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October 20, 2021

Podcast 145: The Science of Sleep with Dr. Meeta Singh

Renowned sleep expert Dr. Meeta Singh joins the WHOOP Podcast for an in-depth discussion on the science behind sleep and what it does for your body, your mind, and your cognitive functioning.

By Will Ahmed

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Dr. Meeta Singh is a board-certified physician and psychiatrist with deep expertise in sleep, sleep disorder diagnosis, and treatment. She has worked as a consultant for multiple NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, Olympic, and college sports teams, as well as for large organizations. The Washington Nationals considered her work so vital to their championship in 2019 that they gave Meeta a World Series ring.

This discussion, led by WHOOP VP of Performance Kristen Holmes, marks the first in a three-part series on the science of sleep, strain, and recovery. The Science of Series is meant to simplify the science behind these concepts, answer common questions, and debunk myths. Keep an eye out for strain and recovery podcasts in the coming weeks.

Stay healthy and stay in the green!

 

The Science of Sleep with Dr. Meeta Singh Podcast Quotes & Highlights

5:01 – Society’s Disregard of Sleep. “We live in this 24-hour society. We’re always on,” Dr. Singh says. “We’re always trying to achieve more. We live in a hustled culture. Oftentimes, we feel that the number of hours that we can put in, the better it is. That’s not true. … For the longest [time,] sleep was considered to be optional. ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead.’ That culture was around, and that’s slowly changing.”

8:35 – What Happens During Sleep. “Although people look very passive while they’re asleep, your brain is very active. There are different neurochemicals being secreted, and as the neurochemicals are being secreted, there are different brainwaves that are being formed.”

12:16 – The Stages of Sleep. Meeta breaks down the different stages of sleep and explains the importance of all of them. “Every stage of sleep has a certain function. It’s not as if light sleep is less important than deep sleep, [and deep sleep] is less important than dream sleep.”

12:49 – How Sleep Progresses Throughout the Night. “Most of your deep sleep occurs in the first half of your night. … Dream sleep tends to occur in the second half of the night, because dream sleep is driven by your circadian rhythms.”

15:10 – Sleep Need. “Sleep need is the amount of sleep you need to be alert and awake in quiet, dull, boring situations the next day.”

20:15 – Sleep Debt Study. Kristen mentions a recent WHOOP study that evaluated sleep debt, which found that for every 45 minutes of sleep debt a person accrued, they had a 5-10% decrease in mental control the following day. Conversely, for every 30 minutes of slow wave sleep gained, that person saw a 5-10% increase in mental control the next day. The findings were covered in Episode 131 of the WHOOP Podcast.

23:16 – Sleep and Decision Making. “When you don’t get enough sleep, the part of the brain that is responsible for good judgment, decision-making, multitasking, high executive functioning tasks, gets preferentially impaired when you don’t get enough sleep.”

24:03 – Learning and Deep Sleep. “Anything you learn during the day, your brain hits the save button while you’re asleep. One of the functions of a deep sleep is to prune unnecessary information.”

27:02 – How Caffeine Works. Meeta explains how caffeine affects your brain chemically and how it may and may not help your performance.

29:53 – Not Just for the Brain. “Think of sleep as a nightly reset for your heart, for your reproductive system, for your stomach, your heart, your lungs. Every part of your body is taking a rest.”

33:43 – Sleep Consistency and Metabolic Health. Meeta explains how your metabolic health can be thrown off by inconsistent sleep times. “Impairment in your metabolic control happens with sleep deprivation, [and it is] is always significantly worsened if you bring in circadian misalignment.”

39:38 – Meal Timing. “Your stomach and your digestive system need rest too. And the only way to do that is to [manage] the time that you’re eating.”

47:47 – Sleep as You Age. “Poor sleep should not be considered as something that happens with everybody as you get older. If people are having poor sleep as they’re getting older, it’s very important to seek help.”

49:15 – Keeping Electronics Out of the Bedroom. “Keep your bedroom for sleep or sex. Those are the only two things you want to be doing in your bedroom.”

50:06 – Sleep and Mental Health. “Sleep and mental health is a bi-directional relationship. Poor sleep worsens mental health, and mental health issues are typically associated with poor sleep. And if you don’t improve the sleep, mental health doesn’t get better.”

1:02:10 – Three Major Factors That Disrupt Sleep. Meeta highlights caffeine consumption, alcohol and nicotine use, and light exposure as three of the biggest factors that will negatively affect your sleep.

1:04:38 – The Ultimate Life Hack. “Everything improves if you improve sleep. There is not a single thing that doesn’t improve with better sleep. Your relationships, the way that you function, your interaction with your children, with other people, the way that you’re exercising, the way that you’re metabolizing, whatever you’re taking in. There is nothing that does not improve with better sleep.”

Connect with Meeta on Instagram, Twitter, and at meetasinghmd.com

 

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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance. WHOOP today works with everyone from professional athletes to fitness enthusiasts to executives. Ahmed has raised $400 million from top investors and has an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, and designers. He wrote “The Feedback Tool: Measuring Fitness, Intensity, and Recovery,” which sparked the underlying physiology and engineering for his work today. Ahmed was named a 2011 Harvard College Scholar for finishing in the top 10% of his class and a CSA Scholar Athlete; he captained the Harvard Men’s Varsity Squash Team. He was also recently named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal 40 Under 40.

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