This is the first installment of a six-part series to describe what I believe is the key to health and happiness as I have learned and personally experienced. It is doubtful that each of these areas will be controversial, and when followed, the changes that I will suggest have proven without fail to help every one of my clients, when they take the suggested actions. In just six installments, you may have the answer to achieve optimal health just by reading the LifeSkills Authorities Blog. With the goal to help identify the keys to optimal health for my own life and clients, I have read books, attended classes, acquired certifications, and listened to lectures by amazing individuals. What I have learned through countless hours of studying, learning, and experimenting, can be summarized in a simple acronym: “To Be Healthy Never Eat Carrots.” That’s it you ask? Here’s what the acronym TBHNEC actually stands for:
It is not about having a rigid stance of boycotting that beautiful orange produce…far from it. I’ll start explaining The Big Six, as I call them, with the last one first, Circadian Rhythms. Since this one can be extremely complicated, I will focus on one system of the body under this topic. Basically, it means sleep patterns. I promise you, it is important not just how much total sleep you get each night. There are other areas that are crucial to achieve success in this area. Ask yourself, not just how much sleep you get regularly (by the way I have heard experts say that their studies show that we need between 8.5-10.5 hours every night!), but all of the following questions:
• Is your sleep continuous or do you wake up throughout the night?
• What time did you go to sleep? (studies suggest optimum is near sundown)
• What time did you wake up? (studies suggest optimum is near sunrise)
I work with two groups of people on these questions: 1) Busy executives who are highly stressed and have poor stress management strategies, or who travel extensively. 2) People not feeling well or whose health has begun to suffer and their physician has told them they need to get more sleep and take better care of themselves. The reason it is only these two groups is because this is a very difficult area to effectuate change in people. I have much more success with nutrition, exercise and the other areas in the Big 6, but nobody wants to go to bed early it seems. I am not entirely certain why this is, but my suspicion is that people are so over-stimulated and attempt to pack so much into their lives, personally and professionally, that they simply cannot afford to “waste” valuable hours sleeping.
There are some techniques that fall into what is called “sleep hygiene” that can make a tremendous difference to help some people fall asleep and stay asleep. Sleep hygiene can be described as the actions, habits, or predictable things people do to tell their bodies that it is time to prepare to sleep. Experts suggest to turn off lights, the computer, and the television an hour before it is time to sleep, otherwise the body will release stress hormones that actually trigger you to stay awake. As someone who spent most of his life using the television to put me to sleep, I chuckled at how impractical this idea from the supposed experts was because I did not want to live my life like this. I didn’t want to waste my life going to bed at 8PM! The suggestion of having a predictable routine was fine, but doing this right about sundown (or as soon after as possible) again sounded nice, but maybe in my elder years. I mean this is absurd, right? Who is going to do this? You know who will be compliant to suggestions like these? The compliant people are likely those who are completely unable to sleep without strong sleeping medication (which still doesn’t completely do the trick), those who are sick, and those who are just miserable and attribute part of it to poor sleep. Those are the people who are willing to take such suggestions. So, let’s be realistic. Hence, my suggestion to you, is the same I would give to any of my clients, use balance to guide you. It is unrealistic to go from a bedtime of 1AM to sometime near sundown in a week or two. And, this may not be necessary at all. A good suggestion is to try 15 minutes earlier every week, keep the TV off in the bedroom (use your BR for two things, sleeping and the other “s” word), and try to develop some predictable patterns like brushing your teeth and then washing your face thirty minutes prior to climbing into bed. The key is to make sure that the changes you implement are realistic and they work for your life. Just because a supposed expert recommends something doesn’t necessarily mean that I would recommend it for you.
If you are happy, healthy, and your lack of sleep is not a big deal to you, then keep doing what you are doing. It is nobody’s business to tell you to change just because the experts have spoken. In my opinion, it is simple: if it is not broken, no need to fix it. Yet, if you think your approach to sleep may need some work then maybe try some of the strategies I suggested. Have you tried the sleep hygiene mentioned in this article or can you provide some personal experience on this topic? Give my recommendations a shot and let us know how they worked for you.