From the category archives:



Sleep INTERRUPTED…Good Morning America Debate

International Best Seller Tim Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Workweek,”  ended up in a debate on Good Morning America with a guest doctor who strongly disagreed with several of his views in his new book “The 4-Hour Body.”

Mr. Ferris follows some recent discussions about being able to sleep less (or barely at all, in his case) in order to get more done and do more of the things one truly enjoys.  While these are worthy goals, there are few, if any, human beings who could get by on the amount of sleep or the patterns of sleep he recommends.  The Sleep Diva wants to know: Aren’t we all doing enough, Tim, and in many cases, way too much that we need to rob the restorative, refreshing, memory-consolidating aspects of a good night’s sleep so we can do more?

Click below to hear the audio excerpt from Good Morning America debating Ferriss’s radical statement on sleep:

Sleep INTERRUPTED…Good Morning America Debate

Mr. Ferriss contends that humans only need 2 hours of sleep per day if they time it just right, taking 20 minute naps six times throughout the day. This is not a new theory, but is referred to as “polyphasic sleep.” First defined by 20th-century psychologist J.S. Szymanski, a polyphasic sleep cycle is defined by sleeping multiple times in a 24 hour period.

Also referred to as “Uberman’s sleep schedule,” it is practiced by those who want to experiment with ultra-short napping to achieve more time awake each day. (Developing A Polyphasic Sleep Cycle)

At its best, the planned napping of polyphasic sleep differs quite a bit from random fits and starts of sleep for a person with insomnia, but there is a lot of argument that the reality of this type of interrupted sleep can be quite detrimental. In the article “Why You Don’t Want to Wake Up – Interrupted Sleep Interrupts Memory” in Psychology Today, the author references a study at Stanford as evidence for sleeping in uninterrupted blocks as much as possible.

The Stanford research team under Craig Heller and Luis Licea studied the affects of waking up mice more than usual to see what implications this could suggest for humans in similar conditions. This excerpt from the article summarizes their results:

Interrupt human sleep and you can’t get enough deep sleep and REM sleep. The beauty of the present study from Craig Heller’s lab was that the mice, generally interrupted at 60-120 second intervals, looked okay, had normal and unchanged sleep indices, showed no increases in steroid stress hormone levels, and behaved pretty much the same – except that their memory function was considerably diminished. All it took was decreasing the intervals between arousals about 30-40% above normal.

The answer: You mess up their memory and learning with relatively few 10 second stimulations – even though the rest of their sleep remains “normal.”

The implication: wake people up enough times and you mess up their physiology, even if they can’t recall the awakenings and objectively sleep as much as any normal sleeper.

The clinical bottom line: keep people sleeping without arousals as much as you can to improve overall health and function.

Michael Bonnet of the Wright State School of Medicine is one of many who studied what very brief arousals can do to human sleep.

The results he got were not pretty. Wake up “perfect” young sleepers for three seconds at a time often enough, and they felt like they were up all night – even if they slept 95% or more of the night.

In the interview, Tim seems to understand that this approach is not for everybody, but rather for a select few who can dedicate themselves to following a different sleep pattern.

While there might be occasions for getting less sleep than normal without consequence, the Sleep Diva, along with Dr. Boyle, cannot recommend this as a useful sleep pattern.  Aside from the changes in memory consolidation to think of, the hormone cascade which sets the body back to normal is not something we have success with disrupting.  The consequences of messing with estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, thyroid and cortisol, to name just a few, would not be  worth the gains in extra time. Aren’t we all doing enough already, Tim, and who has time to arrange six 20 minute naps a day?  That sounds like a full time job in itself.




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by Dr. Melissa McCreery 

Your to-do list is a mile long. 

Your inbox is overflowing.

Everyone and their uncle needs your help.

You know you really should exercise, eat better, keep a journal, and organize all those photos . . . some day.

You are tired, probably stressed, and (if you are human) likely resorting to unhelpful coping strategies like comfort eating, skipping your workouts, or cutting back on sleep.

It can feel like a vicious cycle that has no end. How does a busy woman fit it all in, create the me-time and quality self-care she craves, and shift from surviving to thriving?

Answer: she doesn’t.

Superwoman is a Myth

No one can do it all. All of us live days that consist of 24 hours. Accepting the truth that you can’t do everything is a critical step for thriving. In fact, accepting this limitation actually simplifies things and makes moving from survival to thriving MUCH easier.

So, repeat after me:

“I can’t do it all. I can spend my energy with respect and care.”

This declaration can change just about everything.

Say Goodbye to Perfectionism

The idea that you will completely finish, get it all done, or get it all perfect, is unrealistic and stifling. It creates paralysis, procrastination, and a limited perspective.

Perfectionists tend to feel lousy about themselves, afraid (of screwing up), and more stressed than necessary. Rigidly adhering to perfectionism is NOT spending your energy with respect and care. Instead of “getting it perfect,” focus on consistently moving in the right direction. When you ditch perfectionism, it becomes YOUR job to define what and when is enough. Cultivate what Jennifer Louden calls conditions of enoughness—specific definitions of what is reasonable—and practice calling it enough when you achieve them.

Stop Shoulding on Yourself

Spending your energy with care and respect means that YOU need to be deliberate and in charge of where your time and focus goes.

“Is this worth it to me?”

“Is this important?”

“What are the trade-offs of saying yes or no to this task?”

These are the types of questions you want to ask when you step into the driver’s seat of your life. “Shoulds” come from a place of reacting. “Shoulds” tend to be standards that are imposed by others. “I should clean my house/lose ten pounds/make more money.”

A “should” is hardly ever a compelling reason. It lacks conviction. It’s often driven by guilt, or a desire for approval, or a belief that you aren’t good enough. “Shoulds” tend to create stress and attempts at change that don’t last.

In order to thrive and to fit in what’s important, whatever IT is needs to BE convincingly important to you. Know your compelling reason. For example—I am always working to get more vegetables into my diet. Telling myself I “should” doesn’t get me very far. Knowing, from a lifetime of living in my body, that I have more energy and feel better when I eat a balanced diet with lots of vegetables, is much more compelling.

My client Jane (not her real name), told me she “should” lose weight. And she sounded miserable just saying it. However, when we unearthed her compelling reasons (she desperately wanted to be able to travel with ease and fit into airplane seats, be able to get back on a bike and take rides with her daughter, and ease her joint pain so she could get back to dancing–which she used to love), Jane got some real mojo going. She also became very clear that taking care of herself was an essential place to be spending her energy.

Self-care is a Necessity

Do you get it? You’ll never fit it all in—but you can enjoy the journey. When you let go of trying to do it all and start making careful choices, you step into the driver’s seat of your life.

What you do spend your time and energy on will be much more satisfying and of much higher quality if YOU show up primed and in your best form. Your business, your job, your relationships, your life depend on you. YOU are the main ingredient. It’s just like the flight attendants tell you. If you haven’t put your own oxygen mask on, you won’t have much to offer others no matter how strongly you want to help them.

If you are determined to get the most out of your life and your 24 hour day, pay yourself first. Claiming the time for you and the health you crave is not a luxury—it’s an investment that will pay you back over and over again.

Thriving is Not a Destination—it is the Journey

Accept your limitations (with relief), spend your time and energy with care and respect, and pay yourself first. You won’t get it perfect (guaranteed!), but this formula will keep you on the path to creating a life that works for you.

Take good care,


Psychologist and Life Coach Dr. Melissa McCreery focuses on the three Os that ambush successful, high-achieving women—overeating, overwhelm, and overload at . Beginning November 14, 2011, she is sponsoring a massive giveaway for women who want more ease, joy, and success in their lives and their work. Come claim your gifts from November 14-21 at .



By Melissa McCreery, PhD

If you are like most busy women with too much on their plates, one of the most important things you can do for yourself is to practice indulging—really indulging. Interestingly, most women who really need to indulge more will tell you that they believe they ought to be indulging less. What’s this about?

Let’s get really clear about what indulging is.

From my perspective, to indulge means to allow yourself to experience something really wonderful. Indulging comes from a place of compassion and kindness and respect. It’s a gift, freely given. Indulging means to allow yourself to enjoy fully. It means to thoroughly experience something and soak up and savor the experience. An indulgence is not a candy bar from the vending machine that you shove into your mouth while driving to your next appointment. It’s your favorite food on a beautiful plate in a setting where you can truly savor it.

Indulging isn’t just about food, but it’s something that feeds our senses in a wonderful way. You might indulge in a bubble bath or a foot massage or a solitary walk in the woods. Your indulgence might be your favorite CD played in your car or fresh flowers on your desk or a glass of red wine enjoyed on your deck.

Indulging is a full-body-use-all-your-senses experience.

It fills you up, brings you joy, refuels you and adds color to your life. Indulging feeds your soul and is a necessary ingredient for thriving. Your inner champion, or what you may think of as your “best self” absolutely purrs when she is indulged.

So why does indulging have such a bad rap? Why do so many women think that indulging is selfish or nonproductive or just plain wrong?

I’d like to bust some myths about indulging, and while I’m at it, let me remind you that many bad habits such as overeating, procrastination, and spending too much time online or “not doing” what you really need to do, happen because you aren’t indulging enough.

When your spirit and soul aren’t being fed, you will grasp at straws (or potato chips or chocolate chip cookies) to try to make up for it. When you don’t allow yourself to truly indulge, you will find yourself reaching for poor substitutes that might help you feel better temporarily, but that don’t make anything better in the big picture.

Here are some more truths about indulging:

1.      Indulging is not about greed or sloth. Indulging isn’t about excess. It’s about allowing yourself something wonderful or special and allowing yourself to really experience and savor it–without guilt or shame. It’s not eating the whole box of cookies or bingeing on clothes at the mall. It’s about allowing yourself just the right amount of what you really crave and fully enjoying the experience. Indulging is not about gulping, it’s a melts-in-your-mouth experience.

2.      Indulging is not laziness Indulging is a way of feeding an important part of yourself and adding dimension to your life. Some women worry that if they start to indulge they’ll “lose control.” The truth is, when you really allow yourself to indulge, you tend to be more satisfied with less.

3.      Indulging does not have to be earned or “deserved.” Some women believe that they haven’t “worked hard enough” or “accomplished enough” to indulge. When you don’t allow yourself this kind of self-care, it’s easy to become caught in a cycle of working harder and harder and feeling more and more behind and burnt out. Again, indulging yourself is a way of refueling. It actually enhances your productivity.

4.      Indulging does not decrease your productivity or make you fat. I’ve already addressed this, but this is such a common myth, it’s important to restate. Allowing yourself truly indulgent experiences, ones where you are completely present and savoring the moment, satisfies you. Real indulgences don’t leave you hungry and craving more—they rejuvenate you and fuel you to be your best. What does leave you primed for a binge of food or laziness is the feeling that your special treat is forbidden or undeserved. The message that you are never going to be allowed to rest or feel like “enough” or eat chocolate again will almost certainly create a craving for the forbidden that can be almost impossible to resist.

My challenge to you:

Start indulging. Make a list of things that you experience as special treats. Keep it somewhere where you can add to it as new ideas occur to you. Begin scheduling these into your life on a regular basis and enjoy.

Take good care,


Psychologist and Life Coach Dr. Melissa McCreery focuses on the three Os that ambush successful, high-achieving women—overeating, overwhelm, and overload at . Beginning November 14, 2011, she is sponsoring a massive giveaway for women who want more ease, joy, and success in their lives and their work. Come claim your gifts from November 14-21 at .




Many top models and actresses, the very people the media declares are the most beautiful people in the world, know an amazingly simple secret about the key to lasting beauty: something commonly referred to as “BEAUTY SLEEP.”

Unfortunately, it is far too uncommon that women are getting the truly restorative sleep that is required to create the beneficial results possible with proper sleep.

According to an article by Dr. Matthew Edlund in Psychology Today, even Gwyneth Paltrow says that she “looks like a train wreck” if she misses even one night of proper sleep. He adds the reasons why “sleep helps you look good” in the following excerpt ( :

1. You grow a lot of skin in sleep. Some studies argue perhaps the skin spurt in sleep in 30 times what it is during some parts of the day. Lots of new, healthy skin appears while you slumber.
2. Growth hormone literally reshapes much of our continuously regrowing bodies. Growth hormone receives its greatest production during slow wave sleep. Though slow wave sleep decreases with age, it can increase with properly timed physical activity and hot baths right before you sleep.
3. Better learning – for all the many parts of your body. A great deal of learning is unconscious – by muscle, ligament, sinew, as well as brain cells – and occurs during sleep. Cut out the process and you simply don’t learn properly – whether it’s learning dance steps, remaking your ankles, or remembering and using mathematical formulas. Proper sleep makes you more balanced, more fit, more coordinated. It’s not surprising professional sports teams are adding sleep docs to their rosters in order to improve athletic performance. The rest of us will just regenerate better with adequate rest.
4. You’ll look a lot less tired. One German study which looked at sleepless versus non-sleepy people revealed faces became far less attractive following a night without shut-eye. And the photographs were made during daylight hours they would otherwise look good – not the pale faces of waking mornings. Even the normal, standard partial sleep deprivation of everyday American life does nothing for our appearance – or our waistline. By shucking sleep to work, tend children, play games and text during the night, we end up looking more tired, more exhausted – more unattractive.

Here’s the deal:
There’s no doubt that Dr. Edlund has something useful to say here to all of us who want to look our best, but the words of Gwyneth Paltrow speak to the true heart of the matter. You’ve heard it said that “beauty is only skin deep”? Well even the lovely Ms. Paltrow, who has access to the top makeup and cosmetics in the world, knows the source of her looks as a well-rested night and is honest enough to admit that. Cheers for her!! And let’s all consider her sage beauty advice – great sleep, most every night, is the core of really looking good. You, too, can have this for yourself. Challenge yourself to get your best possible sleep, and if you get stuck somewhere, call the Sleep Diva.



Image: photostock /

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Here’s some news most guys can use. Sleeping less than your needed 7-8 hours (like 5) could mean a 10-15% drop in testosterone. This recent research was conducted on young, healthy males by the National Institutes of Health, focusing on the effects of sleep deprivation common to many of us. As you know, testosterone affects not only sexual functioning, but energy levels and the growth of muscle and bone.

Time to reconsider whether those late nights are worth it, guys?



A colleague asked to refer me a young lady who had gone to college this year and was awakening her roommates screaming during what was known as her night terrors.  She would go to sleep for a few hours, then awaken screaming and panicky, could not be consoled by her roommates and then return to sleep. In the morning, she would have no memory of these awakenings or the things that had scared her into screaming. This was happening several times a week, causing those around her to lose considerable sleep themselves.   Friends would sometimes be concerned for her safety because of what she might try to do while in this seemingly awake state.  Her parents were not surprised because they had experienced much the same thing with her during her last two years of high school.   Things were getting to the point where she might have to move out of the dorm when the colleague came to talk to me about it.

Similarly, parents of young children have often experienced such disturbances when a screaming younger child awakens the household but remembers nothing of their “nighttime adventure” in the morning.  It is customary for most kids to outgrow such sleep events, usually by the time they start elementary school.  But there are always a small number of kids who continue to have such terrifying “nightmares” that the pediatrician becomes involved.  Often, children with these problems are referred to a psychologist and the family becomes involved in family therapy to find the source of what’s ailing the child.  But wait!  Is this a psychological problem?  Or is the culprit something that’s amiss in the sleep patterns?

My colleague went on to recount having seen just such a nine year old, whose terrified screaming was so intense that the family had to leave the campground where they were staying and cut short the family vacation, both to calm the child, but more so the frayed nerves of fellow campers.  And this family had been in therapy for several months, trying to identify the source of the problem.  Eventually, the “source” of the problem was found when the pediatrician suggested a specialist pediatrician, who did an overnight sleep study and found breathing problems during sleep that were awakening the child in a stage of sleep where he should have been soundly asleep, but not able to dream.  Problem solved when identified.  It never happened again once treated.

What’s going on here?  These events are part of a group of sleep disorders called Parasomnias, and unlike their sleep companion – nightmares, which are often well-remembered, sleep terrors are distinguished by the fact that the person is intensely panicky (complete with rapid heart rate, breathing and sweating) and later remembers nothing of what has occurred. Typically, this happens in the first half of the night (unlike nightmares) and during Stage 3-4 deep, slow wave sleep.   Thus, diagnosis and treatment are the purview of neurology, psychiatry and psychology.  Medications can be helpful once a careful diagnosis can be established and other sleep and neurological disorders have been ruled out.

Get the best help you can find for anything that happens during the night, and be sure your professional, of whatever discipline, has specific training in sleep-related disorders, not just psychological disorders.

“A good night’s rest feeds the mind as good food nourishes the body.”

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As summer approaches, our thoughts turn to travel and having fun, either with family or to see a new exciting place. Don’t forget to take your good sleep habits along as you are packing your suitcase. Sleep can be the difference between a very enjoyable trip and one fraught with irritability and frustration. Although it’s seldom considered an essential as we pack our suitcases, and requires taking very little along, sleep just needs just a bit of extra mindful packing. Here are some tips to make that trip transition the fun and easy outing you had planned:

1. Think ahead about how many time zones you’ll be crossing and how fast. If you’re flying and crossing two time zones or more, you will experience the most circadian rhythm change. Plan for a day of recuperation from these changes to the light/dark cycle of the day.

If you’ve experienced jet lag from your flights in the past, and this is different for each person, but nearly universal for those crossing five or more time zones, here are some tips from Dr. Robert Sack of the Oregon Health Sciences Center in the New England Journal of Medicine:

• Best ways to re-set your circadian clock are timed exposure to sunlight (for staying awake when you would normally be asleep), melatonin (for going to sleep when you would normally
be awake) or a combination of both;

• Check with your doctor to be sure melatonin will not interfere with any of your currently prescribed medications; melatonin is the most well-studied substance natural to the body, and for most has very few, if any side effects;

• For travelling east, get out in the sun on arrival and have your favorite source of caffeine;

• For travelling west, bright light in the evening will help you stay up and then, if you are wide awake during sleep time, a low dose of melatonin should help;

Some additional tips for the time of travel itself:

•Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate during your flight as cabin air tends to dehydrate us, which contributes to fatigue; also, getting up to get the water once an hour helps us walk around and avoid problems with thrombosis;

• Avoid caffeine and alcohol during your flight which tend to enhance the jet lag;

• Schedule your sleep to fit the new time zone, even if it means some daytime naps after you arrive.

Bon voyage!

Would you like more sleep travel tips?

Sign up for my free travel sleep tips tele-class on June 25 at 1pm Central.



In the most recent MMWR newsletter from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , the CDC announced that March 7–13, 2011 is National Sleep Awareness Week.  Here are some interesting facts they shared about the importance and impact of sleep (click on newsletter link above for references).

“Sleep impairment is linked as a contributing factor to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational errors Persons experiencing sleep insufficiency are more likely to have chronic diseases such
as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, or obesity (2,3). In 2008, approximately 28% of surveyed adults in the United States reported frequent insufficient sleep (≥14 days in the past 30 days) (4), which has been associated with fair/poor general health, frequent mental and physical distress, depressive symptoms, anxiety, and pain (3).

Sleep insufficiency and poor sleep quality also can result from sleep disorders such as chronic insomnia, restless legs syndrome, sleep apnea, or narcolepsy (1).

The National Sleep Foundation suggests that healthy adults need 7–9 hours of sleep per day, and school-age children might require 10–11 hours of sleep (5). “

I encourage you to make good sleep hygiene a high priority not just this week but everyday.  If you find yourself stuck or struggling with sleep issues, I invite you connect with me for resources and support.



Here’s a short quiz for you.

Question:  What’s one of the greatest benefits of getting enough sleep every night?


Wow.  How’s that for a free benefit you can do on your own, and without spending any money or buying any equipment?

Click here to read this great article from Psychology Today.



Sleep and Stress are two sides of the same coin. Click here to see the American Psychological Association’s take on what systems of the body are affected by stress. 

Can you find what systems are being affected by your own stress, and figure out how this affects your sleep?