Our guest on this episode is Dr. Henry Emmons. He’s a psychiatrist whose clinical practice at Partners in Resilience in Minneapolis, Minn. integrates mind, body, and natural therapies with mindfulness and neuroscience. He’s the author of The Chemistry of Joy, The Chemistry of Calm, and Staying Sharp. He’s also a columnist for Experience Life.
How and why Emmons’s practice has evolved to look at the physical, mental, and emotional sides of an individual.
Emmons believes the mental-health field made an error a long time ago when it ignored the body. When you dig into what makes for good mental health, you don’t have to dig far to realize the body is a central piece of that.
The long-term effects lack of sleep can have on the body.
Emmons has come to view sleep as the linchpin for good mental health. We all know it’s important, but he’s come to see it as absolutely central — and even less negotiable than a good diet or fitness. Without it, everything else starts to crumble, and your chances of developing health issues can go up severalfold.
How sleep deprivation presents itself in individuals.
After just one night of poor sleep, people’s response time and memory decrease measurably, along with their emotional reactivity or instability.
If you’ve been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, Emmons recommends prioritizing sleep, saying it will make a difference in your long-term outcome.
Is it possible to catch up on sleep, or is it that once the damage is done, it’s done?
Emmons says you can get it corrected. But it is a myth that we can catch up on sleep the way most people think about it, where you pull an all-nighter then sleep later the next day. That actually might make things worse because the benefits of sleep have so much to do with keeping our circadian rhythms stable.
Emmons’s thoughts around sleep aids.
Things we can each do for our ourselves to sleep better.
We live in electrified environments, surrounded by blue light in our lightbulbs, phones, TVs, and other devices, which negatively impacts our sleep. How can we keep these from preventing us from falling asleep and sleeping well?
None of us are ever going to live a life without stress. The issue is what kind of stress it is and how long we’re experiencing it for.
Emmons walks through the stress response, including the hormones involved and the process that occurs within the body.
When our cortisol levels are elevated long-term, that’s when we can experience symptoms such as weight gain. It can also be a trigger for cognitive conditions.
Not all physicians believe in adrenal fatigue, but Emmons does. Often it can present similarly to depression.
When it comes to stress, what are some things people can do to start mitigating and managing it in their own lives?
It’s important to have these stress-management tools as a regular part of your daily lifestyle. We have to train our bodies just like we have to train for anything else, such as a 5K or a sports game.
For the most part, sleep and stress issues are influenced by lifestyle factors. But there are also genetic-related sleep and mood disorders.
The one non-negotiable healthy-living habit that Emmons incorporates in his daily life.