was occupied with making sure I “don’t get dead,” as famous athlete Tommy Rivers Puzey, DPT, states.

It was only after I had adjusted to the rhythm of getting up at 5 a.m., biking 100 miles, and setting up camp, that I passed Glacier National Park. I was in Eastern Montana and North Dakota when my mind exploded. Being alone on the saddle for 12 hours a day caused me to reevaluate my life and what I wanted. I started journaling and listening to my soul for what it wanted in this world.

This process really accelerated in North Dakota. I had to get up at 2:30 a.m. because there were no exits for water, and I wanted to beat the heat. I would travel on I-94 alone and in the night. I could barely see in front of me and with no visual or auditory stimulation I had time to think. Outside of Bismarck on the highway the stories I had suppressed came back and I realized I wanted to do many goals, one being to start a successful company while giving former inmates a chance. Of course, I couldn’t have accomplished all of this without great sleep.

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the sleep and wellness fields? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

Personal experience, as I’ve described, gave me an idea of what it is like to work and live in the toughest sleep conditions. In addition, I’ve seen the effects of poor sleep on different facets of life while working as a pain fellow at Stanford. Poor sleep affects everything in your life. Before I started this business, I voraciously read data on sleep and supplements and whether this was worth pursuing. I realized that, just like most problems in medicine, there is no quick fix with a pill. But it can help. The largest changes you can make in your sleep are taking ownership of your habits.

My unique contribution to the world of wellness is creating a product that works in minutes and not stating that this is a panacea for poor sleep. I would like to make people’s sleep experience better going beyond a product. I think most people have poor sleep habits, particularly with the growth of social media. I want to change that.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. I listened it to it while biking at the beginning of my trip. They helped me realize that the only person I had to blame for not accomplishing my dreams was me. I wrestled with that idea for a day and got pretty emotional about it. It was a sobering realization that I was living a life of quiet desperation. There is always a reason why your dreams aren’t being accomplished, and usually it’s around your mindset. In their words, there are no bad teams, only bad leaders.

The nuts and bolts of the book are pretty strong as they apply to life-and-death situations like combat. I resonated with these points being in less stressful environments during my medical training with traumas and emergent situations.

Throughout my life, I have been more focused on being right in my life than finding out what is right. Extreme Ownership confronted this directly. My change has been slow but persistent. I attained real freedom by detaching my ego from any conflict I have in my family or company. It was liberating.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

“Everything is Figureoutable.” This is a quotation and also the title of a best-selling book by Marie Forleo that will change your life. It helped me when I wanted to quit on my largest dreams. For example, when I started my sleep supplement company, I had very few places that were willing to be distributors. Luckily, I found an investor and within minutes got him interested in the product. He happened to own a warehouse and that’s how I was able to first get everything ready to go with our supply chain. This would have never happened if I had not reached out to almost everyone I knew in my network.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Let’s start with the basics. How much sleep should an adult get? Is there a difference between people who are young, middle-aged, or elderly?

I may seem like I’m waffling, but it depends. This is entirely subject to your biology and a host of other factors. It’s like saying how many calories you should get in a day — it depends if you’re an NFL athlete or someone who gets 1000 steps in a day. That being said, most research suggests between 7–9 hours.

Even stating the number of hours can be misleading, not to mention that this can be anxiety-provoking for readers who are goal-oriented. In many pre-industrial societies today, as well as in the past, 7–9 hours of sleep weren’t met in one cycle. In the middle ages and extending to the Industrial Revolution, biphasic sleep schedules were common. This meant people would sleep in two chunks in a 24-hour period. One of the most interesting articles I read on sleep was by CNN, stating that some pre-industrial societies don’t even have a word for insomnia because its prevalence is so low.

I would rather focus on quality of sleep rather than quantity. If you feel energized, that’s what matters. Instead of a sleep time goal, a better tactic is to create simple sleep habits that align with our biology and evolution. Many factors kill our sleep quality — electronics at night, eating late, and lack of physical activity, for example. In addition, having simple morning and bedtime rituals can help you ease into the change in environments. I would recommend Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning to learn how to start your day as this can set you up for success and help you sleep easier.

With respect to difference in sleep and age, there are myths that older adults need more sleep. From childhood to adulthood there is a decrease in sleep need. During adulthood, the data is conflicted but usually stays constant. The idea that older people need more sleep could come from poor sleep quality (see a theme?). Chronic pain, undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea, polypharmacy (taking too many medications), and shifting sleep times, to name a few, all affect older adults.

Is the amount of hours the main criteria, or the time that you go to bed? For example, if there was a hypothetical choice between getting to bed at 10AM and getting up at 4AM, for a total of 6 hours, or going to bed at 2AM and getting up at 10AM for a total of 8 hours, is one a better choice for your health? Can you explain?

It’s honestly the quality of the hours you get rather than the quantity. So, if you function best as a productive night owl, keep your schedule.

I’m an early bird when I don’t have any work obligations at the hospital forcing me to stay up late. Ben Hardy, PhD says “most great things happen before 8 a.m.” For me, nothing could be more spot-on.

As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for our readers. Let’s imagine a hypothetical 35-year-old adult who was not getting enough sleep. After working diligently at it for 6 months he or she began to sleep well and got the requisite hours of sleep. How will this person’s life improve? Can you help articulate some of the benefits this person will see after starting to get enough sleep? Can you explain?

Until that person is able to get the sleep they want, they are robbing themselves and the world of the gifts they can provide. Sleep deprivation can be a major cause of why some people live hour-to-hour just surviving. In the short-term, your motivation for living a healthy lifestyle and improving your tolerance to stress could yield long-term results. Some studies show that there is a link between sleep deprivation and obesity, which can in-turn cause even greater weight gain and form a vicious cycle. There are certain hormones that can stimulate appetite when we are sleep deprived. With respect to exercise, it’s almost impossible to work out while you are wiped. Not only that, it increases the probability of injury. If the person lives with chronic pain, their perceived levels of pain will likely decrease if they improve their quality of sleep.

In the long- term, poor sleep has been shown to have correlation to increased risk of cancer, secondary effects of chronic obesity, and even dementia. There are theories that sleep helps us clear a protein in our brain which, when built up, can increase the risk of developing dementia.

So overall, in the short-term this person will be more inclined to reach his or her goals, eat healthier, and have a positive feedback loop that will maximize their potential. In the long-term, this could avoid chronic health conditions, exacerbate other conditions, and decrease their risk of cancer and dementia.

Many things provide benefits but they aren’t necessarily a priority. Should we make getting a good night’s sleep a major priority in our life? Can you explain what you mean?

I would ask your readers, what are your goals in life? Ask yourself authentically if you are living your goals or suppressing them, because you are doing one or the other. You will never get there staying up late on electronics until 3 a.m.. More than the health benefits described above, planning for and getting a great night’s sleep will help you crush your goals the next day. Turning your brain off and getting great sleep also means you are adopting a mindset that you are making your goals tomorrow important. The pain of discipline is much less than the pain of regret.

The truth is that most of us know that it’s important to get better sleep. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives? How should we remove those obstacles?

Most of us think we are entirely in control of our lives when, in reality, most of what we do during the day are habits. I think the main barrier that we have is not taking the time to list our habits during the day and before bed. Take the time to list your evening routine and examine whether it is helpful. Is looking at funny videos helpful to get you to bed? Probably not. Does drinking caffeine at 5 p.m. give dividends in your energy level the next day? As stated, you are probably paying the price if you have poor habits.

I think the next barrier is trying to change everything at once. Just like with fitness, people tend to go all in and transform their diet, fitness routine, and workout frequency all at once which leads to burnout. As counterintuitive as it is, picking one simple habit and mastering it, like driving to the gym and not even working out, can increase your chances of success. Instead of stopping electronics altogether, have a simple rule that no phones will be in the bedroom and focus on that for a week. Consider reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg for more information.

How strong is your social network? Are your friends nourishers or depleters? It could be that your social network reinforces bad habits, and you soon forget to get on the train of self-improvement. Who can hold you accountable?

Do you think getting “good sleep” is more difficult today than it was in the past?

Absolutely. Technology has evolved to where we are constantly reminded of work, and our environments are conditioned to cause a form of anticipatory stress. Some countries report that the average worker checks their work email every couple of hours outside of work hours.

Our bodies never evolved for changes such as these. Our networks and lives are more complex than ever, and it takes a toll on our bodies and our ability to relax.

The data on the average duration of sleep in the past is mixed. In the pre iPhone era, there were not nearly as many distractions, and people were able to sleep to their biological clocks. Remember when I mentioned earlier that some pre-industrial societies don’t even have a word for insomnia? Their cultures allow for more biphasic sleep patterns.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share “5 things you need to know to get the sleep you need and wake up refreshed and energized”? If you can, kindly share a story or example for each.

  1. Stick to a regular schedule- I know this is challenging for those of us who do shift work and have to change our schedules on a regular basis, but if you work a regular job, it’s important to go to bed at the same time every night. Some of the times in my life where I was the most fit was when I regularly went to bed each night, no matter the circumstances, at 8 p.m. Some people, like Mark Wahlberg, regularly go to bed at 7 p.m. and wake up at 3 a.m. each day.
  2. Move your body- Exercise is essential for having great sleep. Our bodies have adapted to regular sedentary lifestyles of sitting in front of screens all day and simply doing the same when we get home. Make it a regular habit to work out and run as much as you can. When I rode my bicycle across the country, I had some of the best nights of sleep, even if it was in a campground in the middle of the summer. This was because I was so exhausted moving during the day.
  3. Reduce or limit alcohol and caffeine intake — Stop drinking caffeine after noon, and stop alcohol altogether until your sleep is where you need it. Many people get tolerant to caffeine and can have terrible withdrawal if they stop drinking it. By tapering your caffeine consumption, especially in the afternoon, you’ll immediately notice better effects of sleep. Only drinking caffeine as an SOS beverage will also yield consistent and higher levels of energy during the day. I only drink caffeine now when I am switching from days to nights for a couple days, and I stop it to keep myself from building tolerance.
  4. Read in the evening- Reading in the evening will get you away from electronics, unhealthy blue light exposure, and will get your mind prepped for the next day. Consider reading a great novel. My wife and I read out loud The Hunger Games before bed when I was in residency and it was an amazing time. There’s something about putting yourself in a different world that can take your mind off of your day-to-day thoughts and worries. When I worked in the correctional system I would sneak in a copy of Game of Thrones and read it before I hit the hay. It paid dividends the next day.
  5. Keep a journal next to your bed- So this may be something you aren’t thinking of, but many successful people keep a journal next to their bed. This allows them to write down any to-dos for the next day, write thoughts of gratitude, and anything else on their mind before they go to bed. I keep a pad of paper next to my bed wherever I go to just write my ideas and thoughts. It helps to keep me organized and lets my mind relax.

What would you advise someone who wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep?

Habitually waking up at night is called “sleep maintenance insomnia.” Doing wakeful activities can make it worse. Do not look at your phone. Do not check the time. Doing so will only stress you out. If you can’t sleep, get up and read a book for 20 minutes or until you feel sleepy. Sometimes taking a micro dose of melatonin at night can help. Finally, for some people, relaxation exercises really click and having a visualization of being able to sleep can help.

Don’t get angry that you can’t sleep. I know, it’s infuriating and almost impossible not to think about how you might feel tomorrow. You deserve to be angry, but try to focus on what you can control.

What are your thoughts about taking a nap during the day? Is that a good idea, or can it affect the ability to sleep well at night?

Most research that I’ve gathered shows that napping is OK but can be a sign of poor sleep at night. That being said, napping more than 20 minutes can cause poor sleep habits at night and feed into a vicious cycle. In addition, it can actually make you feel more tired than if you had not done so. Even if you take small naps, making sure that your naps are not late in the day keeps your circadian rhythm in check. I will take a quick rest break when transitioning from working nights to days or vice versa to get ready for the new pattern.

Wonderful. We are nearly done. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Russell Brand. His social intelligence is off the charts and he is the perfect example of someone who channeled his energy and rebalanced his spiritual portfolio away from addiction and into the betterment of humanity.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Check out our website at popsupplements.com. We are also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok!

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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