Sleep is the most natural process that you can do other than breathing. Like breathing, we don't need technology to help us sleep. The reason many people don't sleep is because of what's between their ears – their mental stability, anguish, or stress. Do you fall asleep easily or does the slightest noise wake you up? Dr. Michael Breus, gives me a full brain dump as I try to learn everything I can about sleep in one session. He takes on taboo ideas like polyphasic sleep and the role of nutrition and the microbiome in having a good night’s rest, how melatonin, CBD, and some pharmaceutical interventions such as Zolpidem affect the sleep process, how much sleep we should have, and more.
Pablos: The thing I'm trying to go after is that at least my way of seeing the world is through all these problems that we have. This is a pile of problems that are possibly growing. We also have this other pile, which is tools and technologies, and it's also growing because of what I mentioned. The job for us is to figure out how we sit in the middle and connect to those things. If we have some optimism that it's possible and we can demystify the problems so people understand what the real problems are, we can demystify the technology so they're not terrifying and complicated.
People then can build that sense of optimism about how we could make the future better. That's how I think about things a lot. Not only the idea here is to give people some insight into how we think about things and our experiences. One of the things I'm curious about is that years ago, there was no such thing as a sleep doctor. Maybe there were some researchers or whatever, but it wasn't a legitimate career track. How did you end up being a sleep doctor? What does that mean?
Michael: What's interesting about the field of sleep medicine in general is it's an incredibly small new field. The very first sleep lab in 1945, Walla Walla, Washington, built demand on narcolepsy. It wasn't even about sleep apnea. When you look at medicine and you think about Hippocrates. Thousands of years of innovations in medicine, we're literally at the sperm and egg stage of sleep medicine. That's where it was. I fell into it by accident. I was doing my residency. I was getting my PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of Georgia and I was interested in Sports Psychology. I had no interest in sleep at all. I wanted to tell athletes how to get the mental game of sports and run faster into all this cool shit with psychology.
I went to the University of Georgia, the top twenty programs. The best internship residency program, believe it or not, is the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. They had an eating disorders and athletes program that I was fascinated with. This was going to be an interesting area for me to get into and understand more about, but I couldn't get into the program. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, they all got in the program. I went to Georgia's top twenty programs, but to be fair, it wasn't Harvard.
It wasn't even top seventeen.
I'm sitting there, I'm looking through the application and they have like a specialty track for sleep medicine and a specialty track for neuropsychological testing. I didn't know anything about sleep medicine in Jackson.
You figured out, “I can't get on a program I want, but I can at least go to Jackson.”
I had an ulterior motive because when I saw this thing, I had worked my way through graduate school in the Electrophysiology department. I'm the kid who used to take the old rotary phones apart, put them back together, there would be 4 or 5 pieces on the side, and this thing would work like a gem.
I took the phone apart for different reasons and did not get it back together.
I like to tinker with stuff. I like to measure stuff. I have that kind of a brain. When I saw that there was a sleep track that used those machines, I said, “I'm going to sell myself as a sleep guy. I'm