Dr. Elie Gottlieb of SleepScore Labs: “Only use your bed for sleep and sex”

Only use your bed for sleep and sex. You want your brain to only associate the bedroom with the two things that start with the letter S. Using your bed as an entertainment station tricks your brain into associating the bed with activities and behaviors other than sleep. It’s the same reason sleep experts generally […]

Thrive Global invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive Global or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

Only use your bed for sleep and sex. You want your brain to only associate the bedroom with the two things that start with the letter S. Using your bed as an entertainment station tricks your brain into associating the bed with activities and behaviors other than sleep. It’s the same reason sleep experts generally recommend that people get out of bed if they can’t fall or stay asleep — the last thing we want your brain associating the bedroom with is being awake!

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. Elie Gottlieb, Ph.D.

Dr. Elie Gottlieb, PhD is an Applied Sleep Scientist at SleepScore Labs — the sleep science company that enables leading organizations and companies to strengthen their health and wellness offerings, proven through better sleep. He leads innovation through strategic and transformational sleep and circadian rhythm science across Fortune 100, startup, and academic sectors. He has published award-winning clinical research in high-impact scientific journals and book chapters. Dedicated to the communication of sleep science, he has been an invited speaker at international academic conferences and is featured as a topical expert on sleep and circadian rhythm biotech.

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?

Thank you for having me! I’ve spent the past 10 years — all of my adult life — as a sleep and circadian rhythm researcher and applied scientist. I have a PhD in sleep neuroscience, and I’ve worked internationally across academic institutions, Fortune 100 companies, and, as of last month, a transformational sleep science company, SleepScore Labs, with the goal of improving millions of lives through the power of sleep. The science is clear — sleep is our superpower, and our dream team is steadfast on making it happen.

My introduction to the wonderful and complex world of sleep began during my undergraduate psychology studies when I was serendipitously assigned to a pre-requisite research project investigating the impact of blue light on sleep. I found what is now generally considered common knowledge: excessive use of bright screens before sleep delays our internal clock (also known as our circadian rhythm), and blue-light filtering amber lenses appear to improve sleep-wake patterns. I subsequently enrolled in a psychology of dreams course that fanned the flame — ironic, given most college students are chronically sleep deprived and most of us were deep in REM sleep during lectures.

What followed was an edifying experience at Johnson & Johnson aiming to crack the code to life-long health through behavior-based disease prevention, a PhD 10,000 miles away from home at the University of Melbourne in Australia assessing sleep-wake problems in people with stroke, and a post-doctoral position at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health investigating sleep and circadian rhythm disruption in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Throughout these disparate opportunities the goal was the same: harness the power of sleep to improve overall health and wellness.

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

I see my path through two lenses — inspired by compassionate, available, and sagacious human beings, and a general discontent with the archaic sleep technologies that have been considered gold-standard for over 60 years.

During my doctoral work, I had the privilege of working with stroke survivors who so graciously and altruistically devoted their time and energy to my research. Our goal was to understand how sleep and circadian problems contributed to the risk of having a stroke, and how sleep disturbances after a stroke compromised recovery. Participation in this research program was, to say the least, time consuming.

Study volunteers underwent hours of MRI scans to image different parts of the brain, rigorous neuropsychological tests to evaluate cognition, 24-hour urine collection to gauge the production of important sleep-wake hormones like melatonin, and a relatively invasive sleep test using a device known as PSG (short for polysomnography) to measure sleep and diagnose sleep disorders. And throughout all of these tests, never once did a participant complain. Not a peep. These angels weren’t compensated for their time, they were simply passionately curious about wielding sleep as a therapeutic for future generation’s health and wellness — as am I. Their strength, resilience, and wisdom have inspired me to continue the fight against sleep problems that are ubiquitous in today’s society. In order to do this, objective, accurate, and unobtrusive sleep technologies with actionable sleep insights must be accessible to hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

Since the 1960s, polysomnography has been used in both clinical and research settings to monitor sleep. To this day, it remains the “gold-standard” for measuring sleep and detecting sleep disorders. But it comes with some major tradeoffs: it’s expensive, intrusive, and generally only capable of measuring sleep for a few nights at a time. This isn’t to deter those needing a formal sleep test — the risk of an undiagnosed sleep disorder going undetected far outweighs the inconvenience of having the test. However, polysomnography may not be suitable for millions of consumers without sleep disorders that want an objective and non-invasive way to track their sleep on a nightly basis. Recent advancements in sleep measurement technologies have revolutionized the sleep monitoring space, and I’ve been fortunate enough to find a company, SleepScore Labs, devoted to sleep science and innovation. They share my vision to improve the lives of millions of people by empowering consumers, clients, and partners to make sleep a non-negotiable priority.

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’m a sleep neuroscientist by training, and I have conducted, published, and presented research on a diverse range of topics and populations. During my undergraduate research, I examined the effects of blue-light blocking filters and amber lenses to normalize sleep-wake patterns in chronically sleep deprived college students. At Johnson & Johnson, I led a team of research assistants and guided the strategic vision for a sub-study on sleep in a landmark long-term health study. As part of my PhD, I used novel sleep, circadian rhythm, and MRI technologies to investigate the bidirectional impact of stroke on sleep-wake dysfunction. During a subsequent post-doctoral position, I oversaw and led a sleep program designed to assess the relationship between sleep and different forms of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia. Today, as an Applied Sleep Scientist at SleepScore Labs, I support the creation of new sleep improvement features, content, and strategies anchored in science.

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?

The science fiction novella “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang had a profound emotional and existential impact on me. The film adaptation “Arrival” by legendary filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is also astonishingly reflective and beautiful. It’s also a rare breed; it’s as smart as it pretends to be. It raises a simple but provocative question: if you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things? “Story of Your Life” also addresses the question of free will — if you know what’s going to happen, can you keep it from happening? How do we deal with the inevitable? Why is time linear, and why can’t we remember our future? What would happen if we could? If you’re into cerebral sci-fi, then Arrival and “Story of Your Life” is a must-watch/read.

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

Allan Rechtschaffen is a sleep pioneer notable for some of the first studies on narcolepsy, insomnia, and sleep deprivation. He once said that “If sleep does not serve an absolutely vital function, then it’s the biggest mistake the evolutionary process has ever made.” Here, Rechtschaffen is referring to how absolutely idiotic sleep is from an evolutionary perspective. And I don’t mean to be daft. We spend approximately one third of our lives sleeping. While asleep, we’re not mating, we’re not childbearing, we’re not foraging for food, and we’re extraordinarily vulnerable to predation. There must be some essential biological function for this enigmatic and dynamic behavior we call sleep. Researchers are now identifying the widespread effects of insufficient sleep on most physiological and psychological functions. This quote informs my professional work on the fundamental importance of sleep. Perhaps more importantly, it serves as a personal reminder that sleepless nights come at a tremendous, yet preventable, cost.

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?

Sleep drastically changes throughout the lifespan. The quantity and quality of our sleep can be used as an aperture through which we can view the brain — both its development, and its aging.

In newborns and infants, there’s evidence that deep sleep drives brain maturation, with the recommended amount of sleep for newborns being between 14–17 hours a day according to the National Sleep Foundation. Adolescent youth are often denigrated as being lazy for staying up late, being unable to wake-up in time for school, and thus sleeping in class. Biologically, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Teenagers’ biological clocks change during puberty, causing a phase delay of their circadian rhythm. As a result, they tend to fall asleep later and wake up later. This pattern presents as a kind of perpetual “social jetlag” where student’s internal clocks misalign with their need to get up and go to bed early for school. Recent research has looked at the feasibility and effectiveness of delaying school start times to improve sleep in adolescents and children. Preliminary findings by Dr. Lisa Meltzer have shown that delaying school start times significantly reduces teen sleep deprivation by adding up to 45 minutes of sleep.

For the average adult between 18–60, it’s generally recommended to get at least 7 hours or more hours of sleep a night according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. However, there is no exact, set amount of sleep that the average adult needs. According to some epidemiological studies, there may even be a “goldilocks zone” where getting both too little and too much sleep may be pathological. It’s important to highlight that these are averages across large populations. Individual sleep differences exist. Sleep, like most behavior, is heavily influenced by genetic and environmental factors. It’s therefore important to take a personalized approach to both your sleep and your chronotype (morning lark vs. night owl).

Ask yourself the following questions: if you didn’t set an alarm, would you significantly oversleep and not wake up on time? Do you find it difficult remembering things and thinking clearly throughout the day? Are you unable to function at your peak before noon without caffeine or stimulants? If the answer to any of those questions was yes, one potential explanation may be that you’re not getting enough sleep.

Hallmarks of sleep changes in older adults after the age of 60 include a reduction in sleep duration, an increase in sleep fragmentation, and an overall reduction in the electric “intensity” of deep sleep. In contrast to adolescents, circadian timing also significantly shifts forward in older adults, leading to earlier bedtimes and earlier waketimes. According to Dr. Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley neuroscientist and sleep evangelist, “[the notion] that older adults simply need less sleep is a myth. Older adults appear to need just as much sleep as they do in midlife, but are simply less able to generate that (still necessary) sleep.”

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?

You may not like my answers: 1) both and, 2) it depends, but for most people, neither. There’s a growing body of evidence suggesting that enforcing a bedtime and wake-time that is inconsistent with a person’s chronotype may result in shift work-like consequences — of which, the list is remarkably long, ranging from an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity to depression and other psychiatric ailments, to name a few. Humans are diurnal creatures, biologically primed to sleep at night and be awake during the day. The amount of sleeping hours is also critically important. Sleeping seven hours a night for 10 days, although thought to be sufficient for most, has been shown to induce cognitive impairments similar to being sleep deprived for 24 hours.

There are, however, two exceptions. The first is based on a recent finding of people known as “sleepless elites” with an extremely rare genetic variant known as BHLHE41. These lucky few have extremely short sleep duration with consolidated NREM (deep) sleep and appear resistant to the overwhelming effects of sleep deprivation. Fascinating, right? Unfortunately, the short sleep gene appears to be rare, found in only three percent of people. The second exception would be if an individual is a true night owl determined by their genetic disposition. However, this is yet another rare trait. Most people are “intermediates” preferring a schedule seeing them rise at approximately 8 AM and going to bed by around midnight.

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?

My mind is exploding with examples of the wonderful things that happen when we get sufficient quality sleep, and the alarming things that happen when we don’t get enough. Let’s start with the positive: sleep improves memory, sleep can prevent weight gain, sleep strengthens the heart, sleep improves mood and creativity, sleep may improve skin hydration and barrier function, sleep is natural performance and productivity enhancer, and sleep strengthens immunity and fertility. I want to emphasize that this isn’t hyperbole. I wasn’t being facetious when I said sleep is our superpower. I’ve linked some primary sources to each statement, and there are countless others I can provide if you’re interested.

There’s also the dark side, for which I’ll be brief: sleep deprivation affects nearly every physiological process in the body, and we’ve yet to identify one psychiatric disorder without an accompanying sleep-wake disturbance. The old adage is true: a ruffled mind (and I’d add body) makes a restless pillow, and vice versa.

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?

If there was a magic pill that you could take to improve mood, enhance cognition and brain health, aid weight management, thwart the development of neurodegenerative disease, and strengthen the immune system, and much more — all with no side-effects and, best of all, without costing you a penny — wouldn’t you prioritize taking that pill every night?

I believe sleep is the single most effective health pillar at resetting and restoring our brain and body. However, there’s an important point that I’d like to make clear: sleep isn’t something we should try to force to make happen; just as we don’t usually force ourselves to breathe. Sleep naturally occurs as a result of two processes: our circadian rhythm (our biological clock), and sleep pressure or “sleep drive” (the longer we stay awake, the higher this pressure). We can prioritize sleep by allowing sufficient sleep time and avoiding certain behaviors or environmental triggers that are known to negate these two processes. I recognize that, for many, this is easier said than done.

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?

  1. I believe the first blockade preventing us from prioritizing sleep is the result of a cognitive barrier to decision making known as overconfidence bias. This happens when we overestimate the reliability of our judgements. It’s particularly relevant for those of us that think we’re working at peak capacity (both mentally and physically) despite not getting sufficient sleep. When sleep deprived, this is amplified; we consistently underestimate the degree to which our cognition is impaired. One cognitive function that especially buckles under the pressure of sleep deprivation is concentration and reaction time. These deadly societal consequences play out in the form of drowsy driving and remain a significant contributor to road trauma and death worldwide. It is one of the many reasons researchers have started developing objective roadside tests for fatigue. Perhaps drowsy driving and fatigue should be legally enforceable similar to the ways speeding and blood alcohol content are. Although caffeine and other stimulants can mask the effects of sleep deprivation, the only true solution for sleepiness is…sleep. And enough of it. Recognizing this bias by appreciating the consequences of sleep deprivation may help us to prioritize sleep and remove this obstacle.
  2. The second blockade has to do with societal values of hyper-productivity over proper sleep and health & wellness — all of which impact our quality of life. Unfortunately, far too many people in positions of power use insufficient sleep as a “token” for their productivity and success. When is the last time you heard someone publicly brag about getting enough, rather than too little, sleep? We need to switch the narrative, particularly for workplace productivity. Fatigue at work costs U.S. companies nearly $140 billion dollars a year, and sleep deprived workers are also twice as likely to miss work. Lack of sleep contributes to poor team communication, vulnerability to stress, and even workplace errors and omissions. Several infamous accidents including the Chernobyl disaster, Exxon oil spill, and Challenger explosion are thought to be at least indirectly caused by excessive sleepiness. It’s time to flip the narrative by praising, prioritizing, and even incentivizing optimal sleep.
  3. Life happens. Sometimes we’re simply unable to put certain actions into practice despite recognizing their importance. Be gentle, kind and compassionate to yourself when you miss a night of optimal sleep — or if you’re lying in bed realizing you’ll only be able to get 6 hours of sleep that night. Anxiety and depression are sleep’s worst nightmare. An overactive sympathetic nervous system due to anxiety can increase stress hormones like cortisol making it more difficult to fall and stay asleep. There’s also a vicious reciprocal relationship between stress and sleep: poor sleep is associated with vulnerability to stress, while stress has a cascading negative effect on sleep. If you’re reading this, you’ve already won half the battle: you’re likely already beginning to recognize the importance of sleep, and eager to learn methods to prioritize and improve it.

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

I believe environmental sleep disruptors are more prevalent today. Take, for example, artificial light. We know that light is arguably the single most powerful environmental cue influencing the circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycle. Exposure to broad spectrum daylight in the morning hours helps synchronize our internal clock, but excessive bright light too close to bedtime can have a detrimental effect on the production of melatonin. Today, we’re bombarded with excessive and artificial bright light from smart phones, tablets, and laptops that may influence our circadian rhythms.

On the flipside, an explosion of technological advancements in the sleep space has led to the development of solutions to counteract some of these disruptors. Lighting solutions such as blue light blocking amber lenses and light therapy glasses may help us take back control of our circadian rhythms. Non-contact sleep trackers also allow us to non-invasively track our sleep and receive personalized, science-backed advice and insights.

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. Sleep Hygiene. For those not suffering from a sleep disorder, basic sleep hygiene may be an effective first plan of attack. If you’ve followed the sleep space or ever googled “how do I get a better night’s sleep,” these three points may sound familiar:
  • Consistency is key. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day — even on weekends (I know, I’m sorry…) It’s a simple yet effective strategy for getting a good night’s sleep. Your brain adores consistency and routine.
  • Cut the stimulants and the alcohol. Avoid alcohol before bed and caffeine 12 hours before sleep. The half-life of caffeine is 6 hours. That means it takes approximately 10–12 hours for caffeine to be cleared from your bloodstream. For many, that means drinking coffee no later than midday. Remember, both alcohol and caffeine are potent REM sleep inhibitors. You may think you can get away with having a late coffee or nightcap, but an EEG of your nighttime brain activity will likely reveal predominately light sleep riddled with arousals, fragmentation, and scarce deep sleep.
  • Think dark or dim. As I discussed, light is the single more powerful environmental cue influencing our circadian rhythm. The brain is maximally sensitive to blue-wavelength light. However, most light will have an effect on your circadian rhythm and production of melatonin if bright enough. It’s best to limit bright lights in the 3–4 hours leading up to bedtime so as not to disturb the natural production of melatonin.

2. Air: The Thing of Life. Air pollution is an unfortunate consequence of modernization, and air quality is an often-overlooked component for healthy sleep. According to landmark studies published in The Lancet, air pollution contributes to chronic disease burden. Authors of a 2021 systematic review published in the journal Sleep Medicine found that air pollutants are potential triggers for poor sleep quality. Pure air in and around the bedroom may be a novel way to improve sleep — a hypothesis that has been supported in a recent validation study conducted by SleepScore Labs. The study, published as a conference abstract in the journal SLEEP, found that healthy participants with the poorest sleep using the Alen BreatheSmart 45i Air Purifier had improved sleep efficiency and a reduction in the amount of wake after sleep. Allergens in the air can also wreak havoc on our sleep. Powerful air purifiers may be useful devices to help you breathe and sleep throughout the night.

3. Positive Psychology. Charlotte Bronte once said, “A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow”. How can we unruffle the mind before drifting off? The field of positive psychology may have some answers. Before neuroscience, I studied philosophy during the first few years of my undergraduate degree. One concept that I vividly recall gravitating toward was Aristotle’s “eudaimonia,” closely translated to “human flourishing” and modernly translated as “happiness”. The field of positive psychology focuses on this ancient Greek concept of eudaimonia to empirically examine the factors that contribute to a fulfilling life. Researchers have found an association between positive affect and sleep quality, and certain positive psychology interventions have even demonstrated promising results across medicine and sleep science, even if preliminary.

  • Mindfulness meditation is one positive psychology solution you may want to incorporate into your pre-sleep routine. It refers to the ability to be fully present and aware of where you are and what you’re doing. A randomized clinical trial found significant improvements in sleep quality and daytime impairments in older adults undergoing a guided mindful awareness practice. The formal program (available online here: https://www.uclahealth.org/marc/default.cfm) included mindful sitting meditation, mindful eating, appreciation meditation, friendly or loving-kindness meditation, mindful walking, and mindful movement.
  • Gratitude is another quintessential positive psychology solution that involves an overall positive orientation toward the world — some preliminary data supports a positive effect of gratitude on sleep. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that gratitude predicted better sleep quality and duration, and (similar to the mindfulness finding) less daytime dysfunction. The authors noted that positive pre-sleep cognition also had a positive effect on sleep, and that gratitude may have facilitated these positive thoughts, leading to superior sleep quality. These findings have been replicated in 2015 study published in the Journal of Health Psychology. In that study, two weeks of a gratitude intervention increased well-being, optimism, and sleep quality. To make gratefulness a part of your pre-sleep routine, you can jot down a few things from the day you’re thankful for, take a few minutes to tell someone how much you appreciate them, or even write a full-fledged letter thanking a loved one for their impact on your life. Your sleep will thank you!

4. Harness the power of technology. Sleep technology is ubiquitous nowadays, and I personally love that new technologies and companies are empowering millions of people worldwide to become more aware of their sleep. The sleep field is still in its infancy, and until recently, has significantly lacked urgency. If you experience chest pains or trouble breathing, you go to the ER. But how often do people go to the ER for sleep deprivation or potential sleep disorders? As I discussed earlier, we’ve even been using the same technology for clinical sleep monitoring (polysomnography) since the 1960s. While consumer sleep technologies haven’t fully replaced clinical devices, they can help the average person become more aware of their sleep patterns and related behaviors influencing their sleep. For example, I recently started drinking what I thought was non-caffeinated tea before bed. After tracking my sleep on the SleepScore app, I noticed that my weekly sleep score was lower than usual, and my wake time during sleep was higher than usual. Sure enough, after further investigation, “winter night’s jasmine tea” is a pretty sly misnomer and not caffeine free. Knowledge is power, and the data provided by sleep trackers can give us an inside look at an otherwise difficult behavior to objectively measure.

5. Create a sleep oasis. Your bedroom is where the magic happens: sleep. Ensuring that your bedroom is conducive to supporting your sleep by limiting certain stressors can help you get the sleep you need and feel refreshed the next morning. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Only use your bed for sleep and sex. You want your brain to only associate the bedroom with the two things that start with the letter S. Using your bed as an entertainment station tricks your brain into associating the bed with activities and behaviors other than sleep. It’s the same reason sleep experts generally recommend that people get out of bed if they can’t fall or stay asleep — the last thing we want your brain associating the bedroom with is being awake!
  • Find a comfortable mattress, sheets, and pillow. We spend a third of our lives on them, so invest in a bedding set that is comfortable, breathable, and supportive. If you’ve used the same uncomfortable mattress for years, you owe it to your sleep for a change.
  • Black out blinds. Research has shown that even minimal levels of overnight bright light can have a negative impact on our sleep. Excessive ambient lighting during the night can delay the production of melatonin and increase overnight awakenings. Reducing bright lights before bed and overnight ambient light through black out blinds may help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep.
  • Keep it cool and quiet. On average, people who sleep in a room that is 65 degrees or lower sleep nearly 30 minutes longer than those in a room with a temperature that’s 77 degrees or higher. Loud overnight noises can also wreak havoc on your overnight awakenings. Keep your room comfortably cool and invest in a white noise machines to mask overnight sounds (or ear buds to totally block them out).

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

Get out of bed, go to a separate dim room if possible, and do something relaxing and uninteresting like re-read a book, or listen to some relaxing music. It’s important to not focus on the clock. Watching the clock and marking the minutes you’ve been awake can make you stressed and anxious. Take as much time as you need to do something relaxing. Once you begin to feel sleepy, return to bed and try some deep breathing exercises. A simple one to remember is the three-part breathing exercise: 1) take a long, deep inhale, 2) exhale fully while focusing on how your body feels when you release the breath, and 3) begin to slow your exhale so that it’s twice as long as in your inhale.

It’s also important to understand the “why” of nighttime awakenings. By identifying potential triggers, you can take a personalized approach to try and ensure it doesn’t become a nightly occurrence. Do you suspect it’s a sleep habit that may keep you from falling asleep and staying asleep? Some examples of disruptors can include: an inconsistent sleep schedule, excessive bright lights before bed, a nightcap, caffeine too close to bed, or smoking. There can also be physical problems that you can speak to your health care professional about. Examples can include pain, breathing troubles, digestive issues, and frequent urination. There may also be psychological contributors, particularly stress or anxiety. Sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless legs syndrome can also cause you to wake up throughout the night. No matter the potential cause, if you’re regularly waking up in the middle of the night and unable to fall back asleep it may be a good idea to speak with your doctor.

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?

Napping is highly individualized, and a number of factors influence the benefits of naps including age, past experience with naps, and even culture (e.g., Spanish siestas). It’s also important to recognize why you may want to nap. Is it because you’re sleep deprived and need a quick fix? It’s undeniable that naps have short term benefits to mood, alertness, and cognitive performance. However, it’s important to remember that naps cannot fully restore performance levels if sleep deprived.

Do you simply enjoy taking naps? There are strong age and cultural components to naps that are part of a “bi-phasic” sleep pattern including a siesta (longer than 1 hour), or a power nap (less than 30 minute). Interestingly, in small villages of Greece where siestas remain, men are four times as likely to reach 90 compared to American men. However, more research is needed to tease apart these findings.

If you typically enjoy naps, I’d recommend limiting them to 10 minutes. This may sound short, but studies show that 10 minute naps, but not 30 minute naps, provide short-term boosts in performance without the side effect of sleep inertia (that grogginess you feel after waking up from a deep sleep). The time of day you nap is also crucial to ensuring they don’t interfere with your main nighttime sleep period. I would recommend napping before 3PM. This will satisfy your midday dip while still having a minimal effect on your body’s internal sleepiness (sleep pressure) that will help you fall asleep during the nighttime.

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. 🙂

Can I pick 2? Craig Ferguson for his wit and humility, and the only talk show host able to keep up with the legendary Robin Williams. His “Late Late Show” brought me countless laughs (like, the crying kind of hysterical laughs) over the years. The second would be Professor Matthew Walker. He’s a master orator and sleep science communicator. I’m absolutely in awe of his ability to discuss sleep in a way that is insightful, actionable, and transformative.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow me on @ElieGottlieb on Twitter, and @Elie Gottlieb on LinkedIn.

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

Thank you for providing this platform and for highlighting sleep the importance of sleep to countless people worldwide!

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...



by Tyler Gallagher
Woman Sleeping

Stress Free Slumber: 5 Ways to the Perfect Bedtime Routine

by Amy Jackson

Dr. Marie-Helene Pelletier: “Protect the hour before going to bed”

by Tyler Gallagher
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.