Dr. JoAnn Yanez on KCAA 09/09/2020

Dr. JoAnn Yanez, AANMC executive director, joins KCAA’s NBC LA affiliate On the Brink to discuss how important sleep is especially during stressful times and finding and treating the root cause of any sleep disturbances.

Full Transcript of Interview Below.

Topics Include:

  • Importance of getting enough sleep in stressful times
  • Effects of shift work on sleep
  • Finding the root cause of sleep disturbances
  • Sleep and Grief

Erin Brinker:

Welcome back. I’m Erin Brinker.

Todd Brinker:

And I’m Todd Brinker.

Erin Brinker:

And we are On the Brink, the morning Show on KCAA AM 1050, FM 106.5, and FM 102.3. And I’m super excited to welcome back to the show Dr. JoAnn Yanez. She is the Executive Director for the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. She joins us once a month to talk about health, and wellness, and just living a balanced and positive life. And Dr. Yanez, welcome to the show.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

Good morning. How are you both?

Erin Brinker:

Doing great.

Todd Brinker:

Good, .

Erin Brinker:

Doing great and trying to breathe in this smoke.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

I know. I saw it yesterday. We’re up in the Foothills and it was pretty heavy. My husband was actually on the news all weekend, telling people about how to stay safe between the smoke and the heat indices.

Erin Brinker:

It was unreal this weekend, unreal.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

Yeah.

Erin Brinker:

So-

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

That’s all it was.

Erin Brinker:

One of the things that’s not happening right now because people are stressed out is sleep.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

Yes, sleep is fleeting sometimes. But honestly, it is so critical for good health.

Erin Brinker:

So over the years, because I think you’ve been doing the show with us for… Oh my goodness, it’s been at least five years, I’m thinking, or four years. I’m not sure exactly.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

Four.

Erin Brinker:

Four years? Four years. We’ve talked about sleep hygiene, but I think now it’s more important than it’s been ever, because people are just really finding it hard to get the sleep that they need.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

It is, and I think it goes without saying that our stress levels right now are probably at all time highs, maybe-

Erin Brinker:

Yes.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

… for many people.

Erin Brinker:

Yes.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

Just thinking of all of the variables that are at play right now. I was just hearing the news. And you’ve got Oregon, and Washington, and California on fire. You have the social unrest that’s still happening. You’ve got impending elections, which depending on how you feel about things, may be unsettling for you. You’ve got coronavirus.

Erin Brinker:

Yes.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

And then there’s school. And I heard you all talking about some of the challenges that people are having with schools right now, and the uncertainty. Whether it’s young children at school, and online routines, or going physically to a school, and worrying if their sniffle is now coronavirus. And so it’s a very stressful time. And because of that, it is so important that we check in on ourselves and we check in on our friends to make sure that we’re handling these stresses okay. And sleep is one of those things. People will think a lot of times, in conventional medicine, “Oh, I have insomnia. I take a sleeping medicine.” Well, I see insomnia as a symptom. It’s a sign. It’s a sign saying to you something is off-kilter here, and out of balance, and your sleep is interrupted as a result of it. And so it isn’t that sleep is the issue, there’s something else that’s the root cause of your sleep being disturbed. Make sense?

Erin Brinker:

It make total sense. I wonder if looking at a screen all day long makes it more likely that you’ll have insomnia.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

So there is limited research about that, but there is very strong research showing light and circadian rhythm imbalances. And so there’s a lot of studying that has been done, research that has been done with shift workers. So let’s say people who, doctors, nurses, other professions that work nights. And what happens to the circadian rhythm as a result of basically flipping your day. There’s also been a lot of research looking at people who work swing shifts, so sometimes days, sometimes nights. They did a fair amount of research. They looked at three populations, basically. People who work day shift, people who work always night shift, and then people who did the swing shift. And by far the healthiest bunch where the day folks. The next healthiest bunch, guess who it was?

Erin Brinker:

The mid-shift?

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

It was the folks that only worked night shift.

Erin Brinker:

Oh, so not the middle of the day to late at night.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

No, the swing shift people. What I mean by swing is folks that would sometimes work day shift and sometimes work night shift.

Erin Brinker:

Ah, okay, okay.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

Because at least if you’re always working night, your body gets into a rhythm. But the folks that had the worst health outcomes, the highest rates of heart disease, and diabetes, and other issues were the folks that did not maintain a regular sleep rhythm. And so, one of the key tenets to a good regimen for your sleep is keeping a schedule. When we had children, some folks like myself, I was the rigid sleep bomb. Oh, we can’t do this, it’s his bedtime. We can’t go out. It’s his bedtime. So oftentimes as parents, we’re very strict about bedtimes with our kids, but then somewhere that all falls apart. Oh, there’s a fun movie to watch or there’s a party to go to. But what we have seen though is that maintenance of a really important sleep routine, including the things that you do leading up to it.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

So you talked about lights. So our circadian rhythm and the hormones that go along with it like melatonin and, so on, and cortisol are responsive to sunlight. So it’s important for setting your body’s clock to be exposed to light in the morning. And to limit that light exposure as it starts to get dark. And so limiting screen time at night, limiting bright lights, making sure that your bedroom when you’re ready to sleep is dark, really dark. Get blackout shades, unplug all of the electronics in your bedroom that might have those little lights going off, and all of that. And really keep that light at a minimum. And if you wake up in the middle of the night, do not look at your phone.

Erin Brinker:

That’s hard. I do look at my phone.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

Ah, that’s .

Erin Brinker:

Well, partly because it is my clock. And I do get up when it’s dark, because of having to be at work in the morning.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

Sure.

Erin Brinker:

But yes, I always grab my phone, always. I shouldn’t do that.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

Yeah, well, the grabbing of the phone, because some people are more photosensitive than others. So there are some folks where that won’t make that much of a difference, but there are other people where just the light of a phone will be enough to keep them up for a couple of hours.

Erin Brinker:

So I’m thinking about the kinds of people who might be working that swing shift.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Erin Brinker:

Dispatchers, firemen, policemen. I mean, at least firemen when there’s nothing going on, they can sleep in the firehouse, but policemen who are out and about. Anybody who works in a hospital. There’s so many workers who work overnights. And so-

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

Yeah.

Erin Brinker:

Should we, on a policy level, make it so that you have to pick one where it’s… Yeah, I don’t know how that would work. If your night shift, you’re not a week on and a week off. You know what I’m saying? A week on night, and week on days, and a week on night, and week on days. And I have known fire dispatchers who have work schedules like that.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

Yeah, well, my husband working in the ER used to. Yeah, and as he got older, his body didn’t handle the late shift as well either. So I think that as he got older, he would work ER, late night, and then he’d catch a cold. And so I think it’s just important to pay attention to your body. And if you have the option, some people don’t have the option. But if you do have the option or if you’re in a position of leadership, recognizing these health benefits of having a routine and sticking to it is an important thing to recognize.

Erin Brinker:

So what about taking things like melatonin? Because people say that melatonin is safe to help you sleep, yada, yada. Is it safe?

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

Well, so again, those are all patches. Ultimately, there’s a reason why somebody is not sleeping. It can be hormonal, it can be stress-related, maybe it’s dietary, maybe you’re drinking too much caffeine too late in the day, or too many stimulants, or too much sugar, or you’re on a big sugar thing, or maybe your cortisol levels are all out of whack. So I think, it really, for me, insomnia isn’t necessarily a supplement deficiency.

Erin Brinker:

Gotcha.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

It’s a reason. So I would say that, look at the reason why someone’s having sleep issues. Do they need counseling? Are they waking up thinking about all the problems in the world? Do they need to journal, or counsel, or figure out a way that to manage that, so it’s not so stressful? I just think that getting to the root… Yes, there are supplements. Yes, there are things that can be helpful to relax folks. I’m a big fan of mindfulness-based meditation, but then there are things like 5-HTP, and melatonin, and lavender, and there are a number of things that can be helpful based on the individual if it’s appropriate for them. But ultimately, it should be in correspondence with looking at that root cause.

Erin Brinker:

So I have one more question. I know that the only time that I’ve really taken sleeping pills where I had to have it was after my mother passed away. And I couldn’t sleep, so they gave me Trazodone. And apparently, that’s fairly common. But I wonder, if I were to see a naturopathic doctor, are there naturopathic psychiatrists who would offer… I mean, that could offer a non-pharmaceutical alternative?

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

Well, grief is a tricky thing. And part of the grieving process can also throw off your endocrine system. As part of that grief, you have very high rates of cortisol that can be released. And cortisol is kind of the antagonist to melatonin. So when cortisol is high, melatonin is not going to be. And so part of that grief, and that stress of the grief, and the process of going through that very stressful life experience raises cortisol levels, which in response has other trickles in our endocrine system. So if we recognize the cause, and what’s going on, and why it’s manifesting as sleep issues. And then work to impact the cortisol levels, and get the stressors hopefully under control, that will in turn have a ripple to the sleep. Does that make sense?

Erin Brinker:

It does, it does.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

And NDs are trained in pharmaceuticals. And, in some cases, there is an appropriate time and a place for the use of pharmaceuticals, but it’s typically not going to be our first go to.

Erin Brinker:

Well, this has been very enlightening. And I’m sure it absolutely helped people out there who are listening and just struggling to get more than five or six hours of sleep a night, because we really do need eight.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

I know.

Erin Brinker:

We really-

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

Yeah, it’s really tough right now. And my heart goes out to folks. I know I have trouble sleeping from time to time. This is very, very pervasive right now. And I think the biggest thing is we just need to be gentle with ourselves and with our loved ones. And recognize that folks are going through hard times. And that we need to just be kind and be there for each other. We do have a webinar today on sleep, it’s at 9:00 AM Pacific. So if you’re awake, please join. If you’re not taking a catnap, which that can be useful too. But yeah, please have folks join us for the sleep webinar. If they want to know more, they can get that information at AANMC.org.

Erin Brinker:

Well, Dr. JoAnn Yanez, it is always a treat to have you on the show. Thank you so much for your enlightening discussion. And I hope everybody goes over and watches that webinar at AANMC.org.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:

Thank you so much folks. Have a great rest of your morning.

Erin Brinker:

Thank you, you too. Be well. So with that, it’s time for a break. I’m Erin Brinker.

Todd Brinker:

I’m Todd Brinker.

Erin Brinker:

And we are On the Brink, the morning show on KCAA. We’ll be right back.

 

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