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Health

Small Sleep Changes Can Make a Big Difference

Tara Youngblood

02.28.20

Small Sleep Changes Can Make a Big Difference

Even though it’s only February, it’s been a big year for me and chili. In January, I launched my book entitled Reprogram Your Sleep: The Sleep Recipe That Works, which was a huge personal milestone. Hopefully you’ve already ordered a copy, or downloaded the Kindle version. (If not, then head on over to Amazon.)

In January I also gave my first Tedx talk at TedxCaryWomen, which fulfilled yet another goal of mine. Helping people get more sleep is my passion, so having the opportunity to spread my philosophy about sleep through these platforms was exciting, to say the least. 

At the heart of my book and talk is the idea that small things make a big difference, and the idea that everyone has a unique “recipe” for optimizing their sleep. Today I’d like to talk about these ideas further.

The “Baking Bread” Sleep Analogy

On the surface, baking bread seems relatively easy since there are only a handful of ingredients: flour, salt, oil, yeast, water, and sugar. Of course, anyone who bakes knows that this seemingly simple recipe is far more complicated. 

When baking bread—and cooking other items, too—the recipe consists of far more than just the ingredients. The timing is essential. This includes combining all of the ingredients in the right order, and in the right manner. In the instance of baking bread, you also have to knead the dough, let it rise, and grease your loaf pan. Keep in mind we haven’t even gotten to timing and cooking temperature yet!

You probably get the point: baking is a process that involves having the right ingredients and the ideal timing. That’s exactly how I feel about sleep.

The First Ingredient for Better Sleep

When it comes to sleep, once of the first ingredients you need is your chronotype, which is linked to your circadian rhythms, or your internal body clock. This goes a long way towards determining your ideal sleep schedule. At chili we refer to three chronotypes: early birds, night owls, and lucky ducks. You’re probably familiar with the first two; early birds are morning people while night owls burn the midnight oil. Lucky ducks are just a hybrid of the two.

Understanding this timing is critical, and is the first small thing that can make a big difference. For example, I’m a morning person/early bird. So the first thing I did in my quest to get better sleep was to go to bed (religiously!) between 9 and 10 pm. Conversely, I get up within the same window every morning, too. By following your body clock—much like the timer on the oven for that loaf of bread you’re baking—you can make leaps and bounds with the quality of your sleep.

Additional Ingredients: The Three Sleep Buckets

The time you’re in your bed can be broken into three sleep buckets (this how I sometimes refer to your three sleep stages). So once you start going to bed and rising on a consistent schedule, you can dig deeper into how to optimize those three buckets, which are bedtime, deep sleep, and REM sleep. 

For example, changing your bedtime routine is critical because you can flip your sleep switch. You probably won’t be surprised if I tell you I stopped watching Netflix and scrolling through my phone at bedtime; I substituted those activities with meditation and yoga, which were the ingredients that helped me prepare for a better night’s sleep.

As far as deep sleep and REM sleep, I relied on science to help me find the right ingredients there—and this discovery is what lead to the creation of chili. Our core body temperature plays a key role in our sleep. Specifically, deep sleep demands a drop in our temperature, while REM sleep is associated with a rise. Through the use of temperature-regulating sleep systems, I found the right timing and ingredients to improve my sleep steadily over time. Now I have it dialed in precisely.

Everyone’s Sleep Recipe Will Be Different

It might take time, but if you can find your own personal sleep recipe, I promise it will be worth it. There are a variety of factors that play into how much sleep we need, and how much sleep we can actually get, so there’s no cookie-cutter equation. But if you take the small steps of following your internal clock, priming your body for sleep, and finding ways to regulate your temperature to coordinate with your sleep cycle, you’ll see big gains in the quality of your sleep. 

I encourage you to watch my Tedx talk if you haven’t already. You’ll learn that due to a personal tragedy in my life I once struggled through a horrible period of insomnia that took me years to overcome. But I did, taking some of these small steps. That’s why I’m so enthusiastic about spreading the idea of finding your own personal sleep recipe. Because once you find it, and make a few tweaks, if can be absolutely life-changing.

Do you already have your own sleep recipe? If so, we’d love to hear about your ingredients!