Secrets From A Sleep Doctor: My Q&A With Dr. Christopher Winter

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Secrets From A Sleep Doctor: My Q&A With Dr. Christopher Winter

Dr. Christopher Winter is a board certified sleep medicine specialist and neurologist who specializes in sleep in elite athletes. As the owner of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine and the Medical Director of the Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center, Dr. Winter is not only an active participant in patient care, but a dynamic speaker, writer and researcher on the science of sleep. His debut book The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How To Fix It was released in April. 

Coined as the "Sleep Whisperer," this guy clearly knows A LOT about sleep! Here he answers my questions about sleep and gives some insight into how we can solve our sleep problems. 

You're a sleep consultant for a number of professional sports teams and have studied how sleep affects athletic performance. Can you shed some light on this?

I think it boils down to the fact that professional athletes, like the rest of us, are starting to understand that meticulously exercising and eating the right foods is a largely wasted effort if we are not taking care of our sleep. In that way, sleep to me is the third pillar of good health. Progressive teams looking for an edge are trying to find ways to help their athletes understand more about sleep and get more out of it. That's basically the role I fill. By sleeping better, athletes perform better and generally stay in their leagues longer. Excessive sleepiness can be a silent career killer. We want to avoid that.

Your new book's title is "Sleep Solution". So what are the biggest sleep problems facing people today? And what's the first step in solving some of these problems. 

Lack of understanding about sleep and in particular insomnia. Many people have great anxiety about their sleep and struggle when sleep does not work out the way they want to during a particular night. My book is really designed to educate and reduce the anxiety many feel surrounding sleep and their ability to get it. 

The first step is good education about sleep. In this world of the ten second sound bite, it is hard for people to get a complete picture of their sleep.

As someone who occasionally has trouble falling asleep, what advice do you have for people with insomnia? Are there any tricks you know (that I haven't already read online)?

Everyone has trouble falling asleep from time to time...big deal. We skip meal from time to time too and I've never seen articles about that. NOBODY out there is in danger of not sleeping. If you constantly go to bed at 11pm and it takes you 2 hours to fall asleep on average, why in the hell are you going to bed at 11pm...go to bed at midnight, or 12:30. Listen to your body...it knows exactly what to do.
 
Stop worrying about an occasional hesitancy to sleep. Learn to appreciate and enjoy the act of resting. It is highly beneficial. There you are in your bed, awake, but relaxed. No boss is yelling at you. There are no dishes to wash. Think about your upcoming weekend. Think about your celebrity crush. Think about whatever you want...just stop trying to sleep. As soon as we let go of the fear of not sleeping, insomnia has zero power over us. Keep in mind too, resting is not wasted time...it is highly restorative to our body!
 
How many hours of sleep do you get each night and what's your secret to achieving the best sleep possible?
I'm usually getting about 7 hours. That works for me. I try to be very consistent about my wake up time (key). In other words, no matter what, I get up at the same time. I never nap after a night of insomnia (I like to make my brain pay for its bad decision to stay awake). I also sleep in a very dark, quiet, and cool environment. I also exercise...also a big key!

Sleep really is the third pillar of good health. It's important to understand your sleep and get the most out of your shut eye.You can start learning about your sleep by using the Eight sleep tracking technology. As Dr. Winter said, the first step in solving your sleep problems is good education about sleep. 
 

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