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blog Dr. Allison Brager - The Cult of Rec Podcast, Episode 14

Dr. Allison Brager - The Cult of Rec Podcast, Episode 14

Kolby Seemann

about 1 month ago

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Welcome to Episode 14 of the Cult of Recreationalism Podcast. This episode, hosted by Sean Lake and Nathan Morris, dives deep into the fascinating world of sleep, circadian rhythms, and human performance with the remarkable Dr. Allison Brager. A neurobiologist, former varsity athlete, current enlisted American soldier, CrossFit Games athlete, and author of the book "Meathead: Unraveling the Athletic Brain," Dr. Brager brings a wealth of knowledge to the conversation.

Introduction to Dr. Allison Brager

Sean and Nathan kick off the episode by introducing Dr. Allison Brager, highlighting her impressive credentials and varied career. Dr. Brager’s expertise in sleep and circadian rhythms sets the stage for an enlightening discussion on how these factors influence athletic and cognitive performance. As Sean notes, “Dr. Brager is a neurobiologist, a four-year varsity letterman at Brown University for track, a current enlisted American soldier, a CrossFit Games athlete, and an author. She’s an expert on sleep and circadian rhythms, which is what we’re here to dig into today." Dr. Brager's unique blend of experiences, from elite athletics to military service, provides her with a distinctive perspective on human performance and resilience.

Special Operations and Scientific Support

Dr. Brager shares insights into her role at the US Special Operations Command headquarters, where she supports special operations with her scientific expertise. She explains, "I provide support as a scientist. Special operations bring together the best and brightest from all different areas to help support their military missions. I focus on how we can push forward the best technology to help with our myriad of clandestine operations." This unique position allows her to work on the cutting edge of human performance, integrating new technologies and methodologies to enhance the capabilities of special operations forces. Her role, as she describes it, is both challenging and rewarding, contributing significantly to national security.

The Science Behind Sleep and Recovery

A significant portion of the conversation centers around the critical role of sleep and circadian rhythms in recovery and performance. Dr. Brager explains the intricate relationship between sleep timing and overall recovery, emphasizing that consistent sleep schedules are crucial. "Sleep timing seems to have the biggest impact on recovery. The circadian arm of sleep more than actual sleep amounts. Consistently not going to bed at the same time adds physiological stress on the circadian clocks, which impairs recovery," she says. She also dispels common myths about sleep, such as the idea that one can easily catch up on lost sleep. "The CDC estimates over 70% of Americans are chronically sleep deprived. For every one night of poor sleep, you need two nights of really good sleep. Catching up on years or decades of poor sleep is nearly impossible," she adds. Dr. Brager’s insights highlight the importance of maintaining regular sleep patterns for optimal recovery and performance, making it clear that consistency is key.

Practical Sleep Tips and Personal Insights

Listeners get practical advice on how to manage sleep, especially in challenging situations like jet lag. Dr. Brager recommends staying up until after sunset upon arriving in a new time zone to help reset the body’s internal clock. "When traveling eastward, it’s better to stay up that whole first day. Your system immediately resets if you wait until after the sun sets to sleep," she advises. This advice underscores the importance of aligning sleep patterns with natural light cycles, a crucial factor in adjusting to new time zones. Nathan and Sean also share their personal experiences and tips, such as using wearable technology to monitor sleep patterns and employing mental imagery techniques to fall asleep faster. Nathan explains, "I found that imagining the color black and then trying to think of an even darker black helps me fall asleep. Sometimes it takes a while, but it’s effective." These practical tips provide listeners with actionable strategies to improve their sleep quality and overall well-being.

The Intersection of Athletics and Neuroscience

Dr. Brager’s journey into the field of sleep research is rooted in her athletic background and passion for neuroscience. She recounts how her love for athletics and a pivotal piece of advice from a gymnastics coach shaped her career path. "A gymnastics coach once told me to always plan your career around your lifestyle. I knew I wanted to do neuroscience and be a scientist who studies exercise. Sleep was crucial for my performance as an athlete and student, so I combined my interests in sleep, exercise, and neurochemistry," she shares. Her work bridges the gap between the world of elite athletes and military operations, drawing parallels between the disciplines and applying insights from one to benefit the other. This unique combination of interests has driven her to make significant contributions to the understanding of sleep and performance.

This episode of the Cult of Recreationalism Podcast offers a comprehensive look into the science of sleep and its impact on performance. Dr. Allison Brager’s insights are invaluable for anyone looking to optimize their sleep and, by extension, their overall well-being. Whether you’re an athlete, a soldier, or just someone interested in improving your health, this episode provides practical advice and thought-provoking discussions.

Tune in to the Cult of Recreationalism Podcast on all major platforms and don’t forget to subscribe for more episodes packed with expert insights and practical tips!