Self-Care: Brain Health & Sleep

Guest: Daneen West | Season 9 Ep. 358

Daneen West is a Cisco Customer Success Executive, mother of three, and Brain Health Coach.

For the past 21 years, Daneen has worked for Cisco Systems, designing, and leading industry award-winning talent development programs

After years of being on the verge of burnout, she is professionally more resilient, energized, and mentally sharp than decades earlier because of discovering brain health, where all the power is to up-level your life.

Certified through the NeuroLeadership Institute and Amen Clinics, Brain Health has transformed every area of Daneen’s life, and she is compelled to provide the opportunity for others to ease anxiety, boost focus and finally work on their sleep struggles.

Daneen’s Brain-Boosting checklist is a great resource to discover practical tips to heal, protect and grow the brain (See below).

Memorable Quotes:

  • “So as parents, if we have that intuition like that, something’s wrong, check it out. And if the first doctor may not, if you don’t resonate there, you’re not being heard. Keep pursuing it.”
  • “It’s not a badge of honor to stay up all night. Right. Our culture sometimes will make you feel that way or sleep when you’re dead. But there’s so much that we’ve learned now around sleep. That’s because it is the only way that our brain detoxes every night.”
  • “As you’re walking through this journey, you’re going to come across ideas, thoughts, music, books, people and they’re going to feel right or they’re not. I’m going to encourage you to trust yourself. Just because it works for me doesn’t mean it works for you.”
  • “What makes the brain work is what you put in your mind, what you put on your body, what you put in your mouth.”

What You’ll Learn:

Why brain health is important and how to pursue a healthy brain through small lifestyle changes.

This Episode Includes:

  • Daneen first started looking into brain health when three different doctors diagnosed her son with three different issues: sensory processing, ADD, and Asperger’s.
  • After a long journey of searching, Daneen finally came to the realization that brain health was at the root cause of her son’s health situation.
  • Daneen found the Brain Balance Program which revolutionized the way she viewed brain health for herself and her children.
  • She believes her health journey is a forever resource which she now shares with others through her coaching program.
  • Robin reminds the audience that health is layered and that there are many factors that can influence brain health.
  • Daneen shares that the first step to supporting brain health is getting good quality sleep.
  • Getting sleep is how the brain detoxifies itself from neurotoxins incurred throughout the day.
  • Daneen shares a few more steps to supporting brain health in children like eating enough healthy fats and getting energy out early in the morning through jumping ropes or jumping jacks.
  • Sleep is one of Dr. Robin’s three non-negotiables for a well life.
  • Daneen encourages parents to model the health behavior the would like to see in their children.
  • Daneen and Dr. Robin both agree that small steps are the key to success when pursuing a healthy brain.

Three Takeaways from Today’s Episode:

  • Practice getting good quality sleep each night this week.
  • Add enough healthy fats to your diet to support your energy levels and brain health.
  • Do 50 jumping jacks with your kids before they head off to school in the morning to help them release energy and feel encouraged through exercising together.

Mentioned In This Episode:

Click Here To View Written Transcript of Episode

Dr. Robin

Welcome back to Small Changes, Big Shifts. I’m Dr. Michelle Robin. I’m delighted for you to be joining me on episode 357. How crazy. See that time keeps on ticking. And so I wanted to share with you today about brain health and I met this lovely person through my friend Dr. Sheila Robinson. So, Dr. Sheila, thanks for the connection. It’s just a fun fact about my guest today, Daneen West. Daneen west is a Cisco customer service executive, mother of three, and brain health coach. For the past 21 years, Daneen has worked for Cisco Systems, designing and leading industry award winning talent development programs. After years of being on the verge of burnout, I know some of you might have that feeling, even currently. She is professionally more resilient, energized and mentally sharper than decades earlier because of discovering brain health, where all the power is to be, all the power is to up level your life.

So she’s certified through the Neuro Leadership Institute in Amon clinics. Brain health has transformed every aspect of Daneen’s life and she is compelled to provide that opportunity for others to ease anxiety, boost focus and finally work on their sleep struggles. Daneen’s Brain Boosting Checklist is a great resource to discover practical tips to heal, protect and grow the brain. Daneen, thanks for joining me on Small Changes, Big Shifts.


Honored to be here. Thank you so much.

Dr. Robin

How did you even find out about brain health? Like, a lot of people are burned out and you just found this tool that just dropped in your lap.


No, personal struggle. So years ago, I’m a mother of three, as you mentioned, and my oldest, when he was in preschool, the preschool teacher said something’s not right. And I thought, what do you mean? The pediatrician said he’s doing well. He’s hitting all his milestones. And they said, no, just get him checked. Just see, because there’s just something there that we’re concerned about. We didn’t want to tell you because you’ve been pregnant and we didn’t want to concern you and stress you out. But now is the time.

We wanted you to know, like, oh, okay, interesting. So I did. I pursued it and it was a journey and it was a bit of a personal discovery and just really trying to understand and wrap my mind around it because there were no initial signs. I just thought he had a lot of energy, maybe hyper, right? I thought maybe all boys are like that bouncing off the wall. And I ended up getting some support, getting some professional just having him looked at.

And it was interesting because what ended up happening is the doctor that initially saw him. We went through the surveys and the forms. The teachers participated. They observed him at play and they said he had sensory processing disorder. And I thought, oh, what is that? And how did he get it and where did it come from? And they really couldn’t tell me and that didn’t sit well with me because I felt like if you don’t know where it came from, if you don’t know the root cause of it, how can we really support him? And because of that, I went and got a second opinion.

And the second doctor, after the same process of looking at him and looking at how he played and some of the intake forms, they said ADD. And then I asked the same question. They said, sensory processing. You’re saying ADD, why? I need more information. And they never said the brain, which was so interesting. They never said the brain. So maybe it’s hereditary. We really don’t know. And I’m a problem solver. I’ve been in IT for many years and it’s all about solving problems and innovation.

And I thought, okay, let me just get another opinion. And this time it blew me away. They said Asperger’s. Same child, but three different labels. And this one now being on the spectrum of autism all along. And he’s five. At the time, he was normal. Pediatrician said he was fine. So iSo, it just really got me curious. It got me trying to figure out how I can best support him. And I just went on a journey of trial and error, thinking it was everything from maybe TV, watching TV, maybe it was what we were eating, artificial colors, tomatoes.

At one point, I’m like, nobody can have ketchup. Yeah. I looked at everything and I ended up discovering through a lot of research, a lot of trial and error, the brain. The brain was the root cause. And once I started really looking to support him and really address the brain, he started, just leaps and bounds.

He went from all those labels, an IEP in school, which is an individualized education program. He had therapies, he had speech therapy, occupational therapy, and then falls forward to today, no longer in special Ed class, no longer having an IEP. There’s no therapy. He’s in mainstream public school. It’s just a complete transformation because I kept searching, I kept just trying to figure it out.

As often as providers, moms, parents, we do you want to just try and figure out. So, I didn’t take the uncertainty and I didn’t say, oh, maybe it’s our DNA. I really wanted to figure it out. So, it’s been a big transformation for him. And then it ripple effects for all of our lives, the whole family and friends. And it’s something I’m a big advocate for. Now.

Dr. Robin

How old is he now?



Dr. Robin

So good. So I’ve got one question that’s more personal. If you want to share or not share it from a provider perspective. I’ve been in that healing space for 40 years, chiropractor for 30 years. Was your son a vaginal birth or Csection birth?


Vaginal birth.

Dr. Robin

Any trauma at birth?


Yeah, there was. Yeah.

Dr. Robin

We say the first trauma is in the womb in the birth process. So as a chiropractor, we specialize in the nervous system, which is, of course, brain focused. But a. But anyway, so you got curious, you got three different is, and you still didn’t sit right with you. Right. Okay. So then you realize it was a brain. But what led you to the brain? And then what led you to the next step? Because I think people need to hear that this is a journey, this is a process. You’re not going to go from A to Z in a matter of ten minutes or probably, even a year.


It took a good amount of time. Right. Because just the trial and error of detoxing in our foods or toothpaste. I was looking at all sorts of things as the cause. Household cleaners, preservatives, the birth experience. That certainly crossed my mind. And I had my regrets around that. After a lot of therapies I did come across a great program called the Brain Balance Program. And they are throughout the United States, and they are achievement centers for kids. They don’t label, they don’t diagnose, but they support individuals. They support children. They actually now have an adult program, too, that I’ve recently participated in.

And they work on movement. They work on the primitive reflexes and making sure that those are no longer present. And if they are, they work on that. They work on sensory. They have a whole program where we would go three times a week, we’d have exercises at home. And that was really the turning point in the big AHA for me around it’s the brain really being able to target the brain and that knowing I’m at Cisco. Right. My day job. My day job. Right. For 20 plus years, we have this assessment, what is your strength? How do you show up? And I am a provider and a pioneer.

That is what gives me energy, sharing my knowledge, supporting others, talent development and pioneering. So, when it came to my life and his life, we’ve transformed in so many ways. And I’ve been able to adapt those practices. There’s a lot around gut Health that we’re going to continue to work on. It’s layered. Right.

But I wanted to get out there. I wanted to support others and be able to really take those professional struggles. I’ve had personal struggles, those that we face right along the way. And I know it’s a resource. It’s a forever resource where my experience can help others with their journey, maybe even accelerate to relief. Right. Encourage others to understand brain health.

Mental health without the stigma is why I referred to it as brain health. Because we all have a brain. Right. It doesn’t matter who you are. Government, entertainment industry, those that are heads of our corporations, heads of our small businesses, teachers, we all have a brain.

And it’s really time now that we got to understand taking care of it in a big way has just ripple effects, positive effects across our life.

So, I went ahead and I pursued certifications so I could get the credentials and support others. And that has been a great opportunity to really be able to coach and support and provide some relief to others that are going through maybe some of the same things.

Dr. Robin

Well, I love the word layered that you said. And I believe after for my own well-being as well as getting to coach people, have the privilege of coaching, I’m already celebrating my 30th year in private practice. It is a layer. It’s like, okay, what’s the next step? What’s the next step? And I believe you’re sharing your checklist with our audience. Is that correct? Sure. Yes, absolutely. Okay. So that will be attached to the show notes, and we can probably find it on your website. Even better yet, Is that correct? Correct. Okay. You find that checklist on It will be in the show notes.

So we think about layers and we think about the brain. And once again, when I’m teaching people what I always say, Daneen, is why do I ask you about sleep and peeing and pooping and your hair falling out and your energy? Because we know that the body works because of the brain.

The brain shoots down the spinal cord.

But what makes the brain work is what you put in your mind, what you put on your body, what you put in your mouth.

So that’s kind of the way I explain that to clients. So, talk about, let’s say someone’s listening to this today and probably lots of someone’s. And you mentioned the word anxiety and brain health and mental health, which, you know, we’re having that epidemic. What’s the first step that you would recommend somebody take that struggling right now with their child?


With their child? Well, I think sleep is something that is often underestimated. Right. It’s a biological need, sleep. It’s like food. It’s like water. It’s like air. And without sleep, our body fails. And it’s important to get good sleep. And some people may say, oh, well, I don’t have any problem falling asleep. I pass out. I fall asleep quickly. But what’s the quality of the sleep? Is it restorative? Is it really supporting your best mental and physical health? And often it’s not. Right. If our nighttime or power down routine isn’t supporting our best suite, we might be making some mistakes there where it will create for some, it will create scattered brains. Right. Insomnia increases anxiety, decreases focus. Right.

You just think about you or your child and your jet lad, when you’ve been traveling and you’re in a different time zone or if you’ve pulled an all-nighter, you can’t think. Right? So there’s a lot there.

And when it comes to my child, I have three children. My daughter, we just went through a recent sleep study, did the overnight stay, and there were some challenges there. I saw some snoring, but also bed wetting at an age where I thought it is it should have gone away by now. And turns out through the sleep study that she has sleep apnea and she’s ten.

A lot of individuals think, oh, you know, it’s grown men overweight, right? It’s weight. No, it doesn’t have to be. Right. So as parents, if we have that intuition like that, something’s wrong, check it out. And if the first doctor may not, if you don’t resonate there, you’re not being heard. Keep pursuing it, because I think it’s important to get good sleep because there is a lot of fallout. There’s a lot of implications.

It’s not a badge of honor to stay up all night. Right. Our culture sometimes will make you feel that way or sleep when you’re dead. But there’s so much that we’ve learned now around sleep. That’s because it is the only way that our brain detoxes every night. Our brain detoxifies through sleep. And this was only discovered in 2015. Our brain is very active when we sleep. It’s primarily cleaning itself. Fluid washes over it and it cleans all those toxins, those neurotoxins that are generated all day.

So if you’re not getting your full night of sleep, you’re not getting all your cycles, then you’re going to have some residual. Right. So that is really important for kids and adults. I would also look for when it comes to children and their behavior and brain health. Eat real food, right? Think garden not packaged in cans and things that have preservatives. And just eating real food makes a big difference in brain health. Our brain is very hungry for calories. It’s only like less than 3% of our body weight, but uses 30% of our calories. Our brain.

So you want to feed it the right types of food, right. Getting that avocado, those good fat into the kids smoothies, adding seeds and nuts and the good fat and being able to support brain health, especially in the morning when kids go to school and they are filled up with sugary cereals and syrups and treats and things that are going to make you go on our sugar roller coaster of ups and downs. We’re not setting them up for success to focus. We’re not setting them up for success on their tests. Right.

Really starting the day with jump ropes, maybe 50 jump ropes and a good high protein, high fat breakfast. That alone can really make a big difference for our kids health.

Dr. Robin

And I love you brought in the jump rope because of the right-left brain. No one’s ever made that suggestion in eight years. But I get it totally. So, our listeners have heard about they’ve heard about sleep from American sleep doctor, Dr. Bruce, doctor back. We’ve talked about sleep a lot over the last seven years because it’s in my top three non-negotiables, by the way of living a well life.

Once again, I love the jump rope idea. I’m going to maybe steal that idea. As we start to shift our conversation. How is your child responding? Because some people say sounds great, my child won’t drink a smoothie. What’s some advice on that? Or they won’t eat real food.


Take small, tiny steps, very small steps. It will compound over time having just small, little wins. Or maybe they help you make the smoothie, but they don’t drink it, but they help you make it right. Just keeping the exposure, having one sip, that’s all they need to do is take one sip and then you can build upon it the next week. Maybe they’re taking two steps there’s just celebrating the small steps when they can start swallowing pills, supplements. I find that helpful when they get old enough, because that can sometimes be a little bit of an easy button when it comes to making sure that they’re having the right nutrition, the right supplements maybe to support. But small steps.

You have to think about also modeling where if they’re not seeing you eating well, eating healthy, having the smoothie, enjoying it. Right. Then they will question it. Right. So modeling it, mirroring, and being able to just celebrate the small steps, you can’t expect huge changes and new habits in one day.

The brain doesn’t work that way. It takes time. There’s a learning journey. Right. There’s a reason they say sleep on it. Learning consolidates. Right. The memories. You want to space it out and celebrate the small steps depending on the age of the child. Right. Certainly there’s incentives and charts and things that are important.

But routine when it comes to those jump ropes, if my son is running late for school, it does not matter. He gets in his 100 jumping Jacks. Right. My daughter gets in her 100 jumping ropes. Right. We make sure it happens.

That routine, that schedule is really important to have it predictable and be able to be there to facilitate that. That’s a non-negotiable in making sure your schedule is freed up enough that for that half-hour, whatever that might be, that you are there to support them and celebrate high five.

Even after that one sip, you get a high five, you get the excitement, you get the feel-good in their brain getting released. Right. Because it’s the touch of a high five. You want to really encourage it.

Dr. Robin

Well, first of all, you’ve done a great job trying to tie in small changes, big shifts. So thank you for that. Exactly. And our tagline is building rhythm and resilience. And you’ve got to build a rhythm to have resilience in all this lifestyle. And speaking of resilience, I want to give a shout out to our sponsors, Advent Health and Community America Credit Union, for your support of the show. As we are trying to touch a billion lives, that small changes can lead to big shifts. Daneen. As we wrap up the show, I like to ask people to have a favorite quote or a song or a book that’s inspiring you right now.


A book that’s inspiring is Unleash The Power of the Female Brain by Dr. Daniel Amen. That’s who I have my brain health certification through. And I find it fascinating. It’s the type of book where you can go through and use it as a reference and jump around. Those are some of my favorite books.

The comment I made earlier around the struggles, “the personal struggles we faced and saw our way through becomes a forever resource.” That’s by Mark Nepo. And I’ve always found that especially when you’re in the trenches of it and things are hard and challenging, looking forward in the future and being like this will support me in the future. It will be a resource and I’ll grow from it and be better for it.

And to the point where I put it on my as a reoccurring reminder on my calendar, as a banner, just to keep reminding myself of those words.

Dr. Robin

Well, great wisdom that you share with our listeners today. And having suffered by a little bit of anxiety, add without a doubt, motion and food and proper thinking and sleep will make a big difference. I believe that’s one reason why I recover from a significant head injury talking about the brain, which is my listeners know about that story. So, Daneen, thanks for joining me to our listers today. Thank you for joining me. It’s a special, fascinating time in my life. I lost one of my mentors tax day of 2021. It happens to be your birthday week. So I’m going to dedicate this show to her.

And there’s a couple of things I kind of was downloaded from my spirit as I was celebrating her life. And these are like seeds. And Daneen did a great job planting seeds in you today, not only for your own wellbeing, but your kids or your grandkids. And Mary planted lots of seeds in my life. And this is one reason why I do this show. I just want to read the acronym that I wrote for Mary and Mary. This one’s for you. Thanks for showing up in the Cardinals. And thanks for all the guidance that you’re giving as an angel from the other side. So, sight, sight and vision for life. And so when you get sleep, you can have better sight and better vision.

Encouragement. And you were talking about high fiving and giving encouragement and give that encouragement to yourself as you are celebrating the small changes you’re making to either stay on track with your well life or taking the next step. Enlightenment, listen to podcasts or read some of the books. Doctor Nepos book. Mark Nepo, N-E-P-O. Right. Mark Nepo, right.


Yes. That was where the quote came from.

Dr. Robin

Yeah. Doctor Nupo’s book or Dr. Daniel Amon’s book. You’ve got to continue to fill your knowledge and your curiosity and see who speaks to you. I’m going to be bringing to you and author a story next week. About lifeonaire and there it’s kind of me I kind of get on a band and the band I’m on right now is lifeonaire. A lot of people are trying to be maybe millionaires and all that. But how do you win that life every day and it’s hard to win at life if you’re not sleeping and take care of your brain.

So sight encouragement, enlightenment DC is for Dash. I’m keenly aware after talking to a friend today that our Dashes are very short and mine is getting shorter as we continue to live through life. But how do you really embrace that and have a life? There we go. The life and error again that you’re getting a lot of life out of that Dash. And last listen to your spirit.

So, Daneen, what I heard from you say is you were listening to your spirit. Your spirit was saying something’s not right. And as you’re walking through this journey, you’re going to come across ideas, thoughts, music, books, people and they’re going to feel right or they’re not. I’m going to encourage you to trust yourself. Just because it works for me doesn’t mean it works for you. Just because it works for Daneen doesn’t mean it works for all of you. Anyhow. Take the next step. Trust your spirit. I love you. I appreciate you. I’m looking forward to continue to celebrate this year with you. Join me next week when I interview Jason Wojo. Joe from lifeonaire. Daneen. Thanks again. Thank you.

Looking for new ways to inspire your team to be well?

Download your free copy of Well-Being Tips Every Leader Should Know to gather inspiration, guidance, and tips for leaders wanting their teams to step into their best lives.

Skip to content