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E#207 Sleep Hacks for Insomniacs

Sleep Hacks for Insomniacs

If you’re like me, sleep can be hit and miss at times and getting enough sleep can become a drain that affects your performance and productivity. In this episode, we’ll cover a few sleep hacks recommended by leading neurobiologists that can help you to improve your chance of falling asleep and staying asleep.

In the last episode of this podcast, we discussed sleep chronobiology and its impact on health and wellbeing, along with a few simple tips to identify your chronobiology and how to align your routines to your personal type.

Now let’s get specific with some hacks! Many recent (2022) journal articles have revealed how ocular light exposure – that is, light entering the eyes – affects our circadian rhythms and sleep, endocrine function, and cognitive function, which in turn influence human health and wellbeing.

In this episode, I’ll talk about 
* Evening sleep hacks for winding down at night
* Sleep hacks for falling asleep and staying asleep
* Tips for setting your sleep clock

This conversation is partly based around “melanopic light”, which describes the way that blue light frequencies restrict melatonin production in your body until after dusk, after which time melatonin washes through the body to help you sleep.

The recent advances in our understanding of the relationship between light exposure and sleep have led to the development of new standards and practices. By understanding how different light sources and timing of exposure work, neurobiologists have been able to develop recommendations for improving sleep quality and quantity.

Let’s take a look at some of the hacks that you can use, for free, to improve your sleep.

Evening sleep hacks for winding down

An interesting hack is the recommendation for morning sun exposure (outdoors) which can mitigate any undesirable effects of indoor light exposure (during the day and at night), so that you can wind down more easily and sleep better.

We also need to dim the lights in our houses. Recent advances in our understanding of circadian rhythms means that light manufacturers have been able to produce blue light components so that artificial lighting systems in our homes and offices are very similar to actual daylight.

But while this is great for productivity during the day, it is not so good at night when we want to wind down and fall asleep. In that sense, after sunset, the experts recommend dimming the lights in your home, in the evening at least 3 hours before bedtime. This reduces the amount of light entering your eyes and helps allow the melatonin wash to occur.

This also applies to electronic devices. Televisions, computer screens, tablets or mobile phones all emit blue light and are often close to your eyes, so turning off in the around sunset might help you to fall asleep and stay asleep.

While we’re talking about sunset, one interesting study showed that when you couple daytime outdoor light exposure with early evening light exposure (e.g. sunset), it can help to decrease the sleep disruptive effects of nighttime light exposure.

And if you have bright lights on late at night, you will suppress melatonin, the hormone that helps you relax and feel sleepy, which obviously affects your quality and duration of sleep.

Aside from light, there are other things that can improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Food and exercise can affect your ability to fall asleep.

People who are early risers (see episode 206) might do better with an earlier dinner, exercising earlier in the day, and minimising socialising at night so as not to disrupt sleep.

In contrast, people who are night owls (see episode 206) could eat later without disrupting sleep but might need a lighter dinner, and to finish exercise before 7pm so as not to disrupt sleep.

Otherwise, and more generally, alcohol intake at night might help you fall asleep but might wake you up between 1 – 3am.

For some people, a high-carb meal (more specifically, higher in simple carbs) might delay sleep onset – in other words, it takes longer to fall asleep – or cause them to wake up hungry.

Similarly, caffeine or other stimulants after 3pm might disrupt sleep in some people, as it takes 3 – 15 hours to metabolise and excrete caffeine.

A heavy meal at night or overeating at night often disrupts sleep. Either can cause indigestion, heartburn, or simple discomfort before bed or during sleep. That’s because, during sleep, our digestive processes slow down but can also create competition for resources in the body if you have an undigested meal in your stomach.

Eating a heavy meal or too much food may cause you to wake up the next day without an appetite or even feeling heavy or sluggish because you’re still working through last night’s meal.

The remedy for this is simple – and twofold:

1. it takes around 4 hours to digest a meal, so finish eating at least 3 hours before you go to bed, and

2. eat a lighter meal before bed with lots of vegetables, and the right amount of complex carbs, fats and/or proteins for your HealthType.

Sleep hacks for falling asleep, staying asleep and waking up energized

The science shows that inadequate daytime light exposure is as detrimental as too much electric light exposure at night, with both of these having adverse effects on your sleep, circadian rhythms and health outcomes.

So, in order to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep, the experts recommend that you get outdoors and get daytime light exposure within 30 – 60 minutes of waking up, if possible during the day, and also around sunset.

During the day (before sunset), aim for at least 2.5 hours of bright light exposure including your early morning exposure, and another hour in the late afternoon or evening.

In terms of light exposure while you’re asleep, the experts recommend that your sleep environment is as dark as possible. If you do need to get up for the bathroom during the night, the recommended

maximum exposure to light is 10 lux (which is a unit of measure of light). You can download an app on your phone that measures light as a rough guide to help you determine exposure.

That aside, anxiety and worry can add to sleep issues. I have discussed this extensively in other episodes but it’s worth mentioning here – get some help, keep a worry diary and/or get on top of your task list to help you sleep easy at night.

Having some light, fun activities that aren’t too stimulating in the early evening can help you switch off!

Shift workers – a special case

Light exposure for shift workers is still an area of study and a challenge that neurobiologists haven’t yet been able to solve.

At this time, there is evidence that increasing melanopic light levels at work (e.g. office lighting) can improve alertness, as measured subjectively (e.g. questionnaire) and/or objectively, but this requires further study in the shift work population.

In any case, I speculate that even shift workers can create some improvements in sleep, and we will look at that in another episode in more detail.

For now, let’s assume that eating and exercise can be modified to improve the chance of a good night’s sleep, and further, block out curtains and getting the timing of light exposure right might help to create a rhythm that facilitates sleep.

Setting your circadian rhythm

In the previous episode of this podcast I talked about determining your sleep chronotype – in other words – the time you wake up and the time you go to bed. Whether you’re an early riser, a night owl or an in betweener, being consistent with wake and sleep times can help you establish a regular daily light-dark cycle which can further benefit sleep, cognition and health.

And as described earlier in this episode, getting outdoor light exposure soon after waking and again late afternoon can help you to sleep more soundly, and wake refreshed.

Summary

And as described earlier in this episode, getting outdoor light exposure soon after waking and again late afternoon can help you to sleep more soundly, and wake refreshed.

If you want to sleep well, also consider the timing, quantity, and quality of food and exercise in the context of your chronotype – nothing within 3 hours of sleep, and reducing or avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and high glycemic foods or heavy meals.

Think about switching off devices after sunset and dimming your house lights.

There is so much coming out about sleep right now, and today’s summary of research includes a few tips to help you manage your sleep better.

References

Brown TM, Brainard GC, Cajochen C, Czeisler CA, Hanifin JP, et al. (2022) Recommendations for daytime, evening, and nighttime indoor light exposure to best support physiology, sleep, and wakefulness in healthy adults. PLOS Biology 20(3): e3001571. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3001571

Ready to get clarity on your pathway to success?

Understanding who you are and what you need will allow your business to thrive! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

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Episode 49: From Job to Business: Managing Time Expectations

Have you ever wondered how to be more productive and calm in your business without burning out?

This episode is dedicated to that subject – because there is one important consideration you’ve probably forgotten.

This episode is dedicated to all of the coaches that I’ve been working with over the past few years who have really struggled to feel productive in their new coaching businesses.

I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. 

You wake up on a Monday morning and walk into your office and you wonder what you’re supposed to be doing. 

By Wednesday, something has happened with the family and you’ve lost focus. You feel like you’re just spinning your wheels and like you’re getting nothing done. 

You’re wondering why you’re not being productive enough, and how you can get back on track.

Let’s look at why this happens and how to fix it.

The e-Myth

Michael Gerber wrote a book that I love called the e-Myth

It describes three business personalities and how each brings a unique set of strengths and skills to the running of a business.

The personalities could be summarised as:

– The entrepreneur (the ideas person/people person)

– The manager (the organiser/systems person) 

– The technician (the worker/doing person)

I love the e-myth as a guide to understanding the three main business personalities and I use this when I teach business skills to coaches who are setting up their businesses. 

You’ll find out why this knowledge is so essential when you are working on your business and I’ll put a link to the quiz on my website in the show notes if you want to take the quiz.

Most people are dominant in one area. Some people have strengths in two areas. It is rare to find someone who has skills and a desire to work in all three areas.

Let’s take a little look at these types and see how they affect your ability to manage TIME.

When a technician leaves their job to start their own business, it’s often because they think they could do it better on their own.

Early Career: The Technician 

Most of us start our working lives as technicians. 

Technicians are the people who do all of the grunt work in a business. 

Some examples include being the coffee maker, the shoe salesperson, the builder, the tiler, the scientist, the teacher, the nurse, the piano player or the coach.

All of these are examples of people who have skill in a particular area.

In other words, technicians are the doers – they love their work and appreciate craftsmanship. 

They love getting the job done properly, to the best of their ability.

Technicians dislike the unknown because it is a distraction from getting the job done.

A lot of people in jobs – working for others – spend most of their lives fairly and squarely in the technician’s role.

And over a period of years they might get more experience and skills, and may be promoted to a more senior role where they are doing the same sorts of technical work but at a higher level. 

Some of them may go on to become team leaders or managers. 

But think about that role for a moment – probably at least 90% of your work as a technician, in a job, is doing the work itself.

The other 10% might be a bit of administration.

Someone has given you a project to manage or a series of tasks to complete, a job description – and you show up and do it.

Even if you are in a managerial role, you have probably evolved into that from a technical position, and now you are just managing the time and people and budget aspects of the position – that is how you spend your time.

So what happens when you transition to running your own business?

Transition: Your Own Business

When a technician leaves their job to start their own business, it’s often because they think they could do it better on their own. 

Perhaps they think they can make more money than they did in their job. 

Or perhaps they just don’t want to be bossed around anymore, and they want to do their work their way on their terms.

And this is where some self awareness is especially important.

Consider that you are no longer spending 90% of your time in a technical role. 

There are all of the other business areas that need to be attended to. And if you have never done any of those are the roles before you may have no idea of what’s involved or how much time to spend in each area.

 

If you want to transition successfully from a technical job based role into your own business, you will need to adjust your expectations and get clear on how and where people spend their time in their businesses.

Transition: Business Areas and Time Spent in Each

Let’s consider the main areas of a business that need to be attended to each week.

  1. Systems
  2. Administration
  3. Finance
  4. Marketing
  5. Advertising
  6. Sales
  7. Technical work – coaching or other service you offer

These are the 7 main areas of your business where you need to invest time – and we’re excluding other things like IT, safety and human resources for now. 

This is where the challenge lies, because a lot of people come out of jobs and their brains expect them to be coaching full time.

After all, that’s what work feels like to a Technician!

Doing anything but your craft can leave you feeling unproductive, stuck or fearful.

Or maybe you aren’t skilled at the other areas, or don’t like them, so you think desperately about how you can coach more people and avoid the other bits.

Sorry, but that won’t work.

What WILL work is developing a realistic plan for your time when you are starting up, and adjusting that plan as your business grows.

Which might lead you to ask – how much time should you spend in each?

Let’s talk about how your business can evolve in it’s first year, and some realistic idea of how you might spend your time and energy each week.

The most powerful work you can do is in the promotion and management of your business, because it’s these two things that allow you to DO the technical work in the first place.

In the Beginning

In the beginning you might have NO clients, or only one day of client work, so you will need to spend more time in other areas such as marketing, advertising and sales, before you can get the clients you need to pay the bills.

In your first three months, you might spend 

  • 3 days per week on marketing, advertising and sales type activities.
  • 1 day on technical work – coaching and administration 
  • 1 day on systems and finance.

This is a rough guide!

If you spend your time wisely, you’ll get clients through your marketing efforts and be able to spend money on systems that will automate many of the manual, unpaid tasks you are doing in the start up phase.

Establishment Phase

If you can build up to 2 days of client work in your first year, your week would need to be rearranged to accommodate that.

You would still be quite heavily invested in marketing to build your work pipeline, but you will also need to build and automate the systems that will drive your business while you work. Otherwise you can outsource this!

In your second three to six months, you might spend 

  • 1.5 – 2 days per week on marketing, advertising and sales type activities.
  • 2 days on technical work – coaching and administration 
  • 1 – 1.5 days on systems and finance.

There is a juggling act that happens here as you are growing and many weeks will be a rollercoaster of irregular hours and tasks. 

Hang on for the ride! Having processes in all areas of business will smooth out the bumps.

For example, having specific launch times in each quarter will help you to manage your shifting workload over each 90 day period so you can create a consistent income and keep on top of your tasks.

Operational Phase

In a coaching business that’s fully operational, you would probably want to be coaching for 10 – 20 hours per week, depending on your clientele, format and fees.

If you leave a half hour gap between sessions, you could feasibly coach or deliver a similar service over three full days.

That leaves you with two days per week to fit in the other six areas.

When your business is fully operational you might spend

  • 1 day per week on marketing, advertising and sales type activities.
  • 3 days per week on technical work – coaching and administration 
  • 1 day on systems and finance.

Growth Phase

After start up, establishment and operation, you may reach the stage of wanting to grow your business to the next level.

While that’s another topic for another time, you could say it’s a bit like going back to the establishment phase of your business as you adjust your strategy and implement the changes that will allow you to scale and make more money in less time.

In Summary

To sum it up, technicians are usually people who are skilled at an area. If this is you, then you might find it hard to transition from a job into your own business at first, if you keep thinking that ‘productive work’ equals doing your craft.

That’s simply untrue.

The most powerful work you can do is in the promotion and management of your business, because it’s these two things that allow you to DO the technical work in the first place.

Ready to start your own business?

If you’d like help to navigate the transition from job to coaching business, visit melaniejwhite.com/habitology and learn how you can stop spinning your wheels and get there sooner. If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Episode 41: Making the Most of Your Time

The things you say to yourself about time – and your expectations of time – totally shape your experiences of it. 

So if you want to make the most of your time, listen up. This is for you.

Do you find yourself saying “I’m so busy! I wish I had more time!” or “I need to start making the most of my time!”

Or perhaps you simply feel rushed, like life is passing you buy, or that time is flying.

We often talk about wanting more time, wasting time, or spending time – or even having the time of our life!

And it’s true; time is a resource that, much like money, we can spend or save.

Before we launch into it, consider three important facts about time.

Fact #1 – Time is a mental construct.

It’s something that was invented by a human mind. It is simply a unit of measure of the progress of our civilization. Humans came up with the concept of time thousands of years ago and used it to measure the natural cycles of day, night and the seasons. Wikipedia says that time was probably first measured around 6000 years ago using the moon.

These days we have even created ‘daylight savings’ – a seasonal change in the clocks so that we can adjust our access to winter and summer daylight.

Fact #2  -Time is a precious resource because it is finite.

There’s a saying below the London Court Clock in Perth, Western Australia, that has stuck with me since I was a teenager.And that saying is “No minute past comes ever back again. Take heed and see ye nothing do in vain.”

Fact #3 – Time is something we can’t control.

So if time is a mental construct, and a finite resource that is outside of our control, how does that affect the way we experience time?

How Thoughts Affect Experiences

The first thing that comes to my mind when reflecting on those facts is that they might create a scarcity mentality around time.

What we say to ourselves affects the actions we take and the results we get.

So if you feel like time is flying, that time is going too slowly, or that you need more time, it’s going to totally affect your experience of time and your happiness around that experience.

Here’s an experiment to illustrate that. 

Fill a glass with water and hold it at arms’ length. Hold it there for a minute.

Notice that as your arms tire, the glass feels heavier.

Try for another minute.

What is your brain telling you right now, as you do this?

Chances are that while you are standing there just focusing on the glass of water, you are thinking about how tired your arm is getting, wondering how long it is to go, or asking yourself when this is going to be over.

In that simple example, you just created a perception that time slowed down, and that it was a difficult experience.

With that example in mind, let’s look more deeply at how we experience time so you can start saying to yourself – “I’m making the most of my time.”

Simply noticing the detail of something in the moment – mindfulness – is the simplest way to slow down time and feel like you are making the most of it.

How to Slow Down Time (and Feel Good About It)

How often have you said to yourself something like:

“Why is this taking so long?”

“What’s the hold up?”

“Can we speed things up a little?”

“Are we there yet?”

In this case your experience of time is that it’s slow – AND – that you are frustrated by that. 

Slow and frustrated is NOT such a great combination.

Perhaps in this case, your expectation might be that things should move faster, you should be able to get more done, or you should be finished by now.

Notice the shoulds that come into your inner dialogue here, and how these expectations affect your experience of time.

But if you enjoyed the slow pace of activities, you might have a totally different type of thought:

“I LOVE the feeling of the sun on my skin.”

“This is so good, I wish it would go on forever.” 

“I am really savouring this moment.”

“Look at the amazing detail in that….”

In this case your experience of time is slow – AND wonderous. Enjoyable. Awe-inspiring.

As you can see, the experience of ‘slowing down time’ happens when we do one thing at a time with intention. 

Like holding the glass of water.

That’s not such a fun task though, so think about other ways to slow down time that ARE enjoyable.

You can slow down time enjoyably like spending time doing yoga, or meditating…or simply by breathing deeply. 

Or spending time walking in nature, listening to music, or playing with your kids, or on a date night with your partner.

Simply noticing the detail of something in the moment – mindfulness – is the simplest way to slow down time and feel like you are making the most of it.

Notice how the feeling that time is going slow is based on the thoughts that might come up around the activity you are doing.

Time feels slow when you pay notice every second that ticks by. And you can only do that when you do one small thing at a time with great attention.

Often, time is slowest when we’re alone.

Consider how the positive thoughts about your experiences cause you to have a better experience of time.

When Time Flies (and How to Feel Good About It)

In contrast to this, we experience a speeding up of time when we are multi-tasking or juggling lots of things in life.

Think about how the day flies by when you are working intensively on a project, or juggling work and kids and family duties.

In these situations, you might be thinking things like:

“Wow I’m SO busy.”

“Hurry, we’re going to be late!”

“Quick! We have to be there in 10 minutes.”

The Concept of Flow

This is positive psychology in action – it’s called being in flow.

When we are in flow, we have a balance between skill and challenge, we lose track of time, we become totally absorbed in what we are doing, and what we are doing feels good; rewarding.

Being in flow can bring a rich experience of time.

Diagram source: https://positivepsychology.com/what-is-flow/

In Summary

It could be said that the way you experience time is strongly linked to your expectations.

If you think you have too much to do and not enough time, then you will expect that to be the case, and that will be your experience.

The reverse will also be true.

I have created a new equation to define our experience of time: Optimal Time = Thoughts + Experiences + Connections

So considering how our thoughts and actions affect our results, what will you choose to think from now onward?

What will you expectations of the time that you have available?

And how will that affect your experiences of that time?

Ready to make the most of your time?

Write something here that ties in with the topic for the podcast! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

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