Get to Know Dr. Michael Breus, Purple’s First Chief Sleep Advisor
This week, we officially welcomed Dr. Michael Breus, PhD, to the team as Purple’s first ever Chief Sleep Advisor. Dr. Breus, known as “The Sleep Doctor” has a simple mission: to change people’s lives with better sleep. He has 20+ years of clinical experience seeing patients, is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and is one of only 168 psychologists in the world (that’s right, the world) to have passed the Sleep Medical Specialty board without going to medical school.
We sat down with Dr. Breus to talk everything sleep, from how to get more of it to why it’s so important for our health. Here’s what we found out.
Tell us about yourself – where do you live, what do you like to do in your free time and most importantly, how did you get into the fascinating world of sleep science?
I currently live just outside of Los Angeles in Manhattan Beach, California. My family and I moved here about five years ago. Originally, I am from Atlanta, Georgia.
Outside of sleep science, I have quite a few hobbies that keep me busy. My son and I have gotten really into performance driving, going to tracks around the world to race cars together (my son is 19). Not only do we race cars, but we also collect them. We collect toy Hot Wheels, specifically 1968 vintage Hot Wheels. We go to swap meets, conventions, you name it. I also enjoy traveling internationally with my daughter who is 17. I’ve been fortunate that my job has allowed me to travel around the globe and make work trips into cultural experiences with her in particular. On our last trip to Asia, she really enjoyed the culture and eventually decided to study abroad. Outside of that, my wife keeps trying to get me to play tennis, but I’m more of a runner, and spin guy.
As for how I got into sleep science, it actually wasn’t planned. I had just gotten my PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Georgia and was interested in sports psychology, teaching athletes how to throw better, run faster, etc. At the end of the program, you apply to a residency (similar to medical school), and the best program in the country for sports psychology was at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Unfortunately for me, they accepted mostly Ivy league grads, but I didn’t let that deter me. University of Mississippi also offered a specialized track for sleep and I had worked my way through grad school as an electrophysiology tech, so as it turns out, I already knew how to work the sleep machines! My plan was to get admitted to the sleep program and then transfer into sports psychology. I applied to the sleep program, got accepted, but had to stay in the sleep program for six months before I could transfer. By day three of the sleep program, I had absolutely fallen in love with clinical sleep medicine and knew I would never do anything else in my life.
Why is sleep something you’re passionate about?
The simplest explanation is that sleep changes lives – if you change someone’s sleep, you can change their life. I love it. When you see what people look like when they are dragging and then when they get better sleep, it’s like someone recharged their body battery!
What is one thing you wish more people knew about sleep?
If there’s one piece of advice I would give to people about sleep, it’s to wake up at the same time every single day. Yes, even on the weekends. By the way, I know that stinks.
Every day I wake up at 6:13am on the dot, no alarm needed (I know that’s a little weird, trust me). My circadian rhythm (aka body clock) is used to waking up at that time and ideally, it’s best for people to be circadian aligned. While you might not be at the point where you can wake up at the same time every morning without an alarm, start by trying to make your wake-up time just regular.
Let’s talk about your relationship with sleep. Do you have a bedtime routine? What is your chronotype?
It’s incredibly important to understand your chronotype and how it impacts your personal sleep needs. You may have not heard the term chronotype before but you are actually familiar with the concept. Think Early-Bird and Night Owl here. In my third book I helped identify a fourth type and helped educate people that this is a genetic distinction, not something you can change easily. My chronotype is a wolf, which means I’m a late-night person. I don’t go to bed until midnight, and I wake up at 6:13am. Understanding your chronotype will help you maximize your sleep and develop a bedtime and wakeup routine that works for you. Here’s a quick quiz I developed to help you find out what your chronotype is.
As far as winding down, I have a pretty specific routine which I call the power-down hour. I take the hour before I go to bed and chop it up into three segments. The first twenty minutes is administrative tasks you need to get done (getting backpacks together, tidying up, etc.), the next twenty minutes are used for hygiene, (taking a shower, brushing teeth) and the final twenty minutes are for relaxation (meditation, prayer, etc.).
Similar to how you need runway to land a plane, you need time to wind down before falling asleep.
For my morning routine, I follow the rule of 15’s – I take 15 deep breaths to wake up my respiratory system, I drink 15 oz of water immediately and I get 15 minutes of sunlight which turns off the melatonin faucet in my brain. When possible, I like to get my sunshine outside, with my bare feet on the earth (I know it sounds weird, try it-weather permitting).
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling to get a good night’s sleep?
There are five main things people can do to improve the quality of their sleep and it will not cost them a dime:
- Wake up at the same time every single day – If possible based on your chronotype!
- Stop consuming caffeine by 2pm – The half-life of caffeine is between 6-8 hours, so if you stop at 2pm, half of it is out of your system by 10pm.
- Be conscious of alcohol consumption – There’s a big difference between going to sleep and passing out and it’s all about the time period from when you have your last sip of alcohol until you close your eyes. My general rule is that if you have one glass of wine, drink one glass of water and wait one hour before going to bed. If you have two glasses of wine, drink two glasses of water and wait two hours before going to bed. Generally, it’s best to stop consuming alcohol three hours before going to bed.
- Exercise timing is key – Exercise is fantastic for you, but you don’t want to do it too close to bedtime. There’s a lot of data to show that exercise improves sleep quality but it also increases core body temperature and sleep follows a descending core body temperature curve. It’s best to stop exercise four hours before bed.
- Rule of 15’s – When you wake up, take 15 deep breaths, drink 15 oz of water and spend 15 minutes in the sun.
Last but not least, why did you decide to partner with Purple?
My mission aligns perfectly with that of Purple’s, which is to improve people’s lives with Sleep Science. People can truly live a better life through better sleep and Purple is a company whose mission, values and products all ladder back to that promise.