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Blogterview with Michael Breus, the sleep doctor

drbreus.jpgDr. Michael Breus is a practicing Ph.D. in clinical psychology with a specialty in clinical sleep disorders. He is the editor of the Insomnia Blog and the co-founder of SoundSleep Solutions. His book “Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health” was published in 2006.

  • Why did you specialize in clinical sleep disorders?

In no other area of psychology could I help people change their lives so quickly. I can help someone in less than 48 hours some times and it is really rewarding.

  • What do you find the most common sleep problems among patients?

Without question Insomnia is the greatest challenge to sleeping, however Apnea has gotten “center stage” because it is easier to measure and treat.

  • What are your suggestions? How to sleep better?

If I had to pick just a few I would say:

1) Reduce the amount of light you are exposed to before bed: light tells your body to wake up not sleep. Put dimmer Switches in your bedroom and switch the bulbs to 40 watts, or use a book light.

2) Create a “Power Down Hour” this is a situation where you give yourself 1 hour before bed to do some very specific things: 20 minutes for mindless chores ( dish washing, light cleaning, getting ready for the next day) ; 20 minutes for Hygiene; 20 minutes of relaxation.

3) Go to bed on a regular schedule and when you are tired.

  • Is it important to dream? Does it mean a problem if we don’t dream?

Everyone dreams, we just do not remember it. Dreaming can occur in any stage of sleep but has the greatest likelihood of occurring during REM sleep. If you want to remember your dreams, keep a pad by the bedside and write down exactly what you were thinking about when you woke up. Give it a week and see what happens.

  • Please tell us about your book: Good night!

The book is set up in 3 parts:

1) Part I: This list the 6 culprits of poor sleep and what can be done about them right now. The 6 are Anxiety, Caffeine, being a female, being a parent, traveling, and your bed partner.

2) Part II: Tells you all the reasons why sleep is important: It helps with beauty, sex, exercise even loosing weight. This is where the really interesting science is located.

3) Part II: This is a 28 Night Program that gives you a step by step guide for 28 nights to better sleep.

  • What was the weirdest case in you practice?

I have had so many it is hard to say. In one insomnia case we found someone who actually had a brain tumor causing the insomnia, in one Apnea case we found a very rare problem where one half of the brain had formed outside of the skull and was pressing on the respiratory center, in an RLS case we found that the person was actually anemic from giving his very rare blood type twice each month. The list goes on and on.

Thank you for your answers!

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. chandra #

    That story about the brain growing outside the skull sounds like an episode from “House”!

    January 17, 2007
  2. But not season one, isn’t it? :)

    January 17, 2007
  3. Great interview. I happen to have a pretty bad sleeping schedule on weekends. During the week there’s the routine, but come weekend, it’s sort of out the window and I’m sleeping odd hours. And it’s felt during the day…

    March 4, 2007
  4. Thank you! You should ask Michael about it. He’ll kindly answer your questions. :)

    March 4, 2007
  5. thanks for this! will check out his site… i enjoy reading your blog. very informative! :-)

    March 6, 2007
  6. I also wanted to ask if there’s any significant difference between sleeping for long hours or sleeping soundly even at shorter time. How long should a nap last? For people working in a night shift job, what can happen to their system in the long run?

    November 30, 2007
  7. Oh, you should ask Michael. .)

    As far as I know, a sleep of 7 hours has the best effect on your body.

    November 30, 2007
  8. Brenda Mannschreck #

    I suffer from anxiety type problems at night. I can usually go to sleep with one .25xanax. My doctor does not like to give them to me. I probably go through 30 in a four month time span. What else can I do. I try to read before I sleep. I exercise at least four times a week. I don’t drink caffeine after two P.M. How do I get over anxious feelings independently?

    March 21, 2008
  9. Thanks for these tips, I am finding that it is the thoughts in my head that are keeping me awake, so I think that doing mindless chores just before bed will be the best way to improve my sleeping, I just have to make sure that I do not have any thoughts between the kitchen and bed:)

    March 8, 2010

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