Sleep: John P. Carnesecchi of Gateway to Solutions On Why You Should Make Getting A Good Night’s Sleep A Major Priority In Your Life, And How You Can Make That Happen

Authority Magazine
Authority Magazine
Published in
21 min readJun 4, 2021


A good night’s sleep should most certainly be a priority. As I mentioned in the previous question, lack of sleep results in such a negative impact on your mind and body. Everyone’s life is different, so your sleep schedule must coincide with your life and ensure you’re getting the appropriate amount of sleep. Now I am not saying you should leave an event early to get to bed at 10 PM, but most of the time, stay regimented, stay on target and be mindful of the importance of sleep in your life. Some situations make it impossible to maintain a sleep routine, like having a newborn baby. Your baby wakes up all hours of the night, disrupting your sleep. Since a sleep schedule isn’t possible, I recommend falling asleep on your baby’s sleep schedule. The old saying, “sleep when they sleep.” It is so true. With lack of sleep, your mental state will deteriorate, which will affect your daily life, and your physical self will begin to fall apart.

Getting a good night’s sleep has so many physical, emotional, and mental benefits. Yet with all of the distractions that demand our attention, going to sleep on time and getting enough rest has become extremely elusive to many of us. Why is sleep so important and how can we make it a priority?

In this interview series called “Sleep: Why You Should Make Getting A Good Night’s Sleep A Major Priority In Your Life, And How You Can Make That Happen” we are talking to medical and wellness professionals, sleep specialists, and business leaders who sell sleep accessories to share insights from their knowledge and experience about how to make getting a good night’s sleep a priority in your life.

As part of this interview series, we had the pleasure to interview John P. Carnesecchi, LCSW, CEAP, Founder and Clinical Director of Gateway to Solutions.

Gateway to Solutions empowers individuals, couples, families, and organizations to prosper and thrive; it’s wellness in a whole new way. With over twenty-five years of experience, John P. Carnesecchi LCSW, CEAP, is the founder and clinical director at Gateway to Solutions — an emotional wellness group practice based in the Financial District of New York City and telehealth worldwide. John and his team collaborate with clients providing goal-oriented psychotherapy, couples counseling, career and leadership coaching, organizational consulting, and divorce and family mediation.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your backstory?

A few words describe who I am; I am a cultural nomad, music enthusiast, clean eater, and avid jogger. I’m married to my husband of 23 years; we have a 12-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old cockapoo. I identify as an Italian American. I recently received my birthright citizenship in Italy that extends to my family. I successfully achieved my college aspirations by building my own mental health private practice with the passion of helping individuals and mentoring many clinicians for the next steps in their careers. I love to travel the world and experience culture firsthand. I remind myself there is always a better way to do things, a better way to live this life, seek it out and enjoy the journey.

Music means the world to me. Music is a very much part of our lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Growing up, I learned to play the piano. I played for continuous hours on end. Although I do not play like I use to, I can enjoy piano tunes through my husband and daughter who are trained in the Suzuki piano method. We have music on practically all the time. We wouldn’t mind taking away the television and leave the speakers for music. In my line of work, we are to practice self-care for ourselves. Our wellness is crucial to positively and effectively help individuals. Jogging and clean eating are a part of my self-care. I enjoy feeling healthy, eating clean, and feeling energetic and alive. Each one of these characteristics is attributing to my overall well-being. I’ve learned to take my pleasures and apply them to my everyday living for a healthy balance mentally and physically.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this particular career path?

When I was in Ithaca College, I studied Business and Applied Psychology, double major. When I graduated, I did a project on a Fortune 500 company. In my last year of college, I sent my human resource business management project to an Executive Vice-President for the world office in New York City. During my previous two months as a senior at Ithaca College, they called me down for an interview. They offered me a job as a marketing analyst to develop fragrances for Armani, Calvin Klein, and top fashion fragrance companies. I was choosing a career for fashion and fragrance using my business major. After three months, I realized it wasn’t fulfilling.

People were unkind in this industry. During my high school years and my summers in college, I volunteered at a long-term care facility for those dying, the elderly, and the chronically ill. On my third month at this Fortune 500 company, I witnessed the Vice-President yelling at the staff to get their work done. I said to myself, “When they yell at me, that will be my last day.” My sentiments validated myself I was not being fulfilled by this career choice, even though it was a prestigious company to work for on 5th avenue for their world office. It was on that very day the Vice-President came to my office yelling at me, “We are not here to recreate the wheel!” I just looked at her and took it like a champ. After she left, I handed in my resignation. I came home and cried, thinking what will I do now. The following day, I walked to the long-term care facility I volunteered in the past and asked for my first job as a medical social worker at 1/3 of the pay. I was the happiest ever since then. Thank God I double majored; I knew I could have business skills, but I needed to be front and center in helping people.

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the sleep and wellness fields? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

I am a sleep expert for a couple of reasons. If we understand what sleep does to our psychology and body, it has a therapeutic and rejuvenating function on our body’s ability to perform at its best systematically. I firmly believe that if we have excellent sleep hygiene and learn how to have the best quality sleep for who we are and where our life stage is, we will have the best chance of coping and living fully during our awake hours. There is tremendous research on the benefits of an excellent night sleep. Look at it through the lenses of disease. I am an expert in working with people who struggle with Multiple Sclerosis for over twenty-five years.

Multiple Sclerosis has a ubiquitous symptom, fatigue. Fatigue can be in two forms, cognitive (emotional) and physical. For example, they may have fatigue within this population, but it will only worsen if their sleep hygiene is not good. One example of why I am a sleep expert is that we want to evaluate the individual’s sleep hygiene, teach them skills, or give them aides for a great night’s sleep. The evaluation will maximize a person who struggles with fatigue and Multiple Sclerosis to have the ability to function through the day, cope emotionally, walk around, and have the energy to be physical. It is part of my intake process and assessment in my mental health practice. Evaluating people’s sleep patterns is part of our 360-approach for understanding the wellness of the individual. If you were to interview any of my associates on my team, they would all tell you I always ask about people’s sleep when we discuss our cases together. I want to ensure our clients get the best chance of care possible to achieve their personal goals. I am a firm believer that sleep must be part of that equation. Good sleep.

In the second part of your question, there are a couple of things I believe strongly about in doing wellness in my practice. While my mental health practice is all about emotional wellness, I feel every individual, couple, family unit, and community are affected by systems. So, our job as professional helpers is to understand the systems surrounding a family unit, an individual, a community, and couples — systems like psychology, public policy, economics, culture, religion, and family. They all need to be understood. If we were to paint a picture of a circle, then we write the words individual, couple, family, and community in the middle of the ring. All around the circle, we write the words that define the system, that affect them. The therapist and professional helper must understand those systems. Our prerogative at my practice and my career are not looking at anyone seeking help through one’s lens. Our choice is to make sure we understand the systems approach and how it affects the center of that circle. That would be the main reason I feel I am a unique contribution to the world of wellness, on top of lifelong learning. I am a divorce and family mediator. I am a licensed, trained clinical social worker, psychotherapist. Much of my experience and training is for corporate program development, and I counsel family planning, in-vitro fertilization, and adoption processes. I am a Certified Employment Assistance Provider (CEAP), helping people maintain their jobs if they have disabilities, hardships, and crises as well as a career coach. I am a trained suicide counselor and HIV counselor, LGBTQ+A therapist, and advocate. All of these pieces of training show my lifelong learning. In my group practice, I take on high-achieving associates to help them get their advanced license in mental health. I am training them through an experimental modality to have their private practice to help people independently and not under me one day. So now, at this later stage in my career, I want to pass the baton and pay it forward to the younger generation of helpers.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The book “Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples” by Dr. Harville Hendrix and Helen Lakelly-Hunt, is a book that helped me personally and had a significant impact on my life. My parents, when I grew up, were married for 24 years. The first 12 years were good. The second 12 years of their marriage became tenuous and acrimonious. During those 12 years, I was entering teenhood from around ten years of age. Through my first exposure to love, I learned the issues through how my parents expressed love in our family. I wanted to know what adult’s love for each other, in an intimate sense, would be helpful unless I learned on my own. It wasn’t until later in life, in college and graduate school, that I read this book to get the love I want and learn about what love and healthy love look like in a relationship. It resonated with me so much it allowed me to challenge some of those childhood constructs I learned through simply exposure that wasn’t so good. Like conditional love, how to deal with frustration and anger, resentment, how to deal with it in a healthy way verse an unhealthy way. How to understand what the responsibility is for being in a relationship with the other person. This book hit a few things; I will make it short — love is a choice; it is always a choice. You need to understand how the other person feels love. Once you understand and communicate and agree on how you feel love in a relationship, it is the job of the other person to speak your love language and you to express theirs. If I like hand-holding because that is one way I feel love, my partner’s job is to handhold me. If acts of service make them feel loved, like cooking breakfast in the morning, I will have to speak their love language to make them feel love. It is not about us feeling love because we do it a certain way; therefore, expect everyone else to love the same way. That is not a relationship. A relationship is meeting some of the love needs of the other person by speaking their love language, even if it is not ours. So that had a significant impact on me. To this day, I am married 23 years to my husband, and we have a child. We are very cautious and understand that we mentor our 12-year-old daughter showing a healthy relationship to the best we can. When we make our mistakes, we talk through them, explain them, own them, and then grow. This book gave me the blueprint on how to reframe a healthy love relationship to not only have one myself and repair the wounds of my childhood observations of my parents that ended in divorce.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

My favorite life lesson quote is, “The definition of learning is a change in behavior.” As a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, I firmly believe we can spend our time learning and inquiring as many insights and moments as possible. But, if we do not take and apply (and the keyword is “apply”) our new insights to our behaviors and “how” we live this life, we haven’t learned a thing. It is the marriage of wisdom with our behaviors that make us whole and authentic. This marriage celebrates who we are, and we begin to evolve. This quote is highly relevant to me and my life. I’ve helped thousands of individuals in over twenty-five years in the human services field, consultancies, and organizations. I have journeyed with people on their evolution. When clients are ready, they come to me because they are ready to deal with, for example, a childhood trauma as a victim; they want to heal and grow. I get to have the privilege of being invited into their lives as a stranger, in the beginning, then a very close confidant a few sessions later and often to years. There are plenty of stories work-wise, allowing me to witness the evolution of people wanting to move forward, which I will never take for granted. To every client that comes to us at my practice, in their first intake session, I often say, “Before you tell me your story, I know you are coming to me to move forward in something. In that, it is my privilege to partner with you, and you are in the right place.” We must have a positive, psychological approach. Our therapeutic process has to embrace that we are evolving, and we all have a unique story to be told and work through to get to our next step. I think of no other more extraordinary privilege for someone to ask me to partner with them in this way. That’s how my work informs this valuable “life lesson quote.”

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Let’s start with the basics. How much sleep should an adult get? Is there a difference between people who are young, middle-aged, or elderly?

You’re welcome. I recommend that adults under 65 years old receive no less than 7 hours to no more than 10 hours of sleep per day. Many adults can adequately function with less than 6 hours of sleep because their bodies have adapted to their daily routine, but not recommended. For teenagers from 14 to 17 years old, the recommendation is 8–10 hours of sleep. Their bodies are maturing and developing, which needs rest and rejuvenation. As adults reach their elderly years, 65 years old and older, require about 6–8 hours sleep. Young teenagers and children perform better with the appropriate amount of sleep. It aids to a healthier mental and physical being, increased attention span, better behavior, and increased memory. Did you ever notice when a child has a tantrum, or a teenager is full of attitude? Generally, that is an indication they are exhausted and require sleep. Adults and the elderly can experience severe physical issues having sleep deprivation. Commonly, adults’ sleep patterns change, have more on their minds, become harder to decompress before bed, frequently wake up through the night, and much lighter sleepers. Without adequate sleep, the evidence shows poor health, weight gain, heart disease, depression, strokes, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Is the amount of hours the main criteria, or the time that you go to bed? For example, if there was a hypothetical choice between getting to bed at 10AM and getting up at 4AM, for a total of 6 hours, or going to bed at 2AM and getting up at 10AM for a total of 8 hours, is one a better choice for your health? Can you explain?

There isn’t a specific choice of what time to get to bed or how many hours of sleep. The most crucial element for a better quality of health is maintaining a consistent sleep schedule with the same number of hours. It is not solely about the quantity of sleep; it is also about the quality — they go hand in hand. Everyone has a different lifestyle and work hours. Some adults work at night; others work during the day. Teenagers have various school activities and sports schedules that all need consideration. Wherever you fall into the age bracket of required sleep hours, keep those hours consistent with the same bedtime and wake-up time. For example, let’s average 9 hours of sleep for a teenager. They must wake up at 7 AM for school, and hypothetically it is feasible to go to sleep at around 10 PM. It will give them a total of 9 hours of sleep. I understand on weekends, teenagers love to sleep in and stay out late. I do not expect them to commit to the schedule on off days, but the main objective is to keep the schedule stable during their most highly functioning days, which are school days. For the older generations, maintaining a rigid schedule is much easier. Most older adults are already set in their ways and have their daily routine down pat. Keeping their schedule is much easier and more vital to their health.

As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for our readers. Let’s imagine a hypothetical 35 year old adult who was not getting enough sleep. After working diligently at it for 6 months he or she began to sleep well and got the requisite hours of sleep. How will this person’s life improve? Can you help articulate some of the benefits this person will see after starting to get enough sleep? Can you explain?

According to sleep studies and accredited sleep institutes, 7–10 hours is vital to reap the benefits for a healthier well-being. There are so many benefits to one’s mental and physical health. I do not feel many people truly understand the importance of sleep. I will shed some light on our readers with hopes to reflect on their sleep habits. As a licensed mental health provider, there is a connection between sleep and mental health. With the lack of sleep, depression and anxiety will develop. When your brain is not rational or balanced, it is difficult to make proper decisions and function in day-to-day life. If you fall down the rabbit hole and get deeper into depression, can result to individual CBT therapy (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and often medication. Anxiety will develop, which prevents peaceful sleep. During the COVID-1 pandemic, sleep deprivation has exasperated my clients, causing anxiety, fear, and depression. With that said, the benefits of sleep result in a healthier mental state and the absence of sleep disorders. Physical benefits include decreased chronic health risks like heart disease, increased energy and motivation, concentration, and productivity at a high peak, lessening inflammation throughout the body, and a more robust immune system fighting off germs, viruses, bacteria, and bacteria illnesses. When our natural defenses are weak, we will become prone to get sick easier.

Many things provide benefits but they aren’t necessarily a priority. Should we make getting a good night’s sleep a major priority in our life? Can you explain what you mean?

A good night’s sleep should most certainly be a priority. As I mentioned in the previous question, lack of sleep results in such a negative impact on your mind and body. Everyone’s life is different, so your sleep schedule must coincide with your life and ensure you’re getting the appropriate amount of sleep. Now I am not saying you should leave an event early to get to bed at 10 PM, but most of the time, stay regimented, stay on target and be mindful of the importance of sleep in your life. Some situations make it impossible to maintain a sleep routine, like having a newborn baby. Your baby wakes up all hours of the night, disrupting your sleep. Since a sleep schedule isn’t possible, I recommend falling asleep on your baby’s sleep schedule. The old saying, “sleep when they sleep.” It is so true. With lack of sleep, your mental state will deteriorate, which will affect your daily life, and your physical self will begin to fall apart.

The truth is that most of us know that it’s important to get better sleep. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives? How should we remove those obstacles?

If you are not already a goal-oriented, disciplined person, schedules and following a routine can be cumbersome. It will take time and practice to get it down pat. One main barrier to a good night’s sleep is technology. It is prevalent, and some people do not realize it has the opposite effect. People claim they scroll on their phone, interact and engage on social media, text friends and family, play games on their tablets, watch TV and movies before bed helps them sleep. It is false. The usage of technology stimulates the brain and puts it in overdrive. Sub conscientiously, the brain is thinking, active, and energized. Your mind needs to decompress and relax just as your physical body needs; cognitive stimulation is not the answer. Anxiety disorders are another obstacle. Having anxiety is not an excuse for sleep deprivation. It is treatable with mindful practices and techniques before bedtime, and in more severe cases, some require medication. These mindful practices are as simple as calming your environment by dimming the lights, disconnect from the outside world, deep breathing techniques, reading, sounds of a white noise machine, or sounds of the natural elements of the world (rain, ocean waves, rainforest). You can use these tools against any barrier. Thirdly, yourself can be a hurdle, resistance. Life, responsibility, brain overload, deadlines, schoolwork, activities all take to play. When someone accepts the importance of sleep and is ready to apply a sleep routine in their lives — everything prior will need a schedule. Your days should be planned and not over planned. Don’t overexert yourself; there is always tomorrow. Prioritize and schedule are a partnership because you must make time for sleep.

Do you think getting “good sleep” is more difficult today than it was in the past?

Absolutely, we live in a fast-paced world. We certainly aren’t living in a world back in the 1940s. In the 21st century, times are changing incredibly fast. There is more pressure on everyone to achieve specific goals. People have more aspirations for their life. It all takes work and energy to fulfill. When you compare the community in other states, some live at a different pace. Here in New York City, everyone is in a rush, rushing to get to work, get home, and get to school. Traffic is a burden causing people to hurry, expectations of teachers and professors are more profound, employers overload their employees all are aspects of preventing a good night’s sleep. Everything is of urgency. The mind and body are overworked and overburdened. Finding a balance is essential.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share “5 things you need to know to get the sleep you need and wake up refreshed and energized”? If you can, kindly share a story or example for each.

There are many tips to have excellent sleep hygiene. Our goals are to wake up recharged and invigorated. My recommendation, as I have preached throughout this interview, have a consistent sleep routine — fall asleep the same time daily and wake up at the same time every day, or at least as often as possible. Secondly, practice mindfulness before bed. Set aside all your stresses from the day, relax and be in the present. Dim your lights, feel your mattress against your body, feel the sheets and blankets pressed against you and focus on deep breathing techniques — slow, steady breaths. Your body will begin to feel heavy, as if your mattress is holding you up. Stay in the present! If your mind wanders off, bring yourself back and start over. It is ok! Mindfulness is a skill that needs practicing. The more repetition, you’ll eventually master this technique. Thirdly, have a pre-bedtime nightly routine. Whether you shower before bed, do a facial regiment, read a book, journaling, whatever it is, keep that routine before you go into bed. Make this a regular habit. Fourthly, do not have alcohol or caffeine before bedtime. Alcohol will not allow you to go to a deep REM sleep stage. Caffeine is a stimulant, and it can take 8 hours to wear off. Lastly, when you wake up, have a healthy breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Make sure you allot sometime in the morning to eat a healthy meal. Breakfast has many health benefits, improves brain functioning as better memory and concentration, curbs your appetite throughout the day, and increases your energy levels. Avoid foods with unsaturated fat, magnesium, and potassium; they make you sleepy.

What would you advise someone who wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep?

More often than not, middle age and older adults seem to wake up throughout the night. Several triggers cause disruptive sleep: psychological disorders, physiology (age), pain, hormones, digestive problems, frequent urination and rehashing daily stresses, general cognitive arousal. It is difficult to fall asleep while recapping your day or even the week in your head. Your mind can begin to ruminate, which induces anxiety and panic attacks. If you do not follow a regiment before bed, like some of the examples I’ve shared before, your mind will not decompress. Be kind to your mind; it needs just as much self-care as your physical body. If you’re still awake after twenty minutes, get out of bed and go somewhere comfortable, like your sofa. Do not open the lights to full brightness; keep the room dim.

Please do not turn on the television or do NOT grab your phone or tablet; they are overly stimulating. Start deep breathing exercises, slowly taking deep breathes through your nose, and slowly exhale out of your mouth at a rhythmic level — practice mindfulness. Reading is a calming activity, but not anything suspenseful, distract your mind or do something calming to feel drowsy again. My last recommendation to you, do NOT look at the clock. Worrying about time is a perpetual cycle of anxiety.

If you often have broken sleep, consider speaking to a meant health provider specializing in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or a sleep specialist. Sometimes other influences can disrupt your sleep pattern.

What are your thoughts about taking a nap during the day? Is that a good idea, or can it affect the ability to sleep well at night?

Everyone loves their naps, but this is an excellent question. Different parts of our life stages require us to nap, as an infant, as a child, and in some cases, the elderly population. Naps undoubtedly are beneficial for full day-to-day functioning but can be counterproductive. It is essential to decipher the type of nap your body needs. Children require a “fulfillment nap.” These naps are part of their daily routine. “Recovery nap” is when your body wants to recover from the loss of sleep through the night. “Essential naps” when you are ill this one of the best treatments to boost your immune system. It is required to rejuvenate your energy that your immune system needs to fight off illnesses. Doctors will always advise resting along with their other recommendations and prescriptions. The benefits for your naps heightens energy levels, regulating your mood, healthier cognition, less drowsiness throughout the day.

The disadvantages of napping can undoubtedly disturb your sleep cycle if you’re naps are excessive. Sleeping has stages. But the question is, how long should someone nap? Five-minute naps are not enough to go through the sleep stages; however, 20 minutes is perfect to complete your sleep cycle. If you wake up during your deep stage, you will wake up feeling groggy, also known as “sleep inertia,” for at least an hour. The most commonly used term is a “power nap.” The name says it all. A power nap, about 20 minutes, will be enough to recharge. For those individuals who require napping, I suggest setting the alarm for 10–20 minutes. Napping late afternoon or early evening will affect your ability to fall asleep. Whether you are going to bed for the night or napping, be mindful, remove all your stressful feelings, and focus on sleep. So, to sum it up, naps are great but do not over rest during the day; you will not be able to fall asleep at night.

Wonderful. We are nearly done. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

I admire Sarah McLachlan the most because of my love for music and how music can change people’s lives. She is a Canadian musician and lyrist who’s very successful in the world. She took her success and opened up a school for young children in Vancouver, Canada, for kids who do not have access to music education for free, The Sarah McLachlan School of Music. It gives children an opportunity to develop an extraordinary skill; music helps kids academically. It is a commitment, it is beautiful, and it is art. It is a language that all cultures, regardless of socioeconomic status, can understand.

In turn, we support the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. Our daughter attends the Suzuki Piano Program since the age of 3, and now she is 12 years old. I have witnessed firsthand how the piano has shaped her ability to commit to a goal, strive for mastery, help her personality and self-esteem development, and support academic growth. The Sarah McLachlan School of Music and The Brooklyn Conservatory Music aim to transform lives and build community through expressive, educational, and therapeutic powers of music.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can follow and contact me through many social media platforms and website to my private practice –


Facebook: @GatewaytoSolutions

Instagram: @GatewaytoSolutions

Twitter: @GatewayTherapy

LinkedIn: @John P. Carnesecchi

It has been the utmost pleasure to be interviewed and assist with your article.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!



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