088: Dr. Allison Brager, Neurobiologist, Athlete, & Author Of Meathead: Unraveling The Athletic Brain: Neurobiological Effects Of Sleep Deprivation And How To Improve Slumber For Peak Performance

Bros - Listen up ;) T-Levels, Tactical Napping, Caffeine Dosing, Sleep Banking, and more! *And this is not just for men. Get ready to have your mind blown on exactly WHY sleep is crucial to your performance, no matter what area of life you taking on!


Dr. Allison Brager - is a neurobiologist with expertise in sleep and circadian rhythms for the United States Army (active duty) and is the author of Meathead: Unraveling the Athletic Brain. She is a subject matter expert in behavioral genetics, sleep, and biological rhythms research. She is passionate about discovering new factors that promote resiliency in extreme environments, particularly for military personnel. She also serves on the NCAA task force for mental health and sleep, contributing to the first edition of the NCAA student-athlete mental health handbook. She is author of Meathead: Unraveling the Athletic Brain, which debunks the myth of the ‘dumb jock’ and serves as a performance manual for functional athletes.

Outside of the laboratory, Allison was a two-time CrossFit Games (team) athlete, a two-time CrossFit Regionals (individual) athlete, and a four-year varsity NCAA Division I athlete in track and field. Dr. Brager has an Sc.B. in Psychology from Brown University and a Ph.D. in Physiology from Kent State University.

In this episode, we discuss:

💤 Dr. Brager discusses how her upbringing: how her military  and athletic background influenced her view of sleep habits

💤 What are the consequences of sleep deprivation?

💤 A large number of accidents occur each year in the military due to fatigue 

💤 The impact of sleep loss on testosterone levels

💤 Management of sleep in extreme environments
💤 Sleep homeostasis

💤 Sleep banking and tactical napping: how they affect the circadian system

💤 Typical routines for Dr. Brager in the mornings and at night

💤 What is the advice Dr. Brager would give to someone who is having trouble sleeping


The information contained on this podcast, our website, newsletter, and the resources available for download are not intended as, and shall not be understood or construed as, medical or health advice. The information contained on these platforms is not a substitute for medical or health advice from a professional who is aware of the facts and circumstances of your individual situation.

Mentioned Resources


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They are my nightly source of magnesium supplementation
go to www.magbreakthrough.com/sleepisaskill for the kind I use every night!

Guest contacts

Instagram: @docjockzzz


Welcome to the Sleep As a Skill podcast. My name is Mollie McGlocklin, and I own a company that optimizes sleep through technology, accountability and behavioral change. Each week I'll be interviewing world class experts, ranging from doctors, innovators, and thought leaders to give actionable tips and strategies that you can implement to become a more skillful sleeper.


Let's jump into your dose of practical sleep training.


And welcome to the Sleep is a Skilled podcast. My guest today is Dr. Allison Bragger. She is a neurobiologist with expertise in sleep and circadian rhythms for the US Army actually on active duty right now, and is the author of Meathead Unraveling The Athletic. She is a subject matter expert in behavioral genetics, sleep, and biological rhythms research.


She is passionate about discovering new factors that promote resiliency in extreme environments, particularly for military personnel. She also serves on the n NCAA task force for mental health and. Contributing to the first edition of the NCAA Student Athlete Mental Health Handbook. And again, she is that author of Meathead Unraveling the Athletic Brain, which debunks the myth of the quote unquote dumb jock and serves as a performance manual for functional athletes.


Now outside of the laboratory, Allison was a two time CrossFit games team. A two time CrossFit regional's, individual athlete and a four year varsity NCAA division number one athlete in track and field. Dr. Bragger attended Brown University and has a PhD in physiology from Kent State University. Now, without further do, let's jump into this podcast.


I think you're gonna be really, really fascinated with this convers. So I get a lot of questions around sleep supplements, and I'm very hesitant to just throw out a whole laundry list of possibilities. One, I don't think it's the most responsible thing to do. I really do believe in testing to see what types of supplements make sense for you.


And two, because I really truly believe that most of the things that you can do to improve your sleep are behavioral, psychological, environmental in nature, and often don't cost a. However, there is one supplement that I personally take every day and that I do feel quite comfortable with suggesting for most individuals to experiment with because of a couple of reasons.


It's high safety profile and high rates of deficiencies in our modern society. Some put the numbers as somewhere around 80% of the population being deficient in this one area, and that is magnesium. So magnesium has been called the calming mineral, and some report that magnesium can increase gaba, which encourages relaxation on a cellular level, which is critical for sleep.


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As usual, often, uh, when we start these podcasts, you've just got such impressive and amazing guests, uh, to share with you all. And this is another instance of that. Uh, we've got Allison Bragger, and I cannot wait to go in deeper because our biggest struggle I think, in before we hit record, was how are we gonna get.


All of this amazing content into one of these episodes. So you know, honestly, just thank you so much for taking the time and your busy schedule to be here and discuss sleep with us. Yeah, no, it's super excited. It was very awesome to finally meet you in person at the recent sleep conference, and I'm happy we finally scheduled a time that worked for the both.


Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Thank you. And it was so great to see you. You're up in a panel on looking at kinda elite athletes and how they're managing their sleep or elite performers and how they're managing their sleep and providing just such incredible information. So without further due, I am gonna allow you to kind of share just how in the world did you get into this role to really diving in on this world of sleep and providing this information in such high ranking areas.


Just take it away and how that came to. Honestly, sleep has always been my secret weapon. I attribute being a good sleeper and making sleep a priority. The secret behind my own successes, I don't think, you know there was ever any book written about it at the time. , but my parents were great sleepers. They still are.


And I think just having that structure and the discipline they instilled early on as a kid really has stuck with me throughout adulthood. And then the other thing is, because, so growing up I was, I've been an athlete my whole life, uh, since the age of three. I've done gymnastics and dance. I used to be in a dance company and we actually used to spend the summers dancing in Disney World and on cruise.


And actually, I don't know if you've ever seen the show Dance Moms, but that was actually filmed with a neighboring dance studio. So Abby Lee and like her whole dance team, I know them very well cause we compete against them as kids. So, long story short, I probably was working out from, I would say the age of three for like six or seven hours a day.


That didn't change in college as a Deon track and field. Uh, did pole vault and then also was a hep athlete. So I had multiple practices a day in graduate school. I was still convinced that I could like somehow make the Olympic team. It never happened. But then I found CrossFit and started. Doing well in CrossFit and at this point right now you have to train five or six hours a day.


I mean, I'm reti happily retired from this sport now. It was a, you know, a great career. But yeah, long story short, I mean, I always knew sleep was. The pretty much performance enhancing drug of athletics. And it didn't matter how much homework I had to do in high school, it didn't matter if I had like projects to complete in college.


I always made sure I got my eight hours of sleep. And it's the same thing now too. Like if I know I travel a ton with my job in the army, if I know I'm gonna be sleep deprived. Execute our sleep banking strategy. Yes. So you know, that's this idea that if you load up on sleep prior to sleep deprivation, you're somewhat protected from the negative effects of sleep deprivation.


And so I tried to practice that, which does mean during the waking day, like I intentionally have this. Schedule and organize and plan things. You know, it was like that in in high school too. Like that's probably why I ended up in the military is I thrive on structure and if I don't have structure, I feel extremely anxious and stressed.


Hmm. I can absolutely relate to that and I'm happy to see that you put yourself into environment that really is well served by that and that you're helping to educate in that environment on the importance of sleep. So I'm wondering if you can share just a little bit about. For those of us, particularly in environments that maybe had previously, might have had a particular narrative that, oh, you know, bind over matter.


You can work through that sleep loss. It's, you know, really about mindset or any of those things that might have been there. What are some of the deleterious effects that come about when we do have, um, kind of prolonged sleep loss or difficulty in managing that? Yeah, I mean obviously I work for an organization where at the end of the day they believe sleep is for the weak and you'll sleep when you're dead.


Yeah. I, I mean, we've tried to change that messaging over the years, but a lot of the military operates and the truly the people who rise to the top, in my opinion, are short sleepers. Like if you genotype these individuals who become generals and admirals, and I mean, even if you look at the history of sleep patterns of the presidents of the United States of America, They're all short sleepers and I'm sure that pre-select for it, but you know, that being said, I think, I hate to say this, but how we try to drive change.


Is showing the consequences of sleep loss on human life. I know that seems blunt and horrific, but we have so many accidents in the military alone that are due to fatigue every single year. I actually didn't even know that every single major federal agency has an employed sleep clinician or sleep researcher who investigates, uh, fatigue related accidents.


And so a lot of times in the military, that's, that's a. What we have to do is we have to use these like fear mongering tactics or you know, go and study a unit and just observe them, right? So we put on a, an act watch, we observe the military training and then. Post military training, we show them what happens and the guys and gals who weren't getting enough sleep and I mean, data's data, you can't lie.


And so that's the approach we use. I mean, obviously I would take more of a positive psychology approach, but Sure. And a culture like mine is just, it wouldn't work. Oh, absolutely. And one of those things that, from that piece of looking at, cuz I appreciate what you're sharing too. It's like there's the possibility of all the benefits that we can get.


Optimizing our sleep and how it's this performance enhancing drug as you've called it, which I love that. And to touch on that kind of human nature piece where sometimes we're not always going, pulling towards what could be. Yeah. And trying to avoid and said the cost. I know you've mentioned a little bit about testosterone and its effects or sleep deprivation and its effects on test hours.


I'm curious if you can share a little bit about. No. Great. Thanks for reminding me of that. Yeah, of course. At the end of the day, the military is 10% female at most, and where I work, I'm literally like one of two females in the entire headquarters. So I am, I am kind of a bro, but I work with a lot of bros.


Yeah. And so the, the, how you get to the, the psyche of a bro is you tell them about how testosterone is acutely and directly impacted by sleep loss. I mean, the effect is immediate. So those early studies that were done back in the early two thousands by Evon Carter at the University of Chicago, you know, she's a a visionary landmark researcher in our field.


Every study she's ever done using different populations of males, of all different ages, they always showed the same exact impact of sleep loss in that your testosterone levels are about 50% or worse, and they don't recover until. Sleep again. And so I use a lot of that literature. We have now actual examples from the military.


We did a testosterone study a few years ago with the Army Rangers who basically do a ton of night operations. We showed reductions, immediate reductions in testosterone when they shift from daytime to nighttime operations. And this research isn't a secret. Literally it, it's an actual publication and a biomedical journal.


So I'm not giving away secrets here, , but uh, but just spread the good word. And to your point, we're able to, it's not as if that is a diminishing return where we can't get that back. Is that, am I hearing that right too? That if we do begin to put in the practices of workability with our sleep, then we can build up that testosterone reserve?


You can get it back. Yeah. I. It's much, the more, the more pervasive chronic sleep restriction is, the more difficult it is for us. The point of no return is you have guys in their thirties who have to go into SA room replacement therapy because they spent their entire twenties getting three, four hours of sleep when their body always needed seven or eight, and you know, Using rips and so rips were like the old school military version of like bang and monster.


It's basically like drinking two bangs at once and a 12 ounce can. That's part of the reason why they were named rips. It is pretty much like liquid methamphetamine. Yeah. It's, you know, years and years of doing that, just. You can't actually recover from it. And honestly, it takes years for your sleep habits to get back on track and it, but it's doable, right?


I mean, a lot of guys who are, I work with a lot of guys in this company called O two X Max Human Performance. So we're, a lot of them are former high tier. Operators. I, I mean, they're truly America's heroes and they're at that point now where their sleep schedule is balanced and regulated because they followed these sleep tactics.


But it was, it took a lot of work and in some cases, a decades worth of work to get to there. So it's not impossible, it's just. You have to know it requires work. Absolutely. Ugh. Well, thank you for kind of providing context to that and the real impact of managing our sleep in a particular way, and hopefully we can catch people in the midst of that and help to speed up this sense of urgency to really get this on track from that.


Bro speak. I love that the, Yeah, because I think it did more in a hundred percent bro science. That's what I do. I, that's like, honestly, my book, I think I  with that term when I was publishing it is I think I created the hashtag bro science. I love it. Thank you. Thank you for  for speaking to that listening and from there a couple quick things from that hashtag bro science, I wanted to check in.


I love that you mentioned the point of re no return. I was gonna ask you about that, so thank you for hitting on that and in alignment with that. Shift to a couple topics. One, kind of just management of sleep in kind of extreme environments, and I know you've spoken to things like caffeine. Mm-hmm.


alcohol, other things, Any call outs around that before we shift over to shift work? No pun intended. Yeah, , that's, That is a good one. No, I think with extreme environments, so we did this study a few years ago in Antarctica. We actually looked at sleep rhythms and the southern most region of the world. So it was basically an naval station that the Argentinian government owned.


And six months out of the year, these people stationed down there had access food, water, resources, medical care, et cetera, during the winter. It was pretty much the equivalent of being on the International Space Station. Whatever you had was whatever you had. If somebody had a medical emergency, well there better be a doctor there or somebody to help.


It was really interesting studying, just observationally studying sleep in this environment and, um, believe it or not, the sleep system adjusts. You know, that's one of the mindsets that I try to, to give people who are gonna be in these extreme circumstances. I mean, I'll tell you when, when I was deployed, just the sun in the desert, it like words can't even explain it.


It's just so bright. I mean, you take the sunlight of Utah and Colorado and, and maybe 5,000. Or 50,000, more luck to that, and you got the brightness of the sun in the desert. It's a challenge, but the system does adjust because you know what we found in the study? Basically like as long as these. People were getting seven to eight hours of sleep in 24 hours.


It might have been two hours here, three hours there. Their cognitive performance was stable. Now was it different relative to when they were on a structured schedule back in the United States? Absolutely. Their performance on a structured schedule back in the United States was better. But the system will j adjust if you let it.


And you know, that's the beauty of, we use that term homeostasis. It's, I think the perfect example of sleep  homeostasis. Absolutely. Well, I love that statement too, that the sleep system adjusts, and I think for many listeners that might be at a place where they're struggling and they've got some kind of sleep anxiety at play to hear that, I think can be really just calming to the nervous system.


So I really, Yep. Get that. Amazing. And as far as coping mechanisms, I know you've had some interesting call outs around structured dosing for things like caffeine. During these times when you might be adjusting any call outs there, any changes that you've seen in recent years? Yeah, so actually the Army we developed and, uh, launched an app in recent times called Peak Alert.


And it pretty much. The culmination of decades of research that the military has done trying to find the suboptimal. So basically, what is the highest dose of caffeine? You need to get the largest impact under crazy sleep conditions, but it, it can apply to the average population too, where you download this app you take.


Brief test of reaction time, and then the app remembers your performance. And then anytime you're sleep deprived, you do another reaction time test. And based on that delta, it will give you a structured caffeine schedule. Or if you could also use the app in the circumstance where if you're sleep deprived and you want to know, Okay, How many coffees and when should I take these coffees in order to stay awake and to stay as alert as possible during the sleep deprivation?


It will do that as well. So great. That's really helpful. Thank you for providing that app. We'll make sure to have that in the show notes too. That's available for the masses. Yeah. You said? Yep. Yeah. Yeah. So that's, uh, you know, at the end of the day, all the government research we do eventually, like we use it first for military application.


And then I actually, perfect example, I had this conversation with a friend today. Who do you think invented the first sleep watch? Oh, I don't know. So it was actually the army in the eighties with Dar. Oh that fits. And so that patent was eventually sold to industry. And yeah, so a lot of people just don't know that we have been studying the sleep of soldiers or sleep of humans since the days of the Gulf War.


So it was embedded around that time. Amazing. Wow. Okay. Fantastic. And from that, Shifting in to shift work. As we discussed, one of the things that you said before we hit record was how you're really helping to train these individuals to be able to kind of turn into vampires or to be, to function at high levels, at maybe suboptimal times.


You didn't say those words. Yeah, but that's what I extrapolated and so if you wanna correct any of that, let me know. But help us understand what that could look like and the practical applications for, you know, the general public, whether shift workers or they've got odd schedules or, you know, new mothers or various times when this might really be important to be able to leverage, you know, kinda this awareness of our circadian rhythm.


Yeah. So I mean, I'll start off by saying, We now know that the World Health Organization labels shift work is a level two carcinogen. Yeah. So there's that right there. I mean, there's pretty much every single cancer out there, in some instance of an epidemiological study has been linked. To shift work with rotating shift working the most devastating, Yeah, so that's, Those are people who are constantly switching from daytime to nighttime.


Well, honestly, that's what military people do. So yeah, at the end of the day, we win our nation's wars, or we say we win our nation's wars by fighting at night. . We train our, our guys and our gals to do night operations. And most of the conflict that occurs overseas is actually at night, but it's not so much of switching from daytime to nighttime and then being able to sleep across the day, cuz that's not true.


Like there's preparatory work leading up to the nighttime mission, and then you have the nighttime mission and then you have the recovery from it. And recovery in this regard is ammo vehicle. Like administrative stuff, not actual bodily physical recovery. And so obviously over time, that's why you see issues like this drop in testosterone and the army rangers is because of this type of operating environment, which, and you know, like I said, the military now realizes it's not sustainable and that's why like we've been able to have a lot of success with integrating tactical napping.


Sleep banking and using those concepts because I think at the end of the day that at least acknowledges that like, okay, we're not trying to change the way the Army fights here. We're just trying to get a small victory for sleep in terms of getting soldiers to realize. That it is what's going to sustain them throughout their careers.


Sure. And tactical, napping. Can you, um, just give a little bit more on that piece? Yeah. I mean, it's just napping. It's just, you know, in the military it's like if you say tactical is something, it immediately becomes more interesting. Just like the labels are very important. Yep. . Yeah. Yeah. So instead of seeing soldiers, now we say tactical populations, but yeah, just, it's basically providing an opportunity during the duty day or like military operation to allow soldiers to rest and recover.


Mm. Okay. And is there, And there's no, But it's planned into the duty day. So that's the thing is like, yeah. So it's planned in a particular way and there's no difference from how we might traditionally suggest for napping for the general public of particular length of time. Does it get longer or anything to call out there?


No, just, uh, it's, it's usually just, you know, 20 to 30 minutes. Okay. Yeah. Okay. Fantastic. Okay, so then from that place, a couple things that you had called out that I thought were really interesting. One, looking at when you're working with people, with athletes in particular and trying to optimize for particular times of day and performance, and then discovering some things about their behavior, and you called out some of their, their tweeting habits.


Yeah. Anything to kinda share about that? I thought that was really interest. Yeah, so a few years ago I had some colleagues, they did this study where they basically found. NBA players who were tweeting post game tended to have really poor recovery. And as the season went on, there was actually a noticeable difference and their teams win loss records, which makes sense, right?


Cause you know a lot of athletes, I'll tell you like you finished a competition, 10:00 PM 11:00 PM By the time your body winds down, it's like 2:00 AM. If you're traveling, you're probably. Like going to try to eat something quick and then try to sleep and then wake up early at 5:00 AM to catch a flight.


I mean, elite athletes do this all the time. You would think that this culture doesn't exist anymore. But a few weeks ago I worked with Michigan State's football team to develop like a sleep banking strategy in preparation for their game out west. And even an elite collegiate team like them who have their own private chartered.


Like are still leaving, you know, at 5:00 AM the day after the game, because that's, that's just the nature of doing operations. Like, you know, these kids have to get back into class on Monday. But Absolutely. And with that, you're one of these amazing experts in such a, uh, challenging area. It's kind of everything that we often are speaking about on this podcast that we're looking to optimize for some of these consistency, light timing, all these things.


Yeah. I would assume are going out the window in some of these different environments with all of this variability now. Uh, yeah. I don't think on any of the podcasts we've ever discussed this question that I'm about to ask yet. But I am curious just because this is such a challenging group as far as.


Supplements or prescriptions. Now again, we're often looking for every single thing possible to help support sleep, but uh, is there anything that you do find, are there situations where it is just so challenging that there are certain things that you recommend in that case? Yeah, I mean, sometimes, you know, I said earlier about rips, like I'm anti-energy.


But when I was deployed, there was times where I was awake for 70 hours. And do you think I used an energy drink? That pretty much was like the equivalent of meth during that time? Absolutely. Because how else was I gonna stay awake and alert and not make mistakes? Yeah, but it's the same thing with sleep too.


So the army, we've sort of gotten away from using the strong hypnotics like Ambien and Lua, but one hypnotic out out there that's describe. Is Sonata and it actually is a really short half life. So the half life I believe is like one and a half to two hours, and that one's pretty effective in terms of, you know, letting people sleep on a plane and then wake up and feeling somewhat refreshed.


Trazodone is another one. It's a mild antidepressant. There's been some success with that. Otherwise, for normal daily sleep routines. So those are like use case basis. Yeah. Right. Absolutely. You would use those in situations of stress on a daily basis. Things like magnesium, you know, there's only a few case studies about.


Magnesium being absolutely important for nerve cell function and also, uh, sleep health. But it's, uh, it makes sense given the role that magnesium plays in the central nervous system. Absolutely. Okay. And in alignment with all this, anything to call out around mental health and sleep deprivation in some of these high stress environments.


We do work with a lot of poker players and so pulling in from certainly using them as a use case of dealing with high stress environments, whether on a ut stress situation of, yay. Had a high stakes win or, Yeah, we lost a lot. Right. So a lot of tilt at kind of suboptimal times of day, but that's obviously one use case.


And then certainly in the arena that you're working with, very challenging, you know, stressors at play. Yeah. And layering that in with sleep deprivation. Any kind of best practices that you share for people of how to manage. Yeah, I mean I think obviously routine can't exist in these situations, so you have to do little things, and one of the little things is light exposure.


At the end of the day, you know, we do this in historically in sleep labs, is we manipulate the lights. During the middle of the day to make our participants sleepy, even if their biology is fighting against us, like their circadian alerting signal can be really high at this time. But just by dimming the lights, which she's going to stimulate the release and production of melatonin, that can have an impact.


That is one of my sleep hacks I use with traveling so much. Oh, absolutely. The manipulation of the light. That's fantastic. Great. And one question I did wanna check in with you. I know you had mentioned some of the things you've discovered around timing and injury, things to call out there. Any things that we can take away New, new findings to be aware.


Yeah, so we recently did a study a few years ago to show that basically the, the game times of when NFL teams play does matter. Historically, we've known that West Coast teams have better regular season records than East Coast teams, and it has nothing to do with talent management. It actually has to do with the fact that West Coast teams are playing more games and they're circadian alerting zone than East Coast teams.


And, uh, Break down or dissect why that is. It turns out that these West Coast teams are getting injured five times less than the east coast opponents because the timestamps of when these injuries occur. Aligns with times when the circadian system is not, is actually in a low point, not peaking. Wow. Wild.


Okay, well thank you for sharing about that. I didn't realize that. Five times less. That's amazing. And one last thing to hop, uh, to before we shift over to learning a bit about how you're managing your sleep and all the different environments you find yourself, I'm curious. , you know, I know that you're also a proponent of consumer grade sleep trackers and certainly well versed also in their limitations, but some of their practical applications.


I'm curious if you have any best practices or noteworthy things to share in the management of the data coming back from there, and maybe how to avoid a nocebo effect when you're tracking and you've got some kinda less than fair stats, nocebo effect. I like it. Yes, I like it. No. I mean, I think that's the biggest thing is data should make you curious.


It shouldn't drive your changes. There's a, a famous mental performance coach in the baseball world. That's what he says. The data should make you curious. Love that you know if you have a bad night of sleep or if you have, you're not adequately hydrating during the day. That's all the data should tell. In some situations, I'm not a proponent of using a wearable to basically tell you when you should or shouldn't train, because sometimes training under negative stress can actually create a positive response.


It's called out stasis, like that's. But it has to be done right? You know, you like going at 50, 60% intensity versus 80, 90% intensity is better than doing nothing, in my opinion, because you're gonna have like this atic effect. But yeah, that's my opinion on wearables is just use them as, uh, as guidance in your own holistic, um, plan of eating, training, sleeping, but eat brief and live and die by.


Smart. Yes. I know. I, I'd seen, um, you on another podcast speaking to some of your noteworthy takeaways on certainly you've so well versed in alcohol and its effects on sleep, and then day to day seeing some of the changes with your wearables and alcohol. Any, um, management tips that you've found or ways to, to work within those results with as it relates to alcohol?


Yeah, I think above all else I've heard through loop. That's why they think, you know, the biggest behavioral change their users have made on their platform is seeing the direct impact that alcohol has on their recovery. And that's just not speaking of athletes, just speaking of everyone. Sure. I mean, it does, it's just you don't realize.


Sometimes the extent to which it does. Absolutely. Uh, well said. Well, before we shift to you, is there anything we left out that you wanna make sure that we address? I know we, we laser went through so much of the body of work that you've been able to put out there. And I know we didn't touch on a million things, but is there anything that we did miss that you wanna make sure you get across?


I think one of the things, so this is sort of an ath check that you can do on yourself is, um, so there's this, uh, great questionnaire. It's called The Morning Eveningness questionnaire. That's a great way to just to see if you're truly a morning person, evening person, or like somewhere in the middle, because, you know, at the end of the day, I'm, I'm a big fan of planning your life as much as possible around.


If you're a morning or evening person, like I'm an evening person, my parents both are, a lot of that, like whether you are aren't as heritable and. I know I do my best creative work at night, so that's why I save writing and I save like things that aren't as robotic and autonomous like a lot of my day job at night because I know I'm not gonna be, The words are just gonna come out easier than if I work on it like early in the morning after I wake up.


Mm. Yeah, that self-awareness is key. Fantastic. Well thank you for sharing that too. Cause I think that's important one for many of us to get connected to and bring in the ability to design our life in a way that fits some of those habits and tendencies from that. Actually, I would love to learn how you've designed your life from the things that work for you.


in probably a lot of variable kind of environments. So our first question that we ask everyone is, what does your nightly sleep routine look like? And I know you travel a lot, so if you wanna share anything there too, that's great. Yeah. So I think for me, the biggest thing is light levels. A lot of times airlines have been killing me this last year.


I get it. I feel bad for the airline industry and pilots. I have a lot of friends who are pilots, like they're only a, a victim of the system, but it's, uh, yeah, light levels and inside hotels are key for me. I either take a shower in the complete dark if the lighting's just gonna be too much, same or. Yeah, Or I just, um, you know, have one teeny tiny light on.


So that to me is the lowest hanging fruit, especially for somebody who can't have a schedule. So, absolutely, I'm a big fan of these travel size, motion red lights. You can get on Amazon for like, you know, two of them for 17 bucks type of thing, and they're UCB charging. Kind of compliant or usb. I mean, what's so great about those is then you can have those, even in your weird environments when you're taking a shower in the dark or moving around to different spaces.


Yeah. And yeah, really, really helpful. Oh, that's cool. I'll have to look this up. Yeah, those are great. You know, just, um, if you search red motion lights, You know, Amazon or wherever applicable, depending on the listener. Really, really helpful. Great. Okay. And then shifting over to morning sleep routine, we're calling it, What can we learn about your morning routine and how that might impact your sleep?


Yeah, so I, um, when I get up in the morning, like I, honestly, I don't check my email, I don't do anything remotely related to. For at least two hours. So my first two hours of my morning is, I don't work out in the morning, cuz I am not a morning person. And that to me is like injury risk mitigation, but I just eat breakfast.


I'm very intentional about it. I talk to my wife on the phone and then I drive to work. I usually have like a 45 minute commute. So I think. Ha. Giving myself that opportunity to think about work before I actually get to work has really saved me from crashing, from stress in the middle of the day. I am a big coffee drinker, honestly.


I've been drinking coffee since I was five years old. My family's Turkish and Macedonian, so, uh, my grandmother used to give us Turkish coffee when we were like five, so I am a coffee addict, but that's my morning routine is no work coffee. Some good tunes on the way to work and. You know, rolling and get the day going.


Oh my gosh, that's amazing. I'm so curious. Have you heard of the Peak Brain Institute by any chance? They've Yeah, yeah, yeah. So we have them coming on the podcast shortly and um, I did some brain scans with them and we just went over the results just recently. So it's top of mind and it was caffeine really.


Yeah, it was really cool. And, uh, so we did a couple, we did a, a fatigued brain test to see what, um, I would just come back from Hawaii and jet lag and all the things. Yeah, fatigued jet lagged test, then a baseline test, then a test caffeinated. And, um, I'd be so curious to see your results with caffeine.


Mine was really interesting from a, they found a paradoxical effect for me with caffeine. Yeah, almost looking, uh, a d d actually with caffeine. And so the suggestion was to layer in potentially more, um, tine or switch over to some green tea to kind of get a little bit more of a stabilizing effect there.


So that didn't go into shiny object problems.  Yeah. The caffeine. Well, I, I'd be curious to have that done. Yeah. I know. I'm a fast metabolizer just from my 23andme. Yeah. But, um, so I wonder if, uh, yeah, we'd have a similar phenotype. Oh, maybe that could be cool to connect. So we might have to follow up on that.


Yeah, no, absolutely. Yeah. Very cool. Okay, so to be continued there and then what might we see on your nightstand or proverbial nightstand if you're traveling, you know, apps, ambiance. Yeah, I know you've spoken to some of those things. Anything that we missed there? Yeah, so nothing I, um, minimalist. I truly don't have anything when I'm home.


My beloved dog that passed away a year and a half ago, she saw my nightstand. But that's all I have when I'm traveling. I don't have a phone anywhere in the room. So if, uh, somebody has an emergency, I'm probably not gonna see it til the morning, unfortunately. And then when I'm traveling, I literally unplugged the alarm clock.


Or if I can't find the outlet, I'll just face it down. Cause you know, you have to be really good. Keeping that room as dark as possible. Yeah. Sometimes I'll even take a pair of pants or a towel and roll it up and stuff it under the door. Same. I love that. Fantastic. Okay. And then in alignment with all of that and someone like yourself, that's clearly done a lot of deep thinking around sleep and researching.


Uh, just, I mean, the level of expertise here is amazing. So what would you say has made the biggest. Difference to your management of sleep in your own personal life or maybe of your biggest sleep aha. Moment in, in that management of sleep? I mean, honestly, I would say having a sleep routine. Yeah. As much as possible.


And the reason for that is there's like, I think a time during the pandemic, like everyone that I got introduced to TikTok. Yeah. And I noticed, I'm sorry that if I. If I would watch TikTok before I tried to go to sleep, I could not sleep. And so it's sort of the same thing now with everything. Like, if I don't put my work away at least 30 minutes before bed, I'm going to not sleep.


So it's uh, just trying to maintain a routine as much as possible. It seems so stupid, but you know, at the end of the day, That is the basis of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is creating the structure and creating this routine. So it's. It all makes sense. No, a hundred percent. And just to underscore that real quick, because especially for someone like you that is exploring some of these, you know, fast-paced environments, a lot of variability, travel, et cetera, is there, are there particular practices that you do that you, what does it look like exactly, So, Is it like Sunday night you're going through your calendar, What's ahead?


Oh shoot. I might need to do, or you're probably not saying, Oh shoot, you're probably well aware, but are you then saying, Okay, I gotta, I gotta bank some of this sleep. I got this big, you know, thing up ahead. Is there a particular practice or is it just so kind of second nature that you don't do as much kind of structured thinking like that?


Yeah, it's just second nature. So I, you know, I have in my head, I have a calendar at. But I don't know if I'm like autistic or what. I'm just very good with dates and times, like, sure. I don't actually need a planner. Like I have a very good memory and I hope it stays that way. Yeah, I sort of just stuck in nature.


Think ahead, but I think it's because I've always been like that, Like I've always been, I've always tried to be one of the leading scientists, but then also being an elite athlete, so like living these two parallel lives. Honestly, since I was three years old, like that's, that's all I know. So. And that's some of your advice too for, you know, athletes or people that are gonna have things coming up ahead.


They've got really important, The big game, the big presentation. Yeah, the big this, the big that whatever, that knowing even to fall back from that mental perspective to that. If they do kind of mind their sleep leading up to that and pay attention to that, that they can kind of power through even on the poor sleep period.


That might be preceding that big event. Yeah, exactly. Like you can't be one to procrastinate, you know? Yeah. I hate procrastination, but I do get. Irritated by procrastinators, right? Like of course, because you know when you have deadlines and like you wanna submit something or you have to get the reviews in.


I don't think they have that theory of mind that, Oh, this person has to work on this after me.  and so we might actually miss the deadline and you know, some people just need a work life balance. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I don't like working up until, you know, the burning, the midnight oil. Mm-hmm.  as as you were.


Yeah. And as you know, it's just not, it's not effective or healthy. Yes. Yes. Well, I, I love that you're speaking to that too, because some of the things that we speak to with sleep optimization, oftentimes it comes down to time management, responsibility, being connected to our word, actually being able to do the things that we said we would do at the time that we said we would do them.


I mean, yeah, a hundred percent. Exactly. Yep. So with all that, anything that we left out there that you want to further underscore or share, whether it's about your own personal sleep habits or things that people can be mindful of when they are managing their sleep in kind of some of those variable or high stress environments.


Yeah, I think, um, I'll bring up one practice. So I actually learned this practice a few years ago at Eson. Oh, great. The golly lama was there actually doing, uh, I paid a lot of money for this, but it was well worth it to like meet the Dai Lama. Oh. Uh, but we did, um, we engaged in yoga Nero, which is this guided meditation.


It's actually been now like a clinically. Recommended level of practice for people who have PTSD or anxiety and depression related to military combat. But I think just learning, you know, mindfulness meditation or yoga neidra is one low hanging fruit that doesn't require any sort of, Pharmacological manipulation.


You don't have to take, you know, an over the counter or a, a prescribed medication. So good. Thank you for sharing that too. And I think that's so important for people to get the, the profound impact that that can bring about by just bringing some of these practices in. It doesn't have to be all consuming, you know, few minutes.


Putting aside some of that time to practice this. Really great. Okay. And so for anyone listening, I'm sure you know we, we touched on a couple of things that are just so noteworthy of interest and I'm clear that people are going to want to learn more. So from that place, how can they follow some of the work that you've done?


I know you've got this great book. What are the best ways to do that? Yeah, So I wrote, It's been over 10 years now. Yes. Uh, this book, Lead Head Unraveling the Athletic Brain, it more or less covers the neuroscience of athletics. Like what makes the brain of an athlete unique and how participating in athletics, uh, can lead to long term brain health and.


What are all the unique changes in a brain between elite athlete and the amateur, But there is a focus in there on sleep and what athletes, uh, can do to optimize their sleep when they're traveling. So you can buy that. And then my Instagram is Doc Jo is z Z Z, so D O c j O C K Z Z. Um, pretty active on there.


Not as active as it used to be, but. Yeah, just that's how you can reach out to me. Fantastic. Well, again, I so appreciate you taking the time and Sure. The, you know, the work that you're doing is so, so important and these are really crucial areas of life that some of the people that you are working on are just making such a difference in.


So really, really appreciate what you're doing, and then being able to share some of the information that you're learning with the masses just really means a lot. So thank you. Yeah, no, absolutely. I'm honored to, I'm happy we finally got to connect. Yeah, I, I followed you for a long time, so it's, it's awesome.


Oh, fantastic. Well, more to come. Thank you so much. And then, uh, we'll keep sharing any of the cool new information that you're learning in this area and researching and going deep on, um, in any way possible. Please stay connected and we can include you in our newsletter in various. You know, ways that can further support the masses you've been listening to.


The Sleep Is a Skill Podcast, the number one podcast for people who wanna take their sleep skills to the next level. Every Monday I send out something that I call Molly's Monday Obsessions containing everything that I'm obsessing over in the world of sleep. Head on over to sleep as a skill.com to sign up.


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