A Q&A With Dr. Breus, The Sleep Doctor

Written by Laura Brooks

When we set out on the journey to create a better energy supplement, we did a hefty volume of research. One of the experts whose work we admired was Dr. Michael Breus, aka The Sleep Doctor, a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Dr. Breus is a leading expert on sleep, a big fan of naps, and NAPJITSU’s Chief Nap Officer. We asked Dr. Breus your most pressing questions about NAPJITSU, sleep and nootropics — read on for his expertise and use it to rest better and perform better.

Let's start simple — why is sleep so important?

I like to break it down in three particular areas - the physical, the cognitive and the emotional. The basic idea is that sleep is Important for everything. Other than breathing and drinking water, sleep is arguably the third most important thing that your body requires to function, and it affects every organ system and every disease state. Literally everything you do, you do better with a good night's sleep. There's no question.

In this day and age, people want to understand how sleep impacts immunity.

Absolutely — stage three sleep, or delta sleep, is the sleep stage associated with physical restoration. This is the most critical, most important sleep physically, and a lot of people don't get it. They'll drink alcohol, which will affect their stage three sleep. They'll drink caffeine too late in the day, which will knock out their stage three sleep, things like that. But remember stage 3 sleep is where growth hormone is secreted and this is what helps with cellular repair and production of our virus fighters — killer T cells — so it’s crucial for immunity.

Is that what you are missing when you feel “sleep-deprived”? Is it specifically a deprivation of stage three and four sleep?

Not exactly, and this is slightly complicated. Sleep deprivation is 100% personal — what’s sleep deprivation to you may not be sleep deprivation to me. I go to bed at midnight, I wake up at 6:15 every single day and I'm the Sleep Doctor — I do it without an alarm. I know when I'm tired, I know when I wake up, and I have this level of energy all day. My wife needs eight hours, so she goes to bed around 11 She gets up around 7-7:30. But if she had my amount of sleep, she'd be sleep deprived, while I have my amount of sleep and I'm not sleep deprived. It's hyper personalized to you. So you “feel” sleep deprived from the reduction of sleep as a whole, not from one particular missing stage (but stage 3 is a big one).

And it’s not just about minutes or hours — sleep quality matters. Somebody could have eight hours of poor quality sleep, and they’ll feel sleep deprived.

What would you say to people who poopoo sleep, that “I’ll sleep when I'm dead” kind of person?

They'll be dead a lot faster if they don't prioritize sleep. Here's the thing that I never understand. - sleep is healing. Why would you ever want to curtail healing? Never ever, ever. Right? If there's something wrong with your body, and it's got the opportunity to fix itself, and all you have to do is not do anything, why wouldn’t you do it? I don't get it.

I do think a lot of people, at least historically, used to think of sleep as weakness or a sign of laziness. What I’ve found is that most of those people are young. Because when you're young, you can battle through just about anything. You can pull all nighters, you drink a bunch of Red Bulls, and you feel fine. I'm 54 years old — if I do that, my week is totaled. So age also plays a pretty significant role in how you feel sleep deprived. 

If someone can't get their 6 to 8 hours of sleep — whatever their target range is — what is the next best thing?

I would recommend supplemental sleep and napping, especially if people normally get a certain amount of sleep. So if you normally get seven hours and for whatever reason, you got five and a half last night because you had to wake up to catch a flight, then I'm a big fan of napping.

Some of the data would suggest that you would want to nap approximately seven hours after you wake up. Dr. Sarah Mednick has done some very interesting research on napping in that particular area. So I would say that if you don't get enough sleep at night, that's definitely a way to supplement your sleep.

When someone says that they're “not a napper” or they can't nap, what is the missing piece for them?

The missing piece for a lot of people is they've tried to nap before and it's gone terribly wrong. Have you ever taken a nap and felt worse, not better after the nap? That's what happens to a lot of people. They fall asleep, and boom, they're there for 45 minutes as opposed to 25 minutes, when it's much easier to wake up because there’s no sleep inertia. So don’t stress about it. Many people do not realize that they will still get benefits by just being away from their daily stress, and having a “time out, “ even if you don’t sleep.

What nootropics do you recommend for trying to energize, and then also for trying to wind down? 

The biggest nootropic is caffeine. And that's one thing that you have to keep you awake, it can come in other forms, such as guarana. There are many with research behind them. The ones in NAPJITSU work very well including: guarana, cordyceps, caffeine and B vitamins. 

Then when you're at the point where you’re ready to chill out,  I like GABA, as my favorite unwinder. I call GABA the “brakes of the brain,” because it really helps slow things down. Valerian is arguably the most studied herbal supplement for sleep. Also, interestingly, there’s data showing that the amino acid L-Theanine (found in green tea) helps with both alertness and sleep. And NAPJITSU has all of those.

How do NAPJITSU’s nootropics help students study or cram for a test?

If you were cramming for a test, I wouldn't have a problem with somebody using NAPJITSU, but I wouldn't want them to pull an all-nighter — don’t take NOW or a few rounds of NAP to stay up all night, because NAPJITSU is not a replacement for sleep.

A lot of kids do all-nighters thinking, Oh, I'm just going to cram all that information in my head and then blast it out in the test and then be done. But you don't remember any of it — it is pure rote memorization at that point, so you don't conceptually get things and you're not very good at explaining the concepts. You're better off taking a nap or sleeping for 1-2 sleep cycles (at 90 min) than studying through that time, because sleep consolidates memory. Sleep moves information from your short term memory to long term memory. And you need to get REM sleep in there to do that, but that doesn’t happen with an all-nighter. So get some sleep, when you need it.

Okay, let’s talk about what happens in a caffeine nap?

The Nap-a-Latte was a technique that I developed a long time ago (and I'm not sure I developed it, just to be clear), but basically it’s drinking coffee just before your nap. When a cell eats a piece of glucose, something comes out the back end — one of those things is the hormone adenosine. And it works its way through your system and goes to a very specific receptor site area in your brain, where it accumulates. As it accumulates, you get sleepier and sleepier and sleepier. 

The thing that's fascinating is that the molecular structure of adenosine and the molecular structure of caffeine are off by only one molecule, which is kind of bizarre! But because of their similar molecular shapes, the receptor site for adenosine can be open to other receptors, like caffeine. So with a caffeine nap, as you close your eyes and start to nap, your brain burns through the adenosine that's there. Meanwhile, the caffeine is waiting in the wings and it clicks into open receptors perfectly. And then you're good for a few hours, guaranteed. 

And how is NAP different from a caffeine nap?

With NAPJITSU NAP, in addition to the caffeine, we have a specific set of nootropics. Sleep is important from a napping perspective because it helps reduce adenosine. Caffeine is important from the napping perspective because it gives you energy. And then all of the nootropics are giving you focus — and that’s the difference. You get three separate things from a NAPJITSU NAP — you get your sleep, you get your energy, and you get your focus.

What is misunderstood about napping?

People need to realize you don't have to sleep in order to get the benefits of NAP or a normal nap. A lot of people will say, I can't sleep in the middle of the day. I want people to realize there's something called non-sleep, deep rest, which is lying in a dark room, quiet with the earplugs in and just relaxing — that is rejuvenating. It's not exactly like sleep, but if you do an hour of that, it's probably worth about 20 minutes of sleep. 

We're locked into these Zoom meetings, all day long. We don't get any breaks at all. So it's really hard to go from thing to thing to thing. So sometimes taking a 25 minute nap — or even just a break — is a perfect thing to schedule in for your day because it basically saves your energy.

We’ve talked about caffeine and we’ve talked broadly about nootropics — what are your favorite nootropics?

Ashwagandha has so much research behind it, and it's used for boosting energy, reducing stress and reducing anxiety. Also, rhodiola is one of the adaptogenic roots in NAPJITSU, and it’s really good for improving anxiety, fatigue and depression. Ginseng is big for memory, mood and mental performance. And there's lots of data about how ginkgo improves brain function, focus and attention.

What advantages does NAPJITSU offer compared to energy drinks?

There are a few things. Number one, our time-released technology is patent-pending, and that’s better technology in the form factor of how caffeine is administered. The capsules have an enteric coating that allows for it not to propagate until a particular time so you get the time-released effect. 

Number two, we're using different forms and amounts of caffeine. We have guarana, as well as B vitamins, which we know to be natural mood-enhancers and energy providers and cordyceps mushrooms, which can be very helpful for people as well. So the nootropics really set NAPJITSU apart — it’s very different than anything out there. It’s much more holistic, much more science-backed and has the right dosage of each ingredient for the desired effects — sustained focus and energy.



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