Elizabeth Grojean of Baloo Living: “Create your own sleep sanctuary”

Create your own sleep sanctuary. Making sure your bedroom is optimized for sleep is something easy to do to promote better sleep. Make sure your bedroom is dark (no cell phones, TVs, or computers), cool, and quiet. You can even try a cooling & breathable weighted blanket to give you a gentle, comforting hug as […]

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Create your own sleep sanctuary. Making sure your bedroom is optimized for sleep is something easy to do to promote better sleep. Make sure your bedroom is dark (no cell phones, TVs, or computers), cool, and quiet. You can even try a cooling & breathable weighted blanket to give you a gentle, comforting hug as you slip into sleep.

Getting a good night’s sleep has so many physical, emotional, and mental benefits. Yet with all of the distractions that demand our attention, going to sleep on time and getting enough rest has become extremely elusive to many of us. Why is sleep so important and how can we make it a priority?

In this interview series called “Sleep: Why You Should Make Getting A Good Night’s Sleep A Major Priority In Your Life, And How You Can Make That Happen” we are talking to medical and wellness professionals, sleep specialists, and business leaders who sell sleep accessories to share insights from their knowledge and experience about how to make getting a good night’s sleep a priority in your life.

As part of this interview series, we had the pleasure to interview Elizabeth Grojean, Founder of Baloo Living.

Elizabeth Grojean is founder and CEO of Baloo Living, a sleep and wellness company here to support people in reconnecting mind and body for a deeper sense of peace through cool and breathable weighted blankets. Elizabeth launched the company after a sabbatical to Bali, where she was transformed by the opportunity to find stillness and connect with nature on the magical island. Three years later, Baloo is growing quickly and giving back through nonprofit partnerships to support the environment and our communities.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your backstory?

I have a story that I think many in today’s world can relate to: as a young adult, I felt compelled to do what was expected, but I struggled when it didn’t quite fit. Feeling burned out after a succession of corporate jobs in 2017, I left New York City for Bali on a one-way ticket with a little bit of savings but no safety net. It was a moment of drawing a line and saying that the way I had been living was not working, and I was going to trust my intuition even though I was terrified, to lead me to another way of living that felt better for me. The process of stepping away and taking a risk — but trusting myself — revealed my true path as an entrepreneur. I ended up spending 13 months in Bali and learning from an incredible number of heart-based entrepreneurs and explorers, many of whom were instrumental in my journey. My first company, Baloo Living, was launched a little more than a year later from there.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this particular career choice?

I studied marketing in college because I hoped to avoid math as much as possible, and because it seemed to be the most creative field in business. It gave me well-rounded experiences through work with many types of companies, but I had a deep buried desire to be entrepreneurial, even though I never imagined I would ever start my own business.

Upon arriving in Bali, I gravitated toward a wonderful co-working space called Hubud. There, I saw a presentation given by a woman and former human rights attorney, about how to start an eCommerce business. I remember sitting in the audience thinking of a hundred reasons why it wouldn’t work for me, but my belief in the possibility of something more than I had let myself have up to that point took me past the discomfort. I believe it is very powerful to see someone who you can relate to modeling your goal. It was the first time I could relate to a role model, not only a woman but someone with a previous career and very strong commitment to ethical values — and see myself. From that moment, it was a very short period of time, maybe six months, before I launched Baloo Living.

Coincidentally, my one astrology reading ever just a year prior included information that I would be well suited for running an eCommerce business in the home space, and better yet, that my sister and I would be a power team. Two years in and my sister left her corporate job to join Baloo as Director of Operations, and it couldn’t have been a better move for both of us.

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the sleep and wellness fields? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

I believe it is important to have experts in health and wellness (science is real!). But I believe it’s equally important to develop a deep and trusting relationship with our own intuition and inner guidance systems, which are there to lead us in the best direction forward for each of our own lives. I have so much to learn, but I’ve learned so much through my personal experiences of testing and trying different healing modalities from Reiki and energy work, exercise and nutrition, Eastern medicine, to plant medicine, and much more. I believe that ultimately we are designed simply and elegantly, yet we live in a culture and environment that doesn’t support our natural design. When we can remove some of these negative influences, rather than add more things on, we can often relieve the pressure and allow our bodies to self-regulate and heal.

My hope is that through Baloo, we can elevate the conversation around wellness and self care away from consumption, and toward genuine self care, which includes compassion, grace, and loving energy for ourselves, therefore the world.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is my favorite book of all time. I read it in my early and mid-twenties and found myself highlighting whole paragraphs with pencil and making notes in the margins. This book inspired me to listen to my heart even when I didn’t understand where it was leading me, to have faith that there is always a greater plan at work. In the book, the young shepherd leaves his flock and risks everything to cross the desert and explore new worlds, called by a dream and guided by signs and messengers. Ultimately the journey leads him back to his destination where he discovers the treasure he had been dreaming of. For me, the message of this book is that it is not only about the destination, but the process of reaching it which gives us the character required to be worthy of receiving our dreams come true.

I made many uncomfortable changes in my career in the attempt to bring my heart closer to its joy: I changed cities from Austin to D.C., Chicago to San Antonio, and finally to New York. I changed jobs and companies just as often, and finally, I gave up the search and retreated to Bali on a one-way ticket. Just like the saying goes, when you stop looking for it, there it is, through the process of hungering to fill the void I felt, I was finally able to find peace and inspiration to follow my dreams and create a new relationship to myself and my life.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

There is no such thing as a coincidence!

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Let’s start with the basics. How much sleep should an adult get? Is there a difference between people who are young, middle-aged, or elderly?

This varies from person to person. It’s up to each individual to notice when they feel their best. The guidelines serve as a general rule-of-thumb, but it’s up to the person to see how many hours of sleep makes them feel energized in the morning. In general, the National Sleep Foundation, “advises that healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Babies, young children, and teens need even more sleep to enable their growth and development. People over 65 should also get 7 to 8 hours per night.”

Try keeping a sleep journal next to bed to record how many hours of sleep you got the night before and how you are feeling — refreshed and excited or tired and grumpy? Once you start noticing a positive pattern in terms of the hours you slept and how you feel in the morning — stick to that routine.

One of the most important aspects of guaranteeing good quality sleep is going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day, though those specific bedtimes are up to you and what makes you feel refreshed when you wake in the morning.

However, it’s important not to overdo it on the sleep tracking as this can be an added (and unnecessary) stressor in life. Aim to stick to your most efficient sleeping schedule and let it be!

Is the amount of hours the main criteria, or the time that you go to bed? For example, if there was a hypothetical choice between getting to bed at 10PM and getting up at 4AM, for a total of 6 hours, or going to bed at 2AM and getting up at 10AM for a total of 8 hours, is one a better choice for your health? Can you explain?

Actually neither. Our bodies were designed to go to sleep as the sun sets and wake up as the sun rises. This natural function of your body is called the circadian rhythm — also known as your internal alarm clock. Sticking to a schedule by going to sleep at the same time every night after the sun goes down and rising at the same time every morning as the sun rises, you will begin to train your mind & body for restful sleep every night.

Sunlight gives our body and brain the cue to wake and get moving — this is why it’s recommended to work near a window so your body continues to receive those triggers to stay awake! In turn, once the daylight is gone — our body needs to get the hint that it’s time for sleep. Another fun fact: this is why sleep experts don’t like blue light! TVs, cell phones, computers, etc all emit blue light, which tricks your body into thinking it’s still light out making it harder to fall asleep if you’ve been scrolling away.

When our bodies are in sync with our circadian rhythm, you will naturally fall asleep and rise with the sun.

As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for our readers. Let’s imagine a hypothetical 35 year old adult who was not getting enough sleep. After working diligently at it for 6 months he or she began to sleep well and got the requisite hours of sleep. How will this person’s life improve? Can you help articulate some of the benefits this person will see after starting to get enough sleep? Can you explain?

Deep sleep is like a cure-all. You’ll be able to see positive results in all areas of your life. Deep (REM) sleep strengthens your memories, helps you learn, and strengthens your immune system.

You’ll not only feel better due to energy restoration and increased blood supply to muscles, but you’ll even look better. One night of poor sleep can cause hanging eyelids, swollen eyes, darker under eye circles, and wrinkles & fine lines.

You will actually be able to see the difference that quality sleep is having on your body. During sleep, your skin’s blood flow increases and the organ actually rebuilds its collagen. It also repairs damage from UV rays, which improves the appearance of wrinkles and age spots. Plus, deep sleep is important for your metabolism, hormonal balance, and heart health.

Deep sleep is important for all areas of your body, so once it’s prioritized — you’ll start to see and feel the benefits.

Many things provide benefits but they aren’t necessarily a priority. Should we make getting a good night’s sleep a major priority in our life? Can you explain what you mean?

There are few things in life that affect all aspects of the quality of life. Sleep is one of them. Once you have a poor night’s sleep, you’ll soon realize why this is the case.

Sleep affects your overall health, ability to learn and remember experiences, relationships with others, motivation for work, stress levels, and the list goes on and on. This is key to understanding why sleep should be a priority, because when it’s not — you will immediately feel (and see) the negative impact.

The truth is that most of us know that it’s important to get better sleep. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives? How should we remove those obstacles?

First — even if society understands that sleep is important to overall health, Americans actually don’t consider it a priority. Research from the National Sleep Foundation found that Americans don’t consider sleep a top priority — when asked which of five items were most important to them personally, only 10% of respondents said sleep. Fitness & nutrition, work, and hobbies beat out the deep rest that our bodies need in order to feel survive & thrive.

Sleep needs to be your #1 priority. When you are tired, you are more likely to perform poorly at work or the gym, and you won’t have energy for your hobbies. Being a better person overall starts with sleep — once getting quality sleep is top of mind, we have more energy to take on the day: work, exercise, hobbies, social life, & giving back included. Plus, feeling better overall is an added bonus.

Second — stress is the biggest obstacle to get over in order to make deep sleep a daily habit. Last year put sleep deprivation at the forefront of our minds. ‘Coronasomnia’ is a term coined last year referring to insomnia and other sleep problems due to pandemic-related stress and drastic changes to our life. But even before 2020, we weren’t sleeping. The CDC even described sleep deprivation as a “public health epidemic” linking to a wide range of medical issues including hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity, and cancer.

As a society, we are too stressed and anxious, which makes falling asleep difficult to actually do. When your mind is still racing about something that happened during work, you’re worrying about your children before bed, or you’re thinking about all the things you need to do tomorrow while lying in bed — it’s the last thing your body needs in order to fall asleep. When you are feeling anxious, it actually activates your sympathetic nervous system which in turns causes your heart rate to increase and high blood pressure to keep you alert. It’s your body’s natural response when it feels like your safety is threatened. Even if you do manage to fall asleep, your sleep may be poorer quality and you could wake up multiple times throughout the night.

This could mean a continuous cycle of being stressed before sleep and then stressing about not being able to sleep, which causes a frustrating cycle of insomnia.

The good news is that there are so many things you can do to combat stress before sleep. From learning relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation, to journaling to leave your thoughts and worries behind on paper, to exercising regularly, or even trying a weighted blanket to get a gentle and comforting feeling before sleep.

We need to start thinking about sleep as more of a holistic healthy living approach in order to make sure sleep is a priority.

Third — not making sleep sacred is an obstacle that I don’t think most people are aware of, but most people need to overcome. I’m sure most adults have said the phrase, “there aren’t enough hours in the day” at least once in their life. We think of sleep as this set back for humans, an extra “task” we need to do, and we wish we didn’t have to do it in order to feel good. However, we should be reframing sleep as something that’s a task with something we are grateful we get to do. Making sleep a nightly ritual that we look forward to instead of dread will make it easier to stick to & integrate into our lives. But you shouldn’t have to trick yourself into making sleep sacred — it is! Magic happens when we sleep — improved memory & cognitive function, improved longevity, lower inflammation, healthy weight maintenance, efficient metabolism, lower stress and anxiety…this list goes on and on!

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share “5 things you need to know to get the sleep you need and wake up refreshed and energized”? If you can, kindly share a story or example for each.

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule. Being consistent with your sleep routine (even on weekends!) reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle and will promote easier, more restful sleep.
  2. Manage your stress. Avoiding stress altogether is impossible (unless someone has a groundbreaking tip, I’m all ears!), but there are things you can do to manage your stress levels — especially before bed. Try yoga, meditation, light exercise, journaling, or painting during the evening to relieve some worry if you are starting to feel anxious.
  3. Pay attention to your diet. It’s advisable to avoid caffeine after noon and try not to go to bed hungry or uncomfortably full. Nicotine and alcohol should also be avoided. Try eating food or drinks that promote sleep, such as kiwis or chamomile tea.
  4. Keep active. Regular physical activity can promote better & easier sleep. It’s a proven stress reliever and it will help tire you out before bed so you can fall asleep faster and sleep deeper.
  5. Create your own sleep sanctuary. Making sure your bedroom is optimized for sleep is something easy to do to promote better sleep. Make sure your bedroom is dark (no cell phones, TVs, or computers), cool, and quiet. You can even try a cooling & breathable weighted blanket to give you a gentle, comforting hug as you slip into sleep.

What would you advise someone who wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep?

Whatever you do, don’t lie in bed awake. If you are still having trouble falling asleep after 20 minutes or so of being awake, get out of bed and find something calming to do in order to 1) distract yourself and 2) make you feel sleepy again. You could make a cup of soothing tea (decaf only!), listen to a guided meditation, read a book, or anything you already practice during the day to feel relaxed.

The stress & worry of not being able to sleep will actually make it harder for you to sleep. Even worse, if this is a recurring experience, it could start to “train” your body that bed is the place where you stress about sleep, compounding that vicious cycle further. Moral of the story — don’t stay in bed awake, get up and do something calming to tire yourself out.

What are your thoughts about taking a nap during the day? Is that a good idea, or can it affect the ability to sleep well at night?

Naps can actually be beneficial for overall health depending on how long the nap is and what time you are napping. In a study of adults ages 65+, scientists found that people who napped for 30 to 90 minutes had better word recall — a sign of good memory — than people who did not nap or who napped for longer than 90 minutes. People who napped for the targeted 30 to 90 minutes were better at figure drawing, a sign of good cognition as well.

However, napping for longer than 90 minutes may be a sign of poor quality nighttime sleep. If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, it would be advisable to not nap during the day to ensure your body is tired enough for bedtime. Naps can help make up for lost sleep, but will make it harder to fall asleep at night and will continue the incredibly annoying cycle of insomnia.

If you do choose to nap, make sure you are taking them before 3 pm. Napping after the post-lunch window can interfere with nighttime sleep, which is the last thing you want.

Wonderful. We are nearly done. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Ty Haney — I love what she created with her company Outdoor Voices and at a young age. I am so impressed by people who know early on that the status quo is not for them, and blaze their own trail. Ty and Outdoor Voices have been through some tumultuous times, but through it all she seems to grow stronger as a woman and a person. She’s an entrepreneur I would like to know.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can visit balooliving.com or follow us on social media @balooliving!

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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