A Health & Wellbeing Interview with Health Expert Dr. Comite [Podcast]
In this article:
- What Do People Ask You About Diet and Sleep?
- Do Different People Need Different Amounts of Sleep?
- Should We Adjust the Amount of Sleep We Get, Based on What’s Going on in Our Life?
- Why Do People Have Difficulty Sleeping?
- There Are So Many Gadgets on the Market That Aim to Improve Diet and Sleep, Do You Have a Favorite?
- What do you suggest for someone who almost gets enough sleep but could do better?
The Connection Between Diet and Sleep [INTERVIEW]
Dr. Florence Comite is an endocrinologist and founder of the Comite Center for Precision Medicine & Health in New York City and the personalized health app, QUANTIOME. She also wrote the bestseller, Keep It Up! Connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.
What Do People Ask You About Diet and Sleep?
I think sleep is a far more prominent problem people struggle with, even more than weight. Sleep is critically important. Not just for feeling good but also for being healthy.
When you don’t sleep enough, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and even death occurs earlier.
Do Different People Need Different Amounts of Sleep?
We’re all unique. Mini clinical studies have shown one needs 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep for the body to repair itself. Some people may need slightly less or more, but research strongly suggests getting at least 7 hours a night.
Many people think they get more sleep than they do, and that’s an issue as well.
Should We Adjust the Amount of Sleep We Get, Based on What's Going on in Our Life?
A recent study showed it’s far better to get the same sleep regularly, and one of the issues that lead to poor sleep is changing the hours you sleep.
For example, partying on the weekends versus the steady sleep we get during the week. As a result, some young people suffer from social jet lag. They shift their body clock because they go to bed much later on weekends than during the week.
So to answer your question, yes, we need to adjust the amount of sleep we get from time to time. When you’re ill with a cold or flu, under stress or you have a lot on your plate, getting a good night’s rest is essential.
Good quality sleep means you get sufficient hours and go through the three stages of sleep: Deep sleep connected to REM sleep and light sleep. Without realizing it, you intermittently wake up during the night. All these sleep elements reset and repair your immune system and protect your health.
When a lot is going on in your life, you need to prepare better to get more sleep. For instance, take off early and shut everything down. Instead of going to bed at the usual time, get to bed an hour earlier.
Why Do People Have Difficulty Sleeping?
When people can’t sleep, there’s usually some interference like social life or alcohol. Working on a smartphone or watching TV, you get exposed to blue light that interferes with the brain. For the elderly, the pineal gland isn’t always active in the right way, and the dark-light cycle changes.
Melatonin may help regulate sleep over time, and other supplements like Valerian may alleviate the sleep disturbances caused by restless leg syndrome.
The elderly have to find innovative ways to take care of their health and get more sleep, preferably without sleeping pills, which disrupts natural sleep. Sleeping pills put you into a ‘twilight zone’ where you think you’ve slept, but it was poor quality. They can also have other side effects like getting up in the middle of the night and eating without realizing it.
There Are So Many Gadgets on the Market That Aim to Improve Diet and Sleep, Do You Have a Favorite?
Sleep Cycle is an app that I’ve been using for several years, personally and at the center. It analyzes sleep based on movements, noises, and periods that you’re awake.
Sleep Cycle is also really helpful because it wakes you up the right way. When you’re in the lightest sleep stage, you set your alarm and the app senses, then wakes you up.
Newer wearables attach to your bed, almost like a thin, gadget-like mattress that looks at additional metrics like temperature and whether you snore while you sleep. Accumulated data, allow us at the center, to interpret the variables, interfering with sleep.
One of my clients, a 49-year-old gentleman from Princeton, told me recently that since he started working with us, it’s like he’s 42 again.
We gave him a wearable made by Abbott Free Lifestyle, that enables you to monitor yourself. It’s a small disc that’s ‘plugged’ into the bicep and monitors glucose.
We also use MyFitnessPal to monitor his diet.
Some nights he fell off the wagon and had lots of ice cream. In the middle of the night, he woke up hungry.
He shot up his sugar and, as a consequence, his insulin. High insulin levels send out hunger signals. We figured this out by looking at his glucose, diet, and sleep data.
Once he started adding some protein to all snacks or meals before bed, and he would stay asleep all night.
More importantly, if you eat something sweet before bed like ice cream, you trigger hormones like cortisol and others to release. These hormones may cause you to gain weight.
It may be the reason you get heart disease and high blood pressure when you’re not sleeping well. The bottom line is, high carb food before bed disrupts sleep patterns, and it’s unhealthy.
What do you suggest for someone who almost gets enough sleep but could do better?
Don’t sweat the details because it does seem overwhelming at the start. You don’t need all the fancy gadgets to start.
Start tracking how much water you drink and make sure your urine is clear. Or write down what you eat throughout the day.
Those trends and habits start piling up, and then we can begin to shift a little.
If I wake up with moderately high sugar, I need to exercise, and I’ll be fine. Each of us has specific patterns, and if we learn those patterns, we can adjust and adapt our habits.
The quantified self can help us live healthier lives. It enables us to track and change our behaviors, so we can extend our lifespan to match our lifespan and enjoy life to the fullest.
What is the best diet and sleep advice you’ve ever heard? Share your thoughts in the comments below!