How to Sleep Better Without Sleeping Longer | With Megan Rhoads
In an increasingly fast-paced society, sleeping quality seems to be gradually becoming both a rarity and a treasure. We sat down with the specialist Megan Rhoads to find out all the tips and tricks behind a good night of sleep.
The Sleep Pyramid Program
After dealing with burnout herself, Megan started researching the main factors that dictate health and wellbeing. That was the starting point of the Sleep Pyramid Program, a coaching program that resorts to science-based techniques that improve not only the quality of your sleep but also your productivity and happiness while you are awake. By defining six fundamental life aspects – sleep, nutrition, movement, inner connection, socialization, and achievement – Megan was able to fully recover and help others live as their best selves.
How does it work?
According to Megan, the success of the Sleep Pyramid Program relies on three factors: prioritizing, flexibility and structure.
In order to introduce this method into your daily life, you first need to realize which of these six aspects are more or less important to you. Like so, on the bottom layer of the pyramid you need to fit the three factors that have the biggest impact on your quality of life and overall happiness, defining them as your daily priority. The second row of the pyramid houses two other factors, and the top represents the aspect that has the least influence on your well-being. “For me, achievement is at the top. I have to do all of these things first before I can even start my workday (…) but, some folks need to wake up and create right away. So maybe achievement needs to be at the bottom of their pyramid. “
That takes us to the second key to success: the balance between structure and flexibility. While having these six factors as a starting point is important in terms of mental organization, adapting this system to your specific needs is crucial for it to work. Therefore, the first step is to reflect on where you stand in each of one of these aspects and where you need to focus your attention. Next, as Megan explains, small changes go a long way. “It really does not take a whole lot before people start feeling better (…) that is the main takeaway (…) you can make these small incremental changes and fit them into your day to see a big impact”.
How to Sleep Better – some practical tips
Beware of your Awake Time
Who would have thought that to sleep better you have to focus your attention on your awake time? “Everything that we do during the day affects what happens at night”, explains Megan. In this sense, putting an effort into all aspects of your pyramid, especially the ones with the biggest impact, determine your sleeping quality at night. Exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, connecting with your inner self, all play a part in your Zzzs. “So if you want a good night of sleep you have to start as soon as you wake up”, says Megan Rhoads.
How much sleep do I need?
As it happens with other factors, the amount of hours each individual needs is precisely that, individual, and it changes according to your specific needs. While the general rules dictate from seven to nine hours, that time gap can change according to your age, needs, or even availability. “You are trying to aim to 7 to 9 hours but, to really be in tuned with your body is the biggest piece (…) see what works for you, but then stick to that”, states Megan.
The Importance of Consistency
After figuring out what works best for you, consistency will determine your success. “The more we can get to a set waking up and going to bed schedule, the more consistent our sleep is going to be, the more consistent our energy is going to be”, Megan says.
To help with that, the specialist shared a few tricks like the first light-last light rule. “Getting that natural light shining into our eyes helps us wake up, (…) being able to see the last of that light as the sun goes down signals to our brain that is time to go to go relax and calm down.”
However, as it happens with the amount of sleep one actually needs, the schedule of that sleep also varies. In fact, as Megan explained, some individuals are still biologically wired to work on a bimodal or biphasic sleeping schedule. “That’s kind of the natural way that humans used to sleep, back before there was electricity (…) we used to go to bed when the sun went down, and then we would wake up after a few hours (…) for an hour or so and then go back to sleep and sleep until the sun came up”.
Wind Down Routine & Optimal Environmental
In an ideal world, your wind-down routine should start two hours before going to bed. And the first step is exactly what you guessed and feared: shutting down all electronics. The Blue Light produced by our gadgets mimics sunlight and, therefore, wrongfully sends a signal to our brain that is time to stay awake. After that, is all about reducing movement and stimulus gradually, through a three-step routine. For example, you may want to start your evening by taking your dogs for a walk, then reading a book and finishing with a meditation already in bed.
When it comes to the optimal environment, the standard rule is darkness, silence, and coolness (around 65 °F or 18 °C). Nevertheless, you may prefer the company of white noise or a night light.
The Impact of Inflammation
“Inflammation is the number one silent attacker that people don’t really know about”, states Megan. We are talking about a natural process in the body that usually appears to fight infection but that can also manifest as a chronic problem. “When we have inflammation in our body and it’s chronic, that tends to put us in this state of low-grade fight or flight mode (…) that is a natural reaction to any kind of stress.”, making it harder to fall and stay asleep. Commonly, chronic inflammation comes from foods (like dairy, alcohol or gluten) that can have a negative impact on the body depending on the individual.
Megan is a clinical phycologist and psychotherapist that focuses on empowering individuals to find their innate abilities to walk this Earth as their true selves: powerful, positive human beings.
While weathering the COVID-19 pandemic in Morelos, Dr. Rhoads became a TEDx speaker with her upbeat, informative presentation titled Jingle All the Way! As Dr. Rhoads continues to empower her psychotherapy patients to take charge of their lives, she also enjoys an additional career focus: executive coaching with an emphasis on drastically improving sleep quality and duration.
She offers a 6-week program that walks individuals through making the small daily changes that are scientifically shown to have the biggest impact on their nightly functioning (i.e., sleeping soundly!), as well as their work lives and home lives.
Find out more about Megan’s content and services here.