Debbie Potts Coaching

How do you feel when you wake up?

Do you wake up naturally or with an alarm?

Do you feel groggy, sleepy and confused when you wake up?

I have been tracking my sleep for a few years with OURA ring and HRV prior to my ring using Sweetbeat Life, so I am aware of my “Baseline” data and always learning what impacts or benefits my sleep (an ongoing N = 1 experiment).

Improving deep sleep and REM sleep involves a combination of natural supplements, lifestyle habits, and timing adjustments.

Here are some Sleep “hack” strategies often recommended:

  1. Melatonin: A natural hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. Taking melatonin supplements about 30 minutes before bedtime can help improve sleep quality, including deep sleep and REM sleep.
  2. Magnesium: This mineral is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including those related to sleep. Magnesium supplements can help relax muscles and promote deeper sleep.
  3. Lifestyle adjustments:
    • Establish a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
    • Create a relaxing bedtime routine to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down. This could include activities like reading, meditating, or taking a warm bath.
    • Ensure your sleep environment is conducive to restful sleep by keeping it cool, dark, and quiet.
  4. Avoid stimulants and electronics: Limit caffeine and alcohol intake, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime. Additionally, reduce exposure to screens (phones, computers, TVs) before bed as the blue light emitted can disrupt sleep patterns.
  5. Regular exercise: Engage in regular physical activity, but try to avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime as it can be stimulating. Exercise earlier in the day can help promote deeper sleep at night.
  6. Mind-body practices: Practices like yoga, tai chi, and deep breathing exercises can help reduce stress and promote relaxation, which can improve sleep quality.
  7. Dietary adjustments: Avoid heavy meals, spicy foods, and excessive fluids close to bedtime, as these can cause discomfort and disrupt sleep. Instead, opt for light, easily digestible snacks if needed.
  8. Supplements: Besides melatonin and magnesium, other supplements that may support sleep include valerian root, chamomile, L-theanine, and 5-HTP. However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before adding any new supplements to your routine, as they can interact with medications or existing health conditions.
  9. Stress management: Chronic stress can significantly impact sleep quality. Incorporate stress-reducing activities into your daily routine, such as mindfulness meditation, journaling, or spending time in nature.
  10. Seek professional guidance: If you’re experiencing persistent sleep problems despite trying these strategies, consider consulting with a functional medicine practitioner or sleep specialist who can provide personalized recommendations based on your individual needs and health history. They may also suggest further testing to identify any underlying issues contributing to your sleep difficulties.

How much deep sleep and REM sleep should you strive to get each night?

In the article “REM vs. Deep: The Most Important Type of Sleep?”, the main points discussed are:

  1. Understanding REM and deep sleep: Explaining the differences between REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and deep sleep (also known as slow-wave sleep), including their distinct brainwave patterns and physiological characteristics.
  2. Roles of REM and deep sleep: Highlighting the unique functions of each sleep stage, with REM sleep being crucial for cognitive processes such as memory consolidation, emotional regulation, and learning, while deep sleep is essential for physical restoration, growth, and hormone regulation.
  3. Impact of sleep deprivation: Discussing the consequences of inadequate REM and deep sleep, including impaired cognitive function, memory problems, mood disturbances, and increased risk of chronic health conditions like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
  4. Strategies for improving REM and deep sleep: Offering tips and lifestyle modifications to enhance the quality and duration of both REM and deep sleep stages, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, managing stress, and optimizing sleep environment conditions.
  5. Individual differences in sleep needs: Acknowledging that sleep needs vary among individuals and emphasizing the importance of paying attention to one’s own sleep quality and adjusting lifestyle habits accordingly to promote better overall sleep health.

What genetic SNPS can help us with our sleep routine…genomics?

Several genetic variations, known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), have been associated with sleep patterns and can provide insights into individual differences in sleep architecture and preferences. Here are some key genetic SNPs related to sleep:

  1. PER3 (Period 3): The PER3 gene is involved in regulating the circadian rhythm. Certain variants of the PER3 gene, such as the PER34/4 genotype, have been linked to differences in sleep timing preferences, with carriers often being “night owls” or having a tendency towards delayed sleep phase syndrome.
  2. CRY1 and CRY2 (Cryptochrome): These genes are also involved in the circadian clock. Variants in CRY1 and CRY2 have been associated with differences in chronotype and sleep-wake patterns, influencing whether an individual is more inclined towards being a morning person or a night owl.
  3. BHLHE41 (DEC2): The BHLHE41 gene, also known as DEC2, plays a role in regulating sleep duration. Certain mutations in this gene have been linked to short sleep phenotypes, where individuals require fewer hours of sleep without experiencing adverse effects on their cognitive function or health.
  4. PER2 (Period 2): Another gene involved in circadian rhythm regulation, variations in the PER2 gene have been associated with differences in sleep timing, sleep duration, and susceptibility to circadian rhythm disorders such as advanced sleep phase syndrome.
  5. ADRB1 and ADRB2 (Adrenergic Receptors): Genes encoding adrenergic receptors have been implicated in sleep quality and responsiveness to sleep medications. Variants in ADRB1 and ADRB2 may influence individual responses to sleep aids and medications used to treat sleep disorders.
  6. MAOA (Monoamine Oxidase A): The MAOA gene is involved in the metabolism of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which play a role in regulating sleep and mood. Certain variations in MAOA have been linked to sleep disturbances and mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Understanding these genetic variations can help individuals tailor their sleep habits, environment, and treatment strategies to better align with their unique genetic predispositions and optimize their sleep quality and overall well-being. However, it’s essential to interpret genetic information in the context of other factors influencing sleep, such as lifestyle habits, environmental factors, and individual preferences. Consulting with a healthcare professional or genetic counselor can provide personalized guidance based on genetic testing results.

What is your sleep chronotype?

Chronotype refers to an individual’s natural inclination towards being a “morning person” (having an earlier preference for waking and sleeping) or an “evening person” (preferring later waking and sleeping times). Understanding your chronotype can help you optimize your daily schedule, including the timing of activities like work, exercise, and socializing, to align with your natural rhythms and improve overall well-being.

There are several ways to determine your sleep chronotype:

  1. Self-Assessment: Reflect on your natural preferences for waking and sleeping. Do you tend to feel most alert and productive in the morning, or do you find yourself more energetic and focused in the evening?
  2. Chronotype Questionnaires: Various questionnaires and surveys, such as the Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire (MEQ) or the Munich ChronoType Questionnaire (MCTQ), are available to assess your chronotype based on your sleep-wake preferences and habits.
  3. Actigraphy: Actigraphy is a method of monitoring sleep-wake patterns using a device worn on the wrist that records movement. Analyzing your activity levels over several days can provide insights into your natural sleep-wake rhythms and help determine your chronotype.
  4. Genetic Testing: As mentioned earlier, certain genetic variations, such as those in the PER3, CRY1, and DEC2 genes, have been associated with differences in chronotype. Genetic testing can provide information about these variations and help identify your predisposition towards being a morning or evening person.

Once you’ve determined your chronotype, you can adjust your daily routine to better suit your natural rhythms. For example, if you’re a morning person, you might schedule important tasks and activities requiring focus in the morning when you’re most alert and productive. Conversely, if you’re an evening person, you might plan more demanding tasks and social activities for later in the day when your energy levels are higher.

It’s essential to remember that chronotype exists on a spectrum, and individuals may fall somewhere in between being a strict morning or evening person. Additionally, external factors such as work schedules, social obligations, and lifestyle preferences can influence your daily routine regardless of your chronotype. Experimenting with different schedules and paying attention to how you feel at different times of the day can help you find a routine that works best for you.

Are you a dolphin?  Bear?  Wolf?  Lion?Healthy Sleep

The concept of sleep chronotypes being categorized as “dolphin,” “bear,” “lion,” or “wolf” was popularized by Dr. Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist and sleep specialist.

These animal-themed chronotypes represent different patterns of sleep-wake preferences and behaviors:

  1. Dolphin: Dolphins are characterized by erratic sleep patterns and a tendency towards insomnia. People with a dolphin chronotype often have difficulty falling asleep and maintaining consistent sleep schedules. They may be most alert and productive in the late morning or early afternoon.
  2. Bear: Bears have a typical sleep pattern aligned with the rise and fall of the sun. Individuals with a bear chronotype tend to follow a traditional sleep-wake cycle, waking up in the morning and feeling most alert and productive during the day. They usually prefer a consistent schedule and may experience a dip in energy levels in the afternoon.
  3. Lion: Lions are early risers who thrive in the morning and may experience a decline in energy levels as the day progresses. People with a lion chronotype tend to wake up early and feel most alert and productive in the morning hours. They may prefer to schedule important tasks and activities earlier in the day.
  4. Wolf: Wolves are night owls who feel most energetic and productive during the late afternoon and evening. Individuals with a wolf chronotype often have difficulty waking up early in the morning and may struggle with insomnia or difficulty falling asleep at night. They may find it challenging to adhere to traditional 9-to-5 schedules and may prefer working or socializing later in the day.

These animal-themed chronotypes provide a fun and accessible way to understand and categorize different sleep patterns and preferences. However, it’s essential to recognize that chronotypes exist on a spectrum, and individuals may exhibit traits from multiple categories or fall somewhere in between. Understanding your own sleep chronotype can help you optimize your daily routine and improve your overall sleep quality and well-being.

How does the sunlight impact your sleep wake cycle?

The morning sunrise and evening sunset play crucial roles in regulating the sleep-wake cycle and synchronizing the body’s internal clock, also known as the circadian rhythm.

Here’s how they impact our sleep-wake cycle:

  1. Morning Sunrise:
    • Exposure to natural light, particularly sunlight, in the morning helps signal to the body that it’s time to wake up and start the day.
    • Sunlight exposure in the morning inhibits the production of melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep, and promotes the release of cortisol, a hormone that helps increase alertness and energy levels.
    • The intensity and spectrum of natural light during sunrise help reset the body’s internal clock, reinforcing the wakefulness phase of the circadian rhythm and promoting a sense of alertness and vitality throughout the day.
    • Regular exposure to morning sunlight can help regulate the sleep-wake cycle, improve mood, and enhance overall well-being.
  2. Evening Sunset:
    • As the day transitions into evening and the sun sets, natural light begins to decrease, signaling to the body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep.
    • The gradual decrease in natural light prompts the pineal gland in the brain to start producing melatonin, signaling the onset of the sleep phase of the circadian rhythm.
    • Exposure to natural light during the evening and sunset helps reinforce the body’s internal clock, promoting the transition to restful sleep and supporting the maintenance of a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
    • Limiting exposure to artificial light sources, especially blue light from electronic devices, in the evening can further enhance the body’s natural response to the sunset and promote better sleep quality.

Overall, the morning sunrise and evening sunset serve as important environmental cues that help regulate the body’s internal clock and synchronize the sleep-wake cycle. Consistent exposure to natural light patterns, especially during sunrise and sunset, can help optimize sleep quality, enhance daytime alertness, and promote overall health and well-being.

What is the difference between blue light and red light for quality sleep?

Blue light and red light have contrasting effects on the sleep-wake cycle due to their influence on the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.

Blue Light:

  • Blue light, particularly from electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers, as well as energy-efficient LED lighting, has a short wavelength and high energy.
  • Exposure to blue light, especially in the evening and nighttime, can suppress the production of melatonin, making it more difficult to fall asleep and disrupting the circadian rhythm.
  • Blue light exposure can delay the onset of sleep, reduce sleep quality, and contribute to sleep disturbances such as insomnia.
  • Long-term exposure to blue light at night has been associated with various health issues, including disrupted sleep patterns, increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and mood disorders.

Red Light:

  • Red light has a longer wavelength and lower energy compared to blue light.
  • Exposure to red light, particularly in the evening and nighttime, has minimal impact on melatonin production and the circadian rhythm.
  • Red light is often considered less disruptive to sleep compared to blue light and may even promote relaxation and sleepiness.
  • Some studies suggest that using red light as a nighttime light source or utilizing devices with red light filters (such as “night mode” settings on electronic devices) may help mitigate the negative effects of blue light exposure on sleep.

In summary, exposure to blue light, especially in the evening and nighttime, can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle by suppressing melatonin production and delaying sleep onset. In contrast, red light has minimal impact on melatonin levels and may be less disruptive to sleep. Minimizing exposure to blue light before bedtime and incorporating red light sources or filters may help promote better sleep quality and support a healthy circadian rhythm.

How does our cortisol levels throughout the day and melatonin production impact our sleep quality?

The rhythms of cortisol and melatonin play critical roles in regulating the sleep-wake cycle and maintaining overall circadian rhythm stability.

Here’s how they impact the sleep-wake cycle:


  • Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress and as part of the body’s natural daily rhythm.
  • Cortisol levels typically follow a diurnal pattern, with levels peaking in the early morning, shortly after waking (known as the cortisol awakening response), and gradually declining throughout the day, reaching their lowest levels in the evening and during sleep.
  • The rise in cortisol levels upon waking helps promote alertness, energy, and cognitive function, preparing the body for the day’s activities.
  • Cortisol also helps regulate metabolism, immune function, and stress response, contributing to overall physiological well-being.
  • Disruptions in the cortisol rhythm, such as elevated levels at night or blunted morning peaks, can negatively impact sleep quality, mood, and overall health.


  • Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in response to darkness and is often referred to as the “hormone of darkness.”
  • Melatonin levels typically follow a circadian rhythm, with levels increasing in the evening as natural light decreases (in response to the onset of darkness) and peaking during the night, promoting sleep and regulating the sleep-wake cycle.
  • The increase in melatonin levels in the evening helps signal to the body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep, facilitating the transition from wakefulness to sleepiness.
  • Melatonin promotes the onset of sleep, enhances sleep quality, and supports the maintenance of a stable sleep-wake cycle.
  • Exposure to artificial light, especially blue light from electronic devices, in the evening can suppress melatonin production, delaying the onset of sleep and disrupting the circadian rhythm.

In summary, the rhythms of cortisol and melatonin interact to regulate the sleep-wake cycle and maintain circadian rhythm stability. Cortisol levels peak in the morning, promoting wakefulness and alertness, while melatonin levels rise in the evening, promoting sleepiness and facilitating the transition to sleep. Disruptions in these hormonal rhythms, such as altered patterns of cortisol secretion or suppressed melatonin production, can contribute to sleep disturbances and affect overall health and well-being.

Sleep solutions?  Get tested and stop guessing.

Other Resources:

 Episode 2 of the Huberman Lab Podcast (Master Your Sleep) is all about that topic, but I wanted to provide a succinct list of the key things for sleep.

So here is my list for how to get better at sleeping:

1) View sunlight by going outside within 30-60 minutes of waking. Do that again in the late afternoon, prior to sunset. If you wake up before the sun is out and you want to be awake, turn on artificial lights and then go outside once the sun rises.

On bright cloudless days: view morning and afternoon sun for 10 min; cloudy days: 20 min; very overcast days 30-60 min. If you live someplace with very minimal light, consider an artificial daytime simulator source.

Don’t wear sunglasses for this practice if you safely can, but contact lenses and eyeglasses are fine.

No, you don’t have to look directly at the sun, and never look at ANY light so bright it is painful to view! That said, you can’t wear a brimmed hat, sunglasses and remain in the shade and expect to “wake up” your circadian clock.

2) Wake up at the same time each day and go to sleep when you first start to feel sleepy. Pushing through the sleepy late evening feeling and going to sleep too late (for you) is one reason people wake at 3 am and can’t fall back asleep.

3) Avoid caffeine within 8-10 hours of bedtime. Dr. Matt Walker (sleep expert from UC Berkeley) might even say 12-14 hours. I do fine with caffeine at 2 pm and I go to sleep at ~10-11 pm. Dr. Walker was on the Huberman Lab Podcast and we discussed this in detail.

4) If you have sleep disturbances, insomnia, or anxiety about sleep, try the research-supported protocols on the Reveri app (for iPhone). Do the Reveri sleep self-hypnosis 3x a week at any time of day. It’s only 10-15 min long and will help you rewire your nervous system to be able to relax faster.

5) Avoid viewing bright lights—especially bright overhead lights between 10 pm and 4 am. Here is a simple rule: only use as much artificial lighting as is necessary for you to remain and move about safely at night. Blue blockers can help a bit at night but still dim the lights. Viewing bright lights of all colors are a problem for your circadian system. Candlelight and moonlight are fine. (Shift workers should see the Huberman Lab Podcast on jetlag for offsetting shift work negative effects. Same for jetlagged travelers.)

6) Limit daytime naps to less than 90 min, or don’t nap at all. I love naps as do many of my colleagues. I tend to nap for 30 min most afternoons… maybe 45 min, but never longer.

7) If you wake up in the middle of the night (which, by the way, is normal to do once or so each night) but you can’t fall back asleep, consider doing an NSDR protocol when you wake up. Enter “NSDR” into YouTube and the top 3-4 options have different voices, durations for you to select from. Or simply do a “Yoga Nidra” protocol (enter “yoga nidra” to YouTube; 100s to select.)

8) You might consider taking (30-60 min before bed):

  • 145mg Magnesium Threonate or 200mg Magnesium Bisglycinate
  • 50mg Apigenin
  • 100-400mg Theanine
  • (3-4 nights per week I also take 2g of Glycine and 100mg GABA.)

*I would start with one supplement (or none!) and then add one at a time as needed. Some people do not need any supplements, and some people like theanine but not magnesium, etc. so you have to determine what is best for you.

**Don’t take theanine if you have overly intense dreams, sleep-walk, or have night terrors.

***Also, some people (~5%), get an agitated stomach from magnesium supplementation, in which case, do not take it.

****I use supplements from Momentous for all of the above. You can get 20% off all Momentous supplements at or you can pick another source you like and trust.

9) Expect to feel really alert ~1 hour before your natural bedtime. This is a naturally occurring spike in wakefulness that sleep researchers have observed.

Don’t freak out if it happens. It will pass!

10) Keep the room you sleep in cool and dark and layer on blankets that you can remove.

Your body needs to drop in temperature by 1-3 degrees to fall and stay asleep effectively. Body temperature increases are one reason you wake up. Thus, keep your room cool and remove blankets as needed. If it’s too hot you would have to use a cooling device and that’s harder than simply tossing off blankets if you get too warm.

11) Drinking alcohol messes up your sleep. As do most sleep medications.

This was discussed on the Huberman Lab Podcast Episode with Dr. Matt Walker.

12) Kids (and indeed all of us) have changing sleep needs over time. Adjust accordingly.

We might be night owls at 15 but become “morning people” as we age or need 6 hours a night in summer and 7-8 in winter. It will vary.

That’s it for now. Again, sleep is THE foundation of our mental and physical health and performance in all endeavors. Yet no one is perfect about sleep. The occasional night out or missing sunlight viewing here and there is not a big deal, so don’t obsess about that. However, if any of us drift from these and the other behaviors for too long, we start to suffer. So whatever your life and goals and schedule, master your sleep. You’ll be so happy you did!

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