Dr. JoAnn Yanez, AANMC executive director, joins KCAA’s NBC LA affiliate On the Brink to discuss the relationship between sleep, stress, and memory function.
Full Transcript of Interview Below.
- Sleep hygiene
- Disciplining our thoughts and minds to better sleep
- The difference between naturopathic and integrative medicine
- And more…
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. So excited to welcome back to the show Dr. JoAnn Yanez. She is the executive director of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges and the chair of the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health. She also serves on the Integrative Health Policy Consortium education committee. Weaving a passion for illness prevention into her professional life. Dr. Yanez’s career has spanned advocacy, academia, patient care, and public health. She joins us every month to talk about health and wellness from a naturopathic perspective. I’m tongue-tied this morning. Dr. Yanez, welcome to the show.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Good morning. How are you?
Erin Brinker: Good morning. We’re good. We’re good. How are you?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: I’m doing really well.
Erin Brinker: So, tell us about … This is a perfect topic for today, brain health.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Yes. Today … I need to remember the topic, which is memory. What was I talking about today? Oh, memory. That’s right.
Erin Brinker: Memory. When I get tired, especially, I have many more of those senior moments and we’re not seniors yet. I’m not a senior yet. So, yeah.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: There are so many facets to memory and you really nailed it, sleep is one of the big ones for people, sleeping and stress. Think of what is involved in having solid memory. You have to be present, your brain’s got to be functioning optimally, and so anything that’s going to take that brain space out of optimal mode can have ripple effects in your memory and how you feel.
Erin Brinker: So, what about people who just, they have a difficult time sleeping? Maybe they have a young baby at home, maybe they have something, just unbelievable stress in their lives, maybe they’re grieving, somebody’s passed away. What do you do to … What’s some good sleep hygiene that will help you keep your brain in good working order?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: So much of that’s going to be individual. I think when you look at issues with sleep, issues with stress, we’ve all had those periods of time and sometimes it’s got to be the, “Okay, let’s patch this temporarily or let’s get through this moment,” knowing that it’s going to pass. Sometimes there are things that won’t pass, like illnesses that are more chronic and longstanding and so it’s really, it’s going to be an individual case by case basis.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: But with sleep, there are some important ones. I had a young child at home who was waking up every hour and a half or so to feed when he was little and it seemed like it went on forever and that he was going to graduate high school the same way. But it does pass.
Erin Brinker: That’s so true. You’re thinking it’s never going to end.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: When you’re in that moment, it feels like it’s never going to end.
Erin Brinker: It really does.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: And my husband would look at me sometimes like, “How long are you going to do this? Is he going to be walking across the stage with you? Like, come on.”
Erin Brinker: No.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: No, but so I think at the end of the day, yes there are things that are temporary, but there are things that you can do. Like you said, sleep hygiene is really important. One of those key ones that I was really guilty of in those early mommy days was turning my phone on, and the light from the phone can start to stimulate some of the hormones in your brain that wake you up, and so that’s the last thing that you really should be doing at two, three in the morning when your brain is trying to stay asleep.
There are other things like meditation or prayer, or just focusing your thoughts. Some people have the brain that just doesn’t turn off. I don’t know if that’s ever impacted either of you, where your brain just starts to go into hyper-drive, “Oh, I’ve got to vacuum. Oh, I need to … What do I need at the grocery store?” And all of those things that just start creeping in. Brain discipline is what I call it, where you discipline yourself to think of those things at another time, and as those thoughts come in and creep in, you say, “Thank you very much, I’ll deal with you tomorrow.”
Erin Brinker: Ah, all right.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Keep staying very disciplined on every single time one of those thoughts comes in, I will just kind of focus in on the space in between my eyebrows, on that little space, and just kind of get really calm and focus on that space and just say, “Thanks very much. We’ll go shopping tomorrow.”
Erin Brinker: Well that’s-
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: “And if I don’t remember you tomorrow and then so be it.”
Erin Brinker: It wasn’t that important.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Yeah, the world’s not going to end.
Erin Brinker: So, it is odd how … My low spot in my circadian rhythms, it’s three and three. Three in the afternoon is my low spot, then I wake up at three in the morning a lot. Some of the times I can go back to sleep, but other times, it’s those thoughts, those, “Okay, I need to do this. I need to do … Oh, I hadn’t thought about this, I hadn’t thought about that,” and I thought, “Well, do I get up and write those down? Do I roll over and go back to sleep?” I haven’t tried what you said.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Yes. The roll over and go back to sleep, unless it’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel or something like that.
Erin Brinker: And it’s not.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Yes, you know, if you’re solving world hunger, sure, write it down. If it’s what’s got to go on the grocery list or what chores you have to do or something for work, let it pass.
Erin Brinker: Yep. Yep. But sometimes that’s easier said than done. So having that mindful exercise, that ritual, can help you train your brain to get rid of those things,
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Yes, it takes discipline. I will say I’ve been at it for a good six years now-
Todd Brinker: I’m out.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: … and it definitely takes discipline and practice and I’m not always perfect, but it helps a lot and it helps with that getting back to sleep after you’ve woken up, especially in the middle of the night.
Erin Brinker: So how do you share this good news with your kids? I mean, they wake up in the middle of the night, too. Have you taught your kids how to do this? Or has it not come up yet? Or how do you train them?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Yeah, that’s a tricky one. Mine doesn’t wake up all that much anymore. But trying to empower people to do that work on themselves and calm their brains down is something I love about my son’s school. They have that as part of the program where they teach them how to relax and focus and calm their brains down, especially when they’re a little hyper, and so I think that’s a valuable lifelong tool.
Erin Brinker: Indeed. Indeed. So, is this going to be the topic of your next webinar? Or was it the topic of your last webinar on the AANMC website?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: So, we have … Our upcoming topic for this coming month is going to be depression and anxiety, but brain health and all of that kind of ties in pretty nicely. But today actually, we’re on for our virtual fair, our annual virtual fair. We have all of the schools online and our online platform and they’re all there talking to folks about how to be a student or how to find an ND and choose a career path.
Erin Brinker: Awesome, that’s wonderful. Now, I do have one question related to naturopathic medicine versus integrated medicine. So, does an integrated medicine doctor go to traditional medical school or like a standard medical school? Or do they go to a naturopathic medical school? Or both? I’m putting you on the spot because we didn’t prep for that, but kind of wondering how that works.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Oh no, no worries. Integrative medicine is one of those kind of catchall terms that even naturopathic doctors will use. What I think of with integrative medicine is really integrating natural approaches into conventional care, and so that can look like a lot of ways. There are NDs that practice more integratively, where they’re more in a primary care setting. They may be part of integrative healthcare teams that can include medical doctors, osteopaths, nurse practitioners, chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists, counselors, and so on. So, there are lots of different ways that integrative medicine can work.
When medical doctors choose to go more of an integrative route, they can do that in a lot of different ways as well. There isn’t one standardized approach for medical doctors to learn about integrative medicine right now. Some will go and take weekend courses. There are fellowships available as well. Some will just study on their own and find nutrition interesting and study a little bit more about nutrition or go and take a course in acupuncture or medical acupuncture.
It can very much vary, depending on the practitioner, so it’s really good to do your homework and find out what that person’s areas of expertise are, what kind of training and study that they’ve done and if they’re certified or if they’ve had any fellowships or additional training in addition to their medical doctorate, because I always joke with my husband, who’s trained as a conventional medical doctor and worked ER, and when we first started dating, he confessed, he’s like, “Yeah, I had maybe 20 hours of nutrition class.”
Erin Brinker: Wow.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: And of that, it was like IVs and parental nutrition and tube feedings and stuff like that that’s more hospital-based. So yeah, I had to wrestle the Frosted Flakes away from him when we were first dating. “Step away from the Frosted Flakes!”
So, I think that we all have our strengths and all professions have weaknesses, and one of the strengths naturopathic medicine is really, it focuses on that whole person approach, including nutrition, including mind-body medicine, including the physical, including conventional diagnosis and understanding the medications people may be still taking. So, that’s all a whole package of really helping people get to wellness.
Erin Brinker: Well, that is wonderful. And so the fair is going on today. How do people plug in?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: If you go to our website, aanmc.org/events/, it’s right on the top of our events page and you can just click on that and join us there. I hope to see you.
Erin Brinker: Well, Dr. JoAnn Yanez, it’s always a treat to have you on the show. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Thank you both. Have a great day.
Erin Brinker: Thank you, you too.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Hope the kids in your lives are all okay in the restaurant.
Erin Brinker: Yours, too.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Thanks.
Erin Brinker: So, with that, it’s time for a break. I’m Erin Brinker.
Todd Brinker: And I’m Todd Brinker.
Erin Brinker: And we are On the Brink, the morning show on KCAA. We’ll be right back.