Your day has the biggest impact on your night. I teach this all the time. People get worried about and focused on bedtime routines and certainly this is a foundational piece of refreshing sleep. But if a person is on high-speed all day long, with no breaks, going full on energizer-bunny and does a 30-minute “wind-down”, it’s just not enough. Think of it like eating fast food all day long and then going for a mile walk. You’re not going to lose weight that way. To get the sleep you need to wake up feeling refreshed and energized on a consistent basis, you must change some daily lifestyle habits.
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 Kali Patrick.
Kali Patrick is a Sleep Wellness Coach who helps stressed-out, busy people get consistently refreshing sleep so they can stop chasing remedies and have energy for all their professional & personal passions. She’s also a Therapeutic Yoga & Meditation teacher, and corporate wellness speaker. Learn more about Kali and her practice, A Journey Into Health, at KaliSleepCoach.com.
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?
After a nearly 20-year career in the hi-tech industry, I experienced what is now diagnosed as burnout. I was chronically stressed, I couldn’t sleep because my mind was always on, and I alternated between bouts of anxiety and depression.
I saw my doctor and did a sleep study. I saw my therapist, did IFS, CBT/DBT, and probably other methods with three-letter abbreviations! I tried medication and supplements; nothing seemed to help. What’s worse, I became more frustrated because no one considered the practicalities of my work situation, or the context of my busy life when making recommendations. At best, I had 5–15 minute windows for self-care.
Since I’d practiced yoga and meditation off and on nearly as long as I’d been working, I looked to these modalities for different answers. Once I started training in Yoga Therapy, I learned the importance of meeting people’s mind-body systems where they’re at. I started making small changes for myself and learned techniques that started to balance my nervous system. I discovered I could help myself with little, practical tweaks that ultimately made a big difference.
When I returned to work, I saw how detrimental that corporate environment was to my colleagues’ health and well-being. I saw how they struggled with similar challenges and thought I could help. Now, when I coach someone about improving their sleep and energy, I get to know their mind-body systems, their work and home lives, their unique situations, and together we discover the small, practical changes that will be most effective for them. It’s this collaboration that helps my sleep wellness coaching clients recover, even from long-standing insomnia.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this particular career path?
Beyond my previous answer, I very clearly remember seeing a neuromuscular massage therapist once a month. He was a friend as well, and he would give me advice while working on me. During a session he told me I should be stretching for 10 minutes every hour. What I remember most about that advice was how angry his comment made me feel. At the time I had non-stop meetings in four different buildings on our company’s campus and was quadruple booked from 12–1pm many days of the week. I didn’t feel like I had time to eat or use the restroom, much less stop and stretch! Meanwhile, he worked from home, set his own schedule, etc.
Of course, his advice was sound, but at the time I couldn’t imagine how it was remotely possible. It upset me that he would insist on me doing this without having any understanding of what my life was like. As if it were easy! So, when I started my practice, I made a commitment to myself that I would never make someone feel this way. There are often multiple ways to solve a problem; there’s no need to insist someone do something that feels impossible.
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?
First, I’m uniquely positioned to contribute to the field of sleep wellness because of my blend of personal and professional experience.
I work with clients who are driven, high-achieving people professionally; many, who like me, struggled with insomnia for many years. Whether they’re in the corporate world or on their own as entrepreneurs, there are so many smart people out there who have tried “everything” and feel frustrated at their inability to solve their problem. They may be perfectionists, caregivers, working moms. They may have lost themselves in their work. I understand the exhaustion and the feeling that there’s just no time as well as the underlying worry that something absolutely must change.
I combine this personal understanding with training and expertise in both wellness coaching and therapeutic yoga. More people are turning to yoga, breathing techniques and meditation, and one can certainly Google for such practices to help with sleep and stress. However, as I’ll explain later, these practices can end up in the “don’t’ work” category because the selection was a mismatch for the person and/or the circumstance. One size doesn’t fit all, and there are often other contributing factors that need to be addressed. A meditation can be helpful, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle (and it has to be the right fit).
Last — and unlike many other sleep practitioners (and even some doctors!) — I have a completely different approach. I don’t recommend specific products, supplements, or pills. I don’t think we need more trackers or apps. And I don’t believe we need to get out of bed when we have trouble falling asleep. My clients reset their sleep with a combination of lifestyle, mindset, nervous-system level practices. It’s contrary to the booming market for all the sleep (band)-aids. Yet it’s vital we let go of all the hype and restore our natural ability to get consistently refreshing sleep!
Sleep wellness coaching a bit more of an investment up front to piece things together, but in the end, it saves so much time, money, and effort. And the effects last a lifetime.
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?
My latest favorite, which I’m re-reading now, is The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Had circumstances been different in my life, I may have been a writer. Therefore, what originally captured me about her work was the eloquence of the language. I read sentences at least twice because each feels like a work of linguistic art. But the story — which alternates between two kindred spirits despite different life stages and social classes — helps remind readers that what we imagine to be true about a person based on what we see isn’t necessarily truth. I think that’s particularly important in today’s world.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
One that resonates with me now is attributed to Rumi: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”
It’s related to the word I’ve selected for my 2021, which is “guided”.
I think many people — myself included — get distracted with what we think we should be doing. We make decisions with our thinking brain: logic, rationality, pros/cons lists. We ask other people their opinions and rationalize our decisions. We feel we must have a phrase to put after “because”. We’re always doing, and it’s hard to set chatter aside.
When it comes to making decisions about our sleep, self-care, our health and wellbeing, however, it’s beneficial to cultivate our intuitive voice. What do I need in this moment? If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, for example, it can be useful to ask this question and simply listen (don’t look!) for an answer. The answer may be simple: “get a glass of water!” Or, as I have experienced personally, the answer may not be easy, but what we most need to flourish: e.g., “I need to leave this relationship.” This is the type of self-care that goes deeper than a hot bath, and it’s anything but selfish. Most people need to re-connect with this part of themselves and would find it beneficial to do so.
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?
What a great segue! The best answer to how much sleep an adult person “should” get lies in how they feel. Do they wake feeling refreshed, and ready to take on the day? How well does their sleep sustain their energy, given their professional responsibilities and desires? Must they rely on substances (coffee, sugar, energy drinks, etc.) or sheer willpower to push through? Are they “wrecked” in the evenings with nothing left for family or personal passions?
If a person consistently wakes feeling refreshed, has sustainable energy, and does so without aid — the amount of sleep they’re getting is likely fine. I say “likely”, because many people nowadays sleep 4–6 hours a night and don’t realize how much better they could be functioning and feeling if they slept a few more. 7 hours is a good minimum, in part because a shorter duration can have negative physiological impacts on a mind-body system, regardless of whether a person is aware of it.
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?
Both are important. In yogic philosophy — specifically Ayurveda (the lifestyle component) — the time you go to bed and wake DOES matter. It’s more detail than I can go into here, but the general concept is that if you go to sleep at 10 pm and get 8 hours, the ease with which you can fall and stay asleep, as well as the overall QUALITY of that sleep will be better than if you went to bed at midnight or 1 am and got the same number of hours.
When we talk sleep, there is usually a lot of attention given to circadian rhythm (which is important too). But this ideal of going to bed by 10 pm relates to the natural phases and timings within a 12 hour day and a 12 hour night, and how well we align with them (or not!). If you’ve ever felt tired around 8 pm but got a second wind after 10 pm, you’ve experienced a taste of this more discrete “rest rhythm”. I share 4 ways to reset rest rhythm in my Sleep Academy program.
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?
This whole interview could be about the benefits a person would experience! I would say, the benefits would (and should) be tied to the reasons why s/he was motivated to work diligently.
For example, if this person who was originally not getting enough sleep was experiencing challenges with:
- focusing or being attentive — e.g., during work meetings or while engaging in a sport
- mood — e.g., irritability, impatience, anxiety, depression, etc.
- relationships — e.g., with colleagues, family, friends, significant others, etc.
- physical aches and pains, flare ups of chronic injuries or illnesses, frequent sickness, etc.
- inability lose weight despite eating well and exercising
- making poor choices or having trouble making decisions
- “clumsiness” or being accident prone
- difficulty learning, remembering, or thinking creatively
Then this person could expect to see steady improvements in many, if not all, of these areas once s/he started sleeping well.
Moreover, there are longer-term benefits this hypothetical 35 year old may experience. S/he may be reducing the likelihood of suffering from future physical medical conditions like hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, stroke, obesity, and diabetes. When this adult is a bit older, should s/he become concerned about dementia or Alzheimer’s disease after witnessing a parent’s decline, it’s been shown that refreshing sleep in midlife can be preventative.
Regardless of your age or circumstance, there are numerous short and long-term benefits of learning to get consistently refreshing sleep right now.
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?
Many doctors and wellness professionals talk about the 4 pillars of health. These often include exercise, nutrition, and sleep. Depending on where you look, the fourth may be relaxation (stress resilience) or connection.
There’s another great book out there called The ONE Thing. In it, authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan suggest that there is often one thing, which if addressed, would pave the way for countless other goals to be met and desires to be fulfilled.
If we look at the 4 pillars of health with a ONE thing lens, I believe sleep is the most fundamental of them all. It’s difficult to have energy to exercise if you’re always tired and just trying to survive the day. If you force yourself to move anyway, it can lead to injury and more sedentary time. This also applies to the energy required to prepare and cook nutritious meals after a long day at work. Additionally, the quality of our sleep has also been shown to (hormonally) impact our food choices. Last, it’s much more difficult to have patience for others and weather stressful circumstances with acceptance, quality decisions, and inner peace when we’re flat out exhausted.
In my experience, making it a major priority to get a good night’s sleep is that ONE thing most people can do that would open up so many other amazing things in their personal and professional lives!
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?
Great question. This is a way of thinking that aligns closely with how I work with people. What can we remove to make it easier to get more consistently refreshing sleep? Here are my top 3 obstacles:
- Lack of confidence. This mindset contributes to feelings of helplessness and reduces motivation. I’m not saying there aren’t good reasons why people are doubtful something could work to help them sleep better, especially if they’ve struggled for a while.
- But to solve complex problems we need to call upon our strengths — to remember times in our lives where we were successful despite challenges. We can mine our past experiences for clues to help us move forward now. By doing so, we become empowered, and motivation to make important changes comes more easily.
- Working with a coach or therapist can help you identify your strengths and uncover meaningful motivations for making changes.
- Past failures. There are so many reasons why a remedy may not have worked for someone who has been trying to get better sleep. In my experience that’s not a problem with the person; it’s often because of a mismatched solution.
If I were a sleep expert rather than a sleep coach, what I’d tell you is, “XYZ has been studied and has helped hundreds of thousands of people” or “XYZ worked for me” and we’d get you doing it. So, what happens when XYZ doesn’t work for you? What happens when you can’t comply with the specific XYZ rules? Or even worse, you’re diligent about the rules but nothing changes?
Two things come from this: the person thinks their problem is too difficult, unsolvable (see #1). Or they give up on the specific technique because why bother? It didn’t work.
Since I incorporate yoga practices, breathing techniques, and meditations into my coaching practice, I’m acutely aware of misalignment in this context. It’s great that you can Google “yoga for sleep” or download meditations. But WHO was that routine designed for? There’s a slim chance it was made to help someone just like you.
Part of what I do as a sleep wellness coach is help match techniques and tools to the person, both in terms of where their mind-body / nervous system is at, their combination of specific sleep challenges (falling sleep, staying asleep, waking too early, quality, consistency, etc.), their schedules / life context, etc.
- We have too much to do. It’s not uncommon for me to do a Clarity Call with someone, ask what they’re doing now to improve their sleep, and hear not just self-selected solutions, but 5, 10, or sometimes even 20 of them! A lot of things could work but throwing everything but the kitchen sink at a sleep challenge isn’t just inefficient. It also contributes to the belief that sleeping well is hard work (which I’ll discuss in more detail below) and can create sleep anxiety — anxiety specifically about going to bed and what happens once one gets there.
- As someone who has felt frustrated with sleep (and who also loves having lots of tools in my toolbox!), I understand this. But a mentor of mine used to say, “dig one well.” I’ve had to learn this lesson repeatedly, and I think many people could improve their sleep by doing less, not more.
Do you think getting “good sleep” is more difficult today than it was in the past?
It depends on how far “past” is, but in general yes, I do. There are several reasons why.
The first is that modern culture has normalized the always on, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mentality. Unfortunately, working and moving at high speed as often as we do is simply not aligned with our natural state as human beings. We need rest and recovery just as much as we need movement and stimulation. In the best cases, we de-value relaxation and rest as luxury; in the worse, we view them as lazy or selfish. But the rest and relaxation are prerequisites for high-quality, refreshing sleep. Like many things in life, moderation and balance is key, but culturally we’ve swung to one extreme and so many people are paying a price because it’s not always easy to take care of yourself when you must brush against cultural norms.
The other reasons I think getting “good sleep” is more difficult today has to do with the main questions of our discussion, which you can read below.
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.
I will likely have a different perspective than many of your interviewees, and I’m OK with that! Here’s my top 5.
- Your day has the biggest impact on your night. I teach this all the time. People get worried about and focused on bedtime routines and certainly this is a foundational piece of refreshing sleep. But if a person is on high-speed all day long, with no breaks, going full on energizer-bunny and does a 30-minute “wind-down”, it’s just not enough. Think of it like eating fast food all day long and then going for a mile walk. You’re not going to lose weight that way. To get the sleep you need to wake up feeling refreshed and energized on a consistent basis, you must change some daily lifestyle habits.
- “Energy in” must be processed. Building on #1, what we do during the day is often stimulating to our mind-body system. This isn’t just blue light from screens; it’s also information that we’re taking in. It’s challenging situations at work, and drama-filled conversations with family. It’s “being there” for a friend who’s struggling. This all requires that you absorb the energy of these activities and interactions on a nervous-system level.
- Much of the insomnia we see today is caused by a hyper-aroused and hyper-vigilant nervous system. So being mindful about how much stimulation you’re allowing into your life is important. There are endless sources of stimulation today; some “wind-down” activities people think are helping them are adding fuel to the fire! The bottom line is this: boundaries (with others and self) are REQUIRED.
- Your mindset is important. What you tell yourself about your sleep matters, especially if you’ve been struggling for a while. What you say to others about your sleep (or lack thereof) — e.g., on social media — can help reinforce poor sleep cycles. Everyone has a poor night’s sleep once and awhile. Waking up is sometimes completely normal. Many people who suffer from chronic insomnia need to make important mindset shifts in order to reclaim their sleep and their energy.
- There are no quick fixes. I see threads on social media almost daily about how someone got poor sleep, and then people not only respond with “me too!” (see #3) but also with quick fix solutions: “take this”, “try that”. It’s scary to see how people are sedating themselves with sleep cocktails of various sorts! None of this is necessary. Sure, remedies can work for a time, and for acute cases of sleep difficulty — e.g., jet lag from travel or grief from a loss — they’re spot on. But that’s the extent of how most remedies were intended to be used. I’m not a doctor, but in my experience if you’re consistently relying on a substance (and not just pills, this includes alcohol, “natural” things like CBD oils, etc.) then you’re likely robbing yourself of the ability to sleep naturally and may even be making the problem worse.
- Improving sleep doesn’t have to be difficult. People want quick fixes because they’re tired and frustrated, and so #4 can feel discouraging. So many clients I have coached think they must work hard to get more refreshing sleep. But it’s the opposite. We need to work LESS. Sleep requires us to surrender, not to control. Improving sleep can be easy when you get to the heart of the problem and make the right little tweaks. Unfortunately, most people who are interested in sleep coaching are those who have been suffering for 10, sometimes 20 years. Solving sleep difficulties in early months or years can nip problems in the bud.
What would you advise someone who wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep?
That depends quite a bit on WHY someone is waking up in the first place, and why they are having trouble getting back to sleep after they do wake. (Incidentally, this is why so many people are stuck in their quest for better sleep: there’s no one “right” piece of advice for a question like this!)
Is the person waking in the middle of the night due to a restless body? A busy mind? Both? Are they getting up to use the bathroom? Is a partner or something else in their environment creating disturbance? Is there an underlying medical reason? Do they feel safe? Is the person also suffering from sleep anxiety (where they worry about not being able to get back to sleep)?
There are potentially many moving parts here. Working with a professional to pinpoint the root causes will uncover the most effective advice. Both pieces need to be addressed: one must reduce the frequency of nighttime awakenings so sleep can be maintained and leverage the best tools to help them get back to sleep easily when awakenings do happen. Here are 7 ideas your readers can look into.
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?
As I wrote in my blog post “What you need to know before joining the nap club,” it depends. For example, a short nap may be a good idea as part of daytime self-care following a night of poor sleep. Depending on the time of day, the depth, and regularity, however, naps can certainly affect your ability to sleep at night. I encourage people to view everything they do as training their mind-body system. So, when considering napping the question is, do you want to train yourself to sleep during the day or at night? In many cases, naps distract us from solving underlying root cause(s) of sleeplessness and can perpetuate the cycle of a poor nighttime experience. We can’t “catch up” on sleep lost at night by taking a nap during the day. What’s more, many people think they’re tired or sleepy when what they’re really feeling is fatigue. There’s a difference, and therefore a difference in how the problem is resolved.
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. 🙂
I’d say Arianna Huffington (@ariannahuff) because she was an early advocate of prioritizing sleep and remains a key influencer when it comes to helping busy professionals avoid burnout. Not too many people are aware that Sleep Wellness Coaching is an option for adults, and I’d love the opportunity to collaborate and get the word out!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Everything about my practice, A Journey Into Health, is available at https://KaliSleepCoach.com. From there readers can book a free Clarity Call, get access to resources, and discover my social media channels.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!