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Kelly Glazer Baron, PhD, MPH, DBSM, Associate Professor in the Division of Public Health, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of Utah, delivers a fascinating overview of sleep and its importance.

As an experienced clinical psychologist with specialty training in behavioral sleep medicine, Dr. Baron has been a leader in the area of sleep research for many years. In her clinic, Dr. Baron provides cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for insomnia, as well as myriad other sleep disorders such as circadian disorders, sleep apnea, nightmares, sleep walking, and narcolepsy. She received her bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University then went on to complete a master’s degree and PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Utah.

The sleep doctor discusses her background and what motivated her to pursue this specific area of research and treatment. She talks about her two main areas of interest: how the disruption of sleep and the circadian rhythm can lead to the development of obesity and diabetes, and the advancement of wearables in regard to sleep technology. She talks about the benefits of wearables and how learning about your sleep can help you to improve the sleep you get. She answers questions that relate to circadian rhythms and what essentially makes one a ‘night owl.’ She explains that those who identify as night owls, the people who stay up later and then wake up later the next day, are certainly better off if they are allowed to exist as night owls as opposed to those who are night owls and are forced into a more 9 to 5 existence. However, she states that timing really isn’t the issue, but it is the alignment of melatonin and sleep schedule that impacts dietary behaviors. For example, people who force themselves to sleep earlier in their melatonin timing have greater meal frequency and tend to eat more calories, and if they are overweight… have signs of insulin resistance. Thus, ultimately, being a night owl isn’t a factor, but it’s really more about whether that night owl is forced to function in the morning. Dr. Baron states that if people find their ideal sleep schedule, and are allowed to maintain their natural rhythm, then they are probably better off than someone who is forcing themselves to adhere to a schedule based on what society says.

Dr. Baron discusses sleep loss and its affect on metabolism. But as she states, there are multiple factors that determine weight, and sleep is merely one. She does mention however, that many times late sleepers find that fitting exercise into their day is challenging, and thus needed movement may be squeezed out of their daily schedules.

Additionally, she details sleep devices and the benefits of sleep monitoring data. And she adds that many times the data simply confirms what a user may have suspected, such as sleep is intermittent, or they are not sleeping deep enough, etc.

In Dr. Baron’s research they are interested in helping people get rid of bedtime procrastination and other issues that interfere with good sleep. She explains the many issues and activities that may interrupt sleep or impact one’s ability to get to bed and also relax before sleeping.

Dr. Baron’s research has been generously supported by the NIH, and she has been regularly featured in top tier media such as the New York Times, US News and World Report, Men’s Health, Webmd.com, and others.

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