Sleep can help us be more effective communicators, improving our sociability, not to mention our immunity, hormonal regulation, mental health, and memory. Biohacker & biotechnology scientist Oksana Andreiuk shares how to get more sleep, including increasing our sleep opportunity beyond 8 hours, controlling our environment, ways to calm our minds, and more.



Oksana Andreiuk, M.Biotech

Talk About Talk IMMUNITY episode:

Social Media (@CanadianBiohacker)



US National Sleep Foundation
Harvard Medical School SLEEP Resources:

Studies referenced by Oksana:

Relaxation/Sleep promoting supplements/ingredients: 

  • Melatonin
  • Magnesium bisglycinate
  • Passionflower
  • L-theanine
  • 5HTP + GABA
  • Valerian root


Talk About Talk & Dr. Andrea Wojnicki



Dr. Andrea Wojnicki: Thank you so much, Oksana, for joining us to talk about sleep.

Oksana Andreiuk: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to talk about this. It’s one of my favorite topics, as you know,

AW: I know, I know it is, and I can’t wait to get into it. But before we do that, can you explain to me and the listeners just what is biohacking? And what does a bio hacker do?

OA: Sure, absolutely. So bio hacking can generally be defined as the art and science of modifying your internal and external environments to take better control of your biology in order to optimize your health and overall performance. And so one of the exciting things – and my background being more heavily on genetics and biotechnology – is that we now have the tools and technology to allow us to quantify and measure, to continuously optimize our own biology and our health. And so it’s a really exciting time to be a biohacker. Because we have all those tools.

AW: When you and I first met, it was at a conference and Ensemble conference, the future of food, and you were on a panel there, and you really impressed me. So I went up, and I introduced myself and I had a great conversation with you. And I asked you as a bio hacker who’s really focused on optimizing or I guess, maximizing her longevity: What is your number one tip? You said – sleep?

OA: Yes, sleep is my number one thing. If someone asked me, what should I start doing today to you know, live healthier for longer. I always say sleep, it’s just fundamental for longevity. And it’s been proven to be even more important than food. And the reason why I share this, too, is that most of us are not sleeping enough these days. You know, it’s very rare that I need someone who doesn’t have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. And two thirds of adults across all developed nations get less than eight hours of nightly sleep versus a century ago, the average person slept for two hours more than they do today. Which seems kind of crazy. In today’s world, like imagine averaging out, you know, nine hours of sleep every day, it seems like a total luxury. But I mean, we’re just not sleeping enough.

AW: Wow. So I want to get into what some of the implications are with sleep. But first, I just have to tell you this. I told some of my girlfriends that I was interviewing a biohacker about sleep and sleep hygiene and the importance of sleep, and they all freaked out. So I’m with you, I totally get it. And generally I sleep okay. But there are nights. And usually it’s before a big interview or a big presentation when I know I need to sleep. And I can’t. So I can’t wait to hear what you have to say about that. What is the link between sleep and longevity?

OA: So sleep is absolutely essential to just keeping our bodies functioning properly. Interestingly, humans are the only mammals who voluntarily deprive themselves of sleep. And it’s, you know, because we want to scroll through social media, there are other things we want to be doing. And we seem to just be willing to sacrifice on our sleep. But there’s a reason why sleep happens. And there are so many benefits to sleep to keeping our bodies functioning properly. There’s not one bodily system that isn’t negatively impacted by a lack of sleep and isn’t positively impacted by quality sleep. So sleep is important for emotional control and stress, resilience, which I’m sure we’ll get into when we talk about how sleep affects communication, but also hormonal regulation, our immune system, appetite control, you know, they’ve now recently published a study that can essentially predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, and a person’s risk simply based on their quality of sleep. And the impairments that we see in people who are under sleeping can be seen as similar to that of people who smoke or have diabetes or have coronary artery disease. So chronic sleep deprivation has very serious, serious implications and is linked to various chronic conditions. And so that’s why it’s the number one thing you know, because it’s free. And we can just start doing that today. And it has so many amazing benefits in helping our bodies to function properly and regenerate.

AW: Okay, I have to say, based on that I could just end the interview right now. And I’m just joking. I mean, you have me convinced. It’s like a domino effect, right? You said it’s linked to Alzheimer’s and hormones and weight and stress and our immunity. And we could go on and on and on. I want to let the listeners know that I’ll get the links to some of the research papers that you’re talking about and put them in the show notes if they’re interested in reading them themselves. But before we move on to communication, can you explain what is happening to our bodies physically when we sleep? Why is it so important, like what’s going on?

OA: Essentially, while we’re sleeping, that is the time for our bodies to regenerate and a lot of that happens during deep sleep. And then REM sleep is important for linking new ideas and information and making memories. But sleep helps with regulating our hormones and ensuring that our brain is functioning properly and clearing out damage. If you know we’re talking about the brain, for example, while we sleep some of our brain cells shrink by up to 60%. And what happens in that time is that the spinal fluid acts like a detergent to wash away any cellular waste and debris from between those cells. And if this doesn’t happen, this can lead to accumulation of that damage and formation of beta amyloid plaques, which are implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. And so there are just so many things that happen while we’re sleeping, that once you realize that and think about all the benefits, it’s hard to continue depriving yourself of sleep, just knowing how beneficial it is to your overall health and well being from top to bottom.

AW: Yeah, that makes sense. You know, I’ve heard before that all of our body systems are integrated. And I have to say, I love your detergent metaphor that is fantastic. Like sleep is washing away all the dirt. So I want to get now into the link or the relationship between sleep and communication effectiveness. I mentioned this before that the night before I’m doing an interview, or if I’m giving a presentation or speaking at a conference or whatever, I think to myself, it’s really important to get a good night’s sleep. Why is it specifically important to get a good night’s sleep in terms of our communication?

OA: So sleep is critical to a number of brain functions affecting communication, I’d say if we put them in three categories, there’s memory and learning, and sociability. So during sleep, your brain forms connections that can help you process and remember new information. The lack of sleep can negatively impact both short and long term memory, then there’s communication and problem solving. So if we’re underslept, our thinking and concentration are affected, you know, we’re not as able to concentrate on a task or solve a problem. So critical thinking is not as up to par, as if we when we do get a good night’s sleep. And then lastly, and this is, I think, an even bigger piece as it relates to communication as your mood and social intelligence and persuasiveness are affected as well by a lack of sleep or sleep deprivation. So it can make you moody, emotional, quick tempered. And then chronic sleep deprivation is implicated in mental health disorders, like anxiety and depression, sleep disruption actually contributes to all major psychiatric conditions. And that, of course, includes depression, anxiety, and even suicide ability. And so the reason why that happens if we want to get into that is sleep deprivation and actually acts to shut down the communication in your brain between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. So the amygdala is our fight or flight response. So for not getting enough sleep, that fight or flight response is heightened. And then the prefrontal cortex is responsible for acting as our social or emotional filter, which allows us to, you know, just filter our reactions and emotions, and so that’s where social intelligence can be affected. And then as well, sleep deprivation actually lowers our desire for social proximity and social interaction. So if we’re sleep deprived, we don’t want to be around other people, we don’t really want to interact socially. So it’s both our emotional intelligence that is affected. And we actually become worse at even understanding the intents of other people and kind of reading the room reading the audience. And then we don’t even want to be around other people as much as well. So it’s almost like we self isolate, subconsciously, when we’re sleep deprived. And what’s more is that others are able to tell when we’re sleep deprived. So there’s been studies done, where people were shown images of other individuals. And it turns out that a person is actually more likely to appear as a lonely person to others when they’re sleep deprived. And so other people are just then biologically wired to not want to engage or interact with you when you’re sleep deprived, because our brains are actually capable of registering when the other person is sleep deprived, and it makes us perceive those people as less attractive to engage with. So all in all, essentially, sleep deprivation makes us feel lonely and lowers our emotional intelligence, but also makes us less desirable for others to want to socialize with. That’s just a total communication killer, if you think about it,

AW: wow. So I love the list that you that you provided. So I got short term and long term memory, learning, premonition, critical thinking, mood, social intelligence,… This is compelling. This is very, very compelling. I’m thinking about what I was a young faculty member in particular at business school and teaching cases where, you know, it wasn’t scripted. I wasn’t lecturing, I was having a discussion with the students and I had to be on. Oh, yeah, my sleep the night before, absolutely affected how effective I was in leading that discussion.

OA: and, you know, at least for women, you know, we can kind of fake it a little bit, put some mascara on, eye makeup to make ourselves look more alive. But yeah, I mean, it’s fascinating how this is happening subconsciously at a biological level that our brains can just tell when someone didn’t get enough sleep.

AW: So when we know that we want to get a great night’s sleep, it’s really important. You know, I feel like sometimes that can backfire, right? Because all sudden, you feel this little bit of anxiety or pressure to sleep, let’s move into sleep hygiene, how can we increase our odds that we’re going to get a good night’s sleep?

OA: So one of the things to think about with that is, you know, if you’re already a little bit stressed, or have some anxiety about what’s going to be happening the next day, you don’t want to also be stressing about the fact that you don’t have enough time to sleep. So there are three metrics, if we think about it, there’s the sleep opportunity, which is the total amount of time a person spends in bed. So it’s like your opportunity to log in those sleep hours. Yeah, and then sleep duration, which is your total amount of time that you’re spending asleep, and their sleep efficiency. So it’s the percentage of time you’re asleep, relative to the amount of time that you’re spending in bed.

AW: Wow. So I mean, I previously thought about it just in more simplistic terms, it was quality and quantity, but you’re breaking it down into opportunity, duration, and efficiency. I love that.

OA: If you’re in bed for 10 hours, which is your sleep opportunity, and you sleep a total of eight hours, which is your sleep duration, then you would have an 80% sleep efficiency. And I think that’s an important thing to consider is, you know, when we think about, oh, I want to get eight hours of sleep, and then we go to bed giving ourselves literally eight hours from when we need to wake up. And that can create a little bit of stress as well, right? Especially if you don’t fall asleep right away. And then you’re lying awake thinking, Okay, great. Now I only have six hours to sleep. Now I have five hours to sleep and on and on that can definitely create a stressor. So one of the thing to do is just give yourself more time in bed.

AW: Yeah, that makes sense. That makes a lot of sense. Just talking to my kids. Sometimes they say, Oh, you know, I went to bed at 10. But I didn’t get to sleep till after midnight, and it kind of stresses them out. So I think reminding them that sleep opportunity is kind of the first step to quality sleep, right?

OA: Mm hmm.

AW: We can talk about sleep hygiene as well. I’d love to hear what are the do’s and the don’ts. We’ve heard, you know, I mean, there’s some common advice out there about minimizing the amount of blue light or screens that you see immediately before you go to sleep. But maybe you can share with me and the listeners, just some of your top hacks that you personally do and recommend to others.

OA: Starting with the blue light, which you’ve mentioned, that’s an important one because our body clock or circadian rhythm is governed largely by light and the signal that your body gets around what time of day it is even. And so with us spending so much time on artificial light, we often don’t get bright enough light during the day to suppress melatonin production. And so we may feel a little bit groggy throughout the day. And then more importantly, in the evening, when our body should be winding down, we should be boosting that melatonin production. We’re surrounded by so much artificial light in the evening that our body doesn’t get the signal that Okay, it’s time to wind down it’s time to get sleepy and prepare for bedtime. So blocking blue light in the evening is very important. I mean, I myself noticed that I would feel so much sleepier when I wear my blue light blocking glasses.

AW: Hmm. So when do you wear them?

OA: You know, starting after dinner. The longer the better in the evening, I would say three hours before bedtime is ideal. But even an hour before bedtime will still make a difference. So in terms of food, I would try to avoid a large meal again around three hours before bedtime. Because you don’t want to have your body digesting food and being busy with that when you really should be relaxing and taking the time to undergo that full body regeneration while you’re sleeping. And it can affect deep sleep as well. And then exercise – as well you know, and it’s different for everyone. So it’s something to experiment with. But the standard is kind of to avoid excessive exercise around three hours before bedtime as well because you just don’t want your adrenaline pumping when you’re trying to wind down and go to sleep. That said though. Lifting weights or doing strength training exercise around 6pm has been shown to actually boost deep sleep throughout the night. So it’s kind of like you know, extending all that built up energy or attention or frustration from the day. Just let it go. Do your strength training with some weights around 6pm. And it can actually boost your deep sleep that same night. I mean, I know a lot of people try to, you know, wake up early and get their workout in for the day. And that’s all right. I mean, you can’t be too regimented with all of these things where you’re starting to stress out about it. So you can only work out in the morning versus 6pm. That’s still getting that exercise. But it’s just a fun little tidbit, you know, to boost deep sleep even more, doing that, doing strength training around 6pm, or evening time seems to be effective. And then the last bit is around the environment and creating the right kind of environments to relax. So one of the things I had to do personally was turned down my thermostat, I used to keep my place at like tropical weather temperatures, I just wanted to walk around in a T shirt and shorts, and feel like it’s summertime all year round, despite the snow outside most of the year. And that’s not good for sleep. So ideally, we should be sleeping and around like 19 to 21 degrees, 22 degrees sometimes. So I’ve actually lowered my thermostat down. But it took some time, you know, it’s not like an overnight if you’re used to warm temperatures in the house, you’re going to be too cold. It’s going to be uncomfortable. So I kind of built myself up and gradually would go, you know, down half a degree a degree here and there.

AW: So as you’re going through all of these tips, whether it’s light, or food or exercise or environment, I’m thinking to myself, these are all great things to incorporate in our lives every day. Why not? They’re relatively easy to adopt, you won’t necessarily do all of those things every day. But back to the original question about when you have a big meeting, or a job interview or big presentation, this could become your checklist? Like just make sure that these are the things that you do?

OA: Everyone deals with stress differently. But it’s more about sleep opportunity: time. So you’re not stressing over that. Work-in some meditation time, if you can. And again, you know, everyone has different situations and lifestyles, even if it’s a guided meditation in your headphones that can work, I found that if I meditate for 30 minutes before sleep, it really does boost my deep sleep actually. So and then you’re also just already in that mental headspace of feeling more relaxed. And then as you mentioned, just keeping up that sleep hygiene of creating that environment, you know, removing light from the bedrooms, because our eyes can actually register light, even with our eyes closed, you know, you may not wake up, but your eyes are still registering that light, and it can disrupt your sleep on the sense that you may not be spending as much time in deep sleep. Another good technique is like writing down your anxious thoughts, you know, just do some journaling, getting them down on paper, whatever works for you to kind of de stress and relax. There’s so many different apps that can help with that too, you know, headspace, calm or different journaling apps.

AW: Okay, I will leave links to some of those apps in the show notes. And I think the journaling thing is really interesting. I’ve been journaling in the morning, but you know what, maybe I should be journaling in the evening, because then I’m not on a screen. Right?

OA: Yeah, reducing screen time is a big one for sure. Yeah.

AW: Yeah. It’s like a double whammy. If you journal in the evening. You’re not you’re not watching the screen. Thank you for that. Before we go any further. I just need to clarify. You said eight hours at the beginning. But how many hours are adults supposed to be getting? Is it seven, eight? I’ve heard nine or a range of seven to nine. And are we talking actually the duration of sleep? Or is it time in bed and does napping count?

OA: Yeah. So good question. I know the US National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep for healthy adults. And that’s ages 18 to 65.. And then the Harvard Medical School actually says that sleeping fewer than about eight hours per night on a regular basis seems to increase the risk of developing a number of medical conditions. So they’re essentially coming out and saying that if you’re sleeping for fewer than eight on a consistent basis, then that can lead to health disruptions. So I would say eight hours is probably ideal,

AW: and is that duration?

OA: Eight hours asleep.

AW:  So we need to be in bed for more than eight hours then.

OA: Exactly.

AW: What about napping?

OA: It’s an interesting one. Because you know, if you had a bad night of sleep, then you mean need to have that power nap during the day just to boost your energy. So about 30 minutes can be a good energy boost. But if you’re consistently feeling like you need a nap, then you’re not sleeping enough at night.

AW: Okay, so now I want to move into what we should do if it’s the middle of the night and we can’t sleep. Our mind is spinning with stressors and feeling anxious and we just can’t sleep but maybe starting Should we stay in bed? Or should we get up?

OA: I’ve heard different things on this one. I mean, I think it comes down to what works for the individual. I’ve heard the getting up and getting out of bed. For me personally, that doesn’t really make much of a difference. But you know, there’s different things that you could do. I mean, even the most extreme example of what you can do if you wake up and go back to sleep is taking a cold shower. Actually, it seems very counterintuitive, because you figure Oh, you know, that’s just gonna jolt me awake. But…

AW: Oksana, I’d have to say, you and your cold showers. Well, after I interviewed you the first time, I tried the cold shower thing, and you just about killed me. (LOL)

OA: I know, it’s a pretty extreme example. But I actually tried this myself before when I was battling my insomnia about two years ago. And I was trying all the things and there was a night where I actually forced myself to get out of bed and get in the shower and take a cold shower. And it was not pleasant. But it worked. It really did. I fell asleep because it cools down your core body temperature, which needs to happen in order to get into those deep sleep states.

AW: You know what, it makes sense, actually, because then when you come back into bed, you just want to cuddle with your comforter and you know, get to sleep, right?

OA: Yeah.

AW: Interesting one. So you know what I usually do when I can’t sleep, which doesn’t happen very often. But what it does, I do just like a personal meditation where I do a body scan, I start at the top of my head and I go down to the tip of my toes relaxing every body part. And I kind of I tell myself sometimes if I’m still awake when I get down to the tip of my toes, I say, but at least my body’s fully, fully relaxed.

OA: Yeah, I mean, it definitely helps. And I’m a big proponent of that too. And binaural beats is another one where you’re using brain entrainment to get yourself down into those delta and theta relaxed brainwaves. And ease yourself back into sleep that can really help and there are so many free apps. So there’s so much great content for sleep and binaural beats where you do have to listen to with earphones, because essentially, the way it works is projecting a different sound frequency and each year, which is why it’s called binaural. And what you hear is the difference between those frequencies. So it’s very interesting because it’s, you know, fooling your brain into emitting those more relaxed brainwaves.

AW: Very cool. Very cool. So again, I’m gonna put some links to that in the show notes. I have an inkling these show notes are going to be highly accessed. One more question before we move on to the five rapid fire questions. And that is, what’s your take on melatonin or other supplements to help us when we’re desperately in need of sleep?

OA: Melatonin is can be used, you know, to boost sleep or help ease ourselves into sleep, especially if we have a night where we have to stay up on the computer. I mean, I would recommend using a red screen or installing an app on your devices that turns your screen red so that at least you’re not getting that blue light if you have to be on doing screen time. But melatonin here and there. I mean, I haven’t seen any studies saying that that for you. Of course with any supplement, you know, it’s not recommended to use, you know, chronically for a prolonged amount of time. But I think as like a rescue supplement, I use it myself, but there are other supplements as well to consider so magnesium is a great one. A lot of people are low in magnesium overall. But Magnesium bisglycinate is a form that can help with sleep or help promote relaxation. There are even magnesium sprays you can buy that you kind of like rub on your arms or legs too. And you can get magnesium that way or like creams even, so I have the spray myself too. And then L-theanine is a supplement that helps promote alpha brainwaves. So it’s a more relaxed state than beta brainwaves. So if you’re not anxious state, that can be a great supplement to try as well. And then if someone is experienced struggling with insomnia, 5HTP + GABA stacked together. There was a randomized control trial done with insomnia, and that specific stack helps boost sleep as well. So that’s one that I’ve used as my own personal, like anti insomnia, rescue, supplements stack. So 5HTP + GABA, and then others like Valerian root has been great for promoting relaxation. There’s so many different sleep supplements out there. A lot of times finding what works for you passion flowers, another one. Okay, so yeah, just kind of playing around and seeing what, what helps.

AW: Well, as you’re going through this list, some of them I haven’t even heard of, and I don’t I certainly don’t know how to spell them. So I’m gonna have to get that from you. And I can again, imagine what the listeners are going to want to go to the shownotes. And it’s almost like a checklist that we’ve created here of all the various things that we can do in terms of light in terms of our environment. In terms of nutrition, in terms of exercise, in terms of supplements, in terms of timing all of these things appropriately during our day and in the evening before we go to sleep. So this is amazing. And but the other bonus here is that I am more motivated now to get sleep than I was before. So I just want to say thank you Oksana!

OA: Oh, I’m so glad! Yeah, yeah, sleep is all good. We should all be getting more sleep. And it’s hard.

AW: It’s free. I didn’t hear you say that before. It’s free. I get now why sleep is your number one thing. Let’s move on then to the five rapid fire questions that I ask every guest Are you ready?

OA: I’m ready.

AW: Okay, question number one. What are your pet peeves?

OA: I don’t know if it’s a pet peeve. But I feel like especially if I’m if I’m listening to a recording – slow talkers for me. I feel like I’m a slow talker. But for me personally, like oh, people, just spit it out. You know?

AW: So you when you listen to podcasts and audiobooks you turn up the speed?

OA: Yeah, I listened to them at like two times the speed.

AW: I think it depends on who’s speaking or reading, right? So the fastest I’ve ever done, I think is 1.7. And that was crazy fast. But I really wanted to get through a book when I was driving. OK, question number two, what type of learner are you?

OA: I would say visual and but maybe it’s kinesthetic. I know for sure. I’m not an auditory learner. Because if I’m listening to a podcast, like I’m always writing notes for myself, and that helps me even if I never read those notes again after it just helps me remember the information.

AW: Question number three, introvert or extrovert?

OA: I would say I’m a social introvert. Definitely introverted in the sense that that’s where I get how I re energize, but I love to socialize. So there’s that double whammy. Yeah.

AW: Okay, question number four: communication preference for personal conversations.

OA: I message, WhatsApp. I feel like a lot of my conversations happen. Instagram DMS as well. Even with close friends, since everyone’s on Instagram. So really, you know, you can respond.

AW: Yeah. Okay. And last question. Is there a podcast, a blog or an email newsletter that you find yourself recommending the most lately?

OA: I feel like I always recommend The Drive by Dr. Peter Attia. It’s one of my favorite podcasts just because the quality of information and research and how he breaks everything down. It’s a great podcast but also the newsletters to I really enjoy it. someone’s interested in diving into biohacking and optimizing health and longevity as a lot of great doctors on this podcast. Great. It’s almost like you’re getting a free doctor consult every time you listen, it’s just full of information.

AW: Oh, I’m definitely gonna check it out. And again, I’m gonna put a link to it in the shownotes. And that’s it. I want to say Oksana, thank you so, so much for not only sharing with us how to sleep, but why to sleep.

OA: I’m so happy that you had me on this podcast. And this was so much fun. Thank you for letting me share my number one longevity hack, and I hope everyone is able to sleep better and sleep longer.

AW: Me too. Thank you so much. Oksana.

OA: Thanks, Andrea.

Transcribed by


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