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How to Sleep Better During a Pandemic with Dr. Michael Breus

Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., is a Clinical Psychologist and both a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He was one of the youngest people to have passed the Board at age 31 and, with a specialty in Sleep Disorders, is one of only 168 psychologists in the world with his credentials and distinction. Dr. Breus is on the clinical advisory board of The Dr. Oz Show and appears regularly on the show (39 times in 8 seasons). He is also an author and host of the new podcast show, Sleep Success with Dr. Michael Breus, Ph.D.


"Nobody is sleeping well right now."


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  • Nobody is sleeping well right now. The level of stress that we are seeing is unheard of and it’s a different kind of stress than we are used to. We are used to dealing with traffic and annoyances, but now we are concerned about losing our jobs or our family members getting sick. It’s an entirely different level of stress.
  • Even if you are good at handling stress with ways to reduce it, it does not mean the stress is not there. Sometimes stress plays in the backgrounds of our minds telling us what to worry about.


  • Besides stress, we are falling out of our good habits. We are now staying up later and sleeping later.
  • We all have a circadian rhythm or an internal biological clock that we need to keep consistent. If you woke up at 6:30 am before the pandemic it’s imperative that you wake up at the same time during the pandemic, including weekends.
  • Circadian consistency is one of the best things that you can possibly do right now in terms of your wake-up time. A consistent bedtime is preferred, but staying up late cannot be an excuse for not waking up at the same time in the morning.
  • Your wakeup time is the anchor for healthy sleep patterns, so it’s most important to keep consistent with.
  • People are having very weird, vivid, and stressful dreams referred to by Dr. Breus as “quaran-dreams”.
  • The first half of the night is when you see the most physically restorative sleep. In the final third of sleep is when you experience dream sleep and when you extend that period, you get more REM sleep.
  • People are giving themselves more vivid dreams and waking up pretty stressed out, so don’t sleep in.
  • At least two studies have shown that being positive before bed not only helps you fall asleep more quickly but it actually makes more positive dreams.


  • Another thing throwing off our sleep patterns is caffeine. There has been an increase in caffeine consumption.
  • People are working at home continuously giving themselves coffee warm-ups that can add up to 8 cups by the end of the day. Some people are brewing entire pots of coffee.
  • There are different caffeine sensitivities, however, if you drink coffee after 2 pm the quality of your sleep becomes terrible.
  • There is a big difference between the quantity of sleep and quality of sleep. The goal is is to achieve good quality.
  • Lower your caffeine consumption and stop caffeine after 2 pm. Do NOT go cold turkey from caffeine because withdrawal can be very significant and serious. It’s important to taper it down if possible.
  • This is one of the most stressful times in our lives. It does not make sense to add a stimulant.
  • In addition, Dr. Breus shared that an audience survey showed that 34% of people have an increase in alcohol consumption. Although it was a relatively small population, Dr. Breus believes that this is true for people everywhere.
  • When we look at alcohol consumption, the time you consume to the time you fall asleep is very critical because there is a big difference between going to sleep and passing out.
  • If you plan to have a glass of wine, also have a glass of water and wait an hour before going to bed. If you have two glasses, also have two glasses of water and wait two hours.
  • You don’t really want to go over two glasses as data shows that keeping it there can have sort of a relaxing effect.
  • If you can keep a tight schedule, lower caffeine, and minimize alcohol, you will move into a much better place.


  • The last thing that is important to quality sleep is movement. Sleep is a recovery process and if you don’t have anything to recover from, your body doesn’t do it very well.
  • In between Zoom calls, instead of filling up on coffee, try doing 20 jumping jacks or 10 sit-ups or pushups. Walking is a great way to keep active.
  • People need to keep moving because movement helps propagate sleep and exercise helps give us better sleep quality. It also helps to lower stress. Doing at least 25 minutes of cardio each day is recommended.
  • Check out Dr. Breus’s new podcast, Sleep Success with Dr. Michael Breus.


  • Take a screenshot of this episode, tag us on social media (@TheSleepDoctor & @JimKwik), and share your greatest “aha!” moment from this episode with us.
  • Share one thing you are going to do to get a higher quality of sleep during the pandemic. Tag us!
  • Find out more about Dr. Breus, here.

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