In this Episode
Did you know that sleep is when our brain processes emotions and information?
Yet studies reveal that Americans are very sleep deprived like over 70% of teens, for example.
Our podcast guest this week is Dr. Licata who has helped over 2,000 clients, including professional athletes from the NFL, MLB and the NCAA with brain-based tools to reduce pain and increase performance. He shares how sleep can be the catalyst or hindrance to making any type of progress.
In this week's episode, you'll learn:
- The powerful impact of sleep on learning and living
- How to know if you are getting enough good sleep
- What the brain does with information while we sleep
"Every person, every human being has a DNA predisposition to be either what we call night owls or morning larks or somewhere in between…Getting those 8 hours of sleep are not going to be created equal.”
- Dr. Licata
- Vital Head and Spinal Care - Dr. Licata's applied neuroscience company where he does brain training for ADHD, anxiety, and other needs
- Circadian Code by Satchin Panda - book recommendation
- Circadian Code to Extend Longevity - Satchin Panda's Tedx Talk
- Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, PhD - book recommendation
- Oura Ring and WHOOP strap - wearable technology that tracks sleep and other health indicators
How do light, music, and meals affect our sleep?
Tune in to the Bonus Q&A with Dr. Licata to hear his findings and how to get started tracking your sleep with the right routine and technology.
[00:00:08.230] - Jill Stowell
If you could have a superpower, what would it be? After talking with today's guest, Dr. John Carlo Licata, I think I want my superpower to be sleep.
[00:00:18.770] - Jill Stowell
Welcome to the LDX Expert Podcast, your place for answers and solutions for learning differences, dyslexia, and auditory and attention challenges. I'm your host, Jill Stowell, founder of Stowell Learning Centers and author of the new Amazon number one best seller take the Stone out of the Shoe a Must Have Guide to Understanding, Supporting and Correcting Dyslexia, Learning and Attention Challenges.
[00:00:45.890] - Jill Stowell
We have a fascinating show for you today. You are going to learn some surprising reasons why sleep is so important and how to get more and better sleep. Our guest today is Dr. John Carlo Licata. Dr. Licata is the founder of Vital Brain Training, Vital Head and Spinal Care, and the co-founder of Pasadena Interpersonal Community.
[00:01:12.590] - Jill Stowell
His focus is on applied neuroscience, chronic pain and inter-professional collaboration. He is a member of the International Association of Applied Neuroscience, the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association, Council on Upper Cervical Care, and the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine.
[00:01:34.490] - Jill Stowell
Vital Head and Spinal Care is a brain-based health practice in Pasadena, California, focusing on brain-based tools to improve pain and performance. Established in 2008, Vital has helped over 2,000 clients, including professional athletes from the NFL, MLB and the NCAA. Doctor Licata and Vital have been featured on PBS, ABC WebMD and now LD Expert Live. Welcome, Doctor Licata.
[00:02:08.030] - Dr. Licata
Thank you. Good morning. I'm excited to be here.
[00:02:10.810] - Jill Stowell
Good morning. Hey, I was fascinated when we talked earlier about sleep. Do you think one of the positive outcomes of this stay-at-home time might be that people are getting more sleep?
[00:02:25.910] - Dr. Licata
It could be. I hope so. I think we have more time available to sleep and so I think if we can structure it right, yes, it'll be great. Otherwise we just binge watch all night long.
[00:02:40.140] - Jill Stowell
Oh yeah, there is that. But I was thinking about the fact that people don't have to get up and rush to beat the traffic or whatever.
[00:02:52.310] - Dr. Licata
[00:02:52.660] - Jill Stowell
Well, there was a study by the CDC in 2016 that said that more than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. And a study presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics last year indicated that 52% of children ages six to 17 get less than the recommended 9 hours of sleep. So we are kind of a sleep deprived society and that seems like a really big problem. How does that impact functioning and learning?
[00:03:30.480] - Dr. Licata
Right? I mean, it's a problem because it's so prevalent, but it's also a problem because it's so vital, it's so necessary for so many things. And so we're going to dive into some of the deeper reasons as to what sleep does. How it affects us. How it either becomes our superpower and helps our learning, or our children learn and recover and be more emotionally regulated. Or how it's actually hindering them over and over and over again.
[00:04:00.010] - Dr. Licata
And how parents are spending all of this money for support and the reading articles on what to do when there's something that's free. There's something that's probably more powerful than any single thing that they could do. And it's available to them just tonight. So hopefully we can go into that and we can empower all the parents to help their kids learn more.
[00:04:24.770] - Jill Stowell
Wow, that sounds amazing. When we were talking, you had said that to really understand sleep, we kind of need to understand some of the definitions. Can you talk to us about that a little bit?
[00:04:38.890] - Dr. Licata
Yeah. And if that's okay. Jill one of the things that I want to do is establish how powerful sleep is first, if you're okay with that. And then we'll go right into the definitions because I don't think that moms, especially moms, but us dads too, we lag behind. When our child is getting up in the morning or our child is in school and they can't pay attention and they're sitting at their desk tapping their feet. Or the teachers are complaining and writing home saying that Johnny isn't able to pay attention in class or he's disturbing his classmates.
[00:05:18.230] - Dr. Licata
We would never even begin to think that maybe it was the previous night's sleep that was starting to dysregulate him to begin with. Right. Or if our daughter is having a hard time learning and she has to study for a big test and she's pulling all-nighters every day for the last five days as she's preparing for this final exam. We wouldn't even begin to think that she's been sabotaging herself every day leading up to this exam and that her brain is actually less able to learn, retain, and then recall information. Right.
[00:05:55.470] - Dr. Licata
So these are things that sleep is going to be able to help our children. And so that's where I want to kind of really I want parents to know that I have three kids. And for me, when we started to regulate their sleep and kind of put some boundaries, we saw changes all over the place. So that's the first thing and then Jill yes, absolutely.
[00:06:16.390] - Dr. Licata
So when we think of sleep, I talk to parents often and they're often telling me, I think my child is getting good sleep, or my son had really bad sleep yesterday. And so when I asked them, what does that mean? They're kind of giving me this big glob answer. They say, well, he woke up really tired and cranky. Or they say, well, he slept 8 hours, but that meant that he was in his room for 8 hours, but they don't know what that really meant.
[00:06:45.490] - Dr. Licata
So we can go into what I call the horizontal definitions of sleep and then also the vertical definitions of sleep, and we can dive into that if that's something you like to do.
[00:06:58.270] - Jill Stowell
Great. Sounds great. It's so fascinating to me. I mean, we all do it, we all sleep. And if it can really impact so much of our daily lives, I mean, it's fascinating to me to know as much as possible. And for our parents that's a huge point that they have this thing that they can do right now for free every day to support their child's learning and memory and attention.
[00:07:32.190] - Dr. Licata
Right. It's the catalyst of every other therapy or treatment they're going to do. It's the enzyme. It's the thing that's going to make everything better or it's going to be the thing that hinders everything else that they do. Right.
[00:07:48.240] - Dr. Licata
So it often won't replace whether they are Stowell clients or whether there's other educational therapists or other tutors. It may not replace them, but what it's going to do is just make their capacity to help your child that much more effective, right? Yeah.
[00:08:08.340] - Dr. Licata
If that's okay, I'm going to go into it. Most of the times that we think about sleep. We're going to think of it like a timeline and we're going to say, well, Johnny got 8 hours of sleep, right? Well if it's recommended nine, then that's simple. Johnny didn't get enough sleep last night and we know that's going to hinder him in many ways.
[00:08:27.550] - Dr. Licata
But until we start to understand what are the nuances of those 8 hours or those 9 hours, we won't be able to go into why each thing is so powerful. Okay, when did Johnny go to sleep? Did Johnny get 8 hours by falling asleep at twelve midnight and waking up at eight? Was that good or bad for Johnny? He still got 8 hours, right? Or what if he fell asleep at 07:00 p.m. And he woke up at three in the morning? Is that good or bad? He got 8 hours.
[00:09:04.370] - Dr. Licata
One of the things that we know is that what time we go to sleep may matter and that for some children going to bed earlier is going to be really important and for other children going to bed later is going to be really important. And if we don't understand and honor how our children's genetic makeup is, those 8 hours are not going to be created equal for them.
[00:09:29.750] - Dr. Licata
There's a wonderful neuroscientist out of Salk Institute down in La Jolla, California and his name is Satchin Panda and he wrote a book called The Circadian Code and it has many, many things that are brilliant. But one of the things that he really emphasized was that every person, every human being has a DNA predisposition to be either what we call night owls or morning larks or somewhere in between.
[00:10:02.000] - Dr. Licata
I usually tell parents, if you can kind of first identify what is your child's natural cycle, when do they tend to fall asleep, when do they tend to wake up in the morning? If we don't understand that there's a genetic wiring that's going to predispose them to be one or the other we may oftentimes be hindering them, trying to get them to wake up because we wake up early.
[00:10:26.870] - Dr. Licata
But if John is a night owl, his 8 hours or his 9 hours may be ideal. Starting from 11:00 P.M. to maybe seven or 08:00 A.M., that may be Johnny's ideal sleep window. So what I want to do is first, where is that window? Where is that window for Johnny? And Johnny's window may be different from Mary's window. So I really want to kind of go into that.
[00:10:54.950] - Dr. Licata
Jill, you mentioned last time when we spoke a few days ago, that was a big insight, even for you about raising your children back in the day. You realize that your daughter, they had a different window, is that right?
[00:11:08.750] - Jill Stowell
Yes, definitely. I am absolutely a morning person and if I don't get my work done early in the morning, by evening, it's like my brain is fried. But my daughter, who actually works with us now, she has always been a night owl and so she would be doing homework at two in the morning sometimes. And even now she does a lot of her work late at night and I can't even get my mind around that right.
[00:11:40.200] - Dr. Licata
That's huge. Now, oftentimes what you ask, is this better during this time, during the Covid sheltered home period? Is this better for some of us, for our sleep? I would say for some of us night owls, it may be. Some of us night owls who really struggle getting up at six in the morning or five in the morning and then have to be in school or commute to school. And then their brain is still trying to wake up and they're having to be bright and chipper right at 08:00 A.m., that's going to really affect them. Their brain is not quite ready yet. That's not their window. So that's a big one.
[00:12:23.800] - Dr. Licata
First thing is kind of contextualizing this whole conversation will be when is our child's natural window? Right? The second thing is going to be when we think about sleep, we're going to think about how quickly did somebody fall asleep? We'll call that sleep onset. How many times did they wake up in the middle of their sleep? We'll call that let's say just duration or how many interruptions there were. And then we're going to say what time did they tend to wake up?
[00:12:51.420] - Dr. Licata
Right? And what was the total length of that time? And so now we start to see that some people have challenges falling asleep. And so they may sleep 8 hours or 9 hours, but they had to go to bed, they had to lay in bed for maybe ten or maybe 11 hours. Their sleep onset was disrupted. And that's a different challenge and that's something that we want to help parents with if our kids just can't wind down. There's also the children that are waking up three, 4, 5, 30 times a night.
[00:13:23.510] - Dr. Licata
We have a client a training client now who we track his sleep data and we'll go into that. But the other night, a few weeks ago, he woke up 34 times. Now he didn't even remember that he was waking up, but we can see the interruptions throughout the night. And so, of course he's waking up and he's groggy, he's irritable, he's moody. And so that definitely has not been helping all the other things that his mother's trying to help him with. And then of course, there's duration. Does somebody sleep for 8 hours, 9 hours, or some of our kids sleeping for five? Right? So that gives us a framework to understand sleep. But then we'll go deeper.
[00:14:03.040] - Jill Stowell
When you talked about that, really understanding your child's ideal window for sleep. Right now, during this time where we're all at home, that's a little bit maybe easier when you have to do school, if you can let them sleep in and then just get up when they're ready and do school and during school time, though, that isn't quite as easy. And I was thinking, well, as a parent, at least if you understand that, then you have your child get everything ready the night before because they're going to stay up a little bit later and then they're going to get up, roll out of bed, throw on some clothes and go to school without having to do, well, breakfast, but not having to do a lot.
[00:14:54.980] - Dr. Licata
Right? For a lot of us now, the challenge parents have is creating some structure. With school there's too much structure, they can't work around that structure. But now, yes, I think that what I've seen is having parents set a schedule for their children on a weekly basis.
[00:15:17.030] - Dr. Licata
I've seen some parents say, look, we now know, Johnny, that you tend to be a night owl. Well, let's have you try going to sleep at eleven and then let's have you wake up at any time. Let's just give you that freedom to wake up when you wake up. Right now, what's amazing about sleep is that Johnny, if he is sleep deprived, he may wake up at noon, he may wake up at 01:00 p.m., who knows?
[00:15:46.230] - Dr. Licata
But at some point, once he started filling that up, his normal circadian rhythm, his normal cycles will start to re emerge again and he will start to wake up at a very predictable time. And almost guarantee it won't be eleven, it may be eight, it may be nine. And so by setting at least a kind of a preliminary beginning point for the night owls and letting them find where they're going to land for the waking time, that becomes a very practical tool.
[00:16:18.840] - Dr. Licata
And so the parents don't have to battle with their kids because we don't need one more thing to battle with. I have three kids, I know what that's like. But at some point there's a little bit of structure. It says, look, we don't have structure right now, everything is a little bit turned upside down. But this is our weekly schedule. This is what we do. And we can tweak it a little bit, plus or minus an hour, but let's work with this. And that becomes very powerful. I mean, that alone could oftentimes change things because then Johnny feels like he has a little bit freedom. He gets to have his little bit of night owlness, and it becomes really helpful.
[00:16:55.530] - Jill Stowell
He feels a little more understood. I think there are a couple of really important things here. One is that just because someone sleeps in, it doesn't mean they're lazy. Honestly, as a morning person, it is a little tough for me to see people sleeping in really late. That doesn't fit my thinking exactly.
[00:17:27.090] - Jill Stowell
The other thing is education, because you could have a night owl and a morning lark in the same family and your children. And so one child really needs a bedtime of 830, and the other one needs a later bedtime. And that isn't dependent on age, really. And so that's a shift for parents and for kids to think, well, that's not fair. He gets to stay up later, so we really need to do a little education around that, right?
[00:17:59.200] - Dr. Licata
Yeah. There's lots to navigate with that, of course, and that's where it presents its own new challenges. But I still think they're worthy of trying to work out, because that way the fruit of that, it becomes so helpful. So, yes, if you have more than one child, you have different sleep schedules, sleep time.
[00:18:22.690] - Dr. Licata
One of my daughters is Gianna. She's a night owl, and she will not wake up for at least an hour or two after the whole family is up. And we just have to honor that. And we all have to be quiet. We all have to be outside or do other things and allow her to have that. And when she does, we give her that hour. Right. How much is that? 1 hour.
[00:18:44.240] - Dr. Licata
Her brain is just so ready for the day. She's so thankful. She's emotionally regulated. She's more patient with her brothers and sisters. It's so valuable. Right. So when I think of the investment of that 1 hour, it's so worth it. So try it out for the parents, I think it's big.
[00:19:03.020] - Jill Stowell
Wow. I love the way you talked about that, about honoring that, and then how her brain is just ready for the day. That is a huge learning for many, many parents and teachers, I think.
[00:19:17.400] - Jill Stowell
Hey, if you're just joining us, I'm Jill Stowell, founder of Stowell Learning Centers. My guest today is Dr. John Carlo Licata, founder of Vital Head and Spinal Care. We are talking about sleep and why it is so critical to our kids learning and all of our well being. So I know you have a lot of other things to talk about with sleep, so I'll give it back to you. Okay, I interrupted you.
[00:19:47.090] - Dr. Licata
No, this is great. I'm going to go now into the vertical. Let's call this qualitative, the quality of sleep. We've just talked about the quantity. We just talked about how much and when and how. Now we're going to talk about the quality because this is really valuable and this is where I start to geek out, right?
[00:20:08.150] - Dr. Licata
So our brain cycles through different stages of sleep. And now depending on the nationals or international associations, they'll break that up into five cycles or six cycles. I'm going to bring up one of them. I'm going to look it up so that I don't get it wrong, but let me pull it up here from the American Association for Sleep Medicine. It breaks up our sleep into five stages. And listen to this because it's going to matter when I start giving you some tips, okay?
[00:20:42.320] - Dr. Licata
So they break it up into five stages and they call it stage W, N1, N2, N3, and R. Now what does that mean? It's basically wakefulness they've defined as a stage of sleep being awake. Then there's relaxed wakefulness and they call that N1. And then there's light sleep and then there's deep sleep and then there's REM sleep.
[00:21:06.370] - Dr. Licata
So again, stage W is wakefulness. Stage N1, which means N is for non-REM. They're very original. So non-REM 1 is relaxed awake. That's a kind of twilighty feeling just before we're ready to fall asleep. That's N1, non-REM sleep.
[00:21:27.620] - Dr. Licata
Stage two is what we call light sleep. A lot of us and many of our children are spending maybe too much of our time in light sleep, though it has a purpose.
[00:21:39.770] - Dr. Licata
Then there's stage N3, or non-REM sleep stage three. And that is what we call deep sleep or slow wave sleep. And that is going to be very profound, especially for a lot of learning and growth.
[00:21:52.740] - Dr. Licata
Then there's going to be stage R, which very originally is for REM sleep or rapid eye movement sleep, or for the rest of us dreaming. That's when we dream.
[00:22:01.700] - Dr. Licata
So we go through these five stages. And what's fascinating is that in every eight hour period of time, every night, our brain is going through each of the five stages about five times with the exception of wakefulness. I'm going to take that back. We'll go through four of them, right, four stages, five times a night. And that is going to be very powerful when we start going deeper and deeper into this.
[00:22:31.110] - Jill Stowell
So you talked a little bit about deep sleep being really important for learning and I suppose you're going to talk to us a little bit more about that. But I'm thinking right away. I think, okay, well, how do I make sure my kid gets enough deep sleep?
[00:22:51.750] - Dr. Licata
Yes, exactly. So some of us have started hearing about deep sleep. So I'm going to use an example. I'm going to use an example of a big test. And so let's say this test is on Wednesday. And what's fascinating is that if we don't have good sleep on Tuesday night. On Tuesday night, what our brain is going to be doing is it's going to be cleaning out all of the previous knowledge that has been stored in the brain. All of our short term memory from what we learned in school on Tuesday.
[00:23:25.590] - Dr. Licata
Our brain has a temporary storage and it's like our USB stick for some of us. And so Johnny went to school, learned a lot of information on Tuesday and now he needs to study for a big test on Wednesday. On Tuesday night when he goes to sleep, that kind of superficial sleep or what we call N2 sleep, that light sleep, his brain is starting to filter out what information is worth keeping and what information is just extraneous. What don't we need? And then when he cycles into deep sleep, the brain begins to deepen that knowledge.
[00:24:10.530] - Dr. Licata
It begins to hardwire, it literally starts creating neurons start firing over and over again until they begin to start to pattern themselves. And there's a saying that neurons or the cells of the brain, neurons that fire together, wire together and so they start reinforcing that information and then it's in REM sleep that Johnny starts then to incorporate all of that knowledge into the rest of his knowledge base.
[00:24:39.060] - Dr. Licata
It's where he really turns that short term memory into long term memory where he basically uploads a USB stick and now all that data is now in the rest of the computer. And so his brain creates new connections and starts thinking through things. And when he's dreaming that he's processing what he learned on Tuesday and then he's gone through that five times or so, at least hopefully as he's sleeping through the night. So that when Wednesday comes and he was able to wake up and had enough of his rest.
[00:25:12.330] - Dr. Licata
His brain now can recall when he's sitting at the desk and he's got his pencil in hand and he's filling out the little bubbles, he's now able to recall the information, he's able to make connections and when they ask those trick questions he's able oh, I got that. I know that because of all the stages that he went through. Right now, which one should he not have? Which one is not valuable? What's fascinating is they all are, right?
[00:25:40.950] - Jill Stowell
Wow, that was a great picture. In most cases, short frequent times of study are better than one cramming session. And in a sense that's kind of what the brain is doing every night while you're asleep. It's getting rid of the stuff you don't need and then several times a night actually processing that information. So wow, that's really cool.
[00:26:17.160] - Dr. Licata
Really cool. I know that's this wonderful synergistic relationship that applied brain people have with educators and learning specialists like yourselves. We get to understand the inner workings of the brain and then we get to share that and then you get to use that information and you say, well, of course, that makes sense. Why what we've been doing for the last ten years has been working great. Or let me modify what we're doing and make it even better based on the new data that's coming out, right? Yeah. So it's a fascinating realm and it's changing every single day.
[00:26:54.010] - Jill Stowell
We've been talking about sleep, but Dr Licata, there are so many other things that you do. I know at Stowell Learning Center, we're partnering with Doctor Licata and Vital to provide brain training for ADHD. And I know you work with concussion and headaches and many other things. If someone wanted to learn more or get a hold of you, what is the best way for them to do that?
[00:27:22.690] - Dr. Licata
Well, we would encourage them to just go straight to our website. It's four words: vital, head, and, spine. And I think there you can start learning about what we do and who we help the most and who we don't. We really are focused on certain types of clients, but that would be the best bet. We are on Facebook, we are on Instagram, so you can try us there at Vital Head and Spine. But I'd say the website start there.
[00:27:49.220] - Jill Stowell
Perfect. And any last minute thoughts for us today?
[00:27:54.260] - Dr. Licata
No. I think what you're doing is a phenomenal resource for parents across the country and across the world. Sleep will be such a powerful it will be your superpower. Put it to use, let everyone know, and I think you will share more resources and answers. So I'm happy to be here.
[00:28:15.700] - Jill Stowell
Well, thank you so much. This was really fascinating. By the way, I claimed sleep as my superpower, so I don't know if I want to share or not.
[00:28:29.390] - Dr. Licata
It's like love, it's free. The more you give, the more you have. Right? We could all be in a better place if we all slept a little bit more, let's try it.
[00:28:39.090] - Jill Stowell
I agree. Alright, thank you so much.
[00:00:00.490] - Lauren Ma
She's representing the Night Owl group, which I am a proud member of as well, and my whole family. And so she's saying, like, with her family, her family is a family of night owls, but yet the world seems to be be kind of more conducive to the morning lark. So school starts early.
[00:00:19.960] - Lauren Ma
It's hard when you have that kind of natural sleep cycle. And so she has a question later on, an experience that she shared, and then I'm going to take it away because now we're covered. Okay. She just talks about her own son's sleep cycle that they found through a sleep app, which sounds kind of some of the monitoring that you're doing. And they found that his most restful period was actually right before he wakes up.
[00:00:46.670] - Lauren Ma
What advice, if a parent does do a sleep study with their child or does get that information that the most restful period of time is actually in the earlier mornings when we need to be up for school and work, what advice do you have for parents? That is our natural sleep cycle.
[00:01:07.520] - Dr. Licata
Yeah, no, it is a tough one. There's a great neuroscientist out of UC Berkeley called his name is Matthew Walker, and he wrote a phenomenal book called, I think, Why We Sleep. And he speaks to that. He calls himself the sleep ambassador. And he's got a mission to try to change educational systems so that they can start later. Right. I mean, go figure. So it's a very real challenge. I just want to kind of validate that.
[00:01:39.090] - Dr. Licata
First of all, there are certain things we can't do other than either change schools or, like Jill you mentioned, leave everything ready so that you have up to the last minute to get in. We've had some parents who they ask a petition to skip the zero period or first period so that they have that extra time. So it depends on what the needs are.
[00:02:01.580] - Dr. Licata
Right. And especially if there are certain learning disabilities that are already there inherent, I think that then we already have more flexibility. And so I think it's cheaper for schools to let the child come in an hour later than to provide more one-on-one help and support while they're there in school. So one is if you can petition for it to try to get an extra hour, try to have them come in at the next period.
[00:02:27.660] - Jill Stowell
Right, that's a great suggestion.
[00:02:30.060] - Dr. Licata
Yeah. I've talked to parents who some have changed schools because based on the sleep time. We're in Pasadena, California. There are dozens and dozens of both public and private schools in Pasadena. And there are some schools that start at 735, and there are some schools that start at 810. And so even though that extra time may matter for you, it may matter for your family. And so that's something that you may consider.
[00:03:00.330] - Lauren Ma
Right. And we have another comment specifically about teenagers. And I've heard this data as well. So I don't know if it's pseudo data, I don't know. But is the sleep cycle for teenagers later than six to twelve year olds or once they go through puberty kind of all that hormonal fluctuation can contribute to sleep because she says her teenage daughter actually doesn't sleep until very late and will sleep until noon or later if you allow her.
[00:03:33.550] - Lauren Ma
And I've heard that from a ton of our families of teenagers that that's when kind of sleep becomes dysregulated. And parents I think, feel like you're wasting the day or you're being lazy. Is that normal though? I hear it a lot from our families.
[00:03:49.830] - Dr. Licata
Yeah, I think it'll be a matter of degree. Again, it seems very well established that there's a genetic predisposition towards a certain type of morning lark or night owl, or somewhere in between. Some of us are flexible but they're also once you have that hard wiring, there's a bit of variance depending on the developmental stage. Right.
[00:04:11.420] - Dr. Licata
So yes, what you're pointing to is absolutely teenagers will tend to move toward the night owl side and those that are already night owls, it tends to be more extreme. And those that even are morning larks, they're just not as larky as they would be later in life. Right. So one it is yes, to give them some grace that that's not abnormal.
[00:04:36.610] - Dr. Licata
Now the challenge is that that can get also taken to an extreme and so this is where we'll introduce another concept, which is light becomes a very powerful modifier or tweaker of our sleep cycle. And so I'm going to set the stage and then I'll answer the question if that's okay. Is that all right?
[00:05:01.910] - Lauren Ma
[00:05:02.800] - Dr. Licata
Okay. The quick stage is this. We have receptors in the back of our eyes that feed input into the areas that affect our circadian rhythm, meaning our sleep and wake cycles. And so blue light, the frequency of blue light seems to trigger the brain to say it's morning, it's daytime. And it will already begin to time backwards when sleep will eventually happen. So it becomes this anchoring point that tells the brain it's morning, it's daytime, let's get going. But we know sleep is coming in about twelve however many hours. Right?
[00:05:44.710] - Dr. Licata
Then as the day goes on with the coming sunset and the warmer oranges and reds of the evening, those oranges and red start to trigger those receptors, those sensors in the back of our eyes that starts telling the brain, all right, we're getting close, we're about two to 3 hours away for sleep time. And so it begins to wind our body down, it begins to prepare us for sleep.
[00:06:11.710] - Dr. Licata
Now the challenge is that that has gotten disrupted. Right? So how many people are on their phones until 8, 9, 10, 11? Now, how does a phone have to do with the color of light and our receptors in our eyes? Well, these iPhones or these iPads or the computer is dominant, has a huge amount of blue light. So it's starting to confuse our natural cycles of when's day, when's night. Is it at the beginning, is it the end?
[00:06:43.350] - Dr. Licata
And so teenagers tend to become now they've earned their phone. Now they're on their phone all day long, and now they're on their phone at night, and now they have zoom calls and they have classes. And so what happens is that's gotten so disrupted. So the teenager phase is taken now to an extreme because that cycle has become off track. I don't know if that's helpful to begin to start to understand that it's normal, but I think that there have been things that have pushed it too far to the edge, and those are things you have access to, right. And so either having conversations, bringing that down, saying, look, phones until 10:00 p.m.
[00:07:26.110] - Jill Stowell
And I think, again, that whole issue of education really helping your teens explore sleep together, have them listen to this broadcast, because if you just say, well, okay, no phones after 10:00 p.m.. Well, now that feels very punitive to a team. But as soon as we give people a reason for something, they're much more open to solving the problem.
[00:07:59.340] - Dr. Licata
Yeah, that's huge. It reminds me, and this is slight aside, but it reminds me of a study they did and I can look it up and we can include in the show notes where they had people waiting in line and they had someone else come in front of, cut in line, essentially.
[00:08:15.590] - Dr. Licata
And they asked the person who had been waiting in line and they said, Can I cut in front of you? Now, people half said yes, the other half said no. But when they tweaked it and said, we're going to say, "Can I cut in front of you because..." And when they gave a reason for this intervention, for this thing that nobody wants to get have someone cut in front of them, when they gave them a reason, people were more likely to say, go ahead. Yes, please, go on.
[00:08:46.540] - Dr. Licata
They're more compliant, they're more cooperative. And the irony is they didn't even give them a reason. That was a reason. They said, Can I cut in front of you because I need to go in front of you. There was no actual logical clause for cutting in front, but the word because the fact that they were given some extra information already made the person more compliant, more cooperative.
[00:09:11.300] - Dr. Licata
So as parents, we have to use that psychology and say again, Bobby, you're up all night. I want you to be well, I want you to be able to get good grades. What if you went to sleep a little bit earlier? Because it may help you not have to study as many hours in this week. Right. That could be it. That may add to what Jill was saying and maybe make Bobby more compliant.
[00:09:39.310] - Lauren Ma
You kind of already touched on this and this is how parents are feeling right now. I've certainly gotten this question, but yes, our kids are spending more time on devices right now because they are doing distance learning. And so you talked about how that absolutely can disrupt the sleep cycle because well, one the stimulation, but also the light. Just having that and having access to that late at night.
[00:10:03.440] - Lauren Ma
I know for me as a mom and the mom's out there between the hours of ten and twelve, that is me time. And so that is the only time I have to myself. And so that's my natural tendency is to be on a device. So I know that's not necessarily healthy, but it's kind of like you do what you can.
[00:10:25.030] - Lauren Ma
We do have a question from Tracy that just says how do we find out if kids are having trouble with onset versus waking up, especially kids six to ten?
[00:10:40.390] - Dr. Licata
Well, one is observing them, as parents will tend to know, I think, that they're in bed and you just hear them up. You just know they're not asleep. And so that tends to be something that we see in our family. Now, not every family is the same. And sometimes the parents are in a big house, the kids are on the other wing of the house, and so we can't even hear them.
[00:11:07.150] - Dr. Licata
One thing that we do is we use a natural sleep monitor. And so my son has worn one, my daughter has worn one, my second daughter has worn one. And so that gives me some insight. And so we can see exactly what time their brain switched into sleep, right, what time they went from wakefulness down to sleep. And then we got to see the cycles that they went through and then we were able to see how many times they woke up and we were able to see what time they actually officially woke up. Right? So again, there are two that we recommend. One is a ring. And so that becomes a little bit challenging with hand size as our kids start growing more and more.
[00:11:51.080] - Dr. Licata
But it's called the Oura ring and it's spelled differently. It's oura and I was just mentioning earlier that became very famous once, I think it was Prince Harry was seen wearing one. And then there's the whoop strap. I'm actually wearing one now. Many professional athletes use this. We have a contract with them, we're a partnership with them, but we can see how all clients are doing.
[00:12:24.500] - Dr. Licata
My son wore the strap and I was able to see he goes to bed at 07:00, but he doesn't fall asleep until 750, right? And so he has roughly a 50 minutes onset delay. And so that's something that then we can start working with and tweaking. So that way the intervention or the effort that we're going to put in is going to be laser targeted to the problem that they have rather than trying to fight these battles that may have nothing to do with improving their sleep at all.
[00:12:57.710] - Jill Stowell
And I wanted to just go back a little bit before we go on with another question, but you had mentioned to me, and I'm not very technical, so I have not found this, but you mentioned to me that there's a setting on the iPhone, at least maybe on all smartphones, that can change the light a little bit.
[00:13:19.930] - Dr. Licata
That's right. I'm going to lift mine up now so I don't give you the wrong name of it, but every iPhone, if you have one, has now an inherent setting, and I think it's called night mode. Also, maybe we can add in the show notes if I'm not correct. Night Mode has a setting. There is a setting where you can essentially tell the time you want it to start to go into the reds and oranges and what time you want it to turn off, and it will naturally filter all of the blue light or into different degrees of the blue light during those nighttime hours.
[00:13:58.850] - Dr. Licata
Now, you don't have to fight the battle. If you have to pick your battles with a teenager, I'm sure there's 50 a day. Maybe you can take this one off and say, look, fine, be on your phone. But the very least, let's experiment for the next week and just start with the setting and see if your sleep is able to get more regulated. And if it's not enough, then we'll move on to the next thing. Right, but that's one thing. So, yes. Thank you, Jill, for that reminder. So night mode on all Apple devices.
[00:14:30.170] - Lauren Ma
We also have a question, speaking of Apple devices, I guess we're doing commercials for them, the Apple Watch sleep app. So is that an accurate kind of measurement of sleep that parents can use for data?
[00:14:44.330] - Dr. Licata
Yeah, we test it out. Now, again, we're not tech testers. We just had to find things that were as accurate as we could find for our clients. And the short answer is we didn't find it being as accurate. The Apple Watch was not as accurate as, let's say, the Whoop or the Oura ring. And the short kind of reason for that is that if we look at the inside of our Apple Watch, we'll see a green light that's a sensor, and that's great for a lot of motion. So it's great for fitness and steps and so on.
[00:15:18.370] - Dr. Licata
But when we're still the better tech has an infrared light or a red light. And so the Oura ring that the Whoop strap uses the infrared and red sensors, and that gives you more accuracy. I think it's better than nothing. And if you already have one, then you don't have to invest the money. But we don't see it as being as accurate in the details. And if those details are what we need to know, which intervention to do then it may be worth spending a little bit of money and getting a specific app or a specific monitor.
[00:15:56.090] - Lauren Ma
Yeah, I see the same parent asking about Fitbit, so that would be kind of in the same category. The fitbit watch for monitoring.
[00:16:05.870] - Dr. Licata
Now, again, I don't know what their latest models have been, but I think the short answer is ask if they have the red lights. If they have the red light in addition to green light. As a parent, just give me the simple look for that. If it doesn't have that, then it may not be enough. Right.
[00:16:23.030] - Lauren Ma
[00:16:24.570] - Lauren Ma
Yeah. Okay. And then we have a question regarding just we talked about routine, and it sounds like it is unique to the individual child or adult, but what would be ideal? So if you had a morning lark, if you have a child who needs to be in bed at a certain time, wakes up early, is naturally like that, what would be an ideal time regarding meal time or technology? As opposed to a night owl?
[00:16:55.670] - Dr. Licata
Yeah. So with routine, our meal time matters. And I didn't go into that because I talked about lights. And so our meals matter. If our family eats dinner at 09:00 p.m., we can't realistically expect our child to be able to then switch right into sleep the next hour or the next half hour. And so if our child is a morning lark and has to get to bed around 7:30PM, then, yeah, it may not be cool, but it may be wiser to eat a little bit earlier, 5:30PM.
[00:17:37.230] - Dr. Licata
So when are these anchor moments in our ritual of our day, our meals? One, when was the last time they were outside? If they were able to play and run outside during the sunset, believe it or not, the sun's rays already begin to queue that child to get ready for the night. Right. So that can be a second thing. And then even setting the lighting. Sometimes my wife looks at me and she thinks I'm strange, but after sunset, I'm turning down some of the lights in the house. I'm especially turning off anything that has blue light in our house. Sometimes I'll put candles on.
[00:18:21.860] - Dr. Licata
I love our fireplace. And so the fireplace, those reds and oranges are just they've been telling our brains for thousands of years. It is time now for sleep. Take advantage of that. So those routines, those rhythms, the ritual of your day, light outside, meals. If you just tweaked those and made a little bit of consistency through the week, oftentimes you find that the kids just go they just go right in. Try that first. Right.
[00:19:00.330] - Lauren Ma
Wow. As a parent, absolutely. I want to get in just another so we've been talking about kids and teens specifically. That's the population, obviously, that we work with. We work with adults, too. So Mark is saying, what about adults? What do we need personally? Yeah, I mean, that's important too. Who's running the ship here?
[00:19:19.770] - Dr. Licata
Yeah, I get it. I was just sharing the irony of me being here telling everybody about the value of sleep is I had horrible sleep last night and so they were outside of my control. And so that's something that we just had to deal with. But what do we adults do? I think the same principles apply. That's why I love principles. That's why I like finding what are the things that are universal and we can apply them at different times. What are we doing?
[00:19:44.490] - Dr. Licata
Find out if you're a morning lark or a night owl. Get outside and be in the sunlight first thing in the sunrise and during sunset. And if you can't do both, try one. When is your last meal? That'll be huge. Also we can go into, if we have time or maybe later, we can go into what do we eat during our meals? Sometimes if you have a huge three course meal that's got 3000 calories in it and just sitting in your stomach.
[00:20:16.890] - Dr. Licata
Our insulin, our blood sugar is also another modifier of our circadian rhythm that can be throwing us off. Are we drinking alcohol? If we have more than a couple of glasses of alcohol that night, it is almost certain to reduce dramatically our REM sleep our dreams. We dream less.
[00:20:40.680] - Dr. Licata
Now that matters because we also don't process our emotions as well. Because that's when we're processing emotions. It's when we don't have all of that long term conversion from short term memory. Those are a lot of things I'm throwing at you, Mark. But start with one. Start with one and try it for a week and then see how that goes. And if it doesn't do it, then just check that off and go to the next one. You don't have to do them all today.
[00:21:07.240] - Lauren Ma
Right? So it sounds like that the figure OF speech, "sleep on it". That came from somewhere that we sleep on things to process our emotions. That's fascinating. Wow. Couple more. This is a very popular topic with our audience.
[00:21:24.210] - Lauren Ma
Iris asked about music. What about music to help us sleep? We have a couple of sound therapy programs that actually do have their research in sleep and are meant for improved sleep. What's your finding on that?
[00:21:39.990] - Dr. Licata
No, I think that's great. I think I know less about music. I think that it can serve, at the very least, two purposes. One, it can filter out noise because some of us don't have control over who lives above us in our apartments or who's barking outside or the sirens outside. And so sometimes the music already just acts as a filter. But then, yes, there have been studies. I'm not as familiar with them.
[00:22:04.340] - Dr. Licata
And you may want to share more, Lauren, but where different types of music can get us into different stages of sleep. My only thought is maybe at least if we have a setting where it can turn itself off. The challenge is that you can actually almost trap a stage of sleep throughout the night using sound. And so if there's certain music, that seems to be great to get us into that deep sleep, but it's keeping us kind of artificially more in deep sleep than the rest. We'll feel that too, afterwards. So that would be my short answer.
[00:22:47.430] - Lauren Ma
Yes. The programs we're familiar with, the listening program TLP, has a program called Sleep Genius that is supposed to be really good for sleep, and I believe it does a certain duration of time and then turns off. But it's a headband that you wear. Oh, really? Yeah.
[00:23:06.560] - Lauren Ma
Nancy asks, how many days on average do you need in order to track a pattern with sleep?
[00:23:13.600] - Dr. Licata
That's a great question, Nancy. Yeah. You usually need about two weeks minimum, right? Some people say a month. Now, for us, we've seen enough clients that a week will give us some insight, but we keep watching that. But you do want a baseline. Both Whoop and Oura Ring will often recommend that you wear it a certain time.
[00:23:39.020] - Dr. Licata
And what's interesting is their technology has artificial intelligence where it learns more and more about the nuance of what your body is telling the sensors. So it gets more and more accurate with time as well. So it's not just enough to set a pattern. It's also to train the technology to you so it's more accurate. So I would say at least again, a week. Two weeks is probably a good midpoint and some people may say a month. But look, if you just need to get something going, put it on, wear it a week, and then just start experimenting.
[00:24:12.580] - Lauren Ma
Okay. And then Lania asks, what about white noise as opposed to music? Now, I will tell you, this is something I love. I love white noise. Is that bad?
[00:24:25.950] - Dr. Licata
I don't think it's bad. I don't think it is. I'm here actually at the beach and we had our window open and we had the white noise of the ocean all night. So, I don't think so. Now, again, I'm not as familiar with that, but I do think it probably will still artificially keep things. But what I would say is try it. Try it.
[00:24:52.660] - Dr. Licata
For some of us, some of us, it's huge and it keeps us both it helps our onset. For a lot of us, it helps us from waking. And so it's ability to kind of artificially keep us in that state will be a little bit of a crutch to help our brain not wake as often. Now, in a perfect world, we'd go deeper into a wise awakening to begin with, but for now, use it.
[00:25:15.680] - Lauren Ma
Okay, thank you. So I think I got to everybody's comments. Thank you guys for asking and for tuning in. It seems like a fascinating topic and definitely resonates with our audience. Thank you. Bye.
- Episode 64: Brain Training for Self-Care, Focus, and Productivity – Alex Doman
- Episode 63: Dear Moms of Neurodiverse Learners… – Megan Champion
- Episode 62: 2E and Misunderstood – Lauren Ma
- Episode 61: School Refusal, Digital Media, and Medication and ADHD – Dr. Keeban Nam
- Episode 60: Mental Flexibility Tools for Neurodiverse Learners – Jill Stowell
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