Lauren Baptiste of Acheloa Wellness: “Do. Not. Snooze”

Do. Not. Snooze. Honestly, if I could offer only one piece of advice, this would probably be it. Snoozing is the first decision we make each day that goes against our highest self — Our first choice to set the tone for the day and we’re picking lethargy over opportunity. Getting a good night’s sleep has so […]

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Do. Not. Snooze. Honestly, if I could offer only one piece of advice, this would probably be it. Snoozing is the first decision we make each day that goes against our highest self — Our first choice to set the tone for the day and we’re picking lethargy over opportunity.

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 who 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 Lauren Baptiste.

Lauren Baptiste is radically shifting contemporary work culture toward prioritizing emotional, physical and mental health. She launched Acheloa Wellness, a wellness coaching firm, to address the pervasive issue of burnout by guiding today’s workforce toward embracing wellness practices at home and in the office. An executive wellness coach, international speaker and corporate well-being consultant, Lauren brings her experience as a practitioner of Ayurveda, hormonal health and other healing modalities to her work transforming burnout to balance, joy and high-performing productivity.

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?

Believe it or not, I did not embrace any wellness practices in my professional life for many years. In spite of being a collegiate athlete and raised by a health junkie, the advice I was given upon entering the corporate arena was to “hold on.” The payoff would outweigh the strain of working myself to the bone. Post-2007 recession, I received a job at a Big Four accounting firm and “held on” for over a decade. During those years, I tucked away my love for running and prioritized work above all else. Needless to say, a few years into the profession, I burned out. Hard.

My mental and physical health suffered for years due to the excessive amounts of stress that I took on. From vision impairment to irregular menstruation, as well as living without boundaries and exhibiting symptoms of minor depression, I pushed through until my body said, “no more”. In 2013, I ended up in an emergency room from a work assignment that changed the trajectory of my life. At that moment, I had the choice to push through (and probably be dead by now) or do something different. Believe it or not, in the moment, that felt like a hard decision.

It took a while, but I finally got back on my feet. In my comeback, I realized that no one should have to suffer from the impacts of burnout because of their employment circumstances, or any other circumstances — there had to be a healthier, happier way.

My epiphany drove me to launch Acheloa Wellness, my wellness coaching firm focused on burnout recovery and prevention. I combine my experience as a practitioner of Ayurveda, hormonal health and other healing modalities, as well as my knowledge of the corporate landscape, in order to guide professionals toward boosting their stamina and caring for their bodies and minds while building their careers.

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

We all know the adage, “when there’s smoke, there’s fire,” but sometimes we need to literally get burned by the fire to see it.

During the first few years of building my career within the corporate landscape, I suffered from cystic acne, irregular menstrual cycles, ovarian cysts, psoriasis rosacea, anxiety and mild depression. After experiencing a severe burnout episode during an out-of-town work assignment, I decided that not only did I need to make a major change, but that I felt best equipped to help others prioritize their mental, physical and emotional health. With this newfound inspiration, I rolled up my sleeves and began to work toward changing the future of the contemporary workforce in a meaningful way.

I know firsthand how easy it is to fall into the trap of putting our needs low on our list of priorities when the responsibilities of work, family and errands feel ever demanding. However, I’ve learned that when unaddressed, the effects of stress will manifest into harmful symptoms which potentially derail the beautiful life that we have built for ourselves. My work centers around helping clients learn to re-prioritize their needs so they can tackle their life’s challenges and responsibilities as their most balanced and grounded selves.

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?

As a wellness coach and Ayurvedic health counselor, I help individuals break through the effects of stress so that they can thrive. When the Covid-19 pandemic began, my clients consistently expressed a common complaint: “I can’t sleep.” While insomnia can be caused by a number of factors, to me, the clear culprit for my clients’ difficulties with sleep during this time is stress. In order to regulate our sleep patterns, we must address our stress.

From my background in Ayurveda, I understand that “happiness and unhappiness, nourishment (good physique) and emaciation, strength and debility, sexual prowess and impotence, knowledge and ignorance, life and death — all are dependent on sleep.” (Ashtanga Hridayam 7:53) From this tenet of Ayurvedic thought, we understand that it is challenging to show up for our day-to-day responsibilities and desires without a full night of sleep. Without proper rest, we lack the rejuvenation we need to thrive.

I bring my knowledge and reverence for these teachings as I work with clients to help them alleviate stress and anxiety and regulate their sleep schedules during high anxiety times.

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?

Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life by Dr. Claudia Welch made a significant impact on me as Dr. Welch’s teaching helped me reframe my approach to my goals and desires. In an ever-stressful, overwhelming world, most of us are focused on “more” (i.e., more material things, more kids, more wealth, more friends). However, the idea of abundance loses its meaning and creates imbalance in our minds, bodies, and specifically our hormones, when the desire for “more” occurs in excess. Dr. Welch elucidates on how “less is more” and invites the reader to consider the benefits of a life of subtraction vs. a life of addition.

This idea especially resonated with me when I lay half-naked on an ER stretcher almost a decade ago. I realized how much pushing, climbing and forcing my way to the top took a toll on my body and mind. As a former Division 1-athlete, I’ve always understood what it means to set goals and push myself. But somehow, I forgot the importance of recovery, of making time for myself to rejuvenate.

By inviting less into my life, I’ve gained so much. My relationships are more meaningful, my actions are more intentional, and a full night’s sleep has been an essential part of my daily routine. I highly recommend this book and its teachings.

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

“Live as if we’re going to die tomorrow; learn as if we’re going to live forever.”

It’s too easy to read a life lesson quote like this and think, “yeah, I know” or “I will when (fill in the blank)”. Life is not guaranteed, but this present moment is available for us to take charge now. I’m grateful to have learned this lesson at 25, but only because I got to a breaking point in my career. Unfortunately, most of us don’t embrace the fullness of life until it’s too late. Why wait for a bad diagnosis, a pink slip or new year to take charge of your life? If today were your last day, would you be living the way you’re currently living or working the way you’re currently working?

While I can promise you that every day in my life is not a thrill-seeking good time, I can tell you wholeheartedly that my life continues to move in the direction of living fully, giving generously, making impact and forever learning. I’ve taken full responsibility for my life, and it’s made all the difference. It’s a privilege that I can walk down the street with ease and digest my meals without immense pain. My body and mind are my greatest assets and I’d be remiss if I didn’t engage them in a way that best serves myself and others.

If you’ve been struggling with sleep, stress or happiness, you owe it to yourself to do something different. It’s too easy to fall into bad patterns that degrade our lives. Every day, every moment is a new opportunity for positive change.

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?

In order to best understand the sleeping needs of my clients I find it helpful to refer back to a few basic teachings of Ayurveda. According to the principles of Ayurveda, there are three doshas, or biological humors, that make up our constitution. The three doshas include vata (air and space), pitta (fire and water), and kapha (earth and water). It is said that each individual contains a unique ratio of the three and that their qualities appear more powerfully in different life stages. The doshas require different sleep needs based on the elements they embody. Let’s break it down:

Vata encapsulates the qualities of the elderly, or as I like to call this time, our wisdom years. If you are 60+ years old, you should give yourself 8 hours of sleep per night in order to rest that rough vata energy. Additionally, if you are a person who experiences an imbalance of vata qualities (e.g., dry skin and hair or anxious thoughts) you may want to prioritize 8 hours of sleep as well.

Pitta represents the qualities of our early to middle adulthood (early 20s to late 50s). If you fall within this age range and you feel that fiery pitta drive, shoot for 7 hours of sleep a night. If you are a person who experiences an excess of pitta qualities (e.g., irritated skin or digestive issues like acid reflux), I recommend sleeping 7 hours a night as well.

Kapha generally represents the most youthful stage of life, children and adolescents. This age group requires a lot of rest in order to support their physical and mental development. Any child or adolescent under 18 years should try to get 9–10 hours of sleep. This can be especially tough for teens as they try to juggle their homework and extracurricular activities but if you are a parent, encourage your teen to try to prioritize rest so they can meet these challenges to the best of their ability. Conversely, adults with a kapha constitution or those that are experiencing imbalanced kapha qualities, such as sluggish digestion or lethargy, can combat some of these slow or heavy qualities by sleeping for approximately 6 hours at night. The thought here is that “an object at rest will tend to stay at rest”; therefore, those experiencing kapha imbalances would be better off with slightly less sleep to promote mobility and activity.

The act of staying awake at night, usually aggravates the vata and pitta doshas. This can cause conditions such as lack of concentration and burning of the eyes or digestion issues such as constipation and hyperacidity. In order to relax your mind and body before bed, it is recommended to end the day by slowing down and giving thanks. It can also be a useful practice to journal about the day’s accomplishments and the things that must be attended to the following day. This allows us to move on from the day and to reflect upon our responsibilities without bringing them into our sleep.

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?

This is a loaded question! Before I get into which option is better, I want to highlight the importance of consistency in the bedtime routine. Many of my clients will share that they experience inconsistent sleep patterns due to work or their kids. Sometimes they will go to bed as early as 11pm, while other nights they’re working until 4am. Some days they’re sleeping three hours while others they’re sleeping thirteen. This erratic sleep schedule puts your body on alert as it does not know when you’re going to sleep again or for how long. If your body is in this reactive state, then you’re more likely to burnout as it is working twice as hard to support you. This is why, when advising my clients, I emphasize the importance of consistency in the bedtime routine.

As for the choice between going to bed at 10pm or 2am, I would opt for the former, even if that means losing two hours of sleep. This is because when you go to bed at 10pm you are more aligned with your circadian rhythm which will improve the quality of your sleep.

In Ayurveda, different times of the day make up the three doshas and have a powerful effect on the body. Try to get ready for bed during the kapha time of day (6am-10pm) because you will naturally feel those heavy, lethargic qualities, making it easier to fall asleep. During the pitta time of day (10pm-2am), the body begins its detoxification process. If you go to bed during this timeframe, you may interrupt the body’s natural ability to cleanse the toxins of the day. When you hit the vata time of time (2am-6am), your sleep becomes lighter. It is much easier to get up in that time frame rather than force yourself out of bed after 6am during the heavier kapha time of day.

I understand that life happens, and realistically, we can’t always prioritize going to bed at 10pm. However, habits form with consistency and time. If you can try to consecutively go to bed around 10pm during the week, the quality of your sleep will improve as you rest and awaken in rhythm with Mother Nature.

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?

I have been working with a client for 6 months who meets these criteria to a tee. She is a woman in her mid-30s who was not getting enough sleep and working until 2am, or sometimes even 4am, most nights. Not only did she feel horrible, but she developed serious gastrointestinal issues that were progressively getting worse. Mentally, she was scattered, forgetful, and unclear in her communication style which impacted her work and interpersonal relationships.

When we started working together, she literally couldn’t sleep. I knew that if we could work toward improving her sleeping habits, she would see immense positive change in all areas of her life. Despite feeling some initial ambiguity about finding more time for sleep, we slowly came back to balance.

First, we built professional work boundaries. We started by selecting a “clock-out” time to cease all work in order to prevent those consistent late nights. Soon after, we eliminated foods from her diet that typically irritate the stomach and cause gastrointestinal discomfort and pain. That way, when she could rest, her sleep was less interrupted by discomfort. As we continued to calm some of the major imbalances in her life, she started to naturally tire earlier and sleep longer. The quality of her sleep also improved. She told me that it felt like a miracle, but it wasn’t. The change was simply the result of small but meaningful adjustments to her daily routine.

After three months working together, she was a completely new woman. Her stomach pain significantly reduced, her sleep normalized, and she started to have a glow about her while she aspired for even greater alignment, personally and professionally.

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?

Yes! Like any Olympian, we are competing in the game of life. Rest and recovery are critical to optimal performance. Much like the client I discussed in the previous question, when you prioritize sleep, you will start to see improvements in multiple areas of your life.

Think about it this way: once in a while, we all endure a less than restful night’s sleep. Reflect on how you feel the next day: lethargic, irritable and not your best. Perhaps you see physical signs of sleep deprivation such as an eye twitch or a headache, but the symptoms go away the next day assuming you get some quality shut eye. If you consistently subject your body to this kind of strain, however, you may adjust to not feeling your best. Your body’s working overtime to keep you going each day. Eventually, that stress and strain can lead to burnout and a host of health issues, ultimately slowing your progress in your career and likely negatively impacting your interpersonal relationships.

Lack of sleep has a kind of snowball effect on our lives. You can mitigate the damage and get yourself back on track by prioritizing sleep. The good news is, there are a number of accessible tools to help you. Mindfulness and wellness practices provide a holistic approach to sleep regulation that will help you to feel refreshed and grounded when you wake up and take on the day.

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?

The three main blockages that come to mind are:

  1. Our resistance to prioritizing self-care
  2. Maintaining less than beneficial habits, and
  3. Our constant need for instant gratification in today’s fast-moving world.

Self-care often takes a backseat to our personal and professional priorities. When forced to choose between a workplace deadline and a quality night sleep, work usually wins. The problem is, when this dilemma comes up too often, we lose our boundaries and prioritizing work over our health becomes a habit rather than a rare occurrence.

Accountability to ourselves and our health can be tough to maintain after a hard day of work. When we feel drained, the child-like part of our mind becomes focused on instant gratification (i.e., another drink, another episode, another snack etc.). Of course, indulgence can be wonderful in moderation but without a sense of accountability to ourselves, we tend to make a habit of choosing activities that do not benefit our health.

We live in a society that prioritizes the Amazon-Prime, fast food, and on-the-go. We live by a harmful mindset: “If I don’t see immediate results, it doesn’t work.” Here’s the thing: undoing decades of poor sleep takes time. We don’t just jump out of bed as a new person after one good night of sleep (although it can help!). We need to be prepared to experiment, to find our perfect sleep combination, and then to understand that it can change based on the time of year and time of life we are in (childhood vs. adulthood). Additionally, be mindful before you jump to medication such as Ambien, Nyquil or even long-term use of melatonin. While these quick antidotes to insomnia may feel good in the immediate moment, you are not addressing the underlying cause of why you may find yourself unable to sleep.

Addressing all three of these blockages requires building healthier bedtime habits rather than indulging in quick-fix solutions to life’s daily anxieties and pressures. When we build healthy habits over a length of time, our bodies adjust accordingly.

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. Wake up with the sun. Ever get up around 5am feeling wide awake but choose to flip back over and sleep for another 2 hours? And then you find yourself feeling energetically heavy and groggy when you wake up again, right? The sun’s alignment has everything to do with how you feel upon waking. Monks have been living in alignment with the sun’s rhythm for thousands of years and benefit greatly from rising at least an hour before sunrise. The time of approximately 1 hour prior to sunrise, also called brahma muhurta, is greatly auspicious. The light, lucid, subtle qualities of this special time of day make it easier to meditate, concentrate and create. The last time I traveled to India, jet lag worked in my favor as I woke up around 4am each day and participated in sacred meditation and satsang morning celebrations. Not only did I feel connected and uplifted, but also incredibly productive by the time I reached 9am!

2. Do. Not. Snooze. Honestly, if I could offer only one piece of advice, this would probably be it. Snoozing is the first decision we make each day that goes against our highest self — Our first choice to set the tone for the day and we’re picking lethargy over opportunity.

In college, I used to be a snooze junkie. My snoozing addiction was so strong that I used to set my clock an hour earlier, just so that I could hit snooze 5+ times. I used to think those 9 minutes between each snooze was my best sleep, but I realized the effect of my actions as it became more and more challenging to get out of bed. Plus, it was annoying my 3 other roommates.

In order to avoid snoozing, see if you can think of that reason why you need to get out of bed. Maybe it’s remembering your purpose or your most inspiring quote. While it may take time to shake the habit entirely, eventually your body will start to tire earlier in the evening, prompting you to go to bed closer to the optimal time, 10pm. Exchanging your snooze time for something else can open up a window of opportunity to exercise, meditate, journal, or just sit with your favorite cup of coffee in peace before others wake up.

3. Make lunch your heaviest meal of the day. I’m sure you’re asking, “what does this have to do with my sleep?” I promise it relates. Most of us make dinner our heaviest meal and eat it too late, which puts our sleep at a disadvantage before we even hop into bed. When our bellies are full, the body works hard to break down dinner instead of detoxifying our physical and mental body in preparation for a new day.

Have you ever observed the quality of your sleep on Thanksgiving evening or the night after any other food and overindulgence-centered holidays? While we may nap soon after we feast, we don’t usually sleep well that evening because the body is processing all the food we ate. Even the highest quality organic food won’t stop the pain and discomfort of overeating. By eating too much, or too late, we’re causing fatigue in the body.

4. Wake up often during the night? Check the time. I used to hate checking the clock in the middle of the night. However, I’ve learned that noticing patterns in the times I wake up can be a helpful indicator of doshic imbalances. As discussed in an earlier question, according to Ayurveda, the doshas dominate certain times of the day. If you notice that you’re waking up mostly in the middle of the night between 10pm and 2am, then you may be experiencing some pitta imbalance in the body or mind, such as anger or irritation; same goes for vata if you’re waking between 2am and 6am, which may manifest as feeling anxious or ungrounded. This information can help you be more specific when considering how to address sleep issues. Furthermore, an Ayurvedic health counselor can help you decode what’s happening with your body and mind and how to achieve more restful sleep.

5. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is dead. I used to subscribe to this thinking, and it brought out the worst in me. When we sacrifice sleep on occasion we may not feel a significant impact, but this is a survival tactic not a sustainable habit. If we continue to work past midnight for years; if we travel around the world and choose not to sleep; if we push ourselves beyond our limits without recovery, we will feel it. Not only will it age us faster, but it’ll take longer to recover from illness, pain and stress.

When I finally gave myself permission to sleep the amount of time I needed to thrive, how I treated others naturally changed. I was more compassionate with my colleagues, especially when I arrived to work in the morning. In the past, I used to auto-pilot my way to my worksite and throw my body into my desk chair without much regard for others. When I released this belief, my whole mood shifted. Instead of living like a character on the “Walking Dead” TV series, I naturally started to enjoy wishing others a “Good morning!” in the elevator and as I walked to my desk. I had more pep in my step and more cheer to give, which made my exchanges with others significantly more delightful.

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

If waking up in the middle of the night and struggling to fall back asleep is a common occurrence for you, I recommend connecting with an Ayurvedic health counselor in order to address the root cause of why you cannot sleep. According to Ayurvedic thought, dosha imbalances can create physical and mental symptoms including troubled sleep. Oftentimes, the doshic imbalance can cause you to wake up at specific hours. Someone struggling with a pitta imbalance likely wakes up between 10pm and 2am while someone with a vata imbalance tends to awaken in the 2am to 6am timeframe. Knowing the time that you generally wake up would help an Ayurvedic counselor understand the root of your sleeping troubles. You can then adjust your lifestyle choices in order to mitigate the effects of the doshic imbalance occurring.

In addition to addressing the root of your sleep issues, you can take these small steps to calm your mind when you are having trouble falling asleep:

  • Massage your feet with warmed oil. I recommend using raw sesame seed oil. Warm the oil by pouring it in a mason charge and heating it in a double boiler. You can then ease your mind and nerves by massaging your feet. And if you don’t have time for heating, you can rub the oil in your hands for a minute before massaging your feet.
  • Practice yoga nidra, a form of yoga focused on meditation and deep relaxation. Alternatively, a slow, meditative breathing practice can relax your body and slow your mind.
  • Journal your thoughts in order to clear your mind. Oftentimes the fear that we will not tend to every responsibility required of us creates anxiety. By writing down your thoughts, you can express your anxiety in a tangible and constructive manner without fixating on it.

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?

I get this question a lot and my answer always depend on the person. Napping can be incredibly restorative as it allows us some time to rest and rejuvenate in the middle of the day. However, according to Ayurveda, a nap adds moisture to the body. So, if you’re someone who generally runs a bit dry and often experiences the qualities of vata (high stress, anxious, always on the go), a nap can help slow your mind and give you a much-needed sense of peace. On the other hand, if you possess more watery, earthy kapha qualities (slow-moving, lethargic), then adding moisture to your body through a nap may leave you feeling a bit bogged down.

In Ayurvedic terms, a nap is indicated for vatas and contraindicated for kaphas. In other words, a nap is most beneficial to those experiencing high stress, especially if they are not sleeping well at night, while the act can keep someone experiencing more depressive symptoms feeling stagnant. Just be mindful that a nap is meant to be a nap, and not a full-night’s sleep in the middle of the day. I tend to find that 20–30 minutes is the sweet spot, where an hour or longer can be too much.

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. 🙂

Dear Dave Chappelle, I’d love to have dinner with you. I so incredibly admire the way he navigates our continuously complex sociopolitical climate and breaks-down walls for greater understanding. And because he’s hilarious and I can only imagine a night out with him would be nothing short of greatness.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I’ve written in publications like Forbes, Medium and Thrive Global, but some of my most fun posts are right at home on my blog. I also have a presence on Linkedin and Instagram if you’d like to find me there. I always focus on creating content that’s easy to digest because I know those reading my work are likely very busy and need a short burst of wellness wisdom.

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

Thank YOU for this incredible opportunity!

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