(Breather) I had such a great time speaking to sleep expert Jeff Kahn that we kept the mic running well after our first conversation was technically over, and it turned into quite a fascinating conversation.
In this breather show, you’ll learn about the “sleep placebo effect” and why some people are actually more affected by their sleep debt than others are. You’ll also learn about the many different ways to measure sleep quality (there are eight!), and how to effectively deal with, and eradicate, the distracting thoughts that can come flooding in right before bedtime.
You’ll also learn about why “stimulus control” is actually the best, research-backed way to reverse insomnia, and why it’s so important to do whatever you can to not stress about your sleeping patterns when you’re having trouble sleeping through the night or even falling asleep. Enjoy learning even more from this incredible sleep expert, and check out Rise here.
If we happen to have a night of imperfect sleep, maybe don’t worry about it. [01:30]
Individuals have different sensitivities to sleep debt. [03:48]
Sleep placebo is that if you are told that whatever sleep you got last night was good quality, you actually perform better. [06:28]
There are about eight different measures of sleep quality, and still, it is hard to define. [07:57]
If you are having trouble with thoughts when you are trying to fall asleep, it’s a good idea to write things down or get out of bed and do something else. [10:26]
If we are in sleep debt and really needing sleep, are we going to get a deeper more efficient sleep? [13:11]
Don’t stress about your imperfect night of sleep. [18:31]
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Brad (1m 30s): Oh, I love the kind of breathers shows that emanate from keeping the mic on after a formal interview show is over. And that is just what you’re going to get with sleep expert. Jeff Khan, we had a wonderful show, so many amazing insights it ended or near the end. I asked my question about the wimp factor because I’m such a little whiskey boy when I don’t get my sleep and I feel so bad and I’m cranky about it the next day. And I have to take a nap or even a second nap and everything’s going to be perfect. And then meanwhile, Mia Moore, she’s like a machine. She can go operate just fine on an extremely diminished night asleep and then just sleep hard the next night. Brad (2m 11s): So we sort out some of these insights and notions that we harbor about sleep again with Jeff pointing to the science and really helping to cut through some of the misinformation or the misunderstandings that are out there. So in regard to the wimp factor that I asked him about, he actually mentioned two things. There is such a thing known as the sleep placebo effect, and maybe we can consider this and leverage it a little bit and change our attitude. If we happen to have a night of imperfect sleep or a period of time of imperfect sleep, maybe not worry about it. Especially people that have minor insomnia, the actual instruction is to get up out of bed. Brad (2m 55s): The second thing he mentioned was that we indeed have individual differences and sensitivities to missing sleep and how we function the following day. So we have to definitely be vigilant about that and kind of over time, especially as we’re using his Rise app, we can track the level of sleep debt and what correlates to behavior changes during the day. So we know that we’re getting in trouble. If we’ve two or three or four hours of sleep debt accumulated from the previous week or two weeks. So you’re going to get a lot of cool insights. And of course, in a casual format off the cuff conversation, after that wonderful interview show, which I hope you’ll listen to the whole thing in its entirety, and then piggyback this little breather show. Brad (3m 45s): Jeff Kahn, here we go with more sensitivity to sleep loss. Jeff (3m 49s): So they’re sort of with sleep debt. What makes it even a bit more complex is that depending on the active activity, you’re doing different people have different sensitivities to sleep. So you and I, both Brad might have six hours, but your athletic performance might be more affected than mine. For example, even what’d you call it the Brad (4m 11s): Sleep placebo effect and what’s the second one. Jeff (4m 13s): So this one is just a, they call it like inter individual differences with sleep debt that we might have different sensitivities to sleep debt. So we both might have six hours, but for me, I may be I’m my, my physiological performance may be much more impacted than yours is six hours. Brad (4m 37s): Oh, this is great. Or, you know, we both might have six hours sleep debt. And my metabolism might only be down 18% and yours is down, you know, 38%. So it’s significant, You know, the methylation of the chemicals, the hormones and neurotransmitters and all those things are, you know, clearly off. And in my case, I can attest to it that I’m just, I’m just not right. And then my partner, Mia Moore, she’s like a, she’s like a robot she’s I know she’s on the low end of that standard deviation because she wakes up and feels fantastic with, you know, an abbreviated night asleep and has really no ill effects. You can’t see any decline. Jeff (5m 17s): she’s alert and she’s awake, Brad (5m 20s): Happy, smiling, not anxious, like the 50% of the people. Jeff (5m 24s): Exactly. And the other study. So she’s probably lower sleep need. And I wouldn’t be, it would be totally normal for you to need nine hours every night. Oh, for sure. Yeah. And that wouldn’t be, if you said I need nine hours or now you’d be like, yeah, like, and there’s some people that are six foot one, like that’s not six nine. So the sleep placebo effect is the last one that will, I can share with you, which is we’re rolling, dude. This is a show right here. And this is too good. Is this like a reprise reprise or a prize? Brad (5m 56s): However, we say that word, I have these breather shows That are, you know, shorter and kind of followups to the full length interviews. So this is, this is too precious to not record. So I’m I’m and listeners, you might’ve missed right before I hit record, I said, I said, Jeff, I’m really concerned about this wimp effect. And I always think about it, like, do I just need to get out of bed and rally? Or am I really one of these people that, you know, the individual sensitivity you just explained? And then, then the placebo effect, I’m going to fasten my seatbelt here. I don’t know if I want to hit the answer or not. Jeff (6m 28s): So, so this is a great one, but there was a study done and they had two groups of people. One of the groups, they said they had them get the same amount of sleep each night. I forget if it was six hours or eight hours. But they basically said regardless of the amount of sleep that they got one group, they told them that they got a very high quality sleep and had more REM than usual. The other thing, right, when they woke up, Hey, we’ve measured your sleep. You have way more quality sleep. You had higher REM than usual. The other group, they told the opposite. And what did they find? So what they were measuring actually was that psychomotor, vigilance task, like it’s this reaction time test that you can’t learn. And it turns out that the group that they told that had quote, unquote, better sleep quality and performing better, even though objectively, there was no difference in the amount of sleep they had. Jeff (7m 15s): And so that’s what, that’s what the sleep placebo effect is that if you are told that whatever sleep you got last night happened to be high quality, you will actually perform better. So, so that’s just kind of crazy that it does affect what you think happened. Certainly affects how you objectively perform and it’s worth considering when you wake up that again, don’t delay your judgment. Talk, think about sleep debt, not about quality, you know, quality. There is no measure for sleep quality. Like you ask a sleep scientist, what sleep quality. They’ll tell you. I have no idea what sleep goal. Wow. Yeah. So Jimmy’s Asher was on a Brad (7m 55s): Analyzer bits of apps, man. Yeah. Jeff (7m 57s): Jamie’s sites are who’s on the, he he’s one of the top circadian scientists sleep scientists in the world and just he’s over at Stanford. And one of the top scientists there, he was on a podcast recently and he’s helped on a bunch of stuff that we’ve done. And I love this sign. This is the host asked him about sleep quality. He said, I have no idea what sleep quality is. And this is like one of the top people. Well, that’s a problem. That’s a problem. Yeah. And the, the sort of more nuanced answer is sleep. Science does have a thing called sleep quality. It’s a high level construct. And there are, you know, about eight different measures of sleep quality. So one measure is when someone wakes up, you asked them, how do you feel inside? Jeff (8m 40s): Another measure is something called sleep efficiency where you measure of the time someone was in bed, what percent of the time were they sleeping? That’s another measure, but you know, there’s so many of these different measures where it’s like, it’s not like there is a thing called sleep quality that is objective in any way. And so don’t worry about that. If you are super, if you’re really restless, unless you’re up in the middle of the night, the reason you feel bad the next day is it because your sleep quality was bad. It’s because you had high sleep debt because you didn’t get as much actual physiological sleep. So as long as you are asleep, you’re doing what you need to be doing so long as you’re not under the influence of external substances or, you know, your sleep disorder, you know, anything kind of long tail like that. Jeff (9m 30s): So, Brad (9m 30s): And I guess a fitful night of sleep is going to be driven by emotional disturbances. Otherwise, when we, when we go to bed, we’re going to sleep unless we get in our own way, I suppose. Jeff (9m 45s): Yeah. In some ways I’m happy to drop a couple things that have worked really well for that. I mean, it’s super common, first of all, to, to have, you know, disturbed sleep, to not be able to fall asleep easily at night. And it’s nothing to worry about. First of all, it’s actually normal to, to have, you know, these sort of intermittent issues. If it’s happening very regularly, you know, like it’s three times a week, every week, you know, every month, that’s something you should bring up with your physician and see if you can spend some time with a behavioral sleep medicine specialist. That’s what is known as insomnia, which is again, just sort of this general categorization of I have difficulty sleeping or staying asleep. Jeff (10m 26s): So there are some really great ways to reverse that, which we won’t talk about now. But, but if you are having just sort of like, Oh my mind’s racing or, Oh, I woke up in the middle of the night. Like just some, I’d say two very kind of research backed approaches. That one is, can you, if your mind is sort of active, just literally detailing or journaling, the things that are in your brain, just putting them down. Like I literally I’ll take out my phone. I’ll I have it on night mode. I have my orange glasses on, by the way, orange glasses, tons of great science behind them. I wear, I’ve worn them every night for the last, you know, six years of my life. I, so orange glasses are great. We can talk about that later too. Jeff (11m 6s): But literally I’ll just jot down the things to my brain and then I’ll go back to bed. And if I’m still, you know, I’m awake and it’s what I’m normally supposed to be sleeping. I actually get out of bed and go do something else, go watch TV, go, listen to podcasts, go hang out, go read tiI’m sleepy and I get back in bed. And that you want to just rinse and repeat that formula. So let’s say you wake up in the middle of the night and you can’t go back to, but you’re just wide awake. If your mind’s racing, jot that stuff down. If you’re still there, you’re like, you know, I’m just awake. Don’t give yourself any of our time about it. Get out of bed, go do something else that you’d like to do. And then when you’re ready to fall asleep and you’re sleeping again, get back in bed. And if you can’t, you don’t fall asleep, literally do the same thing again. Jeff (11m 47s): And that’s called stimulus control. And that is actually the way to reverse. It’s one best way to do it. But it’s, you know, anyway, if you have insomnia, you should do it with a behavioral sleep medicine specialist. But if you don’t, it’s just sort of, you’re looking for what to do. That is the sort of best research backed way to, you know, make sure that you’re falling asleep, staying asleep and again, with sleep debt one night of getting four hours sleep. Okay, that’s fine. You’ll be fine. Don’t you don’t need to worry about it. It actually happened to me yesterday. I had two hours of sleep debt and then I had just like a super fitful night. I was just, I woke up at 3:00 AM. I was just wide awake. So I got out of bed. Jeff (12m 28s): I watched Peaky Blinders. I wasn’t tired. And I think I went back to bed at like 6:00 AM and I got maybe another hour and a half of sleep for two hours of sleep. I think I got maybe five hours total. And so I ended up building up about three hours of sleep debt, but on top of my two, I only had five. So I still felt great that day. You know, I felt really weird the first 90 minutes, but I went out and did my run. I had my coffee started working and I felt, you know, all, all things equal. I felt really good. And then that night I was able to go back to sleep and I paid back, paid him down. And so anyway, it’s nothing to freak out about. Even people that have been studying this for years and years and years, it’s not about perfection. This stuff is a lifelong practice. Brad (13m 11s): What about this concept? That if we are in debt and really needing sleep, are we going to get a deeper more efficient sleep? And so it counts for more, even though it was still only eight hours, then a slightly, maybe had a couple of disturbances. You went up to pee a couple of times and re recall being restless for a little bit, versus just being out like a rock because you were so deprived? Jeff (13m 36s): Yeah. So your, your, your brain will self optimize that. And so you’ll actually get a higher percentage of REM earlier in the night, if you’re very sleep deprived and you’re re REM latency will decrease. So the amount of time it takes your brain to get into room, usually it takes a while cause you’re doing more deep sleep, but if you’re very deprived, you’ll see a higher percentage of REM sleep earlier in the night. And again, what we don’t really know what we know is this is happening, but we don’t really know is what it all means. Exactly. And the sleep staging stuff. Again, your brain is really self optimizing that for you. And if you’re not getting into the deep sleep, the benefit is your brain is doing things like encoding memory and emotion and getting your, you, you ready to be able to have empathy the next day? Jeff (14m 18s): Like, I mean, like all of these other things that are just fundamental to existing, so it’s sort of like hierarchy of needs. Yeah, yeah. Even in the lighter sleep, like wonderful things are happening. So it’s not like, Oh, I don’t want light sleeper. It’s inefficient sleep. That’s not the case. It’s just that it’s sort of, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that if you cut your sleep really short, your brain is going to go to the things that you absolutely need to stay alive. And so in that case argue, we, I guess it’s more efficient, but as you get more and more sleep, as you pay back more and more debt, you’re going to start, your brain will spend more time in things that are sort of actually very important for today’s modern living that maybe weren’t as important when we were sort of hunting and gathering, Brad (14m 59s): Right. This reminds me of Dr. Sara Mednick’s book, Take a Nap, Change your Life. And she said, the nature of your nap is going to be what you’re deficient on. And so you might have a REM nap where you’re, you’re dreaming a lot, or you might have a rock solid, deep sleep nap, or you wake up and feel groggy. And I, people always report, you know, sometimes I take a nap and I wake up and feel super groggy. And other times I wake up and feel refreshed and alert and all that. And so that’s pretty interesting how that, that self optimization occurs. Jeff (15m 31s): Yeah. Yeah. And so that’s just something to be aware of and not trying to force it when right. Don’t worry about it. Yeah. Don’t worry about it. It’s not a thing to focus on. Brad (15m 39s): It’s probably what some of those apps are doing is trying to weight that more deep sleep means more efficient rather than fitful where you’re waking up from dreams where yeah. It’s completely off base from your, your true needs. Jeff (15m 57s): And it’s one, it’s one of the areas where I think Matt Walker and my opinion because of his expertise in sleep and memory, I mean, literally what the guy studies is, Hey, we’re going to selectively deprive people of different stages. And we’re looking at like mechanistically how memory gets encoded based on your sleep. And if we don’t get REM, you know, does this type of memory getting coded or not? So, I mean, like he’s super deep on that mechanism, but I think he’s getting lost in the details and the forest is that your brain self optimizing. So, you know, it’s not like the fact that you’re not getting deep means that you’re getting more of another stage. You’re getting more stage two. And obviously if you have a sleep disorder, you know, or you have, you know, a suboptimal sleep environment where, you know, you’re getting woken up unnecessarily, like then yes, like there’s things we should do, but it’s not inherently an area in my opinion, that as lay people, we should be focused on trying to do anything about. Jeff (16m 54s): And, and so, you know, a really great example of a company, I think doing something great in the space is Apple. They, you know, Apple watches the most popular wearable device. It has some of the most advanced sensors. They have some of the best technologists, some of the best R and D engineers. And if you look at their sleep tracking that they launched with watch OS seven, you’ll see that all they have is the amount of time you were sleeping. That’s all they report. Brad (17m 21s): How are they tracking that? Is it advanced or is it just that the watch was still not moving or? Jeff (17m 27s): They’re using motion, which is a technique called actigraphy. And then they use heart rate. And I don’t know any other data on that, but it’s sensor fusion stuff. But, but what they’re telling you is are you, were you awake or were you asleep? And they’re not telling you REM and sleep quality and deep sleep and how long it took you to fall asleep. And so the question is like, wait, what was as like, they didn’t do it, like look at all these apps, you know, like Fitbit’s doing it. And, you know, sleep cycles telling you how light or deeper sleep was and, you know, whatever, not, I love both of those brands, but what ends up happening is it’s gotten in the way of, it’s confusing to consumers. It’s ultimately not useful information. And, and so anyway, I applaud Apple for the deep scientific research they did and sticking to their guns from a product standpoint to say, we’re not going to include junk in our experience just because it’s gonna, you know, get people to look at it more often. Jeff (18m 21s): That’s not their business model, Brad (18m 24s): Deep research to do a shallow reporting of data. Love it. Jeff (18m 28s): Correct. Yeah. Yup. Brad (18m 31s): So this placebo, I’m wondering how to best leverage that. Like one of the things you said that’s really helpful is don’t stress about your imperfect night of sleep, in fact, get up and putz around. And so if you have less anxiety over your, your sleep perfection, that’s one. And I suppose if you just keep this calculation working your sleep debt, which you reported, obviously you’re, I guess, looking at the app and you always have a number in mind there, hopefully at zero, we know we can’t get into the plus column. You can’t oversleep, which is a really cool insight, but if you’re working on minus two or minus five or whatever, you just kind of have this idea in your mind that you’re going to grab that at some point. Brad (19m 11s): And it’s not, not huge trouble that you’re minus five. Jeff (19m 15s): Yeah. And you’ll feel, I think what’s exciting is once you start measuring it in your life, you’ll be like, Oh, okay. Like here’s how I feel at five. And then you’ll get up to 10 some days and be like, Oh wow. This is what I feel like when I’m at 10. Yeah. That’s why I’m like more anxious than usual. And I’m a little more depressed and I’m not as optimistic as I used to be. And my confidence has been where it used to be. Yeah. I’m not performing as well. Athletic, like you’ll feel at what it’s like at 10 15 and five and three and two. And so you’ll start to be like, Oh, I’m at five tomorrow. Fine. I have, my day, tomorrow is super challenging. I still feel good about, so, you know, for me at five, I can’t even, you know, the early afternoon dip, when you might feel like, you know, one o’clock, two o’clock, you might feel a little bit sleepy. Jeff (19m 57s): So at five, I don’t even feel that if I’m at five hours of sleep debt and when I’m at six or seven, I really feel it. And if I’m at eight, nine, 10, I’m like struggling to stay awake. I can’t focus. I mean, it’s like that whole chunk of my day is kind of gone. I actually don’t feel it as much Brad (20m 15s): Due to the individual differences. I might be the person that says, Hey, at two, I feel terrible. And I needed nap or I can’t function, which is just something to recognize and kind of relate to those numbers. Oh, I’m, I’m all over the Rise app, man. This is, this is great. Thanks for, thanks for sticking around for a breather show. We got, we have another rap, Jeff Kahn man. All right.