Wednesday, February 28

Interview with Sleep Doctor

There are not a whole bunch of sleep advocates on the web so when I discovered I was quite impressed. This blog is not run by the typical sleep doctor nor by the typical insomniac. Dr. Breus is the author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health through out his career in sleep medicine he has been on several TV shows, and has been in several publications. He is truely dedicated to educating and informing the public about this precisions 1third of our lives. Below is the interview with the Dr. Breus.

1third: How long have you been a sleep specialist? Why did you choose to go into that specialty?

Dr. Breus: I have been a sleep specialist for the past 8 years. Meaning I passed the sleep boards at age 31, but I was studying sleep about 2-3 years before that. I chose it as a field of specialist for several reasons: 1) Just plain old curiosity. I had always wondered what happened when you fall asleep, and now I know; 2) It was the only area of psychology where I could change people’s lives almost instantly; and 3) it was fun, new and exciting -- some major research finding occurs each year in this field.

1third: What is the thing you like most about sleep and sleeping? For example, is there an aspect, benefit, or quality that you like the most?

Dr. Breus: There are several reasons why I personally like to sleep. First, it is simply a time out from everything else. I have a great life, but I also need a break sometimes, and in a house with 2 kids, 3 animals and 1 wife it can be hard to find some time on my own. I also like sleep because it really helps my thinking process; I certainly solve problems in my sleep. Finally, I like dreaming. Although I do not know what they really mean (and no one does), it is a great escape.

1third: Why is it so hard for so many people to get a good night’s sleep? What are some of the main factors at work when a person becomes an insomniac?

Dr. Breus: This is a tough question to answer, and one that science has not quite figured out yet. I personally believe there are many reasons why we do not sleep. The number one reason is, of course, stress. I would guess that 75% of my patients who have sleeping problems like insomnia have either anxiety or depression as a major problem contributing to their sleep. Next is the environment. Many people do not sleep in a space that really allows for great sleep. Most bedrooms are too noisy, lighted, and cluttered. I talked about this a little recently on The Insomnia Blog.

1third: Why is sleep so important to an individual's health and well being?

Dr. Breus: Another great question that we really do not have a good answer for. We know that all living creatures have some period of inactivity in their day, but we really do not know why. We know that people heal better when they sleep better. We also know that every single organ system is affected by sleep. Everything from immunosupression (the ability to fight off disease) to treatment for cancer is affected by sleep.

1third: How do people know they have a sleep problem? What are the signs that indicate that they should see a doctor?

Dr. Breus: One great thing to try is my In-Depth quiz on the website at It is an educational quiz designed to let people know exactly how many signs and symptoms of a diagnosable sleep disorder they may have. You can print the results and take them to your doctor if you want. The next step is to check in with your body. If you wake in the morning not feeling refreshed and ready to meet the day, then you may not have a sleep disorder... but you may have what I call "disordered sleep".

1third: Do most insomniacs seek help or do they tend to seek coffee and over-the-counter aids instead of professional help?

Dr. Breus: Most do both. Usually those with insomnia will try an OTC or coffee for a certain period of time, and when that ultimately fails they will talk to their health care professional. This person sometimes will be well educated enough to work with them in different areas, but more times than not will give them a prescription. After a few months of this is when I usually get the call that this patient is not doing too well with sleep and is there something I can do to help.