Be consistent in your sleep: same bedtime and ritual each night. Shut down your brain by meditating, not checking your email; actively force yourself to wind down. Daily I meet with patients who, report not being able to adhere to a consistent sleep schedule. The result? Requiring an appointment with a Sleep Specialist to figure out why they are experiencing the health issues they are.
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 Dr. Chad Denman.
Dr. Chad Denman attended Florida State University for an undergraduate degree in Exercise Physiology and then Marquette University for dental school. After several years working as a dentist in Austin, he decided to change courses and become a sleep specialist. He is very active within the sleep medicine industry and is a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine board.
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?
Absolutely! I’m thrilled and honored to have been selected for this. My background in this field actually started in dentistry. I attended Florida State University for my undergraduate degree (Exercise Physiology) and then Marquette University for dental school. I moved to Austin in 2006 after falling in love with the city during a visit here the previous year. After eleven years working as a dentist, I decided to expand my purview and become a sleep specialist. Unfortunately, this was all brought on by the sudden death of my father, who succumbed to undiagnosed, untreated sleep apnea.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this particular career choice?
My main reason for getting into this field was due to my father passing away from undiagnosed, untreated obstructive sleep apnea. I cannot fathom how we, living in the 21st century, can still have people pass away in their sleep from a disease they don’t even know they have. I have made it my life’s work to ensure everyone can be screened, tested, and treated for this life-threatening disease.
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?
I serve on an active board of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and a sub-committee focused on diversity and inclusion. I also am a routine speaker for the International Academy of Sleep and a coach for other sleep dentists nationwide. Over 50% of people who maybe suffering from a sleep disorder, also suffer from obesity and other health related issues. We employ a board-certified sleep physician to meet with each patient, and together we guide the patient to health. Utilizing both of my degrees, we can assess the patient where they’re at currently to promote total body wellness. Ultimately, we empower our patients to make an educated decision about the mode of treatment they would like.
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?
Living Forward — Michael Hyatt & Daniel Harkavy. This is a book I have recently finished within the past year and the impact it has had on my life was immediate and tremendous. In this book, you are challenged to look at your life backwards, starting with your eulegy; how do you want to be remembered? I would connect this back in to my father who, when he passed, how lovingly he was remembered. He achieved what he wanted to in life.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
“Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, at all the times you can, for as long as you possibly can.” — Unknown
I feel if you always put people first, you get what you want out of life: “Giver’s-gain mentality.”
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?
The average adult should receive between 6–8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. When I am reviewing a patient’s sleep test, I try to focus in on the amount of REM, Deep, and Light sleep they may get. This does differ from birth to death. Babies may sleep upwards of 16 hours a day whereas children may sleep 10–12 hours. Teenagers and adults 8–10, and the elderly can manage with even 6–8. As we age the pineal gland, which secretes melatonin, calcifies therefore resulting in shorter sleep periods.
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 10PM 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?
A great question, which is multi-faceted. Our bodies, for the most part, are perfect machines; with everything working on a circadian rhythm. If someone’s rhythm is to fall asleep at 6 AM and wake at 2 PM, with uninterrupted sleep, that is healthy. Compounding on that example, if someone’s work schedule regularly affords them a circadian rhythm, that individual will feel more refreshed and rested, rather than someone who goes to bed at different times. Meaning your sleep schedule should be the same, during the week and weekend. Consistent sleep hyenine is the name of the game.
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?
When our bodies are not circadian, we tend to see multiple symptoms or comorbidities arise with frequency. When a person is getting the restful sleep their body needs, they will see an increase in their metabolism. They would see less frequent nightly bathroom visits. They might see weight loss. They might even see improvements in their blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and memory. All of these things are directly related to getting the amount of sleep and the requisite numbers of sleep cycles (light, deep, REM) your body requires. The body does an amazing job of healing itself, if given the tools it needs. This is why we spend a third of our lives in bed!
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?
Yes, my recommendation to your readers is absolutely. With us spending a third of our lives in bed, it is paramount that individuals get the restful sleep cycles (light, deep, REM) in order to avoid some of the symptoms I’ve listed above. People are also more aware when they drive and have the clarity to produce more in the daily jobs. Often times, drowsy drivers behave like drunk drivers.
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?
Working in the field of medicine, I find myself perplexed when patients share this exact statement with me. My strongest recommendation I can make, is to set a sleep schedule and stick to it. Try winding down one to two hours before bed, while not looking at your technological devices. I would speculate that each of us have different obstacles which may prevent us from adhering to a sleep schedule, however sleep is as important as the combination of good nutrition and exercise.
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.
- Be consistent in your sleep: same bedtime and ritual each night. Shut down your brain by meditating, not checking your email; actively force yourself to wind down. Daily I meet with patients who, report not being able to adhere to a consistent sleep schedule. The result? Requiring an appointment with a Sleep Specialist to figure out why they are experiencing the health issues they are.
- Diet and alcohol and sedatives have a huge impact on your sleep, and not for the healthier. It fragments your sleep patterns which results in you waking up several times a night. A story I can share is about Sally. Sally was a Salesperson and would often times take clients out and eat heavier meals and drink during her networking. After doing this for six months to a year, she noticed she had horrible acid reflux, uncontrollable weight gain, frequent nightly urination and morning headaches. Sally wondered why she was always tired even though she was getting 8 hours of sleep a night.
- Water is a huge component to your health. Water helps regulate your body temperature, mood and mental clarity. Studies show that even mild dehydration, such as the loss of 1–3% of body weight, can impair many aspects of brain function.
- Avoid electronics with blue light one to two hours before attempting to sleep. Our eyes have a harder time filtering out blue light, which results in the majority of that light passing straight through to the back of our retinas. This energizes the mind, resulting in a more difficult time falling asleep.
- If you wake up tired, with headaches, need caffeine after lunch, or you get up to relieve yourself multiple times during the night, something that your readers could do is take an at-home sleep test to ascertain what their sleep hygiene is. Everyone deserves to wake up feeling well rested and healthy.
What would you advise someone who wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep?
Truthfully, I would want to empower that patient with as much information as I could. There’s an infinite number of variables which might affect an individual’s sleep hygiene. I might recommend that the patient take an at-home-sleep test to allow us to have the most scientific data to make an assessment off of.
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?
Keep your naps short. Naps can be very good at allowing the mind to rest, when they’re short. Ten minutes can be beneficial but be mindful to keep your nap under thirty minutes or risk waking up more tired. The grogginess one experiences after a nap is called sleep inertia. The longer that you’re sleep, the more likely you are to experience that. The worse that feeling is, the more time you’ll need to wake up and get back to your daily tasks.
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. 🙂
Dolly Parton! In my opinion, she is hands down one of the best, and one of my most favorite, humans. She manages to stay current and has been throughout her entire life. She’s a national treasure.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Your readers can follow our blog, found at https://www.sleepcyclecenters.com/blog/. They can also find us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/SleepCycleCenterATX/, Instagram https://www.instagram.com/sleepcyclecenter_/?hl=en, or YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrg36OaDBYhHuxVWAWXWr_A.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!