Rob is one of the founders and the CEO of 62 Romeo. Rob is a former Navy seal turned entrepreneur. He served eight years in the Navy and was deployed twice as a Navy seal. His SEAL career ended in retirement due to a back injury. As with any veteran, Rob had a few hidden injuries as well to include PTSD, traumatic brain injury, obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia.
In 2017, Rob lost a platoon mate to suicide. This young man had struggled for years with sleep disorders and at the time of the suicide had been awake for five days. This was the impetus to Rob’s decision to dive into sleep science. He has since then dedicated himself to the endeavor of solving the bi-directional relationship between sleep and mental health. As firefighters, first responders and shift workers, we are all affected by this issue. Middle of the night calls, poor sleep habits, anticipatory sleep, irregular, sleep patterns. You name it. We have it. We also have alarming rates of mental health issues and suicide. Rob’s company and research sets out to tackle this issue with science and education, and they want to do it with you. Not paying a dime. , reach out to Rob at 62 romeo.org and applied to be in a cohort today, it might just save your life.
Stack: Welcome to another episode of the things we all carry this week is my 48th episode. And my guest is Rob Sweetman.
Rob is one of the founders and is the CEO of 62 Romeo. Rob was a former Navy seal turned entrepreneur. He served eight years in the Navy . And was deployed twice as a Navy seal. His SEAL career ended in retirement due to a back injury.
As with any veteran, Rob had a few hidden injuries as well to include PTSD, traumatic brain injury, obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia. In 2017, Rob lost a platoon mate to suicide. This young man had struggled for years with sleep disorders and at the time of the suicide had been awake for five days.
This was the impetus to Rob’s decision to dive into sleep science. He has since then dedicated himself to the endeavor of solving the bi-directional relationship between sleep and mental health. As firefighters, first responders and shift workers, we are all affected by this issue. Middle of the night calls, poor sleep habits, anticipatory sleep, irregular, sleep patterns. You name it. We have it.
We also have alarming rates of mental health issues and suicide. Rob’s company and research sets out to tackle this issue with science and education, and they want to do it with you. Not paying a dime. , reach out to Rob at 62 romeo.org and applied to be in a cohort today, it might just save your life.
A quick reminder to please help us build a community which not only recognizes, but supports each other through the struggles and recovery.
I reach out through Instagram at the things that we all carry. Or email my email@example.com. To offer support and share your story. Please remember to leave a review on iTunes and give a shout out to any first responder, you know, love or care about y’all enjoy the show.
Your life experience with the seal teams and how you got into it. I know that we’re not going to go too far in depth with it. Cause I really want to spend time on the sleep issue more than anything.
Robert: It’s a big issue.
Stack: Uh, it’s a massive issue, especially for for anybody for.
Militaries, first responders, whatever it’s.
a huge issue. If you’re working shift it’s. It’s a nasty issue.
Robert: Yeah, we had a group. That.
We have these groups that we do 4 62 Romeo. Where the firefighters. Go through the program and then they can continue to talk to each other. It’s got a report this morning of. Two more suicides at just one battalion and they’re reaching out for help. But. How much can the IASS. This.
a much deeper problem. And I don’t know what the solution is. We can offer the six to Romeo course. And we can try to help people get better sleep, which we know helps mental health, but. This is a much larger problem.
Stack: Yeah. And that’s something I want to get into because you offer a program or you offer the suggestions And it’s up to us as first responders and military to.
To take those suggestions and those guidances.
And run with them.
And as a whole, we don’t do that.
We ignore it.
Robert: That’s part of the problem is that. From my perspective, being in the military and then trans transitioning out of the military. And then going to the VA. They’re going to give you suggestions. Most likely a.
They do try to. Yeah, they do try to offer some good suggestions. Sleep hygiene suggestions. Hey, get more exercise. Get sunlight. Try to set up a sleep schedule, try sleep diary, but the thing is you get this. Printout and you bring it home and you look at it and you’re like, what do I do with this?
And most people just don’t follow through with it. So the advantage of the 62 rodeo program is that we take the time to walk people through all of the education, all of the material that’s out there in science that we can get our hands on. And then throughout that six weeks, they’re able to do it and actually practice it. And that builds habits that creates a physiological response, that response that we’re looking for, which we measure, and we see improvements in sleep throughout the program. It’s a beautiful thing.
Stack: Let’s do this. Why don’t we get started and I’ll introduce you, and then we’ll get into all of that because I don’t want, I don’t want you to have to go through a multiple times.
So if you’re ready, I’ll do it. Just, it’s just going to be your name and who you are, where you are, and then I’ll get into your background. You good with that?
Robert: I’m good with that.
All right. So today I have Rob from 62 Romeo joining me. He’s one of the founders of 62 Romeo. He’s going to get into exactly what they do and what they’re concerned with. Welcome to the show, Rob.
Robert: Thanks for having me Brendan.
Stack: I just want to give you a chance to give us a short background. Where are you from where you grew up, where you’re at now.
and then we’ll we’ll get into some of what your life has brought. You.
Robert: Thanks. Yeah, it was born in Kansas. A lot of farmland out there. Big flat land.
. It’s a corn cattle. But at six years old, my father moved us out to the Carolinas where he’s from, and that’s where I really grew up. I found myself in small business. I tried college once and popped out. I came back later and tried college when I was a little bit older, but at some point in time,
I decided to join the military. I didn’t join right out of high school. Like my brother did. Regretfully. But it did. Prove to be a very enlightening experience. Joining the military at 29. Going through buds training. I ended up being a seal. Did a couple of pumps that seal team seven.
Finished out at advanced training command. And then as I transitioned I did go back to school and got my bachelor’s finished my master’s and put a real focus on sleep science. And that’s something that I’d really like to talk to you about today.
Stack: So one of the things we talked about.
It’s been a couple of weeks.
since we w since we had our first conversation was that.
That old man’s view of seal training and maybe the same way, how we could relate it to my view of the fire academy.
Cause I was the old man going through the fire academy.
and it’s funny for me to say old man at 29 years old, but in for seals and for buds, that’s an old man. Correct?
Robert: Yeah, the cutoff is 28. Without a waiver. So I signed on the dotted line at 28, but I was in the delayed entry program for six months. By the time I made it to. I actually, I arrived on my 29th birthday in Coronado, so that was a beautiful
Stack: just say happy birthday.
Robert: Full of pain and agony.
Yeah. So it’s not a, it’s not an old man’s game. It’s a young man’s game and it was very difficult. I had some advantages. But a lot of disadvantages.
Stack: What do you, how do you think life experience.
Relates to the service. How do you think bringing them.
at Mount a life experience into the service and then going into buds, how do you think that really helps you or hinders you?
Robert: The life experience piece was huge because not only had I become a man already and. Cut my teeth. And a different career, but I understood a little bit more about life and. You know who we are. And I wasn’t, I’m a naive 18 year old that didn’t know anything about anything. No disrespect to the 18 year olds that sign up, but I knew who I was. I didn’t need the military to define that.
And joining. The particularly difficult. Path that I chose. I chose. I was expecting some mind games. The buds training for seals. It’s all about mind games, it’s all a mental game. So in that way, I feel like I had a leg up. Because I could perceive the games and navigate them differently than if I was younger.
So I feel like that was a huge advantage, I already knew who I was as a man and I could simply. Use patients and Take a look, the big picture of what was going on that really helped me and pushing through. The program.
Stack: Also talking about going in there at 29, 28, 29, your.
Robert: It versus
Stack: an 18 or 19 year old going in there. You’re looking at coming in with a fully formed brain versus that 19 year old coming in with not really a fully formed brain yet. And so is it. It was it.
Was it tricky or.
to conform to what they were trying to get you to do?
Robert: It was more difficult to. To get into the mindset that they wanted me to, because I already knew who I was and had an idea of. You know where I wanted to go with this. So I think it was a little bit more difficult for them to convince me of everything that they wanted me to believe in.
But with that said, I 28, 29. My, my brain was already pretty well formed. They say that the brain stops forming, whereas fully developed at 25, 26, and it’s interesting because how does traumatic brain injury blasting exposure?
Robert: Impact. My brain. As a 28, 29 year old versus the 18 year old.
That’s a great question because.
I don’t know if you have a fully formed. It, does it lose some of the plasticity after blast injury?
Robert: Yeah, I think so. The. The current research is showing that the blast exposure causes Astroglial scarring. And the best way I can. Describe it is think of the battery on your truck when it get. All of the funky stuff on the terminals, and then, you. It’s to pour the Coca-Cola on it to.
Clean up the terminals. That’s our brain after this scarring. And some of those neural pathways, both with speech and memory and all the things that we love about our brain. Sometimes those things get short circuited or there’s no connection at all. And so we lose some of the function. We lose some of our faculties.
And you can come out of military service after being exposed to blasts and have a brain fog and not be the person that you were before you joined the service.
so it definitely changes the game. The older you are. I can Def I can see that. How long did you serve?
Robert: I was in for eight years.
Stack: All right. And then w what year did you get out?
Robert: 2018. So it was 2010 to 2018.
Stack: All right. And you got your master’s degree while you’re in, or did you get that afterwards?
Robert: I was fortunate enough to be accepted to the university of California. San Diego here. I felt I probably wasn’t the best applicant, but they accepted me, I guess maybe I had a good interview, but I was super grateful about that. It was an incredible opportunity. And that was part of my transition program.
I met people from all over the world, different cultures, different mindsets, and. It was really a beautiful way for me to transition out of the military mindset back into the civilian world.
Stack: What did you start out with in school?
You mentioned, you got your bachelor’s, then you got your master’s. What was your undergraduate studies in?
Robert: Everything was focused on leadership. I wanted to understand how to bring an organization up or manage an organization better than some of the leaders that I saw out in the community. So my undergrad was organizational leadership. And then I continued that path with a master’s in business administration, MBA.
Um, I go focus on entrepreneurship and I spent all of my time in the library researching sleep. So I used that library card for access to all the scholarly journals on sleep.
Stack: So the library card was basically your free education and while you’re paying for the other education, huh?
Robert: Absolutely. I spent time in the library researching sleep, and I spent time at Jacobs school of engineering rubbing shoulders with the geniuses over there, building robotics and. My dream was to create a sleep pod that. Was fully immersive and cut out the external world and let you have like peace and tranquility inside.
I did end up building it. We tested it. We did a bunch of, the entrepreneurial challenges and. That prototype still exists at our partner factory, but we put a pause on that to work on some other things.
Stack: So almost like a.
Like a float chamber, but for sleep.
Robert: Kind of like a chamber in the way that you are able to relax. But it would just be a normal mattress in the inside. Your entire visual rage. Is an organic light emitting diode display, which means that we can turn off every pixel. We can control the amount of blue light. And the way that we designed it was to create this virtual environment like VR, except for nothing touches. You don’t put anything on your head.
And with that we used virtual reality software to create our first environment was basically Hawaii. And we built it virtually within this software, and then we projected it on the screen on the inside. And so it looked like when you were laying in it to look like you were looking through a window into another place.
So you could be. Whisked away to Hawaii or the rainforest or wherever you chose, you can choose where you a wind. And with that, you could watch a sunset or you could just listen to tranquil music. But more importantly, this would be your protected sleep space, even if you just wanted to take a nap.
Stack: That’s pretty fascinating, And actually, because you can control.
every aspect of it. That’s awesome.
Robert: That’s right.
Stack: So you go from, you, go from.
seals to school. How do you get into, how do you get into 62 Romeo? W what’s the reason behind what you’re doing now?
Robert: As I mentioned, we put the sleep pod on the back burner and I tried to start working on something a little bit easier. What I found was that hardware and software is extremely expensive and time consuming. It was way more. To bite off than I can chew. And so I want to do something smaller. I wanted to have a victory, and so I ended up building something.
That was smaller. It goes into your bedroom. It’s. It’s a light and sound device. And the thing was, this would be even more effective because now we’re not offering this crazy big sleep pod that only a few people can afford kind of thing. And we were allowing the average person to. Have the price point for the average person to be able to purchase this. And so in that way, it could be more of a ubiquitous solution offered to the average person.
And the product was a hit. We never went to market with it. We’re still in the lab tweaking it, but couple of years ago we wanted to test it. And so the best way. That I thought to test this was to create a six week program. With that, we created an entire curriculum. And so all we wanted to do is test this light and sound device.
The results of this six week program were remarkable. It w it was clinically significant in terms of the data that came out of it, we improve people’s sleep. It was a life-changing event. But then I went back to the drawing board on how do we continue? Building and deploying this. It wasn’t until we had a chip shortages, we had issues with the China chips. If you recall that during COVID, it was a big deal.
And so we had to go back to the drawing board on some of the circuit boards. And it was a low period. And so I met with a woman named Lori. And we talked about what happened with that six week program. And we decided to put together a nonprofit that would embody the six week program. And instead of using our product would just use something off of Amazon, which was.
Not quite as good. We tested a bunch of equipment. And so we picked out the one that was the best of what’s currently available. So right now we’re using the hatch restore, which is another light and sound device. So we put together the six week program. We were find it a little bit. It’s basically the same thing.
We didn’t want to change it too much because it was super effective. We made it about veterans and first responders. So 62 Romeo is a veteran and first responder nonprofit. It’s a sleep program. That’s free to the veteran and first responder. And the way that we do business is find those donors those.
People who care about the community. And have them pay for it. And I didn’t think, my first thought was we’ll probably, get a bunch of seals and get a bunch of funding for team guys. But what happened was something that I couldn’t have predicted. I met a gentleman by the name of Kevin fi over at reliable automatic sprinkler company.
And they showed an extreme passion for the firefighter problem. And at the time I really didn’t understand the firefighter problem. It took Ray Norton, a retired firefighter. To explain to me. The issues within the fire service and with funding and a whole lot of passion. We kicked this off with firefighters. So we’ve actually put more firefighters to the program than anybody else.
We have helped out veterans and we’re kicking off our first, all Navy seal cohort. This Wednesday. But because we were able to really jump in head first with firefighters. Now, here I am in the middle of understanding this problem. And it’s a big deal. It’s a big deal that we’re making an impact with. But we need a lot more work.
Stack: So let’s, Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about the issues.
With first or with firefighters and sleep.
What did you find initially?
Robert: I’m seeing some of the typical things that you might see in any demographic, which are sometimes excessive alcohol use. Sometimes poor sleep hygiene. But probably most importantly, and across the board, we have this. Shift work issue. And that is common across all CIF workers.
So when a firefighter. Especially somebody that’s working a busy. A house. When they have that like for example, a 48 96, and they’re in there for two days and they’re getting calls all night. Some of them are, we’re seeing a lot of the fentinol calls or just homeless with drug problems.
That’s okay. But it’s not exactly what the fire service was designed for, but they’re still getting up and they’re going to those calls like clockwork at 2:00 AM. So how are they supposed to get sleep? When during their sleep period, they’re out on calls and the answer is they’re not getting sleep.
And the result of this is that over time sleep deprivation. Will damage your brain. It’ll damage your heart. It can make you pre-diabetic. No. Sleep deprivation is linked to all cause mortality and everything you can imagine dying from can be linked asleep. And so if we’re getting bad sleep, it impacts our physical wellbeing as well as our mental health.
We’re seeing a very sharp increase in suicide rates in first response. Especially since COVID. And so when we look at sleep, it’s one thing that 62 Romeo has the power to make improvements on. And as folks go through the program, what we’re seeing is that, oh yeah, their mental health is improving. Their physical health is improving. Their relationships at home are improving.
So then just proves that sleep is a very important part of the entire picture of wellness.
Stack: So when you talk about shift workers, especially with firefighters, there’s a variety of shifts.
You mentioned a 48 96.
There’s a 36 hour shift. There’s what I do.
It’s a 20, it’s a 24 on 24 off 24 on 24 off 24 on and I take four off.
That, that those three shifts in five days are. Or a killer, especially if you’re in a busy house. Are you finding that? Assam shifts may be affecting you.
More or is there a.
Better. shift to be on.
as a firefighter.
Have you found any of that research?
Robert: That’s a complex question. Yes. Some shifts are better than others, but it also has to do with the person’s individual habits at home. So what we recommend with all of these different shifts, because we’ll have a 62 Romeo does group sizes of 15. And we call them cohorts. And within each cohort, we’re going to have people.
They could be FDN Y they could be Ocala fire that could be Portland fire. They could be, Indiana. Whatever. And each one of those. Within those regions has different firehouses. Varying levels of how busy they are. They all get to choose what their schedule is. Perhaps the firefighter doesn’t necessarily choose the schedule, but each house is different.
And so we have a mix of everybody. And so as they go through this program, How do we offer a blanket statement that works for everybody? And the way that 62 Romeo works is we just talk about the science. We were not telling anybody to do anything specifically, but we say here’s what the leading research is telling us. Because a lot of this information doesn’t actually make it to people is not available. So we make it available. We talk through it, we talk about.
How do you manage a, shift work when you know that you need to get consistent sleep? So one of the things that’s been extremely effective with firefighters. And this isn’t recommended for the average person, because it’s not optimal. But it’s better than the alternative, which is just simply not getting sleep.
And we call it polyphasic sleeping. And so polyphasic sleeping. Also called multi-phase sleeping. You can call it whatever you want, but basically you’re having multiple sleep periods within a 24 hour. A window. So that might look like the most. I think the most effective when you can’t get a full eight hours of sleep is maybe if you can get four hours sleep, we use that as one.
Window asleep. If you can get another four hours of sleep. At another period of time. That’s great. That’s two periods of sleep. And actually that was common in the 1920s, 1930s, right here in San Diego. That’s actually what everybody did as a normal thing. So we break the mold of what sleep should be. Now, what I’m finding is that.
Yes, folks can average for four and a half hours of sleep while on duty. But it’s difficult to get another four hour sleep period. Where are they going to get that? And so a lot of times what we recommend is what’s known in the sleep science community as an every man schedule and what that is it includes beyond that four hour, four and a half hours sleep, period, whatever you can get.
We’re also integrating to nap periods throughout the day. Now the first complaint that we get is, oh my firehouse is not going to allow naps. And so that gets back to the cultural shift that we’re trying to induce, but if we’re able to get. A nap approved, so to speak, and I’ve seen folks, get written up for taking a nap.
While they’re working, we have to stop that. But if naps are allowed, Then the next step is to build in some level of consistency. Because if we can all go to bed at a similar time, try to knock out that four hour. Sleep window. It’s also important to get consistency within the nap period. So for example, if Joe.
Goes to sleep at night. He gays. Four hours, maybe if he’s lucky, six hours and then rolls into his day. If he can get a nap at a window. The same window each time. So maybe like 10:00 AM. And then to get another nap at 2:00 PM, those two naps are actually enough. To supplement a four hour sleep period at night.
And in a healthy way, and people able to get. For the most part complete restoration. It’s never going to be perfect.
But the goal here is to have consistency. So what that means is you’re going to want to try to do that while you’re at home, if possible. And so in doing this with an entire firehouse, now we have to do what we do in the Navy, which is build a watch schedule. So now offering an example.
Because we did the circadian watch schedule with the Navy, the fleet Navy in 2017, after the ship collisions. 19 kittens died. They had to do something. And so in building a watch schedule, we say, Joe goes, takes his nap at 10 to 10 30. And by the way, it’s a 30 minute window, 20 minute nap. It’s we call it a tactical nap.
Now that’s the optimal Nap. And then maybe Bob takes, it is from 10 30 to 11. And, Sandy takes hers from 11 to 1130, something like that. But when we give folks the tools to do this on their own and the understanding and the knowledge, now we empower them to start making choices for themselves, teach a man to fish rather than feed him.
And with that, we’ve given them the space to. To work on this themselves. And what we’re seeing is definite, Objective and subjective measurements of sleep improvement.
Stack: So let’s talk about how the program works.
Robert: Absolutely. Absolutely. Where should we start with there’s enrollment process?
Stack: We can definitely talk about enrollment process.
but Like what is it that you’re teaching? Exactly, because I know that. During my reading.
Oh, you had some,
I guess, for, the pillars of. the foundation, of what.
62 Romeo is.
And so maybe touch on that a bit and maybe touch on.
the tools you’re trying to teach.
Robert: Yeah, absolutely. There’s six sessions. The first session is just a basic overview of the program. We’re not trying to change anything. We’re not trying to modify anything. And the reason being is we want to do an introduction. We want to build rapport. We want to talk about all the things that they’re going to learn in the program.
Just in general, just the wave tops. And then we want to get to know each other, get to know the equipment that we sent out. And we want to create a starting point. And so that first week between week one and week two are session one and session two. That’s a baseline. Just remember we’re measuring everything, right? So we send them a whipping sleep. Mat is a ballistic. Cardiogram is a scientific name.
And then a light and sound device that has restore. And they won’t actually use the hatchet store till we do. So they start measuring with the winning sleep mat and they start recording their sleep diaries. We ping them every day. Just to. Give the five W’s on what happened last night.
To give some context. And then on week two, now we start to make changes and we want to make the changes upfront. So that we have time for these to become habits. Once we see an actual habit developing, then we see that physiological response in the sleep measurements. So the first the first thing that we do is implement that Hatcher store. So on week two, session two, we talk about light sound and temperature, and that’s the original research that I did in graduate school.
We talk about how that impacts sleep from a neurologic function. We talk about the sleep. How do you set up your bedroom or your bunk? At firehouse to have optimal sleep. Because it turns out that all of these things impact you. Whether you’re awake or not, a lot of people think that they turn off when they go to sleep. Oh no. Oh no. So what we want to do is have uninterrupted sleep to the best of our ability, set ourselves up for success.
Then we roll into week three and we talk about behavioral mechanisms, like things that we do throughout the day that either negatively impact our sleep or positively impact our sleep. And so now we’re starting to make some more changes there and some more tweaks. Everything’s completely optional. Everybody knows their life situation better than I ever will.
And so we give them more tools for the tool bag than they’ll ever need, and they get to pick and choose what needs to be applied to their situation. Then the program lightens up a little bit because we want to get some of those core changes up front. So then we roll into session four session, five session says, and we really dig into some of the sleep science and research.
Finishing up with what. Sleep measurement devices are out on the market. And the goal is by the time we finished the six week program. We not only want them to have improved their own sleep, but we want them to become sleep ambassadors. We’re going to graduate these folks. We’re going to send them a certificate of graduation and send them out into the world as sleep ambassadors to spread the good word.
Maybe just to move the needle, one little bit with each person at their firehouse and the results have been remarkable because I’m seeing, I get emails every day from folks that have went through the program and now they’re making presentations for their leadership or their battalion or whatever.
And they’re making those incremental changes. So not only are we spreading good information, but we’re also starting to shift the culture about the importance of sleep.
Stack: Dick cultures is so key because like you said, there’s some places that.
they still don’t want to allow a nap or downtime.
as we call it. Where I am. And even when you’re allowed downtime.
Within the station sometimes.
It’s frowned upon. for four individuals that take that downtime. We have a 90 minute and 60 minutes to 90 minute window.
Of breakfast And lunch. And it’s also in addition, there’s some downtime.
you can just relax. There’s nothing planned during that time. Normally. But even if it’s, even if it’s built into the schedule, there’s some.
there’s some fire stations in my department where.
It’s known that it’s frowned upon to take that downtime, which doesn’t make sense to me. That’s something that.
I’ve worked on.
To shift for people around me.
to shift that thinking.
Because that. Those times.
to Just get away and relax or just too important to give up.
Robert: Yeah. So
Stack: How do you.
All right. So these guys come in, guys and women, they come in and they start your program. How are they able to control some environment at the firehouse though? Because if you have a, if you have a crew bunk room, how do you control that environment?
Robert: The first thing that people are going to object with, which is the same thing that, the skipper and an XO on a ship are going to object with is. I need to be operationally ready when I’m on duty. I can’t be in Lala land and not able to respond to the call. And we respect that, but if there is an alarm or there is a call that level,
Of okay. It’s time to wake up and go. That will still be there. We can implement some things at a lower level. To buffer out some of the light sound and temperature and make our sleeping experience better. And it shouldn’t impact the job. Some really easy hacks that people can do today are, go on Amazon and order.
A face mask and earplugs, aye. In the seal teams, we did a lot of shooting just because some putting in yearbooks doesn’t mean, I can’t hear the guy next to me. It blocks the percussion of the pistol or the rifle shooting, but I can actually still hear people. But what that does is if I’m putting on a face mask and earplugs, while I’m napping, this could cost you five bucks, right?
Change your life forever. Now we’re buffering out a lot of the sounds, which we have research that shows that the sounds are breaking up. Your sleep cycles while you’re sleeping. So we need to buffer out some of those sounds, some folks already have a fan running in their bunk room or at the firehouse or wherever, whatever their sleeping situation is.
That can act as white noise or something similar to white noise. And when we elevate a, smooth, melodic sound like a fan or a heating unit or something like that. We can actually buffer out a lot of the noise spikes in our environment. And that’s important because. As low as 35 decibels, I’m probably talking 60 decibels right now.
Peaks as low as 35 decibels have the ability to him. Sleep cycles. So we can measure that with brainwave activity. So if we’re buffering out a lot of the little sounds that could potentially impact your sleep cycle, you don’t even know it’s impacting you, but it is. And now you have.
We’re asleep. Then if we’re able to buffer out some of those sounds that we can accomplish a little bit better sleep. And I’ll tell ya. The way that the brain processes, the environment is very much a function of the amygdala, right? The amygdala is. Processing everything and kind of codifying it with emotions.
And what we know about veterans and first responders. Especially if we’ve heard the term hypervigilant, is that as they’re processing this information they can be very sensitive. They can be more sensitive. Then their spouse or example, if you’re at home sleeping.
The firefighter might be able to wake up to a car alarm down the street, a mile away like that. But the spouse is still asleep and that’s a result of a career of always being on alert, always being in that fight or flight state, always having a sympathetic nervous system response. They hyperactive amygdala and they’re always queued up.
So if that’s the case, now we can buffer out some of those things that affect us. Even more, those sounds that noise pollution that affects us even more. And then to layer on to all of this. Within the 62 Romeo program starting on week two. We implement relaxation techniques and we give people the skillsets. We give them.
Five different skillsets. They choose if they want to use any of them or none of them, or if they like one of them. But we also give them the ability to continue that journey of finding new relaxation techniques. But when we’re able to change our sympathetic nervous system response to a parasympathetic nervous system response, we can instantly let go of a lot of the tension and anxiety that causes insomnia.
It makes it easier to fall asleep. It makes it easier to stay asleep less night terrors. Less nighttime awakenings that are unneeded. So all of these things, cumulatively. Actually really do work. They really do help the firefighter. And even with, rule number one and our program is that there’s no such thing as perfect sleep. We know the job that we signed up for. We know it’s not going to be easy, but we have tips and tricks and things that people learn in the 60 Romeo program that will dramatically improve the sleep.
And that’s what we need to be able to continue down this career path.
Stack: So what.
this is an odd question.
Because, like you said, there’s no such thing as perfect sleep. So, how do you measure success?
in the program?
Robert: We measure. We have billions of data points from the bliss of the cardiogram and a ton of information from the intake out, pick surveys and sleep diaries. But we want to keep it simple. So if you go through the program, you finish, we’re going to send you your own personalized sleep report.
Hey, here’s how you did from start to finish. And the top three things that we want to focus on. Our sleep latency. Which is very important. What that means is how long does it take you to fall asleep? If you’re not able to fall asleep quickly, then you could be in a sympathetic nervous system state. You could be dealing with anxiety.
These types of things are the number one cause of early onset insomnia. The second thing that we look at and we want to take a look at what do we need to do in our sleep. To be healthy down the road. Like how, what do we really need to look at so that we get that restoration that we need, whether we’re trying to make gains in the gym.
Just trying to stay alert on the job. And the top two things that we like to look at as that pertained are the total amount of deep sleep within your sleep. And the total amount of REM sleep or dream sleep within your sleep. And so those are the other two factors that we measure. And what we’ve seen is that most people come in and we measure that baseline and they are below their, they’re not within a normal range for these three measurements.
And throughout the program, traditionally, we’ve seen about a 30% improvement, which is huge. This is life-changing results. So that means we’re bringing people for the most part. Not everybody is as successful as the next person. It has something to do with commitment level two, but there’s also things beyond our control.
But we’re able to bring most people within a healthy range and that’s all we need. That’s what we’re looking for.
Stack: So speaking of the healthy ranges, how. How are you using wearables to measure that?
Robert: The way that we met. You’re asleep. Is through the whipping sleep mat is a blister card. Theo Graham. And when I talked to my sleep science buddies, I already know the conversation, we know that blister cardiograms have flaws. We know they’re not perfect. The only perfect way to measure sleep is polysomnography.
Which means that you got to go to a sleep lab. Now they have some at-home sleep testing, but. You’re putting on an EEG. You got to put on a heart monitor. Sometimes they measure breathing for obstructive sleep apnea. You’re measuring pulse oximetry. You’re measuring all these things, but who in the heck wants to put on all that junk? So then we look at, do we use a wearable?
Which is most likely going to be on the wrist or Ringo’s on the finger. Or we can do some of the non-contact measurement. Protocols, which I’m a big fan of because, I don’t want anything touching me. Number one, I don’t want anything touching me. And number two, I don’t want to have to charge anything.
So if we use a wearable. And the battery dies and we have to remember to charge it. So we chose the willing sleep mat because we believe that it gives very accurate information. It has errors. It has its shortfalls. We accept that. We acknowledge that, but the power of being able to plug it in and just set it and forget it.
I can’t speak to how powerful that is. It is, it really just hits the easy button on things. And when we look at the shortfalls in any sleep measurement device, cause. Whether it’s a whoop or a Fitbit, they all have shortfalls. We think that the ease of use. Is a good trade-off. And then when you look at 42 days of measurement, there’s no question whether there’s some anomalies or some errors or misreadings.
There’s no question what the trend looks like. You have a.here on a graph. And then you have a dot over here. That’s much higher on the ground. And you see all the dots in between showing an upward trajectory. There’s no question that even if the sleep measurement device. The price. Isn’t perfect.
It’s pretty clear that the sleep has improved.
Stack: So the overall goal is to improve sleep. It’s simple. Right?
Stack: And it sounds very simple, but obviously there’s some tricks.
And there’s some pitfalls.
they’re going to be along the way.
And you’re just gonna have to find the way to manage that for yourself.
And within a fire station and within home, basically, because.
life gets in the way.
What’s the importance of sleep.
Robert: Sleep is extremely important for longevity. We know that sleep or sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep. Is linked to all cause mortality, meaning that. Every major cause of death can be linked back to sleep. Now, does that mean that sleep is the cause of all deaths now? That’s it’s not true, but it’s a factor in everything. We also have to look at.
Alcohol consumption and nutrition and exercise and all of these. Things that go into your health, but sleep seems to be. A pillar of everything. If we look at sleep with nutrition and exercise, it is absolutely a very big part of the picture. So when you look at longevity of a career, whether you’re in the seal teams or you’re at the firehouse.
It’s easy to shortchange yourself. It’s easy to force yourself to function on four hours of sleep because all of your buddies are doing it. That’s the culture. There’s a culture of sleep deprivation as a badge of honor. But what happens is you’ll start to see down the road. Oh, my endocrine function has started to change. Like my testosterone levels are lower.
All of these things. Start to compound. And so it could be five years, 10 years, 20 years, but it will catch up to you. Sleep deprivation will catch up to you. You can almost measure sleep performance and equated to the length and quality of your life and every situation. So if you are able to get better sleep, you give yourself the best chance at not only performing the next day, but having a career that lasts without some of these serious health complications or mental health complications. We see that too.
Stack: Yeah, so mentioning Mental health. What, How do you tie in.
Sleep with mental health.
Cause I know there’s a lot that happens when you sleep.
To Take care of some of the mental health.
And I don’t know, I don’t know the exact science behind it, but I know that there’s an indexing that goes on when you sleep. And how has that. Lack of sleep or interrupted sleep.
Has got to be effected in that mental health.
just from that aspect.
Robert: Yeah, mental health. Is a word that is being questioned these days, is mental health okay. To talk about, should we be able to talk about it is the mental health, the right. Right term to use. When we look at post-traumatic stress disorder, we’re looking at. Recurring thoughts, nightmares, and these memories coming back in for an extended period of time, maybe six months. So some people call it PTs post-traumatic stress. It’s not a disorder. And so these labels.
Carry a lot of weight in the communities. And a lot of times they’re blockers to having the conversation. Like we don’t want to talk about mental health. We don’t want to talk about a disorder. There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m not broken. But when we look at if we just want to call it mental health,
If we look at it from the lens of like physical health was like was your cardiovascular fitness? How is your flexibility? And so maybe we might relate that to how is your cognition, do you have top-down thinking or are you always in an animalistic, hyperactive amygdala state,
that hypervigilance we talked about. Long-term. Sleep. Can have a dramatic effect on your psyche. And it’s, my belief is very difficult to prove any of these things because how can we really. Dive into the brain more than just an electrode, right? But it’s my belief that within the dream sleep, that’s where we sort out all of our cognitive dissonance. That’s where we sort out the traumas. That’s where we sort out a lot of folks do dream work. Specifically Charlie Morley does a bunch of lucid dreaming work where we.
Encounter those traumas and deal with them within the dream. But the one thing that I do agree with is that during dream sleep, that’s where we keep our sanity. That’s where we make things. Okay. that trouble us throughout the day. Especially traumatic events. And so if we’re not getting sleep specifically, REM sleep we see that.
A lot of times people can be more emotionally unstable. We know that things start to degrade the emotional intelligence, like the ability to read facial expressions, the ability to sort through different things in the waking world. And so a career of sleep deprivation not only creates this can create this brain fog and they were attached to these traumas and can stay in this fight or flight state.
If we’re not, if we’re not getting sleep. I’ve just seen it, man. Like the cheese can start to slip off the cracker. My buddy Ryan Larkin. Back in the teams. Was struggling with sleep was diagnosed with. couple of different issues that we don’t have to go into. But his sleep was suffering. The Navy was giving him ambient.
He was using ambient or alcohol to fall asleep. It wasn’t getting into those REM cycles and that deep sleep that he needed. And the result was, is things just continued to spiral. And before he took his life, he was awake for five days.
And then he made the decision. Th this is all too common. We also had a firefighter by the name of Ryan that went down a similar path. I think that was 2019. I want to say you probably know better than me. But I find that this is pretty common when the sleep health.
Starts to get bad and maybe. There’s trauma in life, or we have some depression. And then all of a sudden we stopped sleeping and then that’s when it gets really bad. We’ve even seen folks who are seem okay. And then within two days or. Committing suicide. And then we take a look back and yeah, they were not in the best place, but then they stopped sleeping.
Somnia got them. And then everything just fell apart.
Stack: How do people find you? How do they get into the program? W what are the steps?
Robert: The first step is to go to six to r.org. And you can find out more about us. You just click on there and put in your email and create a password and you have access to everything. We welcome feedback. If anybody thinks that there’s more stuff that we can put on there. That would be helpful.
I’m happy to do that. But that’s where you find the application. It’s a quick application you put in your information and then as funding comes in, we set up those enrollment calls. It’s basically just a quick interview to say, Hey, you want to do this program. Let’s find out a little bit more about your situation.
And then once they’re classed up, then we push them through the 62 Romeo program. And the results are pretty uniform. We have some people that don’t do as well. But overall you’re having. Seriously, life-changing significant results. Out with people that go through this program.
Stack: So. You mentioned that some people don’t do as well. And I guess my question.
there is a.
is there a requirement.
In the sense of
We talked about.
Ambien. And alcohol.
And coping mechanisms.
For what we, as first responders Or military lean to.
in the times where we want to
sleep, which doesn’t create sleep. It just creates maybe passing out.
But do you re do you ask. of, Or require them.
to say, alright, No, I’m not drinking during this period. I’m not taking this during this period.
Robert: we do. That’s a requirement. And everybody. We’re not. We’re using the trust. System. We’re not there checking on people, but if you have a problem with alcohol, a serious problem with alcohol, then we’re going to recommend an alcohol cessation program. As a first step before you do something like 60 G Romeo.
Any time there’s, ideation. We hear some of that stuff. Then we got to run that up the chain, we got to get them the help they need. Obstructive sleep apnea, right? If they are If they have sleep apnea. And their doctor says you should be on a C-PAP and they’re not on the C-PAP. We need them to go back to the doctor and have that conversation because.
That’ll kill you, obstructive sleep apnea is a serious deal. Something that they need to have touch points with their doctor and address whatever the whatever the prescription is. So we need that stuff handled. And then we asked, the average person might drink a little bit, might eat a little bit of marijuana gummies depending on what state you’re in.
And. Sometimes they don’t talk about that stuff. Sometimes people take melatonin or, Sometimes Ambien or other types of Pills that they use for sleep. So we asked that, Hey, if you’re going to do this program, Give us a fair shot, try to get off all this stuff. Some people really believe that the pills, the only way that they can fall asleep, just trust us, stop using the melatonin to stop using even the herbal supplements. We get an herbal supplements later on in the program.
And then at that point in time is okay, you can drink your camera meal and their drama, but what we want to show is. I stop everything. Let’s build good habits. We’re going to show you that you can sleep effectively without anything. Without anything. Then once we get to that point where we’ve proven that to the individual.
Then, like I said, we can start adding in some magnesium or whatever supplement floats your boat. But by that time, we look at those folks as asleep ambassadors through train, they know the information that’s out there and they can make a good decision.
Stack: So Ambien, what does it do to a body? What does it do to you? People like you said, People swear by it for.
Is there a benefit to it or no, not at all.
Robert: Amy and it’s terrible. And. I want to give any medical advice. That’s not what I’m here to do. But doctors are supposed to prescribe this stuff to get over the hump, is not meant to be something that you take for the rest of your life. Who in their right mind is going to take a pharmaceutical for the rest of my life and think that’s not going to have an impact. Not only does taking those drugs have an impact all on its own, which.
Studies like that negative impact of things like ambient or are never going to see the light of day because it’s a multi-billion dollar company. They’ve got a locked down. But what we do know is that when you take a sedative, That becomes sedative and do sleep. You’re sedating yourself into, the unconscious world. You’re not actually falling asleep. You’re not actually, slipping into a hypnagogic state. You’re just doping yourself up and you’re passing out and oh yeah, absolutely.
Affects your deep sleep, your ramps. Depending on the type of drug that you use. That’s it, alcohol pod, these things absolutely affect our sleep cycles. And these are critical cycles of during sleep. Like when you go into deep sleep. Fun fact. Is that your brain can reduce in size by as much as 60%.
Allowing the cerebral spinal fluid to come in there and wash away some of those toxins. And like for example, with we know that the beta amyloid protein buildup is a precursor for Alzheimer’s right. So if you’re not rinsing away, the, those things that build up on the brain.
And supporting the lymphatic system to get that out of there and bringing in new immune cells in your brain. I’ve had sleepless nights where my brain hurt the next day. You can feel it right. Our body needs to go through this recovery process in our brains and our muscles were re rebuilding muscles.
We’re preparing hormone production the next day. If you’re opening yourself up, you’re going to see an impact on all of those things, and we want good, healthy endocrine function. And that comes with sleep. Good gut biome. Good activities and behaviors throughout the day. So we can’t. We can’t support a sedative and do sleep.
Not unless the doctor recommends it. And you should think about it is this a a short-term thing or a long-term thing? We don’t want this to be a long-term thing.
Stack: No, it can’t be healthy.
And that’s why I wanted to ask, because I do hear people say, why can’t do it without.
X Y or Z. And I just want people to realize, no, it can’t be done. You just have to set the stage properly. And this is why a program like this.
is so vital because. This helps you learn how to set that stage.
Stack: So I’m going to link to.
62 Romeo in the show notes and
a couple of other things.
that we discussed before I let you get outta here, though.
I wanted to ask you a couple of questions. I ask everybody.
And I might be putting you on the spot here, but I named the show.
the things we all carry after a book that. By Dan O’Brien.
And it’s called the things they carried.
I don’t know if you’ve heard about it or not. I think we talked about w. You and I talked.
Robert: You mentioned it and I read it.
Stack: Okay. So what’d you think about the book?
Robert: It was incredible. I saw the author go in and out of his. Memory. His ego’s narratives, his fantasy, his traumas. It was really interesting to follow. The story. Because it seemed this guy is legit. He’s been through some stuff and it wasn’t necessarily sexy or what. We want to say is
The optimal warrior story, but it told some truths that I can. Relate to, which is the, there’s nothing pretty about war and that there’s, it’s not a sexy, we’re not watching 300 or Sparta, like some type of movie with Brad Pitt where he’s just a champion killing everybody. There’s nothing pretty about this stuff. There’s nothing good about taking human lives or.
Seeing the type of trauma that you know, that he described in the book. I found it interesting that he.
Robert: Okay. So something tried to buzz in. I found it interesting that. He went back to. Oh Some of this stuff I’ve made up. In my imagination and glorified. But some of it’s true. And he wrote that line of what’s real and what’s fantasy. And we’ll never know, and perhaps he doesn’t even know. And I find that interesting because in life,
Everything is our perception and what we believe is true. No matter what it is. And I questioned sometimes whether. Reality is simply an illusion. And we tend to cast our memories into the present and into our future projections. And that becomes our path, right? What we believe becomes our path because we’re, Carter eyes by these traumas, we have these memories and these experiences, and they built this psychological architecture. That’s this is who I am, because this is what I’ve experienced. And this is how the world is.
And when I looked through that lens, That’s how it is. So it’s very interesting. I liked the book. Thank you for the recommendation.
Stack: Oh, awesome. I’m glad you read it.
Along those lines, what I’d like to ask everybody is something. Obviously we all carry something from these jobs.
But I like to ask people about an Everyday carry. Is there something that you carry with you every day.
that you’ve left home without you’ll feel naked or at a place without it?
Robert: Physically. No. Mentally. Absolutely. Some of the traumas and memories and mock life. Some of them. We’re impactful. Significant. Painful. Life changing that. I am the person I am today because of those experiences. And I carry a lot of those traumas. I carry a lot of those gnarly experiences and the way that I choose to accept them and metabolize them.
Is to allow those to make me stronger, allow them to be the best version of myself, meaning. This is. A bad place that I don’t want to go again. I show gratitude for where I’m at right now and who I am today. And that allows me to be happy. That allows me. It gives me strength. To continue with my breathing exercises, my meditation practices each morning.
Doing Goodwill in the world and seeing the positive because, Life’s short man. It’s going to end for all of us. And, we choose every day, whether we wake up and approach the world and be that observer and give love and just really embody what it means to be alive. And because of those traumas, I don’t take anything for granted.
I carry them with me. I own them. I own the mistakes that I’ve made. And I just try to use that to make myself a better person every day.
Stack: Well said.
it’s a great way of taking that.
Something that might be.
A negative. and just you taking control.
and Turn it around to say No that’s fuel for me.
That’s not going to bring me down. I love that mindset. That’s a great way of thinking about it.
Robert: Thank you.
Stack: The final thing I’d like to ask people is there a book or two that You want to recommend to the audience? Something.
to Bring some value.
To their lives and their experiences.
Robert: That is a great question. Hundreds of books that I have read through the change in my life that could probably be an entire podcast. But I’ll tell you the one. All right. The one that we sent. To all 62 Romeo. Participants is the book. Why we sleep by Matthew Walker is extremely good.
It paints a negative. A picture of what will happen when you don’t sleep. But what Matt has learned is that. That’s what people listen to. They listen to the negative. He’s got his critics. People that are like, oh I looked at this study and I, observed it in a different way and here’s my perspective. And then they try to use that as a, to bring him down a notch, but he’s super successful. One of the most popular sleep scientists out there, he goes over a ton of stuff.
Adolescents, adults development, and it is a really good book. Why we sleep by Dr. Matthew Walker.
Stack: I have a sit in him. A pile of books right now.
It is a good book. It’s a great book. And he’s a very interesting person to listen to.
When he speaks and he’s on.
On other podcasts.
So he’s a very smart man.
Robert: Yep. If. If you’re out there, Matt, and I’m still waiting for interview. I’d love to meet you brother.
Stack: So with that, I want to say, thank you, Rob. This has been great.
Hopefully, we get some people out there and looking at your stuff and signing up for it.
And at least.
Paying more attention to sleep because it is so important to all of us, especially first responders and military.
Robert: I love it, man. I’m just here to serve. So thank you for getting the word out.
Stack: Awesome. I appreciate you. Go ahead and enjoy the rest of your day out there in San Diego and enjoy the weather because it’s about 40 degrees and rainy here in Virginia.
So it’s miserable here. So hopefully you’re enjoying some sunshine out there.
Robert: I am. I’m spoiled. So
Stack: awesome. I appreciate it. And we’ll be in touch and I’ll let you know when the show is coming out. It won’t be too long, but I’ll give you a heads up.
when it’s coming out.
Robert: All right.
Stack: All right. man, take care.
Right. Thank you