Want to be healthy with heaps of energy? Are you getting enough good quality sleep?
Martin McPhilimey from Performance Through Health chats about sleep.
In this episode you'll learn:
You can find Martin at :
Email [email protected]
Or book a chat here: https://bookme.name/drorlena/healthy-you-healthy-family-scholarship-program
Dr. Orlena: Thank you so much for being on the Fit and Fabulous Podcast.
Martin: Thank you for having me Orlena.
Dr. Orlena: So before we dive into sleep, which is one of my favorite subjects, do you want to start by just telling people a little bit about your background and what you do?
Martin: I'm currently an online coach and consultant. I have been working towards this for about the last three years. However, before that, and before two months ago, I was working as a sleep and respiratory scientist in private practice in Perth, Western Australia, and I was working in clinical field diagnostics and treatment for people with sleep issues, breathing issues, heart issues for nearly 10 years.
I was trained over in the UK at Nottingham University Hospitals at Queens medical center. I was a part of the national school of healthcare scientists, which run what's called a scientist training program over there, which they started seven years ago.
It aims to try and bridge the gap between nurses and technicians and doctors that try and take some of the weight off the doctor's shoulders to say, ‘Hey, is there someone with you know, a bit more of an academic background that could potentially do things like bronchoscopies and some of the easier I guess, diagnostic things that could be taken from the doctor so they could focus on more patient perspectives.’ So I went through a three-year training program.
Before, that I’ve done a bit of research in respiratory and then flew over to Perth, Australia, and was there for five and a half years, nearly six years. Now I’m living in Bali with my partner and I’m consulting online people with sleep, stress, health issues. I have a concept called performance through health, which is just like putting health first in sustainable longevity through habits, tools, behaviors, practices to perform for longer.
Martin: I saw an issue where people were getting things like sleep apnea or chronic disease between the ages of 40 to 50. It is because they started to sacrifice their health in their thirties. After all, people were being so driven in their careers or have families, and then they don't put themselves first.
They put business and family first. Health deteriorates, and then by the time they were hitting 50, it was like, ‘Okay, well, I can't even stay asleep at my work anymore because I'm burnt out and stressed and I'm falling asleep at the desk.’
So the concept of performance through health is putting how first for your, for your performance tomorrow.
Dr. Orlena: Fabulous. Do you want to just give us a little overview of why sleep is important because it's important for so many things, isn't it? And we kind of know it is, but going into details. I know that so many people don't prioritize sleep and perhaps that'll help people to understand that sleep is super important.
Martin: For people who are very highly driven or has very high brain activities and physical activities, as well as emotional activities going on they don’t get that recovery period that has been evolved biologically.
Every single animal in the animal kingdom needs to sleep. It's a necessity to live. Sleep controls the recovery or rejuvenation for every single physiological component in our body from the nervous system to the cells, to the brain activity, to the eye function, to heart function, and absolutely everything.
Martin: There's a lot of talk about nutrition and exercise as pillars of health but if we prioritize sleep last, we don't get the recovery from exercise and we're not able to process the carbohydrates as well as we should.
Without sleep, we are not able to maximally sustain our health. So really sleep is the actual foundation. It should be the bottom pillow that people should put first, because number one, it's going to allow you to recover. And number two, it's going to give you the energy to get on with your life.
Martin: There's a part in sleep called REM sleep. During this stage, we're actually having a form of therapy. It’s our time where our emotions are passed through our dreams, that we can then continue to the next day to let go of those emotions, let go of those problems and the burdens of the day.
People need to have that point in their life where they say, ‘This is the end of the day today. I've done enough. I can let myself go and drift off into a state where I can just disappear for seven to eight hours, wake up in the morning, and feel refreshed and ready to go again.’
Dr Orlena: Fabulous. I totally agree with you. It's just one of these things that from a mindset point of view, we just have to prioritize essentially and get into the habit of having good sleep.
You mentioned that you work with people with sleep apnea. Do you want to talk a little bit about sleep apnea?
Martin: Sleep apnea is probably one of the most common issues that we see in my field. Basically, it's where the airways at nighttime relaxed too much.
Typically people will snore and then usually partners will notice that they stopped breathing during sleep or choking during sleep and what this is is the airways closing off. People are still trying to breathe, but they can't. And that might happen for 2 minutes long until someone is there and wake up and they jump.
The reason why they jump is that oxygen levels start to drop down so low because there's no air going in. All of a sudden the body has this giant stress response of adrenaline surge throughout the body to make you take a big gasp. Now, this can happen repetitively and it might be normal to happen a few times a night.
Martin: When this becomes 10 times an hour, 15 times an hour, 30 times an hour, I've seen 120 times an hour or more. Then the amount of lack of oxygen to their brain and the rest of the body results in excessive daytime sleepiness.
You get that constant feeling of depression, anxiety because they're all associated with this sort of issue. People gain weight. They're not able to have fun and enjoy themselves all because of this burden that happens at nighttime.
Martin: Now the typical picture of what someone might look like with sleep apnea has always been the male usually a truck driver, someone with a large neck who doesn't really move and has a big beer belly. As soon as they start to fall asleep, you hear them snoring straight away.
But that's pretty much become a bit of a myth now, to be honest with you. I am seeing more and more people in clinic that are females, non-obese males who are just live in highly stressed lifestyles that actually then lead to them, getting sleep apnea and then having to go on to treatment modalities, which are not particularly nice for individuals.
You know, if it's a more severe case, they might have to go into a C-PAP therapy, which is a positive pressure where they have a mask on their nose or over the mouth, which basically keeps the hours open and allows them to breathe freely at nighttime.
So it's a big lifestyle change if people end up getting sleep apnea.
Dr Orlena: So that's really interesting. I didn't realize that stress could cause sleep apnea. Is that what you're saying?
Martin: I've put together a hypothesis and there's a little bit more literature coming out of that. I think stress is leading to changes in how our body relates to carbon dioxide and how carbon dioxide then leads to different changes in ventilation.
What's happening is we're hyperventilating more during the day, which is then at nighttime, we're leading to hypoventilation meaning breathing less. Because we're breathing, I guess you'd say at a lower pressure, the airway is more likely to collapse.
What's happening in itself is more of an environmental factor, which then leads to changes in physiology, but also hormonal changes as well. And I'm not gonna dive too much into the science of it, but there are certain hormones that are related to Eaton, one particularly called Leptin, which is also to do with drive-in ventilation at night as well.
So just like we get with diabetes, we get resistance to insulin. I think there's a resistance or a lack of sensitivity to leptin, which is then leading to breathing issues at nighttime.
Dr Orlena: Oh, that's very interesting. How can people prevent themselves from getting sleep apnea?
Martin: It's so multifactorial. In the medical field, they haven't been able to get past obesity as the main cause. But like I just said to you, I think it has to do with a lot of structure issues.
Number one is posture. People are born with poor posture. Some are leaning more forward which means that their jaws are more forward. The tongue is then sitting in the wrong place in their mouth.
Number two, reducing stress. And I get people to do that through breathing techniques. And there's some literature that suggests that actually mimicking what sleep apnea is like during the day. So using breath holds to try and induce some intermittent hypoxia, but then after you do that, then bring your breathing back to a normal, slow rate as soon as you can. This uses neuro-plasticity to train your airways to actually do that at night time as well.
The key things are, managing weight is definitely going to be one. Number two is posture and number three, managing stress. Lack of sleep itself is anything less than six hours. When you're pushing five hours, four hours, you're not able to swing back into that state of relaxation. You're in that chronic stress state. So I actually say lack of sleep is exactly the same as having chronic stress.
Dr Orlena: They feed into each other, don't they?
Dr Orlena: Typically what I see with people is they can go to sleep reasonably well and they might set up good sleep hygiene. They go to bed good time. And then they wake up in the nighttime, which I always explained to them is normal, but then they just can't get back to sleep. Tell us about that.
Martin: The best way to try and relax is really number one, accept that it’s okay. If it only happens a few times, it's not going to be a massive problem.
I think people start to get worried that it's going to be an issue and they're not going to be able to get through to the following day, then it becomes this additional stressor on top. And then they lay there thinking, ‘Oh my God, I've currently have not been able to get from my meetings. I'm not gonna be able to get the kids to school on time.’
Really you're going to be okay. Having one or two bad nights is okay, it's when it's continuous that the issues develop into insomnia.
Martin: What they can do is they can use their own physiology to try and relax. So breathing nasally in through the nose three seconds in six seconds out, making sure you're breathing deep so that your rib cage actually expands, and slowing the breath to a rate of maybe six preps per minute is going to ease your body is going to lower that cortisol.
It's going to lower the adrenaline. It’s gonna allow you to get back into a state of calm and relaxation and you'll hopefully then drift back off to sleep.
There are also protocols that they can do, which as a more scientific term, I call deep reset, but it's based on a yoga Nidra.
It’s essentially where you take your focus and your consciousness through like all your little fingers and you feel your body. And then when you feel your body you're able to escape, to just breathe and just relax and let go of the stress. Often people will then drift off back to sleep, just using these protocols. And that's usually within five or 10 minutes.
Dr Orlena: So is that’s just like what they call a body scan on meditation?
Martin: Yeah. It's a body scan. Some of them implement like a top-down. Some of them implement the brief and strategies that I've just talked to you about, but really the fastest way to get our body back into that parasympathetic state. It gets us out of that mind and back into our body so that we can actually just go, ‘Okay, I feel like I'm rested again.’
If you do have a poor night's sleep, and then you start to feel a bit groggy the next day or wake up feeling tired, using one of those and doing 10 to 20 minutes is probably just as beneficial as getting near a sleep cycle.
I say to my clients that whenever you've got 10 minutes to lower your stress, you're going to do one of these protocols and they do them. And instantly I see variables like heart rate variability improve, their perceived stress levels come down. It’s really a catalyst to change because it's just taken a break, but it's taken a purposeful break.
Dr Orlena: Perfect. Another thing I say to people is meditation is great for that moment when you're doing that relaxation technique, but you also can do meditation during the day, like prophylactic meditation, which will help you sleep at nighttime.
It kind of feels like it won't because it's such a distant time between them, but actually just spending 10 minutes to allow your brain to disconnect and process all that what I call whirring that is going on means that it has less to process at nighttime. It’s training your brain to essentially turn off.
Martin: I’ve worked with a couple of doctors before who have really crazy days especially surgeons, and sometimes they feel so over-stressed or worried about the next day that they can't sleep.
One of the things I actually get them to do is ‘Okay, well, when you're putting your gloves on, you're doing all your work, that's pretty much unconscious what you're doing there. What about if you then stack that habit and do a conscious form of slow breathing whilst you're doing it and slow yourself down, or when you go into putting some gel on your hands to wash your hands, practice some breathing there.’
Using these smaller times to be mindful over to over a 16 hour day, it's going to be so much more beneficial because it's snapping you out of that moment, and it's also teaching you to be able to do that consciously as well.
Dr Orlena: Perfect. I love that. I'm all about incorporating movement into your day. For example, I do some squats when I'm brushing my teeth, just that habit stacking. But I hadn't thought about just adding in those breathing exercises, which is really good.
I tell people to do smiling exercises. So when you see yourself in the mirror, wave at yourself and smile, but yeah, another great tip. Thank you so much for that.
Martin: When you go to the toilet, rather than go on your phone, just sit there and close your eyes and just breathe slowly, slow yourself down, any opportunity where you can and you’re doing it regularly.
Dr Orlena: Another topic of conversation is that you see a big connection between mobile phones and sleep problems.
I kind of feel that in society now, we've totally lost that ability just to sit and do nothing. Before we had mobile phones, we would be waiting for our kids outside school or at the bus stop and just stand there with essentially no agenda.
Whereas now that doesn't happen because when we've got 30 seconds and we think, ‘Oh my goodness, I haven't got something to do’. Out comes, our phone and we're mindlessly scrolling, whatever social media platform we're on. So do you think there is a big connection there?
Martin: Massively. I do a webinar called seven simple habits to manage your energy. And it's basically small little changes that anyone can do at any time.
One of them is just leaving the mobile phone out in the bedroom or giving yourself a curfew to go away because the mobile phone is connected to a time zone anywhere that your contacts have. In fact, it's connected you to the sleeping schedule of someone else who's on your phone.
So you're not even on your own sleep schedule. If someone's going to call you at 10:30 and you're gonna pick up the phone, that's not your choice, that's their choice, right?
Martin: Putting your phone outside the room allows you to be in your own time, but also if you're leaving a device that can be called or can have a notification at any point, and you're having it on your bedside table or in your room. Are you really saying to yourself, it's the end of the day? And now it was to drift off and disappear into a deep sleep?
A really good research protocol to do is take people into a room and do a sleep study on them and look at the depth of sleep they get into.
Deep sleep is the stage three sleep that is really good for our brain and body. Allow them to be on that phone for the first night and in the following night, take the phone out and measure that deep sleep.
A hundred percent, I think that there'll be a greater amount of deep sleep when you don't have the mobile phone in the room because consciously and unconsciously, you're saying, ‘Hey, I don't have anything to worry about now.’
Dr Orlena: Yeah, totally. Just going back to those few minutes of mindfulness that you're talking about with your surgeon, we don't do that because we're distracting ourselves with our phones. I think there are just so many benefits of having boundaries around our mobile phones.
Martin: When you stare at one point for a long time, it increases things like adrenaline. It increases our alertness level. So for staring at your phone for a long period, it's actually a stressor.
People don't realize this, but because people think stress is like I feel angry or feel tense. But even just staring at your screen for a long time, hurts your eyes. It makes your back sore. That's all stress. That's the nervous system saying, ‘Hey, relax, go and take a break.’
But we don't, we just go back to answering texts and the internet and Facebook. I'm not saying I'm perfect. I'm exactly the same.
When moving from Australia to Bali, I didn't have a SIM card for the last month, so I didn't have any internet when I was away from wifi. My screen time has gone down by 60%. And I think it's massively impacted my level of stress because I'm not concerned about my phone. I'm not concerned about everyone else in the world. And that means not worrying about kids contacting you or your partner contacting you because they are not able to.
Dr Orlena: Before we all had mobile phones, somehow we all managed to survive and even meet up with people. Can you imagine meeting up with someone without a mobile phone? It’s just unheard of these days.
Martin: I think people were just more present. And when you're in that present state, it's just that mindfulness state, it's the relaxation state, it's that social connect activity, which is going to release things like oxytocin. It's going to make you feel good now. And that's what makes us feel relaxed when we've got a dog in our arms, we've got our partner in our arms. It's the same when you're present with an individual or with nature. And we don't have that anymore.
Dr Orlena: Fabulous. What is your last message for us?
Martin: My last message would just make it a routine. Not having to think about sleep. Insomnia is an issue or stress is an issue where people are thinking too much. They worry about sleep. And they actually think about sleep which they shouldn't be. It shouldn't be an issue we should just drift off.
But if you stack the same habit each time and have the same evening routine, eventually you will notice that will just disappear. So that's what I would say as a final message.
Dr Orlena: I love it. Habits, systems, and routines. All right. And where can people find you?
Martin: My website is www.performancethroughhealth.com so you can visit all my services and about me on there. And then they can follow me on social media. Facebook and Instagram but I’m more active on Instagram @performancethroughhealth
Perfect. Fabulous. I'll make sure I leave those links in the show notes. Thank you so much for spending some time with us today.