rEATsearch (It's like overhearing your nerdy health science friends chat and laugh over coffee.)
Sleep (Yes, for you—and also college athletes)
November 10, 2020
Do you know how important sleep is for your physical and mental well-being? Yes, yours, too! It's probably no surprise that we all need quality sleep. Today we dive into a study that created recommendations specifically for college athletes. That's because sleep can help improve physical performance, reduce injury and illness, and improve moods and academic performance. But, the real problem is that it's really, really difficult to get enough quality sleep. Let's find out ways to make that happen for you (and they go well beyond "sleep hygiene")!
Do you know how important sleep is for your physical and mental well-being? Yes, yours, too! It's probably no surprise that we all need quality sleep. Today we dive into a study that created recommendations specifically for college athletes. That's because sleep can help improve physical performance, reduce injury and illness, and improve moods and academic performance. But, the real problem is that it's really, really difficult to get enough quality sleep. Let's find out ways to make that happen for you (and they go well beyond "sleep hygiene")!


For more information on Leesa, visit:

For more information on Lindsay, visit:


[00:00:00.355] - Intro/Outro

rEATsearch is a podcast that explores current nutritional research and health studies. Our lawyer says we have to let you know that this podcast is for entertainment, educational, and informative purposes only. If you have any health questions, see your doctor or licensed health professional.

[00:00:15.385] - Leesa

[Whispering] You can tell I didn't get enough sleep last night.

[00:00:15.385] - Lindsay

You need to add that bit in.

[00:00:15.385] - Leesa

Oh my gosh.

[00:00:15.385] - Lindsay

It's irony at its best.

[00:00:23.665] - Leesa

Irony at its best. You need to sleep before you do an episode on sleep, Leesa. Come on.

[00:00:46.155] - Leesa

I'm going to take a sip of my coffee. I'm only halfway done my first coffee of the day.

[00:00:50.275] - Lindsay

Yeah, me too. Cheers.

[00:01:04.675] - Leesa

Hey, everybody, so I'm Leesa.

[00:01:06.865] - Lindsay

I'm Lindsay.

[00:01:08.245] - Leesa

And today we are going to talk a little bit about a study on sleep. Basically sleep is so important for so many things. You'll get a sense in this episode. But this particular study is looking at sleep and college athletes.

[00:01:25.345] - Lindsay

An area, or at least a population, I would guess that is not known for getting enough sleep.

[00:01:30.745] - Leesa

Exactly, exactly. We all need more sleep. You remember being in university, sleep is hard to come by.

[00:01:37.315] - Lindsay

Yeah, you have a lot on your plate, you're trying to make the best of the experience. So let's be honest here. There's a lot of studying, a lot of work, but there's also a lot of fun.

[00:01:46.405] - Leesa

A lot of fun. Yes.

[00:01:47.635] - Lindsay

All takes away from the sleep.

[00:01:49.615] - Leesa

Right. Were you an athlete at all in college or university?

[00:01:53.215] - Lindsay


[00:01:53.665] - Leesa

No, me neither. But I can imagine the extra stress on top of your academics.

[00:01:58.555] - Lindsay


[00:01:59.125] - Leesa

Doing competitive sports and other things.

[00:02:01.585] - Lindsay

I can imagine. It was hard enough just having the education on my plate.

[00:02:05.995] - Leesa


[00:02:06.595] - Lindsay

Make sure I was doing well.

[00:02:07.795] - Leesa


[00:02:09.235] - Lindsay

For sure.

[00:02:10.045] - Leesa

So, of course, we'll start with a couple of little facts. Where it appears that daytime fatigue in college athletes is very common.

[00:02:21.325] - Lindsay


[00:02:21.955] - Leesa

And lack of sleep is endemic among college students, which means pretty much everywhere. Of course, being tired during the day is going to affect you in many ways.

[00:02:32.635] - Lindsay

Oh my gosh. Yeah.

[00:02:33.625] - Leesa

And not only that, college students, they want more sleep. The issue isn't that people don't know that they should get more sleep or that they don't want more sleep. There's a lot of environmental issues and stresses and pressure on why people don't get enough sleep.

[00:02:47.965] - Lindsay

Well, and I think it seems to be a bit taboo to prioritize sleep when you're that young. You know, it's like, come on, you're only young once. Let's party, let's have fun. You know, "you can sleep when you're dead." I used to hear a lot from friends.

[00:02:59.725] - Leesa

Oh my gosh.

[00:03:00.595] - Lindsay

Yeah. I'm like, "no, I love sleep. It's awesome."

[00:03:06.595] - Leesa

It is. I mean, you just see the way you feel when you wake up, when you've had enough sleep and when you have not.

[00:03:12.265] - Lindsay

So much better.

[00:03:13.795] - Leesa

Amazing. For me, my brain works so much better when I get enough sleep.

[00:03:18.325] - Lindsay

Yeah. There's some interesting little tidbits I can add for facts about why that is.

[00:03:24.235] - Leesa

For sure. So we're going to start with athletic performance.

[00:03:27.295] - Lindsay


[00:03:28.015] - Leesa

Of course, this is super important for college athletes, but all athletes. When you don't get enough sleep. This is associated with a delayed reaction time. It's associated with more effort. You feel like you need to put more effort into things.

[00:03:43.855] - Lindsay

Yeah. Definitely takes a lot more motivation to do anything.

[00:03:46.705] - Leesa

Right. Fatigue, of course. And also mood disturbance.

[00:03:51.355] - Lindsay

Yeah, that's not surprising.

[00:03:53.155] - Leesa

And less time to be exhausted. Yeah. And some of the interesting things are that it doesn't seem to affect the physiological markers of anaerobic or aerobic or power output. So what that means is lack of sleep doesn't seem to affect how much effort you have to put in to do the thing that you're doing.

[00:04:15.715] - Lindsay


[00:04:15.715] - Leesa

It's just getting it started.

[00:04:18.625] - Lindsay

So in terms of like the biochemical energy usage process with cells

[00:04:22.645] - Leesa


[00:04:22.665] - Lindsay

Nothing's changing.

[00:04:24.085] - Leesa

Right. Now, sleep deprived athletes can do sports related tasks, obviously, but the tolerance, the thinking part, the cognitive part, and the psychological part is lower.

[00:04:39.595] - Lindsay


[00:04:40.165] - Leesa

It's harder to get that done. And it feels like there's more effort.

[00:04:43.525] - Lindsay

Sleep really affects every way that we function. Of course, it's going to affect our motivation, mood--everything--how well we think. How will we process and learn.

[00:04:53.665] - Leesa

Right. I'll move on to injury and illness because sleep affects our injury and illness. And adolescent athletes that sleep less than eight hours a night are one point seven times more likely to have a musculoskeletal injury.

[00:05:09.895] - Lindsay

So this makes total sense because if you think about it, when you are doing any type of physical activity, especially if it's something where you're at a higher risk, you need to be aware so that you're using your body properly and you're not taking shortcuts because you're tired. But as soon as you're tired, your body's like, "do we have to be doing this?" It finds shortcuts, it finds ways to not use as much energy. And so you're more prone to injury.

[00:05:37.255] - Leesa

Exactly. And then when they do sleep more than eight hours, they end up with a 61 percent less risk of an injury. So it totally works on both ends. Right, you get more sleep, you get injured less, you're associated with injury more when you get less sleep. So it's linked on both ends. When it comes to mental health, this is another really interesting thing, because, of course, as an athlete, getting in the game, getting your mind in and your motivation, mental health is important for everyone. And with poor sleep, of course, it worsens mental health disorders and negative mood. And again, just like with injury, it works the opposite way, where people who are under more stress and have mental health issues, they have lower sleep quality and quantity.

[00:06:29.755] - Lindsay


[00:06:29.755] - Leesa

So they both feed on each other. Less sleep, worse moods, more injury, more dificulty to get your athletics. And in more sleep, everything is the opposite. And they work both ways. So there's a ton of research on this in all different areas.

[00:06:44.875] - Lindsay

Oh, that's really interesting.

[00:06:46.735] - Leesa

And then the last section, one of the main areas that they looked at for college athletes is, of course, academic performance. And as we discussed already, we know that better sleep is going to help you get better grades because it's going to help you think better. And it's also going to help your moods so that you can study better. We talked a little bit about a bunch of stats and figures and all of these associations, which I'm sure are not rocket science, brain surgery that people don't realize is a link. So then the question is: what do we do about it? And this is really where this study came in. What do we do when we know college athletes have so many time constraints and we know they're under pressure academically. We know they're under pressure physically. We know that being in a college environment itself can lend all different types of stress to people. So what do we do? And so that's really what this study went into. And I have learned about this new process called the Delphi method, which I was not that familiar with before this study.

[00:07:54.575] - Lindsay

No, I'm not familiar with it at all. Can you give us a little lesson?

[00:07:58.165] - Leesa

Right. So I looked it up, of course. And what happens with this Delphi method is that it's basically a culmination of expert opinions going through multiple levels of surveys to reach a consensus.

[00:08:12.445] - Lindsay


[00:08:12.945] - Leesa

So just so you know, in the back end when I chose this study, I chose it because it was a review study. And we know reviews are very high quality studies because they look at multiple different studies. In this case, this was flagged as a review, but it wasn't looking at multiple different studies. It was asking multiple different experts to weigh in on their opinions on how this works.

[00:08:39.925] - Lindsay

So it was almost like a conglomerate expert opinion piece.

[00:08:44.005] - Leesa

Right, exactly. So the way they do it is they start by obviously researching and coming up with a bunch of questions. Then they have to strategically choose experts and they send them a link to an anonymous survey asking them to contribute their thoughts and comments on these questions on what do we do to help athletes to have better sleep. Because this can help their academic performance and their athletic performance. And then they gather all the feedback. They go through it. They, of course, do some fact-checking just to make sure and then they send it back through. And what the idea is, they send it back through looking for a consensus. So, and it's anonymous, by the way, if I didn't mention it's anonymous. So when you're seeing feedback, you don't know who else contributed that feedback that you're commenting on. So that will hopefully lend to eliminating one level of bias. Choosing who contributes to this is going to be key in order to get a good balance of input from various stakeholders and experts and put them together to come up with a consensus statement. So while I originally wanted to rate this study as a seven, because we know that on our scale, which I'll link below, so the randomized control trials of six out of seven. Which is of course an extremely high level of study that you can do, and then the one up from that would be a review of multiple studies.

[00:10:13.735] - Lindsay


[00:10:13.735] - Leesa

But this one, because it's actually a review of expert opinions, which is pretty low on the scale. I probably would only rate this about a three out of seven.

[00:10:22.175] - Lindsay


[00:10:23.125] - Leesa

Because it is a review and there are multiple stakeholders. There's lots of people looking at it. But on the other hand, it's not based on critical evaluation of data.

[00:10:31.645] - Lindsay

Yeah. And it falls somewhere in that grey zone because it's kind of an expert opinion piece, but because you have so many experts agreeing on one specific topic or method or factor, it carries a bit more weight. It has more credence than just an expert opinion.

[00:10:50.695] - Leesa


[00:10:51.085] - Lindsay

But again, we're not looking at hard evidence itself. We're looking at somebody else's evaluation and then opinion on all of that.

[00:11:00.795] - Leesa


[00:11:00.795] - Lindsay

So, yeah, it's definitely grey zone. But it's interesting, I'm glad you picked this because this is a good discussion to have when you find articles like this. Where does it fall in the hierarchy? Because it's a bit of a different paper.

[00:11:13.555] - Leesa

Yes, and there is a hierarchy. And that's why I like looking at different quality or hierarchy of studies, because some of them are huge and robust and those giant studies have a lot more weight than a bunch of little ones or animal ones. I never, ever want to say that any type of study is not relevant or is unnecessary.

[00:11:35.475] - Lindsay


[00:11:36.015] - Leesa

Because all of the different study methodologies contribute something to our understanding, especially when we're talking about human physiology. It is extremely complex. So they're all valuable. But then how we want to practically use it in our lives, is going to be based on the better quality studies the "people" studies, the randomized control trials.

[00:11:59.895] - Lindsay


[00:12:00.525] - Leesa

Exactly. So that was interesting for me, this Delphi method. So then the question is really" what did everybody agree on?

[00:12:10.805] - Lindsay


[00:12:11.655] - Leesa

Because we know sleep is so good for your athletic, your academic, your injury prevention, and all of these people contributed. What did they say?

[00:12:19.485] - Lindsay

Tell us, we want to know.

[00:12:20.635] - Leesa

One of the main outcomes was, recommendation number one, after all of this research was that schools should find out from students how much time is actually demanded of them. Because we can educate people and people know that they need sleep and we can give them all these tips and tricks on how to do it better. But when it comes to the reality, how are these people going to do it? How is it possible to do it? So they recommend that schools do a time demand survey every year for their collegiate athletes. And that was number one.

[00:13:01.785] - Lindsay

Yeah, that's a good idea. Make sure the universities aren't demanding too much of the students and that they have time to have a balanced lifestyle.

[00:13:10.935] - Leesa

Right. And they don't feel like they have to cut into their sleep by hours and hours. Studying till past midnight every day in order to do things, because there may be an unreasonable number of hours expected from the students. So the number two recommendation was that they were talking about sleep technology. So we have lots of apps and all of these that they make sure it's compliant with privacy laws. Which I found to be a really interesting recommendation out of a sleep study.

[00:13:45.915] - Lindsay

Yeah, that wouldn't be where I would go with it.

[00:13:49.095] - Leesa

Right. Making sure that the information that is being collected about you through your apps and gadgets, is going to be secure. Because one of the things that can come out of that is if people don't feel that the information is secure, they may not actually provide a full description and accurate. . . Exactly.

[00:14:09.045] - Lindsay

That's a bit surprising for me that they went first.

[00:14:12.165] - Leesa

And I'm glad they're thinking about this because especially in the digital age now, where so many people and companies are collecting information on you based simply on what you click or what you like or what you search for. This is really important, especially when it comes to health information.

[00:14:28.315] - Lindsay

Well, and there's so little regulation around it yet because the laws haven't caught up with technology. So it's definitely a big concern.

[00:14:35.385] - Leesa

Yeah, it's a concern. So the third recommendation was to have sleep screening before people start participating. And this is really interesting. And this ties back to sleep issues like insomnia. So a lot of people have insomnia and there are actually evidence-based effective treatments for insomnia. The main one is cognitive behavioural therapy.

[00:15:04.035] - Lindsay

Oh. That's really cool.

[00:15:06.465] - Leesa

Yeah, it's cool. So if you already know before you start putting additional athletic demands on people, you know, if they already have insomnia. Then you can help them by giving them the treatment they need.

[00:15:21.645] - Lindsay


[00:15:22.185] - Leesa

It's a more specialized approach rather than a be all end all. We're going to treat all of our athletes the same. We're going to treat all of our students the same. When people actually need help with this particular item, they can get help and then that will help them.

[00:15:36.015] - Lindsay

Yeah, well, because you can't treat everybody the same. Everybody is unique. Everybody has very different factors that come into how to deal with whatever situation they may be dealing with. So you have to take that into account. I think that's that's a really good recommendation.

[00:15:52.635] - Leesa

Yeah, I agree. There's two other things that people can do actually, you know what, I'm just gonna summarize the top three recommendations, because these three are the really interesting ones, I think. So recommendation one, of course, was to do a time demand survey for all of your college athletes.

[00:16:07.805] - Lindsay


[00:16:08.285] - Leesa

Recommendation two was to make sure that any sleep technology apps or gadgets that you are recommending are compliant with privacy laws. And, of course, number three, screen people to see if any people are already predisposed to, or already are dealing with issues like insomnia.

[00:16:27.195] - Lindsay


[00:16:28.115] - Leesa

So Recommendation four is kind of where I thought we were going to go at the beginning. But it makes perfect sense that we are actually not. So recommendation four is to give people evidence based information. Like how to get more sleep. But we always default to this? Right. We're always like, oh, you have to do this, you have to do that. But really, once you get things out of the way at the beginning, once you get out of the way, that people have too much on their plate, that people are using tech that is safe that they can be honest with and secure with, and that they already are getting treatment or help with any underlying sleep issues they have. Then we layer on the education factor, which makes perfect sense to me.

[00:17:10.415] - Lindsay

Well, it does because you have to figure out what the real problem is before you can figure out how to deal with it or the best approach in improving it.

[00:17:22.025] - Leesa


[00:17:22.025] - Lindsay

You can't be giving them. Studies say this when that's not the problem that they're dealing with. So, homing down what the actual issue is before you start giving them advice.

[00:17:34.115] - Leesa

Right, exactly. And some of the advice that they do give, which, of course, is important, that it's evidence-based advice because that's what this whole podcast is about. So sleep practises, of course, is important, giving people tips how to do things they should do that's going to help them sleep better. The second thing is about understanding the role that sleep has to optimize both your athletic performance, your academic performance, and your overall well-being.

[00:18:04.325] - Lindsay


[00:18:04.625] - Leesa

Remember, we were talking about mental health as well. So when people understand that this is important, and probably it's not going to be a huge "oh my gosh, sleep is important." But maybe knowing the little details about it like "this links to this and this is good for that," and you can have less injuries. . . .When you really, really understand how it benefits you and you give people tips and strategies on how to do it, then that is going to work synergistically together.

[00:18:33.485] - Lindsay


[00:18:34.385] - Lindsay

And then the third recommendation is strategies to address sleep barriers so.

[00:18:39.665] - Leesa


[00:18:39.665] - Lindsay

Now that you know, somebody has time constraints and they're using the apps and gadgets, they may or may not have an [sleep] issue, then the next thing is how do we deal with these barriers?

[00:18:50.405] - Lindsay


[00:18:51.155] - Leesa

Right. So the last recommendation, number five. Was to give them support on different levels. So, for example, you provide coaches with this kind of information as well.

[00:19:04.465] - Lindsay


[00:19:05.275] - Leesa

But stuff that coaches are going to be particularly interested in to help them help their students. So, of course, they need information on how students can get better sleep. And they also need information about how it's going to optimize their athletic performance, academic performance and well-being.

[00:19:26.275] - Lindsay


[00:19:27.055] - Leesa

And they need to know strategies that they can use to help support their athletes [to] get more sleep. So you're getting the support from your coach directly.

[00:19:40.825] - Lindsay

Yeah. You need everybody participating to be on the same page. You need consistency from all role models.

[00:19:48.295] - Leesa

Yes. Consistency and support from the schools and from the colleges, from the coaches, I think is really important. And I think that it's good that we're talking about sleep. I mean, sleep has really come to the forefront lately. In the last few years. I think Arianna Huffington is actually one of the first people who I saw who really made a big impact on "hey sleep is really important in your life."

[00:20:14.765] - Lindsay

Yeah, we're understanding now how much importance it has in health and well-being. And it's not just something that, you know you fall asleep in your unconscious for a bit and then you wake up and on you go with your life. There are functions to sleep which are critical to how we function during the day. Really, one relies on the other.

[00:20:35.375] - Leesa

And again, it's quite a big area of research.

[00:20:38.755] - Lindsay

Yeah, there is a really good TED talk out that you can watch talking about the importance of sleep. And what's really cool is it talks about brain function. So what's really cool is the brain is only two percent of your body weight. When we look at overall distribution, but it consumes 20 percent of our calories. Those ratios are crazy. So there's so much going on in our brain during the day and at night. And what's really cool is what this TED talk was talking about is our brain doesn't have the capacity to clear out all the waste that's produced because of all the biochemical reactions that are going on during the day. And this is where sleep comes in. Sleep allows our brain to actually shrink back and flood it with CSF, so all of that waste material can be flushed out.

[00:21:26.725] - Leesa

Remind what CSF is again.

[00:21:28.705] - Lindsay

Oh, sorry, cerebral spinal fluid.

[00:21:31.375] - Leesa


[00:21:31.855] - Lindsay

So we have all this fluid that surrounds the brain and it's this little pillow and there are lots of different functions of CSF. But one of the things it does at night is the brain shrinks back a little bit. And this huge wave--I'm kind of visualizing a little bit more than I probably should--but this big wave of CSF comes in and really helps wash away all that waste material that accumulates during the day. So if you think about it that way, if you don't get enough sleep, you're not clearing away all the waste material that accumulates during the day. And so you have this gradual build up of waste material that's just around--and I'm probably not justifying and how I'm explaining this--but your brain just can't function as well because of other chemicals that are there that really shouldn't be there. They really suboptimize brain function.

[00:22:25.465] - Leesa


[00:22:26.125] - Lindsay

I just thought that was so cool learning about. Of course, I mean, sleep does so many other things.

[00:22:30.715] - Leesa


[00:22:31.345] - Lindsay

Well, for those that are studying in school, it really helps with cementing new memories and new material. So if you're cramming before an exam, actually getting a good night's sleep is a really good thing to do as opposed to staying up all night and studying. Yeah, sleep is just so fascinating. We don't fully understand what sleep does yet, which is crazy because we have all this technology. We've been studying it for so long, we still don't quite get the role of it, the importance of it, like we know it's important, but why else? But what's interesting is at least the book was saying every animal that has a central nervous system sleeps. And so if it is that evolutionarily remnant, if it sticks around through evolution that persistently, it's obviously very, very important and critical to our overall health and well-being. But why? Still a bit of a mystery.

[00:23:27.955] - Leesa

It is so cool. Another thing is that when we are sleeping, our brains don't shut off.

[00:23:32.995] - Lindsay

I know.

[00:23:33.925] - Leesa

They actually have different waves of different phases of activity as well, which we're learning more about what those do.

[00:23:41.405] - Lindsay


[00:23:41.405] - Leesa

So there's still so much more to learn when we're looking at studies. This is not the end of the line on any of the topics we talk about. [For] any of these things there's going to be more information, new information, better information in upcoming months and years that we're going to talk about this now, what we know now and we're going to learn so much more as time goes on.

[00:24:09.045] - Lindsay

Well this is, I'm glad you brought that up, because this is such an integral part of the scientific process. It allows people to say: this is my opinion right now, based on the knowledge we have about this topic at the moment, but most likely this is going to change as we learn more and as we evolve as a person and we keep discovering new information. And we're allowed to change our opinion as we learn more. And I think this is lost on some you know, they feel, oh, this is my opinion and this is who I am and this is who I'm always going to be. But that's not the right approach. I feel, you know, you have to just do the best you can with the knowledge you have at that moment in time and just make continuous learning a priority.

[00:25:02.755] - Leesa

I love that saying: "Do the best you can with what you have and when you know more and you know better, you do better." Exactly.

[00:25:12.745] - Lindsay


[00:25:13.075] - Leesa

Exactly. So none of what we talk about on any of our episodes is carved in stone for forever and ever.

[00:25:19.925] - Lindsay


[00:25:20.695] - Leesa

That is so true. I'm so glad we went on a little tangent about the scientific process and how it actually fits into our overall knowledge of any topic.

[00:25:30.535] - Lindsay

This goes with everything, though, like not just the scientific process, but just how we approach everything in life, whether it's your finances, whether it's your relationships, whether it's your view on more social issues, which is really prevalent in our society today. Just do your best with the knowledge you have at the moment. Be open to learning new things so that you can constantly be improving your outlook. [For] just about every topic that has to do with living.

[00:26:01.015] - Leesa

Yeah, I agree. Being open to new information and being a lifetime learner keeps my brain going.

[00:26:06.665] - Lindsay

Yeah, it's definitely one of my core values is just learning and, I love it. There's so much to learn out there, why wouldn't you want to keep learning about all the cool things?

[00:26:18.045] - Leesa

I know so much, it's so cool. The last thing I want.

[00:26:22.335] - Lindsay

Sorry, back on topic.

[00:26:23.365] - Leesa

No, I love this. I love this. That's why we're doing this. The last thing I want to share, of course, was some of these tips, these sleep hygiene, the guidelines and tips that are pretty prevalent and a lot of people know about them. But let's just see what the latest research says, according to this and Delphi method study from 2019. Okay, so the first one, of course, is a sleep schedule.

[00:26:49.725] - Lindsay


[00:26:50.565] - Leesa

Regular schedule, including on weekends. Have a good bedtime routine that you practise all the time by getting your body and brain in a nice rhythm. That is going to be key to getting good sleep.

[00:27:10.785] - Lindsay

That's really tied to the circadian rhythm.

[00:27:13.935] - Leesa


[00:27:14.895] - Lindsay

Your body has an ebb and flow to it. And the more you encourage that regular ebb and flow, the more your body just knows what to expect. And so goes into that state easily.

[00:27:28.305] - Leesa

Yes, the regular schedule is number one which, because it's so important, I think that it really lends credence to recommendation number one in the study, which is to do a time audit to see what the time demands are. Knowing how much time you have and making sleep a priority go hand in hand, you can't have a good sleep and then be extremely productive if you have way too much on your plate. And vice versa. If you have way too much on your plate, you're not going to do a very good job at them and get a ton of sleep.

[00:28:01.825] - Lindsay

Well, the other thing too, physically if you have too much to do and just not enough time, you know, you can't fit sleep in because you just don't have the time. But also, there's that stress effect too, where if you're constantly your brain's like, "oh my god, we can't go to sleep because you forgot about X, Y, Z that we have to do," your body never gets a chance to relax and get into that relaxed sleep state because you're always worrying. "Oh my god, I have to catch up. I have to catch up. Rush, rush, rush." And so that detracts. So you're really detracting from sleep in two ways.

[00:28:33.945] - Leesa

Having the regular schedule is going to work. When you have realistic expectations, you don't have to overly stress about it.

[00:28:42.375] - Lindsay


[00:28:42.375] - Leesa

So these are all this whole sense of well-being go hand in hand? Yeah, I do have a couple of other really practical tips. One is to seek bright light during the day, especially in the morning. So get your eyes in the sun, even if it's looking out your window in the morning and avoid bright lights at night as much as possible. We know this affects melatonin production, especially the blue wavelengths. So dimming lights and/or using reddish orange-tinted lights at night will help your brain understand that, "oh, the sun is going down." We evolved to know that when the sun set goes down and the skies are orange and red, that means it's going to be dark soon and we're going to be going to sleep soon.

[00:29:33.465] - Lindsay


[00:29:33.735] - Leesa

So with a lot of electronics, we totally circumvent this, even just having light bulbs in our bedroom.

[00:29:41.205] - Lindsay

Yeah, I was going to say with the invention of electricity into homes was the first step in changing people's sleep cycles because then they could start again easily staying up later. I mean, of course, when you have a fire or lanterns as your source of light, you could still stay up late. But it just changed the dynamic of how that happened.

[00:30:01.005] - Leesa

And the wavelengths, a lot of the lights are very white, which means there's a lot of blue in it.

[00:30:06.996] - Lindsay


[00:30:07.185] - Leesa

That particular wavelength is, or that range of wavelengths that is blue light is particularly tells your brain, "hey, the sun is up, we got to stay awake because the sun is up." Right. So that's the link to melatonin. Another one, of course, is to keep your bedroom comfortable.

[00:30:24.825] - Lindsay


[00:30:24.825] - Leesa

So you want it cool and you want it dark. So I personally have blackout curtains on purpose so that when I close them, the sun isn't going to wake me up extra early--it's especially worse in the summer.

[00:30:39.015] - Lindsay

Well, it's over here when we moved here. So Peter and I, my husband and I have been living here now for fifteen years and I very vividly remember our first spring here. So we're in Alberta, in Edmonton, which is quite a bit further north than a lot of Canadians.

[00:30:56.085] - Leesa

Than me, Yeah.

[00:30:56.625] - Lindsay

Yeah. And so the first time it started having longer, longer days, our daughter was quite young at the time. We put her to bed and we were like, okay, we're really tired, it's 9:30, let's go to sleep. But it stays so much lighter later here at the peak of summer at the end of June the sun doesn't set till after 10:30. So you have daylight until 10:30-11:00, and so we're trying to go to sleep at 9:30 and it felt like it was about 2:00 in the afternoon. You see often walking around, people with foil over their windows.

[00:31:29.975] - Leesa

Oh, really? 

[00:31:31.655] - Lindsay

Yeah. Like tinfoil over their windows as a cheap alternative to blackout blinds.

[00:31:36.035] - Leesa

That's a good alternative idea.

[00:31:37.745] - Lindsay

Yeah. Because, I mean, especially kids right you're trying to put them to sleep at their bedtime, but it feels like it's the middle of the afternoon. They don't want to go to bed. So you need to block out the light. Right. But yeah, it was so funny. We were going around hanging sheets over all the windows because we weren't prepared. I remember telling my mom. I'm like, mom, it's crazy. Like, you can still see light off on the horizon at like 11:00 at night. And she's like, "Oh, Lindsay, that's so funny." She's like, "Oh my god, this is crazy. You're right." Like, I wasn't lying.

[00:32:10.175] - Leesa

Your latitude is going to make a big difference.

[00:32:12.335] - Lindsay

Yeah, it does. It does make it more challenging. I mean, getting lots of sun during the day is easy peasy in the summer here. But of course, the inverse is true. We're going into winter right now. We get a lot more darkness.

[00:32:25.745] - Leesa


[00:32:27.035] - Lindsay

Like, we have late sunrise, early sunset. And so even then, you know, in the northern climates, it is really important to try and get outside when you can. Given that it's not minus 40 and your skin isn't going to freeze on impact. On exposure,

[00:32:42.695] - Leesa

40 Celsius, by the way.

[00:32:44.255] - Lindsay

Yeah, Celsius and of course, you're bundled up and all you can see is people's eyes, as they're walking around. But it's still important to not wear sunglasses and try and get outside and get some sun.

[00:32:55.445] - Leesa

Yes. Yes. That's another thing too, when you get a few minutes of bright light, especially in the morning. So that's a big, big tip.

[00:33:03.125] - Lindsay


[00:33:03.335] - Leesa

Another one of course, are stimulants. Right. So we're talking about caffeine, we're talking about nicotine when it comes to collegiate sleep is to avoid caffeine--and by caffeine they mean, not just coffee and energy drinks, but even pop, tea, even things with smaller amounts of caffeine. . .

[00:33:22.235] - Lindsay


[00:33:22.235] - Leesa

Oh, they didn't say that. But, you know, that is another thing that has a small amount of caffeine in it.

[00:33:26.675] - Lindsay


[00:33:26.675] - Leesa

Six hours before bedtime. Six. So if you're planning on going to bed at ten. For example, to wake up at 6:00 in the morning, you're going to cut off all caffeine at four.

[00:33:39.395] - Lindsay

At the latest.

[00:33:40.385] - Leesa

At the latest. Absolutely.

[00:33:42.245] - Lindsay

Some people are more sensitive, they need to cut it off a little bit sooner. So again, we're going back to bio-individuality. You might have to test out that threshold for yourself and figure out what your cutoff is and follow that.

[00:33:55.115] - Leesa

Right. And it might even be more than six hours. Exactly. And also they recommend not really drinking before bed because even though it might make you tired and reduce the time it takes for you to fall asleep, it adversely impacts the quality.

[00:34:12.875] - Lindsay

You're talking about alcohol now.

[00:34:14.645] - Leesa

Alcohol yes. I'm sorry.

[00:34:15.605] - Lindsay

Yeah, no, no, no. You just said drinking, so I just wanted to clarify.

[00:34:17.925] - Leesa

Oh, yeah. No drinking alcohol. Yes. Drinking alcohol reduces your time to fall asleep. So it seems like it would work, but you have worse sleep quality. And it's not just about quantity. You need quantity of sleep and quality.

[00:34:33.265] - Lindsay

Yeah, no, that's a good point.

[00:34:35.465] - Leesa

If foods and liquids bother you at night. So if you have reflux or if you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, if you drink something before bed, then try to move those a little bit earlier in the day so that you're not going to be woken up because your body physiologically needs to do something. Another point is the clock watching. It's almost like you've mentioned earlier, like the stress, like, "Oh my gosh, I have to remember to do this, and I have to remember to do that." Well, that exact same kind of stress response can happen when you are lying down, looking at the clock, trying to fall asleep. Looking at the clock, trying to fall asleep. "Oh, my gosh, it's already this time I can't fall asleep." So it actually increases your mental activity and it makes it harder to fall asleep. So if you can turn your clock around or turn it off, get it out of your room, whatever you need to do to get that one source of stress out of your bedroom and your nighttime routine, that could be helpful as well. The recommendations on naps were not very consistent. So basically, what they're saying about naps is if you have trouble falling asleep at night in general, you should avoid naps.

[00:35:55.265] - Lindsay

Yep, because you're trying to get yourself overtired so that you can fall asleep and you might not get overtired.

[00:36:00.035] - Leesa

Right. If you're if you have a nap in the middle of the day, then you may not be tired 'til, well, late into that night or the next morning. On the other hand, they're saying that as an athlete, sometimes daytime napping can improve your performance and function.

[00:36:15.555] - Lindsay

Well, and I think it's important to keep in mind we're talking about daytime napping, not daytime time sleeping. You have 20 minutes, maybe half an hour.

[00:36:25.455] - Leesa

They're not talking about sleeping for four hours in the middle of the day. Yeah.

[00:36:28.285] - Lindsay

Yeah, yeah. So if you can do that, if you're the type of person that can just have, like a true catnap, then, I think there are quite a few studies actually showing that it can improve function for the rest of the day. But for some people--and I'm definitely one of these--if I try and have a nap, I fall right in, I get into a deep sleep, and I'm just groggy the rest of the day.

[00:36:52.365] - Leesa

So there isn't a one size fits all when it comes to napping. But obviously, if your objective is to do better in school, to do better in your sport, to have better moods, then you want to do what works for you when it comes to napping and how that affects sleep.

[00:37:10.815] - Lindsay

Yeah, for sure.

[00:37:12.045] - Leesa

And then last sleep hygiene point is to use your bed for sleep only and maybe one more thing, but don't bring a bunch of activities into your bed. It's almost a bit like the routine, like you get your brain, your mind ready to go to sleep. You kind of do a routine. You have dimmer lights, do your bedtime routine, go to bed and you're always associating your bed with restful sleep. And not necessarily frantic studying or reading long books or watching television. Or if you don't associate your bed with those kinds of things, it can actually help you to fall sleep better when you get into bed because your brain knows that, "Oh, it's it's bedtime".

[00:37:57.045] - Lindsay

It's a cue for your brain. It's bedtime, it's not TV time. Yes, exactly.

[00:38:01.305] - Leesa

And they call it stimulus control. So by controlling the stimulus, there's a lot of evidence showing that making your bed for sleep, and not a million other activities, is going to help to prevent insomnia and improve your sleep quality. So a lot of these things are habits that you get into and you do on a regular basis before you start seeing a lot of benefits long term. So this isn't like, "Oh, my gosh, I need to sleep tonight. I'm going to turn the lights down one night." A lot of it are habitual, regular routines that you get your body and mind ready for that will help improve your sleep over time.

[00:38:42.855] - Lindsay

Yep. Nice. I like those tips, very good.

[00:38:45.765] - Leesa

Yes. Lots of good tips in this one. Overall, the study, I probably only give it about a three out of seven because while it is a review, it is a review of expert opinions and other people who know the subject, but not necessarily an objective review of studies per se.

[00:39:02.355] - Lindsay

But it's full of really interesting facts and tips, usable information, which is good. 

[00:39:08.655] - Leesa


[00:39:09.105] - Lindsay

Definitely. I'm glad that you brought this one up. This is a good one.

[00:39:12.555] - Leesa

Yeah, it was good.I think that my big takeaway was the implementation. It's not just about the education. It's not about teaching people how to get better sleep. It's not about people knowing and understanding the links between sleep. Of course, those are important, but that's not the most important thing. The most important thing is to actually know how people are spending their time and supporting them.

[00:39:41.475] - Lindsay

Well, and what's really interesting is it talks about doing a time audit.

[00:39:46.935] - Leesa


[00:39:46.935] - Lindsay

But we have so many different apps and we can use technology, now. If you feel that you're not getting enough sleep, whoever you are, try and look at if you can do a time audit on yourself, and figure out what can go. If you're not making enough time for sleep and it becomes a priority because you don't feel very good for whatever reason, what is not a priority that you can push out? And sometimes it can be like TV, unfortunately, seems to eat up a lot of time for people because it is highly addictive.

[00:40:18.875] - Leesa

Social media.

[00:40:19.755] - Lindsay

Entertaining social media is a big one, too.

[00:40:22.725] - Leesa


[00:40:22.725] - Lindsay

The more people I hear that say they do a time audit, they're shocked typically by how much they spend on social media and on TV. And it's like, oh, I don't have time for this. It's like, you just say you binge watch seven hours of something the other day?

[00:40:36.615] - Leesa

it's almost like using it like downtime.

[00:40:38.835] - Lindsay


[00:40:39.135] - Leesa

Right. "Okay I'm going to relax." And then you're sitting in front of this big screen that's flashing light at you.

[00:40:44.955] - Lindsay


[00:40:45.765] - Leesa

Right, so of course, enjoy your shows. We're not saying not to enjoy them, but just when you put it in perspective, maybe you need to have it a bit earlier or maybe fewer episodes that night.

[00:40:58.575] - Lindsay

Or, some people say that using an alarm to go to bed,

[00:41:02.475] - Leesa

Oh, right.

[00:41:02.475] - Lindsay

Could be a good reminder. You know, use your phone to ring whatever time you decide that it's time to get ready for bed and then it's, okay. It's just a matter of sticking to it at that point. Not just, "Just one more episode".

[00:41:15.495] - Leesa

But I want to do one more episode.

[00:41:18.315] - Lindsay

Oh my gosh, it's so tempting, and sometimes you just get into something and they have all those cliffhangers and you can't help it. Setting an alarm as a reminder of, "Okay, I've decided I want to make sleep a priority." And so that involves commitment and a little bit of sacrifice to make sure that you're getting it." You do feel better when you get more sleep.

[00:41:36.612] - Leesa


[00:41:37.125] - Lindsay

I know. Have you ever heard of Gretchen Rubin?

[00:41:39.345] - Leesa

I have. I actually have at least one of her books and one of her courses.

[00:41:43.615] - Lindsay

Yeah, she talks about the I think her first book was The Happiness Project.

[00:41:47.985] - Leesa

Yes, that's the one, yeah.

[00:41:49.695] - Lindsay

Yeah, different ways that she can improve being happy. And it was funny because I read the book and her husband's like, but I thought you were happy. And she's said, "Yes, but I want to be happier." One thing she addresses is sleep because she's like, I have to wake up at this time. And so if I want more sleep, there's only one way I can add more sleep. And that's going to bed earlier. And she made an effort. And she was saying that she actually felt way better just making sure she got a little bit extra sleep and setting up her day so that that could happen at the end of the day, where you're not like, "Okay, it's time to go to sleep. Oh, man, I forgot to do this. And I have to reply to this email and I have to go tidy up the kitchen and load the dishwasher." And then, you know, you're shooting yourself up in the foot. You have to look at ways you can set yourself up for success if that's a priority for you.

[00:42:32.715] - Leesa

For sure. You brought up a good point and made me think about how the pandemic has been affecting people's sleep.

[00:42:38.085] - Lindsay

Yeah, I've been thinking about that, too.

[00:42:39.555] - Leesa

Because for me now, one of my kids is at home full-time distance learning and the other one is at school half time. So five days out of ten school days. And my husband's working from home more. So I find that our morning routines are a little bit later and a little bit less formal than they were when they had to get everyone out for school.

[00:43:07.065] - Lindsay

Yeah, you had to be at the door at a certain time.

[00:43:09.055] - Leesa


[00:43:09.055] - Lindsay

People were expecting you places at a certain time. It's definitely changed our day to day routine. I think as a society which, you know, like there's pros and cons to this whole situation for sure,

[00:43:21.165] - Leesa


[00:43:21.165] - Lindsay

We won't go into details of it. But I think one of them is that people seem to be getting a little bit more sleep just because they're home. A little bit more.

[00:43:28.635] - Leesa

I hope so. Yes, I hope so.

[00:43:30.615] - Lindsay

I really hope so too. So I know at the beginning especially, I was getting a lot more sleep because, yeah, we had nowhere to be. So we'd get up later and like, OK, well, we'll start school an hour behind schedule. And, you know, it was nice getting a lot more sleep. People seem to be getting back into a little bit more of a normal twenty first century routine now that things have been going on for quite a bit of time. I don't know numbers going up across Canada and across the globe. I think we might see people start to hibernate a little bit more and, hopefully, that means a little bit more sleep, which is good because it improves your immune system. So that's one of the benefits of it as well.

[00:44:05.475] - Leesa

So interrelated. Real interesting thing is sleep not only contributes to better mental health and better cognitive health and better physical health and immune health, but those things also contribute to better sleep.

[00:44:17.835] - Lindsay


[00:44:18.345] - Leesa

You can get better sleep. There are a bunch of tips in here. So one thing that's really important about sleep is not only does it help with physical health and mental health and cognitive health, but all of those also help contribute to better sleep.

[00:44:32.595] - Lindsay


[00:44:33.315] - Leesa

So it's totally interrelated in both levels and it's really important to get better sleep. You can end up getting better physically, but then exercise can also help you get better sleep.

[00:44:45.795] - Lindsay

Yeah, well, it's so interconnected. Nothing works in isolation. And it just has to be a healthier outlook or healthier steps, actionable steps you're taking overall. And it all interconnects. You work on getting more sleep and then now you're working on a little bit more activity during the day and getting sunlight during the day, maybe eating a little bit better, maybe not eating right before bed. All of these little things improve sleep and then help you function better during the day, which improves the actionable steps you can take, which . . . It just suddenly is this positive feedback loop that starts snowballing once you start taking baby steps in whatever way works for you. I mean, we're all about educate so you can make the best choice for yourself at that moment.

[00:45:31.875] - Leesa

Yeah, for sure, for sure.

[00:45:34.185] - Lindsay

Yeah. This has been fantastic. Thank you so much for bringing us this article. I love the article.

[00:45:38.598] - Leesa

It's a really cool article. And if you guys enjoy listening, then we would love if you subscribe and leave us a rating and let us know what topics you would like us to talk about in upcoming episodes, please.

[00:45:51.525] - Lindsay

I know. Well, there's so many topics. How do you narrow it down? So we need to know what people are interested in learning more about because we all have our own interests.

[00:45:59.205] - Leesa

Yes, that's for sure. Awesome! All right. Thanks so much, guys. I'll catch in the next episode.

[00:46:03.705] - Lindsay

Yay, see you then.

[00:46:06.795] - Intro/Outro

Thank you for listening for exploration into more health research. Don't forget to subscribe and we'd like to thank Joseph McDade for the music. If you have any comments, ideas or recipes to share, you can reach us at rEATsearch on Instagram and Twitter and rEATsearch podcast on Facebook. That's spelled r-E-A-T-search.