The Rebel Podcast

Ep. 61 – The Science of Sleep: Understanding What Happens When You Sleep – with Dr. Selassie

One of the first things I talk to clients about is sleep deficiencies, but why? Because if someone isn’t sleeping, reversing DisEase in the body is a very difficult road! So, I prioritize Sleep Hygiene above almost anything else with my clients.

Joining us again to talk all about sleep and sleep hygiene is Dr. Selassie, a naturopathic doctor who helps people achieve their healthiest best to live their life’s purpose.

High-quality sleep is vital for both healing and sustained wellness. While the body appears from the outside to be still and inactive, sleep is a time when the body is quite busy. During the night, we restock our supply of hormones, process significant toxins, repair damaged tissue, generate vital white blood cells for immunity, eliminate the effects of stress, and process heavy emotions.  Also, if you aren’t sleeping well, weight loss is much harder, if not non-existent.

Unfortunately, as Dr. Selassie points out in this blog post, “we live in a society where not sleeping is glorified. People say things like, ‘Oh, I only need six hours of sleep every night,’ or, ‘I can get by on four hours sleep.’ Well, I’m sure you can get by, but it’s not good for you. You are just not getting enough healing time. Studies show that most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night.”

And I agree 110%!

Since Functional Medicine is about the interconnectedness of the body, and systems that function together, Let’s dive into what is necessary for a good night’s sleep:

  • Your gut health, microbiome, and sleep. 80-90% of your body’s Serotonin is in your gut, and Serotonin is a precursor for the neurotransmitter and hormone melatonin. Melatonin suppresses the activity of other neurotransmitters and helps to calm the brain (in part by countering the stress hormone cortisol from our adrenal gland).
  • Be careful: taking supplemental melatonin on a regular basis too frequently can affect your receptors, meaning the key to sleep is there but the lock isn’t.
  • Cortisol and melatonin are the major hormones that are influenced by your circadian rhythm and that tell the rest of your body systems what time it is. Cortisol peaks in the morning to rev you up for the day and gradually diminishes so that your body winds down to sleep. However, chronically elevated cortisol due to stress can dysregulate your circadian rhythm (and mess with your gut) – and we all have a lot of stress to deal with these days!

Sleep Hygiene Tips

  • Blue light throughout the day from things like light bulbs and screens can have a dramatic effect on your sleep cycle. We can’t stop living in a world with screens and bulbs, but we can try to cut out some of the light with blue light blocking glasses or apps that turn your device’s screen red, such as Iris or F.lux. Many phones and other mobile devices also have a “sleep mode” that filters out blue light.
  • Temperature. Lower the temperature of your house when you go to bed (I like 65 degrees). You can also purchase what’s called a Chilipad, which uses water to generate a cool surface to sleep on. You just slip the pad underneath the sheets of your bed.
  • Embrace silence. Turn off your TV and anything else. If you need some assistant, try apps like or SleepStream. You can also try stimulating sleep using Binaural beats or the Huso (a device I discussed in the last episode, which was about stress).
  • Make it smell. Rose, bergamot, lavender: these are just some of the scents that actually activate your “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), and they can be very calming.
  • Keep a consistent schedule. Circadian rhythms operate on exactly that – a rhythm. That means doing things outside of your norm may throw it off. This includes an inconsistent sleep schedule (sleeping in on weekends), eating at different times each day (indulging in a late night snack), inconsistent timing of workouts (especially later in the evening if this isn’t your normal time), and pretty much any other things outside of your normal schedule. It may sound boring, but you’ll feel way better.

Want to learn more? I put together a Sleep Hygiene Fundamentals Cheat Sheet for you!

Download this Episode MP3.


Do you want more to empower yourself through healthy living? Is your busy lifestyle an obstacle to your health? Join The Rebel Health Coach community for the support and knowledge you need for better performance, better business and a better you!

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Disclaimer: The activities and research discussed in these podcasts are suggestions only and are only advised to be undertaken following prior consultation with a health or medical professional. Fitness training, nutrition, and other physical pursuits should be tailored to the individual based upon an assessment of their personal needs.

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