Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Insomnia Relief: an interview with Dr Michael Breus

Michael Breus, Ph.D., author of

Following my review of his book Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health (DUTTON an imprint of Penguin Group Inc., New York, 2006, ISBN 0525949798, HC, 326 p.) Dr Breus kindly agreed to answer questions I had about the topic of sleep in education, a couple of children's sleep issues, and polyphasic sleep.

Hello, Dr. Breus. Thank you for joining us for this interview. I found your book to be absolutely fascinating!

1. On page 11 of your book, you tell us that "75 percent of us have symptoms of a sleep problem on a regular basis." That's a staggering number of people who are not getting their beauty sleep! What are your thoughts on including a unit about sleep in high-school health classes?

This is a great idea and one I would love to pursue. I wish I had the contacts. I would at the very least like to put a chapter or two on sleep in a Health book.

2. In chapter four you talk about the importance of making the bedroom an anxiety-free, sleep-only space. Since older students (6th through 12th grades, 11 to 17 year olds) often do their homework in their bedrooms, and homework can be a high-anxiety task, should the bedroom be a homework-free space as well?

Wow, my kids are so small I never thought of that (my kids are 5 and 3 ½). Now that you mention it I would say yes, they should have a quiet place to do their homework outside of the bedroom.

3. On page 256 I was very shocked to learn that "the number of kids ages ten to nineteen who take prescription sleep remedies jumped by 85 percent" between the years 2000 and 2004!

Isn't this an alarming trend?

This scares me for many reasons. First, that there are that many kids who are taking a sleep aid (prescription -- who knows how many kids are taking OTC’s like Tylenol PM.), and second, that there are that many docs who are willing to prescribe them at this age.

Why do so many children need prescription sleep medications?

I would think that they don't need them. In most cases these problems can be solved with behavioral methods, and quite honestly better parenting. But I can sympathize with some parents that getting kids to sleep can be both incredibly frustrating and sleep depriving.

What can we do to reduce those numbers?

Make parents aware of other solutions, non-pharmacologic and behavioral in nature.

4. We know that all five stages of sleep are important to help us feel better and look younger. I have often wondered, does the use of pharmaceutical sleep aids allow a person to experience all five sleep stages, or does drug-induced sleep cause people to miss important stages of the sleep cycle?

This was a factor in older sleep medication called the Benzodiazepines. These medications would knock you out into Stage 1 and 2 sleep but deprived you of stages 3, 4, and REM. The newer medications actually will maintain your current architecture (even if it is not so good). I am aware of no sleep aid that will actually increase deep sleep.

5. What is your opinion of polyphasic sleep, often referred to as the Uberman sleep schedule, in which a person naps 20 to 30 minutes every four hours throughout the day instead of sleeping several hours at one time? Have any studies been done on this to prove or disprove that people who practice this type of sleep skip most of the sleep stages and go directly (or almost directly) to REM sleep as some people have speculated?

I actually posted on his blog about the technique. There are pros and cons to it. It will not hurt you per se, but as he noted it had some significant drawbacks.

First, you are awake when no one else is, and there is just so much internet surfing you really can do.

Next, you cannot go out for more than about 2.5 hours -- so it is really hard to get much done.

Many people have reported that they feel less refreshed after polyphasic sleep, but there is not a lot of data on it as of yet.

As for actual sleep stages, what we see is that it is quite hard for the body to throw itself into any particular stages unless it is sleep deprived.

6. In closing, is there anything you would particularly like to say to today's readers?

Sweet Dreams!

Thanks again for being with us today!

I am delighted to have this book in my toolkit to recommend to stress-management clients as well as to other holistic practitioners. You can learn more about Dr. Breus and his book Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health, by visiting his website www.soundsleepsolutions.com . You will find many articles about a variety of sleep problems, and you may also subscribe to his free "Sleep eNewzzzletter!" Don't forget to visit "The Insomnia Blog" http://www.theinsomniablog.com/ where you may find not only great posts to read, but you can listen to several podcasts of Dr. Breus sharing his expertise in order to help you to overcome your sleep problems!


Geraldine said...

very interesting M! I have been an insomniac waaaaaaaaaaaay too long. One relief has been sleeping on an 'air' bed, its quite amazing really, how well J and I both sleep on one of these mattresses, it is consistent too.

thanks for the info on this important topic. Email when you can ok. Hugggs....

Michelle said...

Hi G, Great to see you!! I like air mattresses, too. :-)

kristen said...

I also sleep fantastically well on air beds for some reason. We're thinking of switching to one of these permanently.

Michelle said...

Hi Kristen,

I think that air truly conforms and supports a person and that's what makes these mattresses so comfortable.

I split my time between two locations, and in one I have an air mattress, in the other I have a waterbed (which I have slept on for 35 years). They're both fantastic! :-)