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Aug. 18, 2021

First Responder Sleep Recovery

In this episode, we discuss..

  1. How First Responder Sleep Recovery started (1:40)

  2. Sean, how did how did she inspire you to like move forward to create this, this company in on this get on this journey of helping first responders out?” (4:42)

  3. The importance of sleep (9:34)

  4. “And when we take away sleep, we're taking away the tools that our body has to defend against and prevent the onset of all of the leading causes of first responder mortality from metabolic disease to cardiovascular disease to suicidal ideation and action and even cancer.” (11:23)

  5. “But what if I'm like that guy that like, well, I need four hours, because that's just the four hours I just been, I've been doing that for 30 years. Now. That's all I need.” (11:34)

  6. “You know, when I met Jacqueline, I thought everything was great. I felt strong, I felt energetic. I felt like I was getting a lot accomplished. But it took somebody with an outside perspective to look at me and say, like, You're, you're not doing as good as you think you are.” (12:37)
  1. A 3000 year old sleep practice, Nidra Yoga- asleep based meditation essentially helps you turn off the busy, busy brain and just drop into a deep restorative sleep (14:32) and (26:27)

  2. Are taking sleeping pills and other sleep suppressants just masking the sleeping problems? (18:20)

  3. “Sleep is a super active process. From the time we wake up in the morning, every action that we take is going to play a role in the quality of our sleep from the beginning of the day until it's time to lay down at night.” (21:13)


  1. “The focus that we set out to kind of build the program around was looking at how we utilize this practice to optimize the quality of sleep, not just the quantity of sleep.” (31:39)

  2. Class and teaching setup of First Responder Sleep Recovery (32:55)

  3. Benefits of blue blocking glasses, alcohol free night cap, and tart cherry juice (41:59)

  4. How and where can people take First Responder Sleep Recovery (46:29)


Website: https://www.firstrespondersleeprecovery.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/firstrespondersleeprecovery/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FirstResponderSleepRecovery

Host Information
Your host Jerry D. Lund can be reached at 801-376-7124 or email at enduringthebdage@gmail.com or voice message use the icon microphone at www.enduringthebadgepodcast.com. Please feel free to give my information to anyone that might be feeling down or anyone you would like to be on the podcast. Please subscribe to the podcast and leave a review wherever you listen to your podcast.  If you like the podcast please share it and join the online community at www.instagram.com/enduringthebadgepodcast.


Everyday Heroes Podcast Network: This podcast is part of the Everyday Heroes Podcast Network, the network for first responders and those who support them.

Intro: Welcome. The trials of first responders and their families aren't easy. Enduring the Badge Podcast is building a community to help them out. Introducing your host, back by 30 years of experience as a first responder, Jerry Dean Lund.

Jerry Lund: Hey everyone, before we jump into this next episode, I want to thank my sponsor Patriot Supreme, they make the highest quality CBD products that I know. A veteran owned company with products made right here in the United States. I've used them in their personal life, because they work I've tried other products that they have not worked. And these do, I like the CBD oil, the CBD gummies they have melatonin gummies with CBD in them have a deep freeze roll-on that works for those joints that are a little bit sore or muscle pain. I love them all. You should check them out at patriotsupreme.com and don't forget to use the code and EnduringTheBadge if you're a first responder that'll get your 50% off. And please go check them out on their Instagram and Facebook page at Patriots Supreme. Let's jump right into this next episode with my amazing guests.

Sean and Jacqueline Toomey, how you guys doing?

Sean Toomey: Doing great this morning. Thanks so much for having us.

Jerry Lund: Oh, yeah, my pleasure. My pleasure. I'm super excited to talk about this topic, because I struggle with this and probably more than anything in my life.

Sean Toomey: We're super excited to share what we have with you guys.

Jerry Lund: Yeah. Let's talk a little bit about both of you and where you where you came from and what you're doing now.

Sean Toomey: Yeah, absolutely. So my name is Sean Toomey. I'm a firefighter with the city and county of Denver here in Colorado. And I'm also a volunteer Fire Captain with our smaller department in the mountains where we live in Clear Creek, Colorado. I've been a firefighter for 10 years. I'm in my 11th year now. And I'm the co-founder of the First Responder Sleep Recovery Program with my amazing wife, Jacqueline.

Jerry Lund: That's awesome. That's awesome that you're actually doing this together. I love it.

Sean Toomey: Yeah, it's been a really amazing experience to come into this wellness initiative as a couple. It wasn't something that we got into a relationship for seeing happening. And it's just where life took us. So it's been very exciting.

Jerry Lund: Yeah, well, we got the great outdoors behind us. So I can hear like a woodpecker or something back there. That's awesome. Jacqueline, what about you, I know you have a little bit of a story too.

Jacqueline Toomey: So early on in our relationship. I was really passionate about health and wellness. I'm, I've always been passionate about health and wellness. So I started off giving Sean some tips here and there. And that was really the foundation of what the First Responder Sleep Recovery Program is, is Sean was the first guinea pigs.

Jerry Lund: That's great. So I know you've had your own personal struggle with some you had an injury and sustained in a car accident is that right?

Jacqueline Toomey: When I was in college, I was hit by a drunk driver and I had a pretty serious spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury. And through my healing process using both conventional Western methods and holistic, traditional Eastern methods, I felt really inspired to share it with the world. Specifically, mindset practices, which are rooted in mindfulness and yoga and meditation, which were tremendously helpful to me and my path. And over the years that I've had the honor to work with spinal cord injury survivors and traumatic brain injury survivors through Craig hospital, which is an incredible place for recovery and Denver. And then a big shift happened when tragedy also inspired action to support the first responder community. And I'm really passionate and honored to work with first responders across the United States and in Canada. And we'll welcome our sweet little rescue dog into our space. I'll put her in.

Jerry Lund: Sean, how did how did she inspire you to like move forward to create this, this company in on this get on this journey of helping first responders out?

Sean Toomey: So ironically, it was really kind of, I think, in a way by accident in a way out of necessity. So when Jacqueline and I met, I was working on one of the busier engine companies in the city. So we averaged about 5000 calls a year. And a huge majority of those calls were coming in the evening hours. So it was not uncommon at all for me to go to work and get between four and six calls after midnight, and average 18 to 20 calls a day. And true to most firefighters, I was one I was new on the job, I was young, and I was super enthusiastic about being on a busy company. I still am, I've always loved being on company, turn a wheel all day long, and run a lot of calls.

But like everybody else in the fire service, and in the whole first responder community, I've got obligations at home other things I was doing, other jobs I was working, a new relationship with Jacqueline, and I was really subscribing to that old theory or that old adage of I'll sleep when I'm dead. So it was nothing for me to run. Yeah. So it was nothing for me to run six calls after midnight, come home, crushed a couple of energy drinks, or a few extra cups of coffee in the morning power through my day. And I was under the impression that I was doing just fine. And it took getting into a relationship with Jacqueline and having an outsider who had a vested interest in my well being to actually look at me and bring to my attention. Hey, you think you're doing okay? But you're not I can see it. Your moods are not right. Your health isn't 2right? You're getting sick all the time, you're constantly fighting colds, and, you know, fatigue. And I've been powering through for so long that I didn't really notice it. I just kind of did made that my normal and everything felt normal to me. So, you know, she got a hold of me. And she said, Hey, let me let me introduce you to some some practices that I can show you that I think are going to help with your sleep. Because I think Jacqueline realized early on, telling me to slow down wasn't going to be a viable option. I think that's true of a lot of us, right? We don't want to grow, right? Go to a slower firehouse, don't work a second job, don't do other activities on your days off take, you know, we don't have time for that. And we think we're wired in a way that we're not interested in that I certainly was.

So she introduced me to these practices that would work around the fact that I wanted to stay on a busy company and I wanted to run calls at night and be super active. And when she showed me those practices, I gave them a try. And the first time that I tried the sleep recovery practice, I felt fantastic. I couldn't believe how good I felt. But I was admittedly skeptical. And I thought like, well, maybe this is kind of a placebo effect is just because I actually took 45 minutes to lay down and be still. And that's why I feel so good. But I kept with it because it did feel good. And I kept practicing it. And we're the real shift for me came is during the time that I was doing the practice or implementing the practice of my life. I wasn't making any other substantial life changes. And I still had plenty of habits that weren't necessarily the healthiest. But when I went in for my physical that year, after just a little while of doing this practice, my numbers were astronomically improved. My cholesterol was down, my blood pressure was down, my resting heart rate was down. My testosterone was up my VO2 Max and improved. And my overall performance at at the job suitability test was substantially better.

That's when I really got vested in started looking into the research and seeing like, how does this practice work? This is crazy. I'm just doing this thing where I lay down and I'm still and I listened to this audio recording for 45 minutes. And all of these remarkable changes are happening. And that's when I really delved into the research and thought and saw the connections I saw physiologically how the things I was doing in the practice tied directly to my anatomy and physiology in terms of being able to improve that health, my health. And that was really the turning point where I thought this is this is amazing. And this is really easy to implement. And this is something we should really be getting out there and sharing with more people in the first responder community because so many of us could benefit from it. And it was enabling me to continue to work and function in a way that I desired while still helping me get better sleep and recovery and in function even better at work.

Jerry Lund: Yeah, I don't know too many first responders that don't struggle with some type of sleep issue. I know I have for I've been doing this for over 30 years and I still to this day struggle with sleep sleep issues. I know it hurts, like I can tell when I don't sleep well. Right? You don't remember things as well. You don't perform as well as you'd like you're saying all your labs are off. I think It's just like a terrible cycle when you don't sleep. Why is that? Why? Why is it so important to sleep?

Sean Toomey: So I think what it is, is everything that happens for our body to recover, and grow and improve physically and mentally happens when we sleep in, it's an interesting thing, because especially in the first responder community, where work ethic is valued so tremendously, we tend to look at sleep as this highly inactive process or this period of not being productive. So right, generally, it's the first thing that we readily sacrifice in the interest of hard work and productivity. But when you really look at what's happening when we sleep, the processes that are happening in our body are remarkable. We don't sleep because we're not being efficient, or we're not optimizing our time. But we sleep because our body needs to shut down these non essential functions, so that it has the energy and the resources to dedicate to these really critical functions like rebalancing our brain chemistry, our serotonin levels, our dopamine receptors, rebuilding muscle tissue, rebuilding cells in our body that are responsible for doing things like preventing and attacking cancerous cell growth. Everything is, is so critical. And when we take away sleep, we're taking away the tools that our body has to defend against and prevent the onset of all of the leading causes of first responder mortality from metabolic disease to cardiovascular disease to suicidal ideation and action and even cancer.

Jerry Lund: Yeah, so I know that's so true. Like, I believe that 100%. But what if I'm like that guy that like, well, I need four hours, because that's just the four hours I just been, I've been doing that for 30 years. Now. That's all I need.

Sean Toomey: And I would say that, that is, that's more our ability to adapt to our surroundings than it is true. Now you can get into the research and somebody will will fact check me on it, there is proof, extremely small percentage of the global population that is actually capable of functioning on less sleep. But it is enormously small. The reality is, is most people are doing exactly what I was doing. And that was, we function in this state of dis-ease, from lack of sleep for so long, that it becomes normalized. And we feel like that's normal. So we feel like we're functioning perfectly well. You know, when I met Jacqueline, I thought everything was great. I felt strong, I felt energetic. I felt like I was getting a lot accomplished. But it took somebody with an outside perspective to look at me and say, like, You're, you're not doing as good as you think you are. You've just convinced yourself in your mind that you're doing great.

And it wasn't until I had that reality check and started taking care of my health, that I felt it. And it only took a couple of days of prioritizing my rest and recovery to where I sat down with Jacqueline and I was like, Oh my god, I cannot believe how bad I felt for so long. And I didn't know it how good I feel now. It's you know, so that's, that's what happens when people say they they can function on that level of sleep. They're really just really good at being okay with not feeling well. But yeah, no long term effects of the consequences that are going to come of sustaining that mentality and that poor quality sleep health.

Jerry Lund: Right. And I've already fact checked Sean on this one. You are correct. I've done some my own studies to and yeah, you're 100% correct that you are there is such a very few percentage of the population that can actually sleep like that, you know, and survive. And I'll call surviving, because I think they're really thriving, thriving with those four hours asleep. Jacqueline, what did you see in Sean when he was when you first met him or for saw this process of him not sleeping very well. And just on the go, what are you seeing on him?

Jacqueline Toomey: Obviously, it came from a place of compassion. I saw him coming off shift, totally exhausted. But yeah, babe, I'm ready to enjoy the day with you. And he's like, his face is in his head falling asleep at the breakfast table. No, I'm good. He's fallen over. And I realized that this guy is exhausted. And there's a really incredible practice. It's actually a 3000 year old practice. It's not very well known in the West, but I've had great fortune to learn from some of the world's best teachers. It's asleep based meditation essentially helps you turn off the busy, busy brain and just drop into a deep restorative sleep. Very effortlessly. And so I said, Why don't you just try this, take a nap listen to this, if your mind's racing, it'll give you something to focus on, it's so easy. And he started doing it. And, and it was really cool to see shifts. I mean, his vitals improving, that was measurable merker. But just on an emotional level, like less irritability of like, you know, not that he's ever been super snappy, but like, you know, like, after running calls all night long, you're, you know, going to be more irritable or less tolerant of, you know, simple things.

So, it was really cool to see how he's evolved in taking care of himself as a first responder, you know, his capacity to be present on his calls has probably improved, while he's on work, and his ability to be present with me and our family off shift is better. So I think it's just a very simple task, but incredibly challenged by our culture, which essentially diminishes the importance of sleep by the replacement of stimulants, I mean, let's just just get one more coffee, get more caffeine in the body, and you'll power through and like we're not recognizing that it's, it's literally a marker of how long you will live, how well you sleep throughout your life will determine the length of your life. And more importantly, the quality in which you go, like nobody wants to leave this earth, suffering with cancer or some horrible terminal illness, we want to live happy, long, beautiful lives and, and exit gracefully, like, maybe in our sleep even right. So yeah, I think just prioritizing sleep. I mean, if you're paying attention to the research, which a lot of first responder responders are well aware of, there's a tremendous link, Sean already hit on it, between the risk for cardiac events is extremely high, when you're sleep deprived studies out of University of Texas, like if you sleep less than six hours per night, you're at a 200% increased risk for a cardiac event. And I think it was a 14 year study out of Japan found even higher probability, you know, there's so much research out there. And I mean, we're putting our heads in the sand. If we're like, oh, there's not a connection, the research is out there. It's just, well, do you want to actually be willing to make a little bit of a life shift to improve your sleep, and when you actually sleep good, life gets better. And so I think everyone deep down knows that. But change, change is difficult when everyone's running a million miles an hour. So we just have to train down a little and give our first responders the necessary tools and effective practices with awareness. I think once you really learn that direct connection, it's like, oh, wow, yeah, maybe I should do a couple of these things. And, and it's simple. What we teach is not rocket science.

Jerry Lund: No, that's awesome, that it's simple. Because first responders, we love it, to keep it simple. I think for me, like I like I said, I've been struggling to sleep my entire career. And sometimes I'll get a good night's sleep. And I like I'll wake up and I'm like, Oh, my gosh, I feel so amazing. And that happens so rare. It's like, it's it's terrible. I tried lots of different things like, you know, melatonin, and all these other, you know, over the counter type stuff, and, you know, prescriptions and things like that. And none of them. None of them seem to work for me to get a good night's sleep. It's very, very rare. Yeah. And because, right, is that just math? Am I just masking the problem?

Jacqueline Toomey: Well, so there is research that is now saying over the counter melatonin may fragment your sleep, it'll continue to influence your circadian timing. But actually, the quality of your sleep is not there. Same with over the counters. I mean, and I think a lot of first responders, I mean, there's a high use of alcohol and I don't think it's just for it's not always just used for social reasons. I think it's a self soothing technique to bring all of the nervous system down, to be able to relax and fall asleep. You know, nearly alcohol suppresses. One of the most important stages of our sleep cycle in which your, you know, psychological well being recalibrates and so, we are definitely masking the problem by leaning on sleep aids, and I'm not saying that all sleep aids are bad, forever, like it might be necessary at a certain point in your life, and that's okay, you don't have to feel shame about relying on something we're not in the shame game at all. We're just here to say, hey, the body works like this, the pineal gland in your brain will produce melatonin. If you learn how to lower your stress hormone cortisol, it will produce melatonin when you're in an environment of darkness. When you're not overstimulated with auditory sounds. And you know, just if you set yourself up with success through environmental controls through your routine, and also through learning, very simple breath practices that engage what's the known as the parasympathetic nervous system responds to your relaxation response, your cortisol levels will lower, and your melatonin levels will increase naturally, which is what we ultimately want. We want the pharmacy within your brain to occur naturally so that every night you're not relying on popping pills.

Sean Toomey: Yeah, and I think the key to that, you know, and it's what I started to touch on earlier, is understanding that sleep is a super active process. From the time we wake up in the morning, every action that we take is going to play a role in the quality of our sleep from the beginning of the day until it's time to lay down at night. So the process of sleep doesn't just begin at nighttime when you're getting ready for bed, but it begins the minute you wake up in the morning. And I kind of look at it sometimes in a way of like, comparing it to like the gym. So you know, with the way we power through sleep, I would equate to like if I go to the gym today, and I jump on the squat rack, and I do a super heavy leg day. And then I go back this afternoon, and I do a super heavy leg day. But I'm not super satisfied with how it went because my legs are fatigued. So then first thing in the morning, I wake up again, and I do a super heavy leg day. And it and I continue that process, it's only going to get harder and harder because I just keep working the same muscle without doing anything to support it. Not thinking about that, in order to optimize my workouts. It's every bit, not just what I do at the gym, but how much rest am I getting? What am I putting in my body to fuel that workout? What am I putting in my body after the workout to fuel the recovery, sleep functions in the same kind of way? What am I doing throughout the day, that's that's fueling the process that's going to happen when I sleep. And that's going to optimize how it happens. And if I don't think about those things, and I just try to power through every single day on limited sleep, it's just like powering through the same muscle group in the gym without thinking about all those external factors. And it ultimately just continues to get worse and worse and worse until it reaches a critical mass.

Jacqueline Toomey: Yeah, like for example to to give an example of what one speaking of is we're sitting outside right now in the sun. And our skin is synthesizing vitamin D from the sun which converts to serotonin, which is a precursor to melatonin. So this process for our, you know, internal, you know, pharmacy, you know, to happen at night, it starts in the morning. And getting getting sunlight to the eyes actually is really important in the early morning. And I'm not advising anybody to go outside and look directly in the sun. Special cells in your eyes, communicate with a cluster of cells in your hypothalamus, that it's like an internal alarm clock every morning, the moment that you get sunshine in the morning. It is strengthening your internal circadian rhythm. So getting sunshine in the morning is really important for those who struggle with you know, if, you know, shift work disorder where you're, you know, all of a sudden wired in the middle of the night you might be tired, but you're wired and then in the day, you're fatigued and you can't get yourself going. This is one very simple starter tip to just start to reset your internal body clock to be on track.

Sean Toomey: And it's such a simple thing. Like that's something that in the class we might teach is as simple a change in your environment as Hey, when you go on shift tomorrow, instead of doing your your rig inventory and your rig checks in the morning, inside the bay, maybe open up the bay door or better yet, for the bay out on the on the air, pull the apparatus out on the apron, do your inventory out in the sunshine where the sun shining on you. You're still doing the same exact routine not much as changing the way you're doing things in the morning. But just remember to open up the doors of the firehouse to get outside and see the sunshine while you're doing some of your daily tasks and you're already starting to set yourself up for success or better sleep with that tiniest little tweak to your morning routine.

Jacqueline Toomey: And that this stimulation of that cluster of cells in your hypothalamus that I mentioned, communicate with your adrenal glands to produce cortisol and you want your cortisol levels to peak in the morning. So that by the evening, they're low, and your melatonin levels can rise. So it's, it's very simple to remember that and then in the evening time, to begin to be mindful of your light use around the firehouse, or wherever you're, you are at home, you know, really, actually giving your time that space to have darkness. And we actually have night vision, which is really cool. But most humans night vision is pretty impaired, because we are so stimulated by artificial light at all times. So do an experiment for yourself. And, you know, dim the lights in the evening and see how long it takes for your eyes to adjust to see clearly in your environment and start to strengthen your night vision and see how well you sleep. Because I promise you if you try this for six days straight, you know sunlight in the morning and darkness at night, that alone will start to shift your sleep success.

Jerry Lund: So this this, I've never thought of it as a process of starts in the morning. I've always thought it was a process that it just like, Okay, before I go to bed, like you know, dim down the lights and you know, start to try to unwind and stuff like that. But I've never like thought about it starting in the morning. And that's those are that's some great tips. How did you, you said you studied some 3000 year old medicine right? What Why did you do that? And and what do I know what you got? Explain what you got from that.

Jacqueline Toomey: So yeah, I've always been interested in learning different cultures and different methodologies for health and wellness. And well, I guess it all started, I mean, just to give you a little backstory on me, when I was in high school, I was a competitive dancer, and on a state champion dance team, and we competed nationally, and I was dancing, a training four to five hours a day, five days a week, 11 months of the year, I was like a serious athlete. And at that time, I, you know, just was going through my mom's DVDs and I found like a yoga DVD. And I just started practicing yoga to compliment my strength and flexibility as a dancer. And I just noticed something different about how I felt immediately after my first practice. And I thought this is different. There's something about this where I'm connecting to my breath. And I'm feeling anchored in my body and nothing else going on in the world is affecting how I feel right here right now. And it was really powerful to own the moment.

And what's really cool to connect it to first responders is I think, first responders actually do this very brilliantly. You know, first responders are actually you know, some listening might be like what the hell this is, we're not. But I because like what makes someone who practices yoga, Yoga is someone who has the superpower of being so present, nothing disturbs their focus. And you got to be kidding me if if a first responder on a fire or on any any serious incident, a mass casualty incident, a whatever high angle rescue was swift water rescue and you're laser focused you are, you're so present, you know, firefighters are naturally capable of this, you know, super power of, of being present. But that that was a mental skill. Like it was a physical practice. But it gave me this mental skill.

And so I just started exploring all sorts of different types of meditation, late in my teens and in college. And thankfully, before I was hit by a drunk driver, I had discovered this ancient sleep based meditation. If anyone wants to look it up, it's Nidra, Yoga Nidra. N-I-D-R-A, and it just guides you in body and breath awareness techniques that are so effective that in a 30 minute practice researchers who've done PET scans up in hospital settings of people listening to this in 30 minutes, people drop into the deepest state of sleep that occurs in your 90 minutes cycle. And so that to achieve that in 30 minutes is like, wow, this is like a super powerful technique. And I've received, I don't know like six different certifications over the years, really studying the science of this. It has become more popularized. And there are a lot of natural recordings out there that people who think that they're guiding it who have no certifications are unfortunately misleading what the experience is, but if you have a true practitioner who is well studied in it, it will change your life.

It is the most deeply restorative experience I've ever had and I continue to practice it regularly. And what I've done through my certifications is taken this ancient practice, and removed all the yoga terminology. And I've, you know, put in neuroscience and somatic functional movement to prepare for this, like, I've created what is now known as the Sleep Recovery Practice for First Responders and make it relatable to their work to, you know, coming off a crazy call in the middle of the night, how do you fall asleep, like it's nearly impossible, you change the chemistry in your body in order to lay down, it's a waste of time to just come back, lay down, stare at the wall, you're going to, you know, spin wheels, it's useless. So you have to do something. So I give a very deliberate step by step process. Physically, what do you do to change the chemistry to get the adrenaline and all the stress chemicals in the body to lower and it's all proven, every single practice I use has been studied at a university where they've actually, like, done different things like salivary cortisol levels before and after, and found that it's super effective at lowering stress hormones. And so this is a very tactical approach of like, how do we change our chemistry in our body so that we can rest and recover and perform better at our jobs. And so that's my mission to just share this ancient practice, but in a very modern, applicable way, that really is life changing, and it's powerful.

Sean Toomey: Yeah, and I think the focus that we set out to kind of build the program around was looking at how we utilize this practice to optimize the quality of sleep, not just the quantity of sleep. Because I think the big missing link, when we talked about anybody who is previously discussing sleep in the first responder community was they were looking at quantity of sleep, a quantity of sleep is not a viable solution to us in the first responder community. One because the majority of us want to be up running calls, helping people serving our communities, and two, no matter what you do, how you manipulate the schedule, whatever, there is no way around the fact that someone has to be there in the middle of the night getting their sleep interrupted in order to respond to calls for help. So we focused on, it's not as simple as just saying, well, you just got to get nine hours of sleep a night. That's not realistic for us. Instead, we said, let's look at the limitations that are there for your sleep that you can't work around. And let's explore how we get into your body and optimize the quality of the sleep that you're getting when you have opportunities for sleep.

Jerry Lund: Now, I like that. That's it. I think a lot of the fire studies that have been done are just like you said, it's the hours of sleep, not necessarily the quality of sleep. So I love how you've done that, your programs around that. Let's talk a little bit more of that. How does that look like in a class? Like where do you teaching?

Sean Toomey: So the biggest portion of like the classroom portion of our initiative, is awareness. It's really trying to connect the dots and help firefighters and first responders understand what's actually happening in your body that's putting you at a high risk for these disease processes. Because your sleeps disrupted, and then taking that and flipping it 180 and saying so this is what's causing things to go wrong. If we do this to our sleep, look at how much of a superpower we're creating to prevent illness. So an example I'll give because it's my favorite example is cancer. I talked about the Rowsley plays in our propensity for cancer and why with all of these amazing initiatives that we're putting in place, we're still not seeing that, that curve kind of flatten. And those numbers drop and sleep is intricate to that. So in our body, we have the cells that are called natural killer cells in these cells are designed to go out and attack things like cancerous growth and malformation of cells. So essentially all the time, we can have these little glitches in our programming that cause a malformation of cells. Those NKC's activate, they go out, they destroy that, that that malformation of cells and then the program resets and we go back to normal cellular production. It's it's something that happens all the time in our bodies, and we never ever know about it. Where that becomes a problem is when that cell growth starts to exceed a pace that the natural killer cells can keep up with, then we see cancer. Now, there's been studies that have done and Dr. Michael Irwin had the most prolific one that showed that when our sleep is reduced to four hours for just one single night, the natural killer cell count in our body can decrease by as much as was 60, or 70% 70, as much as 70%. So one night of just four hours, and we lose 70% of the natural killer cells in our body. So let's flip that around. If we're optimizing the quality of the sleep that we're getting, and we're spending a good amount of time in particularly delta and REM sleep, all of a sudden, we have the power to strengthen and expand the presence of these natural killer cells in our body. So then we have the exposures to carcinogens that we're just not able to mitigate, because some amount of it is just a consequence of our occupation. Well, now we've given ourselves the tools internally, to be able to defend against that becoming a problem.

And to significantly decrease our risk of developing cancer later in our careers. Simply by optimizing the quality of the sleep that we're getting it in the full class, we take that same concept as like that cancer talk. And we talk about how that also pertains to our cardiovascular health and our propensity for cardiovascular disease, and our metabolic health. And even our, our cognitive well being and our propensity for addiction for mood disorders, for suicidal ideation and action, we really connected the dots. And then we've, we've tried to put all that together, my favorite part of the class is then we take everybody and we lay them down, and we set them up in a super comfortable position. And we have Jacqueline lead them through the Sleep Recovery Practice live and in person for their first experience, because we want everybody to experience it live the first time and really feel, what it's about and what it feels like to practice it. And then we send them back out into the workforce with these recordings in a digital format. So now that they've experienced it by the you know, in person for the first time, now they can take it back to the firehouse or take it back to their homes. And they can implement it as frequently as they would like. And it's a short practice to generally last between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on the recording. So it's 30 to 45 minutes of your day to really do something or take this tool that's optimizing your quality of sleep, and gives you a chance to recover more efficiently. One study even showed that when you compare the brainwaves of normal sleep, versus the brainwaves of somebody who's actively participating in Yoga Nidra, which is the foundation of the sleep recovery practice, that the kind of layman way of putting it was that you could get the equivalent of four hours, three to four hours of normal sleep in a 45 minute practice. And that's where that's where we come in to the quality of sleep versus the quantity of sleep conversation.

Jacqueline Toomey: Accessing Delta brainwaves in such an efficient way, is incredible, especially for people who are sleep deprived. They leave the practicing, "Holy crap, I feel amazing! I can't believe I feel this good." And it's so rewarding to to have those moments, especially for any skeptics in the room that's even better. And they're like, okay, you want me Oh, I'm sold now. And that's the best. And you know, we could share all this research and say how good it feels. But once you actually go through it, then it speaks for itself. You know, it's really wonderful. Actually, the Department of Defense is using Yoga Nidra for veterans through the work of Dr. Richard Miller. And the IRS Institute, they did some phenomenal studies with veterans, and it's now being considered tier one pain and trauma treatment at Walter Reed where they did all their research, and the Surgeon General endorsed it for insomnia, depression, anxiety, chronic pain. I mean, it's just it's so phenomenal. And it seems so simple. It's just something I believe in so deeply that I feel like everybody, especially after this crazy last year, we all endured. Everyone should do it.

Jerry Lund: Yeah, yeah. So definitely.

Sean Toomey: And that's where I think the program has been successful is because of the classroom portion we've taken. We've taken a very mechanical science based approach to explaining how it works and how it connects to our health. And I think that's really important for the first responder community because by nature, we're fixers, and, you know, that's what we do, right? We get a problem and we identify what's causing the problem and how to correct The thing that's causing the problem. So that's where it works really well, in the first responder community is, we're essentially just giving tools back to the members. And we're explaining to them like, here's the problems that you're having. Here's, when you use these tools, here's how you're fixing it step by step by step in the body. Now take these tools back and you go fix yourself, you use these tools on yourself, and you correct the problem. And by creating an initiative that's so personalized, and empowering in that way, and it's designed to be implemented from the ground up.

In other words, it doesn't require anybody else like the department to enable them to do this, we're really creating a program that I think is much more digestible and gives firefighters much more opportunity to feel excited about taking charge of their own health and wellness. So I think even even the saltiest firefighters who may not want to admit that they want to try this practice, when they're in a group of people at the class, just by having this recording on their phone, they're still might feel empowered to go back to their rack at night, when they're in private, put a headphone in, in try it, while still trying to kind of maintain that, that salty facade that they're not, they're not buying in or they're, they're too tough for it. So it's really empowering in that way. And I really love that.

Jacqueline Toomey: We givecredit to some of the veteran firefighters that we've worked with. Sometimes it is actually, you know, people like you who've done, you know, 20-30 years on the job, and they're like, yeah, your sleep gets screwed up over the years. I'm definitely dry. Whereas some of the young guys were like, Nah, my sleep is great. Yeah, you're in your first year, but

Jerry Lund: Right, right, right. No, that's a great point, right? This is something you should implement from like day one on the job. See, get that habit in through your career, that'd be tremendous. So is this something like your you mentioned, do I have to wear headphones or earbuds or something like that, when I listen?

Sean Toomey: And I say that usually just because especially in the firehouse environment where it's not always super private. That's, that's the easiest way to do it. At home, when Jacqueline and I do the practice, we just have it playing on like a on a low volume speaker with a sleep timer set so that if we do fall asleep, before it's over, the phone just automatically stops by the time it's done. But in the firehouse in earbud works great, because I can put just one in one ear, nobody else you know, in the bunk room can hear it. But I also have the other ear free of the headphones so that I can you know, I hear a call it the nighttime. And that's just a really simple, easy way to to practice it in the firehouse.

Jerry Lund: Yeah, so what would be a couple tips that people that don't have access to this recording right now, what would be a couple tips. So one is like getting the early sunlight. You know, when in the morning doing your checks and stuff like that, and the others I know, it's like dimming your lights down and being dark, cool place to sleep. But what other tips do you have?

Sean Toomey: So one of my favorites, and I think it's one of the easiest ones to do is invest in a pair of blue blocking some of blue blocking glasses, safety glasses. So when we talk about light and how light negatively impacts your sleep, blue spectrum light is the one that's key. Blue spectrum light is the spectrum of light that's most readily emitted from the sun. So it's, it's the most apt at influencing our internal chemistry when we're exposed to it. And it's also one that we have a ton of exposure to just by the nature of our work. So fluorescent lighting, TVs, computers, cell phones, scene lighting, those are all major culprits of blue spectrum light emission. So something I've done is I went on Amazon, found a pair of blue blocking safety glasses for I think $15.

Jacqueline Toomey: We're not endorsing Amazon here. It's just available there.

Jerry Lund: But everybody can relate too though.

Sean Toomey: Yeah, so went out and found these safety glasses. And now I keep those next to my bed at night. So when we get a call at night, the first thing I do, I throw on those blue blocking safety glasses, and I go run the call. But just the simple act of having on protective eyewear that filters blue spectrum light, I still wake up the same. I'm still cognitively and physically functioning at the highest level I can to respond to that call. But I'm not flooding my eyes with that blue spectrum light. And by doing that I'm preventing a cortisol dump in my body. And I'm maintaining a higher level of melatonin, so that when the calls done and I get back in the rack in the middle of the night and go back to sleep, I'm at a higher likelihood of having good quality sleep when I fall asleep. versus if I wasn't wearing those and I got exposed all that blue light, my cortisol levels would peak just by being exposed to the light, which would drop my melatonin levels down significantly Low, low enough that it would simulate that it's an hour of the day when I'm supposed to be awake. And while I might go back to the firehouse and fall asleep right away, it's gonna prevent me from getting into those deep stages of delta and REM sleep that are so necessary for that restoration. So those blue blocking glasses alone play a huge role in helping optimize the amount of time that you spend in delta and REM during your night on shift despite being interrupted by calls.

Jerry Lund: I like that, like that very simple.

Jacqueline Toomey: If we, we endorse a, oops, sorry. Sorry, baby. Animal commotion, sorry, excuse the animal pass over here. There's a we have an alcohol free nightcap, and you can buy the ingredients at any local grocery store. Basically, you just mix a concentrated tart cherry juice, preferably organic, if you could find organic with magnesium powder, and you mix it with water. And magnesium helps your muscles relax and tart cherry juice is a natural form of melatonin. And it really supports the unwinding process. And it's just a nice way to, to relax in lieu of an alcoholic nightcap. We have some specific brands, we're not paid by, by the way, if anyone wants to read that give first responders a discount, which is really generous of them, so that you can buy ingredients at any local Whole Foods, or Vitamin Cottage or even King Soopers. You know, you want to make sure it's a decent magnesium brand. And you don't want to overdo the magnesium either because it could be used as a laxative. But first responder say, I love that that effect of it. I'm like, let me do.

Jerry Lund: So where can people like take these classes? And well, yeah, which ones are coming up and where?

Jacqueline Toomey: Yeah, so we get contracted by departments and peer support group unions conferences. So if you want to take our class, fill out a form on our website to get information. So we could come to your department. And that's kind of how it works. And we also have an opportunity if anybody in peer support wants to become a facilitator of the Sleep Recovery Practice 2022, we will be hosting a training so that you can teach it to your own department, which is great if you're interested in learning how to guide this incredible practice. And keep an eye out on our website, where we actually have a really cool new initiative, we're forming a nonprofit. And we're going to do like restorative retreats, mostly, hopefully, in Costa Rica, so that people and enjoy, and hopefully, a majority of the first responders who can come with their spouses could be on a scholarship basis. And that's like our vision for the upcoming years. As much as I love working with departments, I want to provide a really nurturing healthy experience where, you know, a lot of times, first responders go on vacation, and it's like, let's party in Cancun and boost it up for a week and get our mind off things. But they go back and they're not restored because they haven't slept, they have a ton of alcohol. And so we want to give a fun experience in nature with some holistic experiences that that are nurturing and healthy food and, and just to have that a good quality experience. So that's like the vision for our evolution and what we're doing.

Sean Toomey: And we would hope in like a vacation setting, I would hope that we recreate for a lot of first responders the same experience that I had. And that is that we if we bring them to a fun location where they get to enjoy themselves, but really give them an opportunity or an excuse to have a short period of time where they're limiting their exposure to their social media, their cell phones, their TVs, and getting really engaging in nature and engaging in the sleep recovery practice. We're open that that little short period of time or that timeout will be enough for them to feel that same experience that I felt where I went, holy cow, I can't believe how bad I felt and I can't believe how good I can feel. And that maybe will really push forward this idea of like this is something you can do every day with just a little small time commitment, and it will make an absolute world of difference in your overall health and wellness and ultimately, your longevity - Long term. And that can start to be something that we see. You know, like every Health Initiative, it starts with addressing the problem and trying to get ahold of people who have been in it for a long time, and get them back to a healthy place. But then ultimately, we want to see a place where people are coming into the job right out of the gate learning, I can take care of my sleep health and my rest and recovery and be so much healthier and so much better at the job. And it's going to start from day one, and be something that continues to their whole careers. And then we're not trying to play catch up to correct a problem that's already been, you know, progressing for decades.

Jacqueline Toomey: Yeah the ultimate goal is suicide prevention, and, you know, improving home life relationships for first responders, improving performance on the job, like things that really are life changing, you know, so that's just the ultimate objective.

Sean Toomey: It's so easy to be life changing. I can't stress that enough. It's remarkable how easy it is to completely change your entire life with just the tiniest amount of working commitment. It's really remarkable how simple it is.

Jerry Lund: That that firefighters and first responders love that, right? Because we want it very, very simple, the most simplistic way possible. Question, where so you're going to do a 5013c? Do you have that up now already? Or is that something you're in the process of?

Sean Toomey: So we are in the process of it now, I'm hoping that will be in our, I'm hoping that will be in 501c3 pending status, which enables us to function in that capacity while the paperwork is being processed within the next 90 days.

Jerry Lund: Very awesome.

Jacqueline Toomey: We've established a board and all of our bylaws and laws and everything and our applications going in. And we're really excited for that and hopefully can serve in a broader way. And in a more intimate way too.

Sean Toomey: And it's amazing, we've brought in, we brought in a board of firefighters, first responders and experts who have already been doing amazing work for the first responder community, particularly as it pertains to wellness and have also been inexperienced, it knows what it's all about. So I'm, you know, we've this has been our baby for a long time. And it's just been the two of us. And it's really exciting to bring in such wonderful, beautiful people who are going to add a whole new dynamic to what this program offers and what it's able to accomplish in the first responder community. And I couldn't be more excited and more grateful for the people who are stepping up and helping us along the way.

Jerry Lund: Yeah, I'm excited for you guys. That's gonna be awesome. How are you going to create funding?

Jacqueline Toomey: Grants, and different hopefully, partnerships and programs where we can do like different events, fundraise and continue our mission of education. And that's the goal.

Jerry Lund: Awesome, where can people find you? what's your website? And where are you on Instagram?

Jacqueline Toomey: firstrespondersleeprecovery.com/contact if you want to get in contact with us. And both of our social media platforms, Instagram and Facebook, just you could just type in First Responder Sleep Recovery. And both of them. And if you want to read any of our articles, you can just google our name in fire engineering, and some articles will pop up, feel free to check those out and share them with your chiefs to get the conversation going and just spread awareness within your own department.

Jerry Lund: I love it. I love it. I'm hoping to see your calendar fill up and you guys are traveling all over the world, you know, teaching these classes because it's definitely needed everywhere I write there's not one single department that doesn't struggle with this, or one, probably in any of the first responder realms. You know, police, military, dispatchers, all all of us struggle in those areas. So you're doing something pretty incredible. And I really appreciate that. Appreciate that.

Jacqueline Toomey: We're so excited to be in person with people.

Sean Toomey: Yes, yes. Yeah.

Jacqueline Toomey: Thank you for having us. It's been a pleasure to talk with you.

Jerry Lund: Yeah, thank you. I'm, like I said, I'm excited to see where you go. And we'll keep following you. And when you get ready to have that retreat and things like that, we'll send this to the information and we'll blast that out on our media because that would be awesome.

Sean Toomey: Absolutely.

Jerry Lund: All right. Thank you guys.

Outro: Thanks again for listening. Don't forget to and review the show, wherever you access your podcasts if you know someone that would be great on the show, please get a hold of our hosts, Jerry Dean Lund through the Instagram handles @jerryfireandfuel, or @enduringthebadgepodcast. Also, by visiting the show's website enduringthebadgepodcast.com for additional methods of contact and up to date information regarding the show. Remember the views and opinions expressed during the show, solely represent those of our hosts and the current episode's guests.


Sean Toomey & Jacqueline ToomeyProfile Photo

Sean Toomey & Jacqueline Toomey


...my Denver Firefighter husband began using my proven sleep techniques to recover after busy nights. After seeing a drastic improvement in all of his vitals, and noticeable spike in his overall wellness and energy levels, we decided it was important to share these techniques with a larger audience of first responders. We incorporated these techniques and my knowledge from the 10 plus years of working in the health and wellness field and rolled it into what is now called The First Responder Sleep Recovery Program.

After many years practicing yoga and living a life of wellness, Jacqueline developed a new perspective on what it means to be alive and well after being nearly killed by a drunk driver days after Christmas in 2005. Through the humbling healing of a traumatic brain injury and painful spinal cord injury, Jacqueline became enveloped in the spirit of sharing the healing capacity of yoga and other forms of wellness with the world!

Jacqueline holds multiple Yoga Alliance certifications. She has her BA from Regis University, completed masters-level coursework in Education at Metropolitan State University and trained in Nutrition Therapy. Jacqueline has been sharing yoga and wellness with the world since teaching her first class in 2004.

Jacqueline currently lives with her firefighter husband and their rescue dog in beautiful Colorado.

Sean is a second-generation firefighter proudly serving the Denver Fire Department in Colorado and a volunteer with Clear Creek County Fire. Since joining the fire service in 2011, Sean has utilized his academic degrees in Fire and Emergency Service Administration and English Education to bridge a commitment between the craft he loves and educational arenas applied within the fire service. In addition to his work as a firefighter, Sean has instructed fire science for the Community College of Aurora, Colorado FireWomen, and the Annual Colorado Firefighters Conference. He is contributing author to the online publication Station Pride. He says, “I am honored to co-teach the First Responder Sleep Recovery Program™ alongside my wife Jacqueline in our joint effort to support the health and wellness of those in the fire service.”