May 4, 2023
How to improve sleep for better relationships (and better sex)
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- Are your sleep habits adversely affecting your relationships?
- Is a lack of sleep affecting your sex life?
- Do you want to sleep better and wake up rested?
Board-certified sleep expert Ellen Wermter joins us to share her top tips for a better night’s sleep and why sleep is essential to happy relationships.
Ellen Wermter is a Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner through the American Nurses Credentialing Center and a member of Sigma Theta Tau National Honor Society. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Virginia and her Masters of Science at Virginia Commonwealth University; and is a member of the Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners (VCNP). Ellen is a dedicated sleep professional both board-certified in behavioral sleep medicine (DBSM) as well as being certified in cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia and who actively treats patients full-time. In her free time, Ellen prefers to be outside in nature – and stays active running; and practicing yoga. She lives on a farm with her husband and four children – where she grows apple trees and keeps honeybees. She also enjoys singing loudly in the car and rarely gets the lyrics right.
Check out the BetterSleep.Org to learn more about the Better Sleep Council. Stay up to date with the Better Sleep Council by following them on their social media from Twitter to their Instagram accounts.
Save with code PODCAST on the Mindful Sex Course on the Happier Couples website.
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This is a computer-generated rough transcript, so please excuse any typos. This podcast is an informational conversation and is not a substitute for medical, health, or other professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the services of an appropriate professional should you have individual questions or concerns.
How to improve sleep for better relationships (and better sex)
[00:00:00] You’re listening to the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast, sex and Relationship Advice you can use tonight.
[00:00:15] Jessica O’Reilly: Hey, babe, are you well rested? No, I am not. When was the last time you felt well rested?
[00:00:21] Brandon Ware: It’s been a very long time. I can’t remember the last time I woke up and felt refreshed. I don’t think I ever wake up and feel refreshed.
[00:00:28] Brandon Ware: You know, some people wake up and they spring outta bed. Me, I fall outta bed because I’m still
[00:00:33] Jessica O’Reilly: asleep. So Did you have a good sleep last night? I slept well, but not very long. Yeah, it was a little bit of an nap. We had an early morning flight today.
[00:00:40] Brandon Ware: Yeah, we did. When was the, here’s the real question. When did you last have a full night’s sleep where you felt well
[00:00:45] Jessica O’Reilly: rested?
[00:00:46] Jessica O’Reilly: Okay, so I do sometimes feel well rested, but I swear I don’t
[00:00:49] Brandon Ware: sleep. Oh my God, you 100%. You don’t sleep. I like
[00:00:53] Jessica O’Reilly: sleep with one eye open.
[00:00:55] Brandon Ware: You’re like a dog. You always got one eye open.
[00:00:57] Jessica O’Reilly: Yeah. Just to see what, what happens next. Don’t miss anything. We’re gonna be talking about how sleep affects our overall health, our relational health, sexual health, all that jazz.
[00:01:06] Jessica O’Reilly: We have an expert because I am the anti expert, not anti expert. I’m the antithesis of an expert when it comes to sleep. I suck at it. So Ellen Morter is a board certified. Family nurse practitioner through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Uh, she’s a member of Sigma Theta Tao National Honor Society.
[00:01:22] Jessica O’Reilly: She has a long resume. Okay? She has a Bachelor of Science in nursing, a master’s of Science. She’s board certified in behavioral sleep medicine, D B S M, so not B D S M, not to be
[00:01:32] Brandon Ware: confused with B D S
[00:01:34] Jessica O’Reilly: M. D B S M, um, as well as certified in cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. And she spends all her time.
[00:01:40] Jessica O’Reilly: She’s a full-time practitioner seeing patients every day. I’m sure she’s well rested when we’re, we’re not, we’re not letting her off the hook in terms of treating us today. So inner spare time, she, she runs, she lives on a farm. She grows apple trees. She keeps honeybees. She sounds so happy. I know. We need to be more like Ellen.
[00:01:57] Jessica O’Reilly: All right. She’s gonna teach us all about sleep. Cel, let’s [00:02:00] dive into it. Thank you so much for being here. Ellen, can you tell us right off the bat, how important is sleep to overall health and wellbeing?
[00:02:09] Ellen Wermter: Well, it pretty much affects everything. I mean, we think about the pillars of health being. You know, nutrition, you know your diet and your activity level and things like that.
[00:02:18] Ellen Wermter: But sleep has just got to be included in there because if you’re not sleeping well, you’re not doing any of those other things well either. You’re not making good choices about what you’re, or how often you’re moving your body or things like that. And so it’s really pivotal. It pretty much affects. Every major organ system, you know, your immune system, everything.
[00:02:39] Ellen Wermter: So it’s key. It’s really
[00:02:41] Jessica O’Reilly: key. And I think about hormones. We often hear about testosterone and balancing hormones with sleep. Is that something you run into with clients oftentimes.
[00:02:49] Ellen Wermter: Absolutely. Because when you’re not resting well, none of your systems are working the way they’re supposed to be working.
[00:02:56] Ellen Wermter: And so that includes your hormonal regulation. Um, so yeah, that’s absolutely something that, um, gets talked about. And certain sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, you know, sometimes they’re picked up to like a low testosterone level and the doctor is thinking, well, why could that be? And one of the things that they look at is, What does your sleep look like?
[00:03:19] Ellen Wermter: And they start asking questions and the patient ends up coming to the sleep clinic for a workup and we find a sleep disorder. So, yeah, absolutely.
[00:03:26] Jessica O’Reilly: You know, that’s interesting because I know that you, you have all this background in sleep medicine, your board certified in behavioral sleep medicine, and you’re certified in cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.
[00:03:36] Jessica O’Reilly: But I’m curious what percentage of doctors really has a background in this area, because that is something, for example, I am never asked about Brynn. You know, you go for that full, like full day checkup, executive medical check. Yeah, I do a full workup every year. Do they ever ask you about your sleep? Is it just like one little question or do they really dive into it?
[00:03:55] Jessica O’Reilly: It’s just a
[00:03:55] Brandon Ware: checkbox. It’s just how, how do you sleep? And of course my answer is I sleep [00:04:00] fine. And I don’t know that I actually do sleep fine, but that’s my response
[00:04:04] Jessica O’Reilly: because they may not be asking the questions. Yeah. So do most medical professionals have a background in sleep? I, you know, coming from sexuality, we know that most medical professionals don’t have a background in sexuality.
[00:04:13] Jessica O’Reilly: Yeah. It’s
[00:04:14] Ellen Wermter: the same with sleep. It’s a big problem. I think there’s been a couple, there have been a couple of studies that show maybe one lecture, you know, I know in NP school I’m a nurse practitioner. It was never covered as a standalone. It was sort of woven into different things, like, oh yeah, sleep can affect this, and Oh yeah, sleep can affect that as sort of almost like you said, Brandon, a checkbox, uh, but not necessarily given its own.
[00:04:40] Ellen Wermter: You know, let it be the star. So one of the things I do for education is I go to a local university and I do a lecture onne. But even that, you know, it’s one one hour lecture and I’m hoping that it, it sort of plants the seed. I think a lot of people know it’s important, they just don’t really know what to do about it, you know, and if it’s, if it’s primary care, there are so many other things that they’re trying to address that it’s really hard.
[00:05:06] Ellen Wermter: I mean, when I do my detailed sleep history, That takes a while and it’s a great sleep history. You know, we go into every, but that would be an entire more than a visit for at your P C P, just dedicated to that. So I, I do think more attention would be great, at least to get people to somebody who can do that more detailed workup for them.
[00:05:27] Ellen Wermter: Or at least being able to pick up on some of the, you know, catch things earlier. Pick up on some of those cues before they’re a problem.
[00:05:35] Jessica O’Reilly: So if you think you have sleep issues and you, you know, your doctor maybe isn’t asking about it, what can you do? What, what questions can you ask? How can you even get a referral
[00:05:45] Ellen Wermter: to somebody like you?
[00:05:46] Ellen Wermter: Yeah. A lot of insurances don’t require a referral, but the ones that do, I think if you go to your. Primary care provider and just say, look, I’m struggling with this. I think it might help for me to go to speak to somebody about sleep. They’re [00:06:00] usually more than happy to sort of get that off their plate. I think just sometimes they’re not, it’s not the first thing they’re thinking about because they have all those other check boxes to take care of.
[00:06:09] Ellen Wermter: But if you bring it up as. This is my problem and this is what I’m dealing with. And, and I think a, a referral to sleep would be helpful for me. Usually they’re more than happy to help out. And again, a lot of places you can just find someone directly and just call them up and say, Hey, I wanna come talk to somebody about my sleep.
[00:06:28] Ellen Wermter: Do I need a referral in the front desk? Usually they know based on your insurance if you need one or not. And they can, you know, if you need one, you can go back to your primary care in Galvan.
[00:06:36] Jessica O’Reilly: Okay, so I, I wanna talk about emotional regulation and emotional intelligence or literacy because it pertains so significantly to relationships and to sex.
[00:06:44] Jessica O’Reilly: However, I, I have to ask a quick question about the sleep clinics because someone very close to me went to his sleep clinic and he got in his head and he couldn’t even get a moment’s rest. Now I’m sure he slept cuz I know him very well and he always says he doesn’t sleep when I know he sleeps, cuz I could hear him snoring.
[00:07:01] Jessica O’Reilly: And it’s not Brandon either. I’m asking, I’m asking for a friend without naming the friend. So how effective are those sleep clinics? Because it’s like a, a manufactured in environment,
[00:07:14] Ellen Wermter: right? Well, I think, you know, as with everything, there are going to be good experiences and bad experiences. I think in a case like insomnia, it’s really important to find someone who.
[00:07:27] Ellen Wermter: Works with insomnia patients and that’s what they do. If you go to sleep clinic, the first thing they’re gonna do is rule out sort of sleep disorders and usually top of that list is sleep apnea. So sometimes people go and they almost have a negative experience because they’re like, they just wanted to diagnose me with sleep apnea.
[00:07:43] Ellen Wermter: And it’s not that, that’s not the problem. There’s a reason for that and that’s because sleep apnea can cause. Insomnia. And so it’s good to know if it’s there because we can do all the behavioral things to treat the insomnia, but if there’s underlying sleep apnea, it’s going to, it’s going to be a little harder to [00:08:00] budget or it’s not gonna have the full effect that it might if we’re not treating that too.
[00:08:05] Ellen Wermter: I knew it wasn’t Brandon because Brandon said sleeps. Fine. And the interesting thing about people who have insomnia is that they don’t feel like they sleep fine. And the interesting part is that a lot of times they’re sleeping just fine, but because their brain is telling them they’re not, and because they start to get anxious about it, it just perpetuates the insomnia.
[00:08:26] Ellen Wermter: So that’s where those behavioral treatments can really come in clutch. You know, those are so important because they’re getting at the root of what is perpetuating the insomnia.
[00:08:37] Jessica O’Reilly: Okay. And we’re gonna get into some of the practical behavioral treatments, but I wanna talk about emotional regulation and emotional intelligence because you were talk.
[00:08:45] Jessica O’Reilly: Yeah, I’ve read your work. Heard your work. Before. You talk about how a lack of sleep or poor sleep really adversely affects. Emotional regulation and intelligence. So tell us a little bit, what is emotional regulation? How does it play out in relationships when we don’t sleep well?
[00:08:59] Ellen Wermter: So emotional regulation is our personal ability to sort of modulate and control our emotions.
[00:09:05] Ellen Wermter: So I always use the. Example of when a child’s running down the sidewalk and they fall down and they scrape their knee. If somebody comes and peeps them up and says, you’re okay, you’re okay. Before they can sort of do that whale, that cry, that’s, they’re sort of doing that soothing so that the child kind of calms down immediately.
[00:09:26] Ellen Wermter: Well, we have an ability to do that for ourselves. Our own sort of self soothing ability, our own self-talk that we use. And usually what we’re doing is when we have a bad feeling, we’re trying to quickly shut that down and move on, and then we’re trying to emphasize and hold on to good feelings, and that’s our emotional regulation.
[00:09:47] Ellen Wermter: Without it, we have a lot more negative thoughts about ourselves. And about how others perceive us. So that’s that social connection. We start to feel more isolated. We don’t feel as connected socially, and we’re more [00:10:00] likely to default the sort of automatic behaviors, those that require less cognitive reasoning.
[00:10:04] Ellen Wermter: But those types of automatic behaviors are also more selfish and biased. So it, it both impacts our ability to relate to others, but how much others might want to relate to us. So it sort of goes in both
[00:10:17] Jessica O’Reilly: directions. And so I imagine that plays out in relationships with a lack of patience, with being a little bit snappy, with expecting things from our partner that are unreasonable.
[00:10:26] Jessica O’Reilly: Right? So oftentimes in relationships, we have this dynamic where any sort of deficit, any sort of frustration becomes an external source and the closest external source. Is the partner. So if I haven’t had a good night’s sleep and I’m, I’m not feeling well, it’s easy for me to turn to Brandon and be like, you’re not making me feel good.
[00:10:41] Jessica O’Reilly: Right. We’re able to take the feeling that is really of my own doing or of just a practical doing. It’s not about assigning blame, but we tend to, when we’re exhausted, when we’re not feeling, you know, as emotionally stable to blame other people. Uh, I know we also have data showing that couples are not only more likely to argue for the reasons you just described, but also less equipped.
[00:11:00] Jessica O’Reilly: To deal with conflict in an effective way, less equipped to, I imagine. Listen, is there any data on our ability to really hear and consider other perspectives and you know, feel empathy when we are dealing with sleep issues?
[00:11:13] Ellen Wermter: Right? Right. Exactly. And you’re right, you’re going to ascribe that to your partner instead of sort of being able to take ownership of it yourself or to break down why you’re feeling that way.
[00:11:25] Ellen Wermter: Or to even be able to say, well, I didn’t rest well and so I’m irritable. But basically you’re almost going in survival mode if you didn’t rest well, it’s like your body is, your threat level is elevated basically, because if you didn’t sleep well, your physical reflexes aren’t going to be as good. Your cognitively, you’re not going to be as sharp, and so you have to raise the threat level in order to keep yourself safe.
[00:11:47] Ellen Wermter: Right. Well, if you do that though, you become more. Suspicious. You become more paranoid. You’re much more irritable, you know, so emotionally you’re suffering too. And then it also affects your [00:12:00] emotional intelligence and emotional regulation is more about yourself. But emotional intelligence is basically our ability to accurately interpret others’ emotions.
[00:12:10] Ellen Wermter: So if Brandon were to say something for you to be able to. Accurately interpret what he’s saying and it, it even impacts your ability to sort of read their facial cues, their expressions. And so when you don’t have good emotional intelligence because of poor sleep, it’s going to negatively affect those relationships so much more.
[00:12:31] Ellen Wermter: Your attention and your concentration aren’t as good. And so you’re more impulsive. You don’t pick up on social cues and, and basically you do have what you mentioned, which is less empathy for those people around us and less gratitude as well. That’s another sort of key piece is, um, being able to. You know, appreciate the people around you because you’re in that survival mode, right?
[00:12:54] Ellen Wermter: Um, and so without that emotional intelligence, basically your relationships are gonna suffer. You’re going to have more social isolation, your mood’s gonna be lower because you’re not, you know, you’re not judging the people around you accurately, and you’re also not communicating your own emotions very
[00:13:12] Jessica O’Reilly: clearly.
[00:13:13] Jessica O’Reilly: Yeah, that all makes sense. And when you think about not being able to appreciate gratitude and you know, having lower energy levels, it makes sense that you can’t just connect, you almost don’t want to connect. And that survival mode piece sounds so important to me because when you think about kind of the hierarchy of needs, you can’t look at, no, not only connection, self-actualization when you’re just like, how do I make it to tonight?
[00:13:34] Jessica O’Reilly: So that I can sleep again. And I think it seems really obvious when we haven’t eaten, when we, when we’re thirsty, when we have all of these other kind of survival mechanisms that are not attended to. Like we even have the language of hangry. But I wonder if so many of us, and I definitely count myself in here, have to sometimes stop and say, okay, am I really pissed at my partner?
[00:13:51] Jessica O’Reilly: Am I really irritated with them? Or am I just really tired? Do I really need a good night’s sleep? And bee and I have talked about an incident like 15 years ago, our [00:14:00] first time. Flying overseas. Mm. Yes. We were in, uh, Barcelona and we were fighting over like who was gonna hold the map and we had to just look each at each other and be like, oh my God, we just need to sleep because we hadn’t slept a minute
[00:14:13] Brandon Ware: that night.
[00:14:13] Brandon Ware: Yeah. But that was also, we realized that after we got into a heated argument over this stupid map over and, and it was ridiculous. But we were just exhausted.
[00:14:23] Jessica O’Reilly: So sometimes it’s just the awareness, okay, we’re gonna do all these things to sleep better, but if we don’t sleep better, let’s just be aware of the effects of lack of sleep on the relationship.
[00:14:31] Ellen Wermter: And I love that you were able to, to sort of break it down and realize where that was coming from. And I have to laugh because my husband and I had a knockdown drag fight in Barcelona as well, and it really does, like almost every time we travel somewhere where there’s a significant sleep lo loss to get there and you’re jet lagged and you’re struggling.
[00:14:52] Ellen Wermter: It takes us a day or two to kind of really get on track with each other because we’re dealing with all of those things we’re both in. Then you have the stresses of a different language and trying to do, you know, things that you’re, are outside of your comfort zone and you’re in that survival mode already.
[00:15:08] Ellen Wermter: And so it is, it’s a recipe for really for, because I think that come that, that will take you a long way to the club. Okay. So just the awareness
[00:15:17] Jessica O’Reilly: that this happens can be enough for you to catch yourselves. Maybe not in the heat of the moment, but I think it can be easier to recover from tension or what could potentially be the conflict.
[00:15:25] Jessica O’Reilly: So now I wanna share my issue with you and hopefully you can help, help me with my sleep issue. So I change time zones often. I was in four different time zones in two weeks last month with a range of nine hours, I was on 15 flights. Now I sleep well on flights and maybe after I can share people, share like my practical tips that are non-expert for dealing with time zone changes, cuz I adjust really, really well.
[00:15:48] Jessica O’Reilly: And so while I’m on the road like I was last month, I sleep really deeply. I don’t sleep much. I sleep like four hours a night, maybe five, which I’m sure is not enough. But I feel rested [00:16:00] and I feel full of energy like. So much energy and I’m not on drugs or medications. At all. So here’s what happens when I stop touring, when I stop that schedule and I slow down, I can get in my head about sleep.
[00:16:12] Jessica O’Reilly: I worry about how much I’m getting, I’m, and I’m here. Here’s my, my biggest struggle when it comes to sleep. I am very, very easily awoken. I get startled when I’m awoken, and when I get startled, I think I get this rush of adrenaline and I have trouble falling back asleep. So, When I have trouble sleeping, I do like deep breathing.
[00:16:30] Jessica O’Reilly: I do different visualizations. I do a body scan. Uh, if Brandon’s with me, he’ll rub my hand and that really helps. But what else? Should I be doing differently? I guess maybe you can tell me if it’s okay that I’m only getting four to five hours sleep, but it’s just sort of the way the schedule goes. But what can I do in this case when I’m changing time zones so often, cuz I know for example, like you’re supposed to wake up at the same time and that’s hard when you know I’m nine hours ahead and then just for 48 hours and then I come back.
[00:16:55] Jessica O’Reilly: Mm-hmm.
[00:16:56] Ellen Wermter: Okay. There’s a lot to unpack here, but I would say, I think you said it best when you said, when you’re traveling and you get whatever sleep you get, you feel rested, and that’s what you mostly have to pay attention to is, you know, if you got that four or five hours and you were slogging through your day, couldn’t form a sentence falling asleep.
[00:17:17] Ellen Wermter: You know, when you didn’t wanna be falling asleep, you know, that would be a problem. You’re, we, we tend to think if you don’t get eight hours straight, it doesn’t count. But that’s not true. And a lot of people sleep perfectly fine in a biphasic pattern, meaning there is one. Chunk of sleep and then there will be a break where you’re awake for a while and then you have another chunk of sleep, and whether that be mostly at night or a nap later.
[00:17:43] Ellen Wermter: And it sounds like if you’re able to see one planes and catch where you catch Ken, that you’re likely. Getting enough sleep that way it doesn’t have to be continuous. You’re putting it together enough that within a 24 hour period, or more importantly, maybe a weekly [00:18:00] period. A lot of times we also think about sleep as it has to be a certain number of hours per night, but we’re human it.
[00:18:06] Ellen Wermter: We don’t do this with nutrition. Some days you’re hungrier, you eat more. Other days you barely eat anything. But if it evens out over time, that’s what you’re more. Concerned about, right? Well, it’s the same with sleep. You might have a night that’s a little bit shorter, but then you’re gonna make up for it.
[00:18:23] Ellen Wermter: You are usually gonna rebound in some way. You’ll take a really robust nap, you’ll con out on, on the bus or the plane, you know, and you’re getting what you need, and because you believe you’re a really good. Uh, tra uh, sleeper. When you travel, you don’t have any fear and anxiety about that, and so that’s working in your, to your benefit.
[00:18:43] Ellen Wermter: Where it’s working against you is when you get home and your brain is telling you, I don’t sleep well when I’m not going, going, going, you probably sleep perfectly fine, but you may feel like. You know, now when I have this opportunity to sleep longer and I’m not, it’s a problem. It’s not as much of a problem, uh, really as it would be when you were traveling.
[00:19:04] Ellen Wermter: It’s just that your expectations are different and your reaction to it is different. So that’s meaning, you know, when you’re traveling, if you were to wake up, you’d probably just pop up and use it as an opportunity to get a few things. Figure you’ll catch a nap later. You don’t worry about it too much because you have an explanation.
[00:19:20] Ellen Wermter: You’re sort of like, well, I’m jet lagged and so this is normal for me to wake up. Where as home you’re, I fall asleep and I’m gonna sleep all night and I’m gonna wake up. And when that doesn’t happen, it causes you some consternation, some sort of anxiety or, or, and then you start to think, Well, I just don’t sleep well when I’m not traveling.
[00:19:39] Ellen Wermter: And you have this belief that, and thoughts and beliefs about sleep are so powerful and so really, um, likely you’re, you’d be able to get, and what you’re doing is fine. Like you can do the deep breathing. Anything that sort of calms you, relaxes you, distract you. The main thing is to not get too worried about it and to not [00:20:00] think that it is really.
[00:20:02] Ellen Wermter: Negative, uh, negative for you, I would use it to your advantage. Sometimes people need a little stimulus control, meaning sometimes you need to actually just get up, reset. You know, if, if you’re starting to get a negative association of the bed is a place where a struggle, a dread. I dread it. If you’re comfortable and relaxed, you can lie there and think about things that make you happy and you’re getting a lot of benefit from that rest.
[00:20:27] Ellen Wermter: And that’s perfectly fine too. I think our definition of success when it comes to sleep, you know, needs, needs some, um, needs some revision. Okay there, because rest is super important as well. That’s really
[00:20:39] Jessica O’Reilly: helpful. So I’m really hearing that maybe the cognitive behavioral piece. I could work on the anxiety side, which by the way, totally runs in my family around sleep.
[00:20:46] Jessica O’Reilly: Like the things that my dad says around sleep. I catch myself being like that and I don’t wanna be like that. So I actually see how well your cognitive behavioral therapy background as well as your, you know, sleep disorders, background goes, go hand in hand. There’s a piece I left out maybe by accident, maybe on purpose, but I just realized it.
[00:21:04] Jessica O’Reilly: I definitely watch TV to go to sleep. I get that like we don’t have a TV in our bedroom, but then I bring the iPad or the computer in and I fall asleep to to Netflix or HBO O Max. How bad is that?
[00:21:14] Ellen Wermter: That to me as a behavioral sleep person does not bother me at all, honestly. And a lot of people, yes, you can do a little happy dance because.
[00:21:24] Ellen Wermter: Really, a lot of people are so afraid to tell me that, and I just think it’s a non-issue. It is something that part of your routine that makes you relaxed and makes you sort of just wind down. It’s not a problem. It really isn’t. Okay. I love the, I think it’s nice to have the timers so that the, so that the, um, I think it’s nice to have a timer set so that it’s not sort of, Talking at you all night long cuz your brain will somewhat listen to certain phrases and things and so it could long term, I think that’s why those sleep mode, you know, [00:22:00] those are really nice, be because over the course of the night, it could impact the quality of your sleep a little bit.
[00:22:05] Ellen Wermter: But as far as a, a way to, as part of your routine for wind down, it’s perfectly fine.
[00:22:11] Jessica O’Reilly: So what I’m hearing from you is that anxiety is what interferes with falling asleep for many people. Definitely. You know, for me or for falling back asleep. And so if there’s something that soothes my anxiety, whether it’s getting a hand rub or doing a body scan or watching the, the tv, which by the way, I don’t fall asleep to it, Brandon will.
[00:22:28] Jessica O’Reilly: Fall asleep to it, and I’m like, turn off the, the thing I, I love,
[00:22:31] Brandon Ware: you know what the, the problem that I have is my, you talked about your mind spinning and I ping ponged around. So once I have a moment to be in my own head, I have to really focus on, you know, doing some of those things to help me relax. But I find the television just, it’s like, don’t turn on brain.
[00:22:46] Brandon Ware: You know, don’t thank you, your own thoughts. And then all of a sudden, I’m asleep, and then when I turn the television off, or I turn the iPad off, then I’m back to being awake again. Which is frustrating and we
[00:22:55] Jessica O’Reilly: tend to watch shows that we already know. So you’re not really paying attention. Mm-hmm. We’re not waiting, like hanging off.
[00:23:01] Jessica O’Reilly: We’ll watch a comedy that we’ve seen a hundred times, 10 times. Yeah. So, okay. So. We have to let you go, but we cannot let you go without hearing your actionable tips for improving sleep. So give us your best ones, please.
[00:23:14] Ellen Wermter: Okay. Well, you know, I think everyone wants a quick fix. They want a melatonin, gummy.
[00:23:19] Ellen Wermter: They want something that’s gonna be easy, but it’s really about those. Basic habits. So glisten every day, break a sweat. And this is how you build the chemical. A Denison. A Denison is responsible for making you feel sleepy. So it’s your sleep drive, it’s your homeostatic sleep drive that you’re building.
[00:23:36] Ellen Wermter: When you get physical activity, you can get mental, you know, mental workouts count to, so if you learn something new, you’re also building a Denison. And so that can help build a healthy sleep drive as well. But that physical activity is really key. And then another one is, Get outside, you have to spend more out, more time in the sunlight in particular, if you [00:24:00] can get some sun exposure earlier in the day, if you get up at the same time every day, that’s key.
[00:24:05] Ellen Wermter: Having that set wake up time and within the first hour trying to get 10 minutes, 20 minutes of light exposure, it really drops an anchor in your circadian rhythm. It really helps to set the tone for the day. We’re not made to be indoor creatures, and so the outdoor light intensity, the quality of the light you get on the spectrum, that varies over the course of the days, and it helps us to regulate our circadian rhythms.
[00:24:28] Ellen Wermter: So getting outside in the morning, dropping drops that anchor and it also tells, you hear a lot about blue blockers. Those are great, but if you get. Light exposure outside. Your brain’s gonna be able to tell the difference between your phone when you’re holding it and what is outside. So really that’s problematic.
[00:24:46] Ellen Wermter: If you have the same light exposure all day, then the blue light is probably going to affect you more. But if you get outside at some point during the day, you lose that effect because your brain knows the difference and it’s putting. Seen a marker that this is day that I wanna follow right now.
[00:25:03] Ellen Wermter: Temperature changes that you get more pinks and reds, you don’t have as much blue that helps to tell your melatonin, let’s get going. Sleep is coming. So spending time outside is so key to, to a healthy sleep pattern. And then the glistening every day breaking his sweat. And then it’s funny that Brandon brought up the racing thoughts because that’s one that I see a lot in my practice.
[00:25:21] Ellen Wermter: People were busy during the day. And we process things and our brain is at night when we lay down and turn the lights out, and then it becomes a habit. So sort of taking a mental pause during the day. A worry window is another term for it where you’re purposely trying to think about what’s doing that review of what’s on your mind.
[00:25:40] Ellen Wermter: It’s sort of rescheduling the racing thoughts for another time of the day when you’re better able to cope with them, because at night, your logic and reason are not at peak capacity anyway. So we’re not actually good at solving any of the problems that we’re coming up with. We simply end up ruminating on them and becoming more anxious.
[00:25:56] Ellen Wermter: So it’s better to reschedule that for a different part of the day. [00:26:00] And get in the habit of doing that, and then redirect your nighttime thoughts to things that are more pleasurable and happy. You can, you can daydream, you can think about just sort of silly things, creative things, fun things, things that make you happy and are pleasurable because that’s the part, our emotions are driving the bus at that point.
[00:26:17] Ellen Wermter: And we need to just, um, sort of lean into that and use it as a chance to sort of let our minds wander and play more than worry and ruminate. Okay.
[00:26:25] Jessica O’Reilly: And that sounds like the perfect opportunity to, to consider something pleasurable in, in the body with a partner or on your own. Uh, and really brings us to why sex can also help us to have a better night’s sleep.
[00:26:36] Jessica O’Reilly: And we’ll have to save that for another conversation. Alan, thank you so much for your knowledge and those actionable tips. I think they’re super helpful. Where can people find out more about you and your practice?
[00:26:47] Ellen Wermter: Well, I am speaking today on behalf of the Better Sleep Council, and basically you can find more about them at uh, better sleep.org.
[00:26:56] Jessica O’Reilly: Okay, perfect. And we’ll put all of your links as well as their links in the podcast notes as well. Thank you so much for being with us. Thank you so much for having me today, and thank you for listening. I need to have a better night’s sleep tonight. But the
[00:27:08] Brandon Ware: question is, are you going to have a better
[00:27:10] Jessica O’Reilly: night’s sleep?
[00:27:10] Jessica O’Reilly: No. No. I’m gonna, I’m gonna try just, just jump right in there. No, I’m gonna get marginally better at sleeping. It’s one of the things I suck at. Just like billiards. I’ve never gotten any better. I never will. When did you peak? Peak at Sleeping or Peak at billiards? Both. Both? Well, when I was young, the only bars you could kind of.
[00:27:28] Jessica O’Reilly: Go to and hang out at. Were billiards halls cuz there wasn’t like a, what are you, 90? No, there was
[00:27:33] Ellen Wermter: Lucy
[00:27:34] Brandon Ware: back in my day. The billiards
[00:27:36] Jessica O’Reilly: halls? No, like if you were 14, you couldn’t go to a bar like a nightclub, but you could go to the billiards halls. So that’s true. I grew up in
[00:27:42] Brandon Ware: Brampton. There was a whole lot of billiards hanging.
[00:27:45] Jessica O’Reilly: I peaked at 14. I never got better. I don’t think I ever won a game. I don’t even know if I ever sunk a ball. But I’m gonna be better moving forward about sleep. Than I am at billiards. Well, that’s amazing. I knew a
[00:27:55] Brandon Ware: lot of people that played pocket billiards. What’s the
[00:27:58] Jessica O’Reilly: play with your balls? With your [00:28:00] hands in your pocket?
[00:28:01] Jessica O’Reilly: Okay. This is why I don’t sleep because
[00:28:04] Brandon Ware: I’m too funny. Yes, because I was just awesome all the time. You
[00:28:07] Jessica O’Reilly: get me all riled up before bed. Okay. Wishing everyone a good night’s sleep. And I’m gonna do a little blog for Mindful Sex because I do know, not just from data, but from my own experience, that when we practice mindfulness, we’re more at ease, we sleep better, we relate better.
[00:28:22] Jessica O’Reilly: And of course, the pleasure is heightened. So mindful sex, you can check it out if you’re interested. It’s a series of videos. Audio guides, worksheets, and it’s a whole video course that I host with Dr. Reese Malone. It’s at happier couples.com and you can save with Code Podcast, so happier couples.com.
[00:28:40] Jessica O’Reilly: Check out Mindful Sex and go to bed.
[00:28:42] Brandon Ware: That’s it. Wrap it up. Go take a nap.
[00:28:45] Brandon Ware: You’re listening to The Sex with Dr. Jess podcast. Improve your sex life, improve your life.