Studies have shown that sleep makes you more productive, increases your life expectancy, and makes you more attractive. So why are so many of us still not getting enough sleep?
Terry Cralle is a Registered Nurse, clinical sleep health specialist and co-author of two sleep-related books.
She explains why sleep is so important, the common reasons people don’t get enough sleep, and the quick hacks that will help you to improve your sleep.
Terry Cralle, RN
Pinterest: Better Sleep Council
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LinkedIn: Terry Cralle
Email: We Get Sleep
Terry Cralle, MS, RN, is a Registered Nurse based in Washington, DC, and works with various organisations throughout the US and Europe to promote sleep health and wellness.
Terry is certified in clinical sleep health and has co-authored two books on sleep; Snoozby and the Great Big Bedtime Battle (Rowe Publishing, 2015), the first non-fiction book directly messaging the benefits of sufficient sleep to young children, and Sleeping Your Way to the Top (Sterling Publishing, 2016), the ultimate guide to success through sufficient sleep.
As the co-founder of a four-bed sleep disorders centre and a nationally recognised sleep health and wellness consultant, educator, advisor and advocate, Terry’s work in the field of sleep medicine has spanned over 25 years.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- [2:15] How to get back to sleep when you wake up in the middle of the night.
- [3:02] The way your brain chemistry changes throughout the day.
- [4:57] The ‘brain dump’ technique to calm your mind before bed.
- [6:45] How to optimise your bedroom for sleep.
- [7:07] What causes people to wake up in the middle of the night.
- [7:53] The impact sleep has on your well-being and health.
- [10:36] The negative perception modern society has around sleep.
- [12:03] How many hours of sleep a human adult needs.
- [15:05] The danger of getting too much sleep.
- [16:00] The benefits of using a sleep tracker.
- [17:15] How to repay “sleep debt” and the problems with ‘yoyo sleeping’.
- [18:30] How sleep deprivation affects the body.
- [20:30] The origin of the human sleep cycle.
- [22:05] The research around the benefits of napping.
- [23:30] The risk and danger of sleep inertia.
- [25:58] How to know if there is an issue with your sleep.
- [28:15] Why you need to start your sleep routine in the morning.
- [29:40] How exercising in the evening affects your sleep.
- [31:09] How sleep deprivation can affect your food cravings.
- [32:14] The benefits of having a bedtime routine.
- [33:25] How to maximise your melatonin production before bed.
- [34:50] How toothpaste can affect your sleep cycle.
- [35:42] Lighting hacks to improve your sleep.
- [36:26] Why reading a book helps you go to sleep.
- [37:10] How blackout blinds can help your sleep quality.
- [38:32] The modernisation of sleep masks.
- [39:30] How to create a good sleeping environment if you’re scared of the dark.
- [41:00] How to stop noise from disrupting your sleep.
- [42:20] How your partner affects your sleep.
- [43:20] The advancements in mattress technology.
- [44:00] The effect sleep apnea has on people.
- [47:10] The easiest way to improve your sleep habits.
Resources mentioned in this episode
Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase. This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.
Episode 162: Sleep well, live well: expert tips for restful nights and productive days - with Terry Cralle, RN
Jeremy Cline 0:00
'Sleep is the Kevlar for your mind'. Not my words, but the words used by this week's guest to describe how important sleep is. Getting enough sleep has had so many proven benefits and not getting enough sleep has had so many proven downsides. So, why don't we prioritise it more? How much sleep should we get? And how can we make sure that we get the right amount and the right quality? Well, that's what we're going to find out in this week's episode. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.
Jeremy Cline 0:47
Hello, and welcome to the Change Work Life podcast, where we're all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. If you want to know how you can enjoy a more satisfying and fulfilling working life, you're in the right place. Here are some of the things which studies have demonstrated sleep can do for you. It can make you more productive. It can increase your life expectancy. It can enhance your memory and creativity. It can make you more attractive, aid weight loss and lower food cravings. It reduces risk of heart attacks, strokes and diabetes. With all these benefits, why are so many of us not getting enough sleep? Why aren't we making it a priority? What can you do to make sure you get enough? To answer these questions and more, I'm delighted to be joined this week by Terry Cralle. Terry is a registered nurse, a certified clinical sleep educator, and a certified professional in health care quality, specialising in sleep, health and wellness. She educates people on the importance of sleep to physical and psychological health, growth and development, safety, optimum functioning, productivity, peak performance and quality of life. Terry, welcome to the podcast.
Terry Cralle 2:01
Thanks for having me, Jeremy. It's a pleasure to be here.
Jeremy Cline 2:04
Terry, I'm going to dive straight in with a question which bothers me the most on the question of sleep, which is, how do I stop waking up at three o'clock in the morning?
Terry Cralle 2:15
Well, let me tell you, don't stress over it, because it's normal to wake up several times during the night. Often, we don't remember we've done it in the morning, or sometimes when we wake up, we start stressing out about being awake and worry about falling back asleep. So, what do most people do? They try to fall back asleep. And that's the wrong thing to do. We never try to sleep, we never tell people to try to go back to sleep or just try to go to sleep. Trying is sort of an alerting term. Instead, we just tell people to relax, and sleep will follow. So, there are some things you can do if you wake up in the middle of the night. And another thing that I will say, before I give you some strategies is, our brain chemistry is a little bit different at 3AM, than it is at 3PM. We tend to be a little more emotional, we get more stressed out about little things that we're thinking about. So, bear that in mind. But if you wake up in the middle of the night, relax, look around. That's a good point in time to look at the sleep environment. Is it truly dark? Did you wake up to use the restroom? If you did, did you turn on bright lights to get there and back? Did you check your phone while you were awake? Those are the pitfalls of waking up at the middle of the night that will keep you up, if you're not careful. Don't check the clock, don't worry about how many more hours of sleep you have. The point is, relax, and sleep will follow. Does that make sense?
Jeremy Cline 3:50
That does make sense. And the first thing you said there about how people naturally wake up in the night and sometimes don't even remember it and just go back to sleep, I hadn't realised that. I mean, I've been conscious of occasions where I've woken up and then been aware that I have gone back to sleep pretty quickly. But then, there have been those occasions where I've woken up, and it feels like I stay awake for over an hour. And initially, it starts out as just sort of thinking about things, maybe what happened yesterday, what's happening the day ahead, and that then turns into worry, and it can turn into stress, and it can start turning into playing arguments in your head and that kind of thing. And so, it kind of follows on to my next question, which I think you've already partly dealt with, but that's the case. So, when you do wake up, and you are aware of it, and it feels like it is taking you a long time to get back to sleep, what can you do to speed up the process, especially like me, where you are worried about how much sleep you're going to get that night?
Terry Cralle 4:53
Well, I'm sure that that's sort of a natural thing. But again, when I'm talking about a different brain chemistry, I don't pay attention to my brain at 3AM. I just disregard it, because I know it's not a rational situation going on. Now, there's something you can do during the day to help with that. And I always tell people, the end of their workday, write down everything they need to do, everything they should be worrying about, everything that's on their minds. Some people call that a brain dump, just get it on paper. Because that's the neat part about it. It will all look a little more manageable on paper, when you can look at it and put it in columns, lists, however you want to construct it. But overall, it's more manageable than swirling around in your brain. Because I know people have that ruminating, either when they're trying to fall asleep at bedtime, or when they wake up in the middle of the night, and then can't get back to sleep. So, do that list making, write it all down. There's actually been a few studies about doing so, and that does help people with the night-time issues. And again, don't pay any attention. Just realise it's an irrational thing. You always feel better in the morning when you wake up. But I mean, I think that's sort of the old wives, not wives tale, but the thing we've always heard, you'll feel better, you'll think more clearly in the morning, you'll feel less stressed out in the morning when you get that sleep. So, I say, don't worry about it, relax, use that time to just sort of mellow out. And there are some sounds on some apps that can help, you can have something on a timer if you need some sound to get back to sleep, things like that. But just another point to make during the middle of the night situation is that bedroom has to be optimised for sleep. I mean, seriously, as dark as possible, because that really does help with the melatonin production and maintenance through the night to keep you asleep. And I think, the 3AM wake up is, gosh, I should have been shopping for a new mattress, I've had this one for 23 years, and I don't feel comfortable. And look at some of the issues why are you waking up in the first place. I mean, are you waking up gasping, heart pounding, you're maybe having something like apnoea going. Tossing and turning, look at the room temperature. Look at things like just comfort, too many blankets, not enough blankets, just look at all, re-evaluate and assess things during the day, not at night, so they don't come full circle at 3AM.
Jeremy Cline 7:37
There's a lot in there. And I want to dive into some of that a little bit more deeply. But first of all, tell the listeners a little bit more about you and why in particular have you found yourself specialising focusing on sleep?
Terry Cralle 7:51
Yeah, it's sort of a unique subspecialty. But I went through nursing school about 100 years ago, and trust me, we didn't talk about sleep, almost at all. And so, then you start in the real world dealing with shift work and crazy hours, long shifts, and it really struck me. I got very intrigued with the topic when one of the nurses left a 12-hour night shift, and she stopped at a travel agency on the way home and bought a ticket to some south sea island or something. I mean, it was just one of those things where she sort of woke up, while she was doing it, thinking, 'Wait, what am I doing here?' I mean, it was a really strange, strange thing. And it was just a by-product of being incredibly sleep deprived. And we've had, a lot of healthcare personnel experience, after shift work, car accidents, things like that. So, it piqued my interest. But it wasn't until I started recruiting sleep doctors for an insomnia study, we started talking about insomnia, and I was trying to get them to come on board with some clinical research, and finally, a very nice team of sleep docs invited me to their clinic for a week, and I stayed up all night watching them study patients and slept all day. And I was hooked on it, because it was so fascinating, it was something I knew nothing about. And then, I realised, and I started learning all of the benefits, and how important it is, and how it affects our physical health, our mental health, but really, every aspect of our functioning is impacted by sleep. So, yeah, I got hooked in, I've never looked back, and I think it's so foundational to well-being, that as a registered nurse, I just feel that that completes the whole thing. And when I talk to people about health and quality of life, longevity, relationships, every aspect, I start with sleep, because it's square one.
Jeremy Cline 9:57
I think when we first met, you referred to it as something like Kevlar for your mind or Kevlar for your brain. Was that it?
Terry Cralle 10:04
Oh, yeah, good memory you've got their. Yeah. You start learning of all of these wonderful things that it gives us. And that was a researcher, I believe, at Walter Reed Hospital who said, sufficient sleep is like Kevlar for the mind. It makes us resilient, it helps us handle stress, it helps us think clearly, focus, be efficient. So, it does amazing things. But I think, for far too long, many of us, so many of us, unfortunately, look at sleep as a time waster or taking away from our waking hours, and begrudge sleep or resent it, or we can have contempt for it. And then, I think along those lines, we've held people up in a high regard for saying they don't get much sleep, they work, work, work, that's how they're successful, that's why they're successful. So, we've on many levels glamorised and idealised sleeplessness. And we've looked at people that look at sleep as a biological necessity, as possibly lazy, less motivated, less ambitious, if you're getting sleep, you're not getting it done kind of mentality. So, in the last few years, we've had to flip the script, and say that's not it at all. In fact, it's the opposite. We have to look at sleep as something to embrace, something to get, we're more responsible and safe, and intelligent human beings when we get the sleep our bodies and minds need. So, it's just a matter of looking at it differently and prioritising it and really changing our attitude.
Jeremy Cline 11:49
One question I've never seen quite to get a straight answer to is, how much is enough? So, I get the impression that it varies from person to person. So, how do you figure out what your sweet spot is?
Terry Cralle 12:02
There's going to be some variation, but not a lot. And it's usually seven to nine hours, the research repeatedly shows that. This is for adults, mind you. But that seven-to-nine-hour window is probably the most common. And I will say that there's a very common misconception about the sleep hour requirements. I see it all the time. I've been to Fortune 500 companies, I have a wide variety of adult audiences that repeatedly tell me that they've learned how to be a short sleeper. So, let me tell you what a short sleeper is. Short sleepers have a genetic variant. And they can do well, and when I say do well, perform well, they're healthy, they don't have any chronic illnesses, they tend to be successful, they have a good outlook, energetic, on and on. Okay, so they can do that, say, with five to six hours daily, and there's no repercussions, no consequences, there's no ill effects. And that, I want everyone to know that statistic, is less than 1% of the population. And if you're not that, you can't learn to become that, you can't learn to get by on less. It's not about willpower, it's not about acclimating, that doesn't work. And that's where we have to pedal back and think of sleep as a biological necessity. We can't learn how to get by on less water. Obviously, people that overeat can learn how to get by on less food. But think of it as a hydration thing, we wouldn't say, 'Well, I've learned how to get by on drinking no water a day.' I mean, clearly, that would be unsafe, unhealthy and all of the above. But sleep is the same thing. It's a biological necessity. We don't get used to it. I had one gentleman at a corporation for a Q&A, he asked me, he said, 'Isn't it true, you can just get used to not getting much sleep?' And I said, 'No, it's not true.' And he said, 'Well, I've done it.' And I want you to know, he was asleep during most of my presentation. And I always tell my audiences, if you sleep during my presentation, it's because you're sleep deprived. If you're bored, you will doodle on your notepad, you'll look up at the ceiling, you'll play with your pen. But if you're bored, you shouldn't fall asleep. So, I think a lot of people fool themselves. And it's sad, because the consequences can be dire, and I think we have to really look at it with some degree of seriousness and say, 'What do I want out of life?' And when we talk about the best life, the best health, the best relationships, and really the longest life, we have to really put sleep first, because it all goes back to sufficient sleep, whether it's diet, exercise, our mental well-being, how we learn, and just every aspect of functioning.
Jeremy Cline 15:00
You've talked quite a lot about too little. Is there such a thing for a normal, healthy adult as too much sleep?
Terry Cralle 15:10
There's some debate about that. I mean, getting too much sleep might be a problem, it could be a medical issue going on, depression, things like that. I'll say this, always address sleep at every health care provider encounter, because sleep is a vital sign. And we have to look at it that way. Even if your healthcare provider doesn't bring it up, address it, so they have a baseline, so they know when there's problems, you might not think it's a problem, but it could be. So, I always tell people to address sleep, it is a vital sign. Too much sleep, again, I'm on the nine and a half, between nine and nine and a half hours. I feel fantastic when I get it. I know some people, seven, if they sleep more than seven, they don't feel fantastic. So, yeah, there's some variation. But I think sleep trackers are a great thing. I'm not pushing any brand or anything, but I think it gives us a point of reference. I mean, we count our calories, we count our steps. I think there's a little too much emphasis on, oh, gosh, don't track your sleep, that'll turn you into an insomniac because you'll stress about it. I don't think that's necessarily true. I don't think counting your steps will make you a nut in that regard or anything like that. I think it's good data to have. And I think it's also very good to have that kind of data to see where you are always, are you accruing sleep debt, are you having problems, are you having repeated awakenings during the night, go see a health care provider. Sleep specialists are trained in this, they know how to deal with it. There are over 88 sleep disorders, and most of them are easily diagnosed and managed. And we've got to tackle that, though, if we want to have good health, healthy immune systems, healthy metabolism, healthy weight, and of course, everything psychological, we want a good outlet look. Reduced anxiety and ability to handle stress, that resiliency you referred to, we want all that on board. So, look at it that way.
Jeremy Cline 17:15
You used an interesting term there, sleep debt, which I take to mean that, if you don't get enough sleep for a repeated period of time or for a lengthy period of time, then the effects of that can build up. When it comes to repaying the debt, presumably, it's not like for like, so it's not like if you get, say your optimum is eight, and you get seven one night, then you should get nine the next night to build yourself, I mean, how do you repay this sleep debt if you'd built one up?
Terry Cralle 17:47
Yeah, that's a good point. Because I'll tell you, a lot of people that I interact with have what I call yo-yo sleeping. I mean, they'll under sleep, if not intentionally, just by way of how they've set up things, they'll under sleep during the workweek, and then oversleep on the weekend to make up. Now, I'm not saying oversleeping to make up for that is a bad thing. I think that's prudent. But I also am concerned with the research that shows the effects of under sleeping. We can't undo the damage that's done, if you're doing that during the week, and then you oversleep on the weekend to make up. That's good, but we still can't undo some of that damage. The sleep deprivation, I mean, it affects us on a cellular level. It affects so much of what's going on inside with hormones, repair, the glymphatic system, cleaning toxic proteins from the brain. I mean, there's just so much going on. We're sort of pruning some memory formation, there's a lot of things. And what we're doing, if you accrue a lot of sleep debt, can you pay it off, try to, but try not to accrue it in the first place, because that's a real bad area to get into. Because can we undo that damage if we do it several days later, a day later? We don't think so. I do like napping, I've had some inevitable, although I try to avoid them, early flights. I hate them, I'm not a morning person at all, I can't turn into one, I've tried. But I know when I'm under slept during the day, I make sure I get to that hotel in time to get a nap in. Naps can be a wonderful thing to keep sleep debt from building. I recommend those. Don't make them too long or too close to bed time, of course. But try to look at it as that seven to nine hours every single 24 hours. We really need that daily to be our best. My thing is it can't be repaid, so I just tried to do everything possible not to accrue it.
Jeremy Cline 20:02
Seven to nine hours within 24 hours. Is it correct to say that the vast majority of that should ideally be in one sitting, so to speak? And it's only perhaps, like you described, if for some reason you get less sleep, and then you have a bit of a nap partway through the following day, or can one really have two stints of four hours every 24-hour period?
Terry Cralle 20:31
Apparently, there's been some research at the Virginia Tech University here in Virginia. Roger Ekirch wrote a book about sleep several years ago, but some historians think it really came in two phases, that people went to sleep. This is all before electricity, of course. So, we were really going by the moon and sun in terms of our body clock. But there are a lot of historians that believe we did do it in two phases, by phasic sleeping years ago. I think, is the eight hours solid, don't expect to wake up, don't expect to have any problems, totally realistic? Maybe not. But I think, right now, that's what we're going to have to strive for, based on all the electricity and things. But I think, if you don't get it, napping is fine, I would use that. But we probably didn't do it like this throughout history, throughout humanity. It probably is a recent thing based on our modern day lives.
Jeremy Cline 21:34
Can you just talk a little bit more about napping? Because it's something which I've heard is both a good thing, really beneficial, some people talk about a 10-minute power nap, I've heard other people say that having a 30, even 45-minute nap has really helped them in the afternoon. And then, on the other side of the coin, there are people who say, 'Oh, no, if you sleep during the day, then that's just going to mean that you don't sleep properly during the evening.' So, yeah, I'd love to hear you expand a little bit more on that.
Terry Cralle 22:04
Yeah, napping intrigues me because it gets such a bad rap, too much. I mean, I'm confused why that is. Anyway, I think that napping can really help. Again, we got real life here going on. We've got kids teething at night, dogs barking, we've got things that will wake us up, sometimes we can't get that eight hours or seven to nine of continuous sleep at night. But naps come in very handy. I mean, the research is amazing, that even a 10- or 15-minute nap can really restore your energy levels, rejuvenate your brain a little bit, get you back on track, refocused, and I think, in our culture, we've always given people a snack break, smoking break, things that they could do, coffee breaks, and I would say, gosh, if a 10- or 15-minute nap can refresh you as much as a cup of coffee, I'd choose the nap any day. That caffeine throughout the day to stay awake is a sign that you're not getting enough sleep, or there's something wrong with your sleep, if you're putting in the hours. I think some of the bad rap for napping is, if it's over 30 minutes, and it's all very situational, what's your situation, are you taking a nap in a nap room at a hospital while you're on call or something, if you're sleep deprived, if your baseline is some sleep deprivation, or if you've accrued sleep debt, a long nap sometimes will lead to sleep inertia. That's that grogginess that you have when you wake up from the nap. And it can render some people pretty incapacitated for a time. I'm trying to think what year this happened where, I think it was transatlantic flight, the pilot took a nap, and when he woke up, he had the sleep inertia, horrible, he wasn't oriented, he was confused and fuzzy headed, and he saw a planet, and he thought it was a plane, and he did a nosedive to avoid it. Anyway, it ended up correcting itself, but people on that flight, there are big stories about how unsafe sleep inertia can be. So, you want to avoid that. Actually, a nap of 30 minutes or under will prevent that from happening. But some people will take longer ones, say to offset the effects of jetlag for international travel. I think they come in handy. Some people are better nappers than others, some can't do it, some drink a cup of coffee, and then take a nap. Someone coined that term, it's not mine, Nappuccino, so by the time the caffeine effects kick in, and you get that rejuvenation from a nap and recharge from a nap, you're good to go.
Jeremy Cline 25:04
And so, just to take something from that, it sounds as though needing a nap isn't necessarily a sign that something is wrong with sleep. I mean, I know that, if I haven't had a good night's sleep or have had less sleep than I'd like, then, yes, I may definitely feel like I need a nap in the afternoon. But then, there can also be days where I feel like I've had a reasonable night's sleep, and I still feel like I could benefit from a 10-minute shuteye in the afternoon.
Terry Cralle 25:32
Sure, and I think we all have a natural dip in the afternoon, about 2PM. And I think it sort of depends on the situation, if you work from home, and a 10-minute nap is feasible, that's one thing. If you're in a busy office environment, the other option is to grab a cup of coffee. So, I think it depends, obviously, but I also think, if you really are getting, say, a good amount of sleep at night, if you're a night-time sleeper, and you just really can't keep your eyes open during the day, again, that's something to sort of collect some data. If you don't have a tracker, keep a sleep diary, and see if there are any trends going on. And still, I would look at that in the context of napping, as I would in the context of reaching for caffeine all through the day to keep you going. I mean, you shouldn't have to do that to stay awake. And are you falling asleep at times unintentionally? I've had patients come to my clinic who have fallen asleep at a red light. Drowsy driving is, I hate the term drowsy driving, it's just such a lightweight term, because it's as dangerous as drunk driving, but this happens where people will drive a few miles and just sort of not realise where they've been, they've had a micro sleep, and it's like, 'Oh, my God, how can I be at this mile marker already? I don't even remember the last few seconds.' It's a very, very dangerous thing. And I think we're a lot more mindful of not getting on the road if we've had some adult beverages, or appoint a designated driver, but see, we still don't have that healthy respect, and a little bit of fear, for sleep deprivation. Or maybe a lot of fear we need. I still think people think they can overcome it. And they'll will themselves, I'll turn on the radio loudly, I'll chew ice, I'll chew gum, I'll open the window, and sort of power through it. It doesn't work that way. Your brain will shut off if it gets tired enough. So, I think a lot of us need a much more healthy respect and reverence for the biological need for sleep, and how it really does operate, not always under our control, like we think it does.
Jeremy Cline 27:58
Let's talk about routines and those routines in particular that might help you to get sufficient and sufficient quality of sleep. When does a routine start in your mind for preparing to go to bed and go to sleep?
Terry Cralle 28:17
It starts the first thing in the morning. The very first thing. And I will preface this by saying, our body clocks love repetitive rhythm and structure. And it's so important to get that daily rhythm and to stick to it. Our clocks like consistency. So, a consistent wake up time is how we start the day and get that morning natural light, it actually affects how you fall asleep at night. So, early morning natural light helps sort of reset, this is the best way to describe it, your body clock. And then again, during the day, if you can possibly, I mean, if you need caffeine to get through the day all day, there's a problem, but if you have to get going in the morning, I would advise if you can stop caffeine after lunchtime, try to do so. Stay hydrated. Hydration and sleep quality are intricately connected. It's really important. Dehydration will lead to trouble falling and staying asleep, even mild. I think physical activity is, obviously, a prerequisite for good sleep. But here's where we would get into the thing, sleep deprived people are too tired to sleep, or some people say, 'I can't get up at 5AM to go to the gym', and I hear you can't exercise in the evening, that'll ruin your sleep. New research shows it will not ruin your sleep, evening exercise. I'm usually at the gym between seven and nine at night, and I have pretty early bedtime, and I mean, I can't go to sleep, unless I have had a good workout. But I tell people, even if you're not really physically active, if you're not in a good exercise routine, 10-minute walk. Literally, 10-minute walk is just such a little minor thing, can contribute and enhance sleep quality. So, you've got the walk, then you have the sleep quality enhanced, so then you wake up more energised, more refresh. You'll probably say, 'Well, you know, today I want 15 minutes, next day, I want 20 minutes.' And that exercise leads to great sleep. And then, great sleep has another bi-directional relationship with our diet and our food choices. The better we sleep, the better our food choices, which I think is really interesting. We don't have those cravings that we have when we're sleep deprived. And I've seen it, and I mean, you'll see me walk, if you see me in an airport at 6AM, walking by all the goodies, the cinnamon buns and the things that are fattening, and the doughnuts and everything else, if I had an early flight, and I'm running on too few hours of sleep, I want everything. I want everything, and I don't even have a sweet tooth. It's so amazing how strong those cravings are. And I'm aware of it, and I know this happens when you don't have enough sleep on board. But think of the people that don't get enough sleep on a daily basis. These cravings are with them all the time. They crave sugar, fats, things to keep them energised, the sweets, they want that sugar rush to help their energy levels. But that kind of diet wreaks havoc on your sleep quality. So, you kind of got to start, just be very aware and mindful of the food choices, knowing that that will help you go to bed, fall asleep and stay asleep, and again, start your day. So, that daily rhythm, and again, back to what can you start doing, consistent bedtimes. If you find a consistent bed and wake time that allow for the sufficient sleep that you need, try to stick to them, try not to vary more than two hours, say on the weekend, if you have plans and things, that rhythm, again, and that consistency really is key, and I greatly, greatly advise that bedtime routine that we know is essential for the little ones to get the kiddos asleep on time, they have to have that predictable, relaxing, very structured routine, it helps transition the mind and the body from wake to sleep, but adults need that, too. And that really helps. And I know that we get so side-tracked. Definitely, all these things compete for our time, especially at bedtime. So, I always recommend setting a bedtime alarm to turn off the show, to turn off the electronics and start preparing for bed. Because that preparation time is fairly magical when it comes to falling asleep.
Jeremy Cline 33:00
How far in advance of falling asleep is that a good thing to do? I'm just thinking about our own routine. We'll switch off the TV at whatever time it is, go upstairs, clean our teeth, do whatever, and then basically go to bed. What's the, if there is, a sort of optimum time before going to sleep that you shut down electronics?
Terry Cralle 33:24
I mean, if you possibly can do an hour and get it done, I mean, I'm sure it depends on a lot of things. I think up to an hour and even earlier in the evening. I'd be very cognizant of dimming lights in the house. I'd also be cognizant of the bathroom lighting situation, because if you've had some, dimming lights even in the evening will help get that melatonin production going in our brain. So, we need that melatonin to fall asleep and stay asleep. But what I see happening is people start chilling out in the evening, dim lights, we put electronics away an hour before, and then they start getting ready for bed, and boom, walk into this brightly-lit bathroom, and there you go. That just stops melatonin in its tracks. Just look at the bathroom lighting and make sure, if you need bright lights during the day, perfect, but at night, see if there's some way to do night lighting. I've seen people telling me, 'Oh, my kid gets a second wind every time I put them in the bathtub.' And well, I said, 'Watch the lighting, and don't have 4000 wonderful fun toys where it becomes this exciting thing, they will get a second wind. Keep things mellow and chilled out and that kind of thing.' And even, you'll think this is funny, but the toothpaste and mouthwash, you should have a morning version and a night version. Some of those things, those blasts of peppermint or spearmint, those are so alerting. And I save those for morning time, but get something very bland for night-time. We want to dial that all down to get ready for bed.
Jeremy Cline 35:11
That's a new one on me. I've never heard of the idea of having separate toothpastes. That's a fascinating one. Just thinking about the lighting, have you seen when you've worked with people any sort of clever little hacks? Because it's going to be beyond the bounds of a lot of people to suddenly start installing dimmer lighting and whatever in their bathrooms. So, is there anything which you've seen people do, which you've thought is quite clever?
Terry Cralle 35:42
I've seen people do several nightlights. I always recommend amber nightlights, sort of more of the red hue, than the bright white. Some people just literally put up a lamp somewhere safe in the bathroom, so there's soft lamp light at night, instead of the bright overhead if you don't have the dimmers. It's nice to see people swapping out some of the electronics at night for activities that don't require the screens or bright lighting, in terms of things to do as a family or things to do individually, just reading, not a very bright light to read. Reading is a great thing to do before sleep. It's distracting, I think it's very hard, it's a tall order for a lot of people to sort of go, 'Okay, now I'm going to lie down in my bed and go to sleep.' And we distract kids with bedtime stories, and that way, they just go off to dreamland thinking about fantastical things sometimes, or it just gets their mind off of things. But with adults, we need to do the same thing. So, however you can do the light as best you can. And I guess, along those lines I mentioned before, the bedroom really has to be as dark as possible. And I've seen people with me installing the blackout shades. And I did this years ago, of course, after spending a year telling people they should have them, finally I thought it's time to do this. It made a huge difference. And I'm super, super, just hyper focused on everything sleep related, how I sleep, how I feel the morning, everything in my environment, I'm very annoying to be around, but that morning, I woke up, it was such a deep sleep, because that room was pitch dark, I mean, pitch dark. And you'd be surprised at people, the adults in my workshop that don't like to sleep in the dark, they like a light on, which is interesting, or they want the TV on all night. Yeah. And that's a problem. They're not getting the sleep they need. Now, if you have to fall asleep with a TV on, I mean, if that's the only way you're going to fall asleep, do it. But put it on a timer. Put it on a timer. So, pay attention to the lights.
Jeremy Cline 38:09
And again, same question, there's going to be installing blackout blinds or whatever, it's not necessarily going to be a more practical solution for everyone or is not going to be something that they can do right this minute, so again, are there any hacks which people can try as like an interim, in terms of darkening the sleep environment?
Terry Cralle 38:33
Yeah, this is an interesting thing. The sleep masks are so amazing now. Years and years and years ago, I was trying them out, and it'd be like, 'Oh, God, it's caught my hair, it's not comfortable.' There are so many varieties out there now. And of course, I have companies send them to me all the time and say, 'Try this out if you like it.' And there are really comfortable ones out there now. And I've talked to people, road warriors, I do a lot of work with how to get the best sleep possible when you're travelling, and sleep masks can save the day, and we're talking 10 dollars. But that can do the trick. But again, it's so remarkable the difference. This is actually true for adults and children, trying to get away from sleeping with either a light in the room or a light in the hallway, having that desire or feeling they can't sleep without a light, fear of the dark transcends every age group, I've heard a lot about it, I've heard a lot of accounts about it. But try amber nightlights. And I always say it's a progressive nightlight, where it starts closer to the bed, but gradually is moved farther away from the bed, and gradual, so it's not an abrupt change from that nightlight. But if you need one, use amber, if you can, graduate it out of the room at some point, because you still want to get in the dark.
Jeremy Cline 40:05
One of the things I'm sure I've heard is that the skin has light receptors, and so, a sleep mask might not necessarily be completely effective. Is that the case? Or it's a good start, before you maybe get on to the stage of installing blackout blinds.
Terry Cralle 40:23
I think it's a good start. I think it is. And at some times, it might be just make or break it. I know when I travel, it's so unpredictable what my sleep environment is going to be. So, that's something I bring. I keep them handy, they stay in my suitcase, because of the light thing. I mean, I wish it weren't so important, but it is. We've got to deal with it. As is the noise thing, we can't control our environment the way we'd like to, and like you say, some things are not feasible and not doable and out of our control. But there are things we can do to mitigate things and to lessen the disruption. We can do the white noise ceiling fans or the white noise app, we can have the portable white noise machines. I bring a small portable white noise machine when I travel, because I can strategically place it, if I've got hallway noise, I can place that white noise machine between my hotel room door and the bed to help reduce unwanted noises. I bring earplugs, I'm not concerned that I won't hear the fire alarm or anything with the earplugs, I don't want to hear anything, but I'm sure that will go through the plugs should one happen. I will say though, kids are incredibly, incredibly deep sleepers. So, don't assume kids hear things like sirens or alarms. They need to be woken up. I know there was one child famous for sleeping through the sinking of the Titanic. Kids are in really deep sleep, much more than we are as adults during the night, while they sleep. So, don't assume your kid will get up and run when needed. But that's an important thing. Temperature is important. And I think all these things I'm outlining make it sound impossible to get some sleep, but having a bed partner as adults, I think that's something we should address while we're addressing the environment, because what is really too cold for me could be way too hot for my bed partner and vice versa. A mattress that's just soft the way I like it, I want to sleep on a marshmallow, and my bed partner says no, that won't do. I mean, I don't ever want a bed partner. One bed partner sacrifices sleep quality for the other person, as benevolent as that sounds and generous as that sounds, robbing yourself of sleep doesn't help anyone, yourself, the relationship, your health. To be a good partner, you need good sleep. It's a very, very important requirement for a good relationship with anyone and everyone. But for the bed partners, explore different options. The mattress industry, I do a lot of consulting, every year, there are really incredible advances in the technology and the way things are made. You can get a king size mattress now that's soft on one side, firm on the other, you can get them with cooling properties, you can get them so you can flip them over every six months, like we used to do years ago, we've gone back to that. We can get them split down the middle, so one bed partner can have their head up, the other person can lie flat, if that's their preference. I mean, there's so much, I think, pretty interesting new things that will enable people to get a good night's sleep while they share a bed. But also, keep in mind, if you don't share a bed, that is fine. A lot of people can't get good sleep when they share a bed, and there's no shame in the game, that's not a negative. It's nothing negative about your relationship. I have thrown away the term sleep divorce. I only use the term independent sleeper from now on. Because sleep is that important. I mean, you're really putting your mental health and physical health at risk when you don't get sleep. So, don't short-change yourself. Don't try to sleep with a snorer, if the snoring's bothering you, or actually, get the snoring addressed, make sure it's not sleep apnoea. Sleep really robs us and affects our personalities. A quick story, in our clinic, we had a middle-aged mother come in with a few kids of varying ages. Falling asleep during the day was her primary presenting problem. We tested her, she had severe sleep apnoea. We've treated her with CPAP, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, to open her airways, so she gets good sleep at night and doesn't stop breathing. She came back for a follow-up appointment 30 days later, and she sat down with her husband who said, 'Thank you for giving me my wife back.' And he said she had been the most irritable, just short temper, moody, impossible to live with. I mean, just all of this stuff. And it had all been tied to sleep. So, again, sleep deprivation goes way, way beyond feeling sleepy. And that's the message I really want to bring home today. It's more than being sleepy, it's really compromising your quality of life in all these arenas. So, it's so important to be mindful. I think we've definitely paid attention to furnishing our kitchens and how we do our kitchens, I think we can do the same for our bedrooms. We've looked at time management, there are survey saying there are some people here that spend five hours a day on electronics or watching television, and not getting the sleep they need at night. Oh my gosh, that makes me want to pull my hair out. So, manage your time. We're better at time management when we're well. When we get enough sleep, we make better decisions, we have better judgments. So, sometimes that lack of sleep makes us make poor decisions, we can't manage our time, we're not organised, and we take risks where we don't have to.
Jeremy Cline 46:35
If I go back and listen to a recording of this episode, I reckon I will probably easily be able to write down 20 or 30 possible sleep tips, which is incredibly helpful. But I'm conscious that it could also be quite overwhelming. So, for the person who's listening to this, and just kind of goes, 'No way, this is just too much', where might be the best place that someone can just start, get an easy win, that is not going to require too much effort frankly?
Terry Cralle 47:09
There's the Better Sleep Council, bettersleep.org has great information about sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine...
Jeremy Cline 47:19
Just in terms of a habit, rather than resource though. So, I mean, someone who has heard that they can do this, they can do that, and so on and so forth, if someone wants to just implement one of the things that you have suggested as a means of improving sleep, what's a good one thing to begin with?
Terry Cralle 47:46
Prioritise and schedule. If you schedule sleep, here's something, do a two-week challenge. I used to do it for 30 days, it's too long. People will see incredible benefits in two weeks if they've been not getting the sleep they need on a daily basis, either intermittently or chronically for a while. But for two weeks, schedule sleep, that's the first step to take. Because a lot of us lose our point of reference when we're sleep deprived. And insight, our insight is one of the first things to go when we're not getting enough sleep, we have no self-awareness, and we have no insight to what's going on, we lose our point of reference to feel well rested. I talk to people in their early 30s, and they say, 'Well, I'm 33, I know I'm going to feel terrible when I wake up in the morning.' No, you're not. No, no, no. You're not getting good sleep, or you're not getting enough sleep. But schedule it. And everything else should come after that. I say reengineer your day, so you get that reengineered night of sleep. And I think, Jeremy, it's important, once people feel the difference, it can actually be pretty life changing, but once they feel the difference and renewed energy, and seeing that they can achieve their diet goals, and all of a sudden, their healthy weight management, and they feel like going to work out, or they feel like going for a walk, or they're happier, or they're more motivated. See, this has been this horrible swap that people have done. They've done this thing, they rob Peter to pay Paul, they want more waking hours to get more done, to do more, to become successful, whatever it is, they want more waking hours. So, they take hours from sleep, just to have more waking hours, and that's a recipe for disaster. What you do is get your sleep, because you get more done, you do it better, you're happier, you're more careful, you're healthier, you're more motivated when you get the sleep. So, we actually do more when we're well rested. So, don't go hour by hour and trying to do that juggling act. It doesn't work.
Jeremy Cline 50:07
Fantastic. Okay, you mentioned the better sleep counsellors as a possible resource, and I'll certainly put a link to that in the show notes. Any other resources you'd like to mention? We talked about a book last time, but I completely forgotten who it was by and what it was called, but it came out relatively recently.
Terry Cralle 50:24
Why We Sleep?
Jeremy Cline 50:25
That's the one, yeah.
Terry Cralle 50:26
Yeah, Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. It's been out a few years, it's a fantastic book. It's a great one. He knows a lot about sleep, and he's a great writer. So, that's a great one. And I think the more you learn about the benefits of sleep, and it's very interesting, actually, I mean, some of the latest research is exciting, there's always new research telling us different things, I think the more we know about it, the more we'll get it. I don't have to nag people, once they've started learning about it. They're pretty motivated to get it. So, I think it's important that your listeners look at sufficient sleep as a personal, a family, a classroom, and a workplaces goal and value to embody. And then, things are better in every way, shape, or form.
Jeremy Cline 51:21
Terry, if someone wants to find out more about you or get a hold of you, where would you like to send them?
Terry Cralle 51:26
My website is terrycrallern.com. I am on Twitter and LinkedIn, so feel free to visit me, and I'm posting pretty recent research, almost daily on LinkedIn and on Twitter, and it's fascinating stuff, and it's a good thing to get involved with.
Jeremy Cline 51:46
As always, I'll put links to those in the show notes. Terry, thank you so much, an absolute wealth of tips, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your knowledge.
Terry Cralle 51:55
Thank you, Jeremy, for having me. It's been a pleasure.
Jeremy Cline 51:59
Okay, hope you enjoyed that interview with Terry Cralle. Terry had so much advice for you there, that I could see how it could get a little bit overwhelming knowing where to start. And that was why I was quite keen to press Terry on that. But speaking from my own experience, so I'm recording this a couple of days after the interview with Terry, I've already started trying her techniques for when you wake up in the middle of the night. Just quieting your brain, and in particular, not worrying about the fact that you're still awake. Now, I'm pretty good with my bedtime routine. I usually go to bed at a fairly reasonable time, where I'm pretty sure that, if I sleep through, then I will have enough sleep for the following day. But when I wake up in the middle of the night, and in particular, if it takes me a long time to get back to sleep, I do get quite paranoid about the fact that the amount of sleep I'm getting is going down and down and down. And I'm still going to get up at the same time, because that's what time my alarm clock goes. And so, I worry that it's going down from eight hours to seven hours to six and a half to six. Since the interview with Terry, I've been forcing myself to say, 'Hey, you know what? This is normal. This is natural. It's okay. Nothing's going to break. I'll be all right. So, let's just not worry about how much sleep I'm not getting as a result of being awake now.' And it does seem to be working. I do seem to be able to get back to sleep just that little bit quicker. There's a couple of other things which Terry mentioned, which I'm quite keen to try out, but I was aware of the fact that, really, I just needed to start with one. And maybe that's something that you can do. Just pick the one tip which you thought, 'Oh, yeah, I can do that. I'll start there.' And see what effect that has. Full show notes with the transcript, a summary of everything we talked about and links to the resources mentioned, they're at changeworklife.com/162, that's changeworklife.com/162. And I think it's been a few weeks since I've said this, but please, please, please, if you could leave a review, preferably on Apple podcasts, Spotify will do, but I prefer Apple podcasts, if you can leave a review for Change Work Life on Apple podcasts, it just helps people know that this is a podcast that is worth their time. And hopefully, after listening to this episode, you think it is, too. We've got some great episodes coming up in the run up to the end of the year, so make sure that you subscribe to the podcast, if you haven't already. There must be a button somewhere on the app that you're using where you can subscribe. So, do that, make sure you never miss an episode, and I can't wait to see you next time. Cheers. Bye.
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