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Episode 62: How to Sleep Better at Night Naturally with Dr. Colin Espie

Brief summary of show:

Are you ready to sleep better at night and do it naturally?

One of the top-rated podcast episodes on my podcast was episode 3, which all about sleep, and I know it’s one of the most helpful topics that you want to learn more about.

In this episode, I speak with Professor Colin Espie, Co-Founder and Chief Scientist of Big Health and Professor of Sleep Medicine in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Oxford.

A world renowned sleep expert, Professor Espie is focused on improving the clinical assessment and treatment of sleep disorders, particularly using Cognitive Behavioural Therapeutics (CBTx), and studying sleep’s relationship to mental health. He has published more than 300 scientific papers in his career and has been elected as a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, the Royal Society of Medicine, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Prior to founding the University of Oxford’s Experimental & Clinical Sleep Medicine research programme in the Sleep & Circadian Research Institute in 2013, Professor Espie was the founding Director of the University of Glasgow Sleep Centre. In 2015, he was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the British Association for Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapies, and was awarded the Mary A. Carskadon Outstanding Educator Award by the Sleep Research Society in 2017. A highly sought after public speaker, Professor Espie regularly shares his latest research on sleep and sleep disorders, and serves as scientific expert in television and documentary interviews.

Listen in as we talk about:

  • [2:10] Why so many people struggle with sleep

  • [4:00] Do people struggle more with sleep today vs. 30-40 years ago?

  • [5:45] The biggest culprits that affect our sleep

  • [8:00] What cognitive behavioural therapy is and how it can help you with sleep

  • [15:20] The impact of sleep medications, lights, technology, and alcohol are not conducive to proper sleep

  • [25:10] Why it’s important to follow what feels good to you when it comes to sleep

Notes from Natalie:

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Connect with Dr. Colin

Connect with Me

View Transcript for this Episode

[00:00:00] Natalie: Hi, everyone. You know, I've been podcasting for over a year now. And one of my top rated podcasts is episode number three, must have tips for better and restful sleep with Suzy Cohen.

[00:00:11] It is still available by the way. And you'll find that link in the show notes today. I want to go even deeper as sleep is like food and water. It is one of life's essential oils, but today, more than ever, I hear people telling me that they just can't get quality sleep. Why? Well, there are many reasons and we're going to get into those today as well.

[00:00:33] My guest is Colin SP he has been researching sleep and. Problems for over 30 years, he is one of the world's leading authorities on sleep. He is on the education and sleep medicine committees of the European sleep research society. He's the membership chair of the world. Sleep Federation and leads it's insomnia task force.

[00:00:56] Before we get started, would you do me a favor? Subscribe in whatever podcast app you were listening in, it would mean so much to me. Also, your reviews are very much appreciated as that is how others know that. What I am doing here is quality work. Thank you very much. And now my conversation with sleep expert, Colin SP.

[00:01:18] Colin. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. Sleep is one of the topics that I have requested the most by my listeners and viewers.

[00:01:28] Natalie: So many people struggle with sleep. Why do you think that.

[00:01:32] Dr. Colin: Well, thank you, Natalie. It's great to speak to you and to talk about sleep. It probably is humanity's favorite subject because if only we could get more of it and better quality sleeper.

[00:01:43] And I think we, I think one of the reasons it's, so it's so dominant than mine, just because it's something that can become an issue with. Age or stage in our life, if you got a new baby at home you know, if you've got things in your mind at work, if you get a teenager who can't get up to go to school and can't get to sleep at night, if you're struggling yourself through pressure at work and, and later in life, when your sleep seems to fragment more, you know, it's, it's always a challenge to sleep well because it is nature's provision for us when it isn't working.

[00:02:12] Well, that it really does upset us. It's almost like I can't find any food. I can't find drinking water. You know, it's one of life's essentials. So therefore, when we're not sleeping well, it really does trouble

[00:02:24] Natalie: us. Well, I know that this has been a focus of your life for many, many years. Why did you decide to dive deep into sleep

[00:02:32] Dr. Colin: time?

[00:02:33] Curiosity, I think clinical curiosity, if I take you back 40 years when I first qualified clinically in the early months Uh, primary care doctors said to me, one day, Colin, can you not do anything to help these people that can't sleep? Cause as a mental health specialist, I was seeing people with mental health problems like anxiety, depression, or whatever, and it never had occurred to me until that point.

[00:02:56] That sleep was kind of part of that family, you know, that we need sleep for emotional health. And I said to him, you know, I don't really know. I didn't really know. We hadn't had much teaching or training, but sleeper is disorders. We back then, and even still, I think it's still a bit of a neglected topic.

[00:03:13] And I said, send me a few, send me a few patients. And that's how it get started. Just clinical curiosity.

[00:03:19] Natalie: Do you think in the years that you've studied sleep, that people struggle with it more today than they did 30, 40 years ago.

[00:03:28] Dr. Colin: I think it evolves. You know, I think compared to 30 or 40 years ago, there were probably more and more people working 24 7 because it's possible to do so with the internet, for example I think each generation brings fresh challenges if we, if we I'm old enough to remember gaslighting, at least in some streets and in the UK, it wasn't the norm, but there were still a few.

[00:03:53] Left around. And what that tells us is even electric light is a relatively recent invention. So the ability to stay awake to work you know, work hours of darkness is within recent history within the last hundred years or so. And then of course, within the last 20 years, we've with this 24 7 society.

[00:04:12] So I think things evolve. Uh, And in each generation, there is a fresh challenge, I think, for sleep because sleep becomes no less important. It, your main seriously important.


[00:04:22] Natalie: Hey everyone. It's Natalie. I am excited to let you know that I'm opening up spaces for collaboration and advertising and sponsorship on this podcast. And on my YouTube channel, if you're a brand looking to grow in the wellness family or mindfulness spaces, I would love to collaborate with you. You can find the link to get in touch with me in the show notes, and you can always find out more about what I'm up to on Natalie


[00:04:55] Natalie: Well, you mentioned when you have a new baby at home, of course it's a cycle, but also the pressures to work and work. As you also mentioned, 24 7, but what are the biggest culprits you see that affect ourselves?

[00:05:10] I don't mental health or devices and electronics as big of an issue as we hear often in our ability to sleep well.

[00:05:18] Dr. Colin: Well, I, a movie suggest a two or three things I think are really, really key. I think as a society, we don't value and prioritize sleep at night. Uh, You know, for people who don't sleep well, they may say to that, I give it every opportunity, but you know, thinking, first of all, to answer your question as a society, I think we run a bit fast and loose with sleep, and we see it as a bit of a commodity.

[00:05:44] How can I manage to fit in as little as possible because I'm so busy and important, and we fail to realize that it's sort of sleep. That actually does a lot of work for us. You know, that we need our sleep in order to find. Yeah. You know, so I think, you know, we, over, over my career, I've seen the importance of things like diet and exercise emerge as men, as topics for a medical discussion and put us historically, no one would ever have discussed your exercise regime with your, or your diet.

[00:06:14] You know, that's not what doctors did, but it's become recognized. You know, these things underpin good health. And I think sleep has no getting into that same kind of position Natalie and being seen as art. You know, this is so important. So one thing is, is the importance of of sleep and prioritizing it.

[00:06:32] But I think for those who do try to prioritize it, the main struggle they have is with the racing mind. I mean, most people will say that, you know, if asked, you know, why do you think you can sleep? They'll say, I feel exhausted physically. But my mind. It doesn't let me sleep.

[00:06:51] Natalie: And even when you wake up in the middle of the night, I know many people who tell me, and I have struggled with this too.

[00:06:57] I wake up and then your mind starts going. You can't get back to sleep and it's two o'clock in the morning and you want more than anything to sleep.

[00:07:06] Dr. Colin: And I think one of the. Th th this lesson to one of the secrets of why cognitive behavioral therapy is the best solution for insomnia is a recommended treatment worldwide.

[00:07:19] Natalie: Just a moment. That was my next question. Tell us what cognitive behavioral therapy is and how that can help people. I didn't mean to interrupt you, but I want to take a step back and really dive into.

[00:07:30] Dr. Colin: Yeah. So, so the, the recommended a treatment for a sleep difficulty like insomnia, that's a difficulty getting to sleep.

[00:07:38] Her difficulty, getting back to sleep is something called cognitive behavioral therapy. And the secret is in the, those initials C for cognitive dealing with the racing mind that the primary enemy, if you're like, eh, of, of sleep and B the behavioral bit, which is. What, what should I be doing? You know, what, what is my routine meant to be?

[00:08:03] And they putting solutions to the racing mind and the, call to action together. You get something called CBT. And th th the reason it works is very, very simple. And that is that the secret isn't the town falling asleep. You fall asleep, you don't get to sleep. And I think what happens is wouldn't be developed.

[00:08:24] Insomnia would be trying to get to sleep. We try to make it an active process. We're trying to take control of the situation, and then we try to fit. And actually by trying to fix it and we become more preoccupied with it. And we get into this vicious cycle of the harder I try, I try to sleep. The more we can become, the more frustrated I get.

[00:08:44] Even as we talk about it, we can begin to feel happening. What happens is we get more mentally aroused, then we get more physiologically aroused, and then we realize I can't get to sleep though. Yeah. And yet the person who's sleeping well is no expert. You know, they are they've fallen asleep. It's happened to them.

[00:09:02] So what CBT does is it addresses these psychological barriers to sleep, you know, having the right behavioral pattern in place. We see that with young kids as well, getting them into a pattern and, and dealing with his racing mind deals with those things, and then remove psychology from the equation and allows us to sleep naturally, you know, so that it's actually.