Full text of sleep scientist Tara Youngblood’s talk: How A Sleep Recipe Changed My Life at TEDxCaryWomen conference.
Best quote from this talk:
Deep sleep has been called the fountain of youth, because when we’re in deep sleep, we heal.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
Tara Youngblood – Sleep scientist
For over a year, every day, I drove my kids to school drunk.
Now I wasn’t actually drunk. It was the lack of sleep that made it seem that way.
But the CDC has shown that if you get less than six hours of sleep over two weeks, it is the same as being legally drunk. And that was me.
In 2007, we lost our youngest son, Benjamin. Grief, depression virtually eliminated my sleep.
When you go through a traumatic event, you remember every vivid detail. I can tell you how the hospital disinfectant smelled, or about the buzz of the fluorescent lights in the hallway.
My nightmares were not about scary monsters, they’re about reliving the event over and over again, and no different solution.
Lack of sleep destroys your short term memory. And I would end up in the grocery store in brain fog – not sure why I was there or what I needed to get.
And I tried to sleep. I really wanted to sleep… desperately needed it. I would lay on the couch at night, stare at the ceiling.
I’d crawl into my other boys’ rooms and lay on the floor next to them. I’d curl up in my closet because it felt safe. I thought I could sleep there, but it didn’t work. And I couldn’t sleep.
When I’m in trouble, I look to my grandmother for inspiration. As a young German woman in World War 2, she lived alone on a farm in South Africa with her young son, my dad.
There was no one to solve her problems and she would have to put her big-girl boots on and solve them herself.
And sure enough with that inspiration, that’s what I did. Put on my big-girl boots and set about solving this.
I’m a scientist, so I researched over 300 books and thousands and thousands of medical studies and documents. I studied everything from neuroscience to psychology, traditional Chinese medicine or Vedic traditions.
If it had sleep in the context, I studied it. I ended up with an enormous pile of information on sleep, but that didn’t fix it.
My aha moment came when I was at a trade show, ironically selling sleep products I had created. I was surrounded by mattress sales guys, pillow sales guys were all peddling sleep.
And this idea of sleep was great. But mostly what we’re talking about was sleep comfort and it wasn’t fixing my problem.
In my experience, recipes are where the magic happens.
As a little girl, my grandmother taught me how to bake bread: the right ingredients, the right oven, timing and temperature, you bake a perfect loaf of bread.
I had to bake perfect sleep. I had to take this enormous pile of ingredients and turn it into sleep.
I started with timing and chronotype is a fancy way of describing that. You may have heard of it as a body clock or your circadian rhythm. You may consider yourself a morning person or a night-owl; that’s there always is describing chronotype.
I am a morning person. So once I had this sort of timing figured out, I realized that all of our body mechanisms are tied to this body clock, sleep especially.
In general, there’s three different kinds of sleep: deep sleep, light sleep, and REM sleep.
And throughout the night you go through these cycles over and over again where you have all these different kinds of sleep.
But these different types of sleep do like specific ingredients and specific timing. And when you combine those, that’s where the magic happens.
So I created three buckets of sleep. Yes, three buckets. So you’re thinking buckets, what the heck does that have to do with sleep?
Absolutely nothing. I have lots of boys and lots of messes in my house. And so shoes go in buckets and Legos go in buckets and now sleep goes in buckets.
So yes, that’s how I organize the night.
The first bucket of your night is your bedtime bucket.
And as a morning person, this is 9 to 10 for me. It will be a little different, if you’re a night owl.
You can fill this bucket with eating late, binge watching Netflix, staying out late on a Friday night, having drinks. But I think we all know that doesn’t help our sleep.
I, instead, had to find a way to shut my mind off; the spitting that wouldn’t stop, I had to reduce the stress of the day.
So I put meditation and yoga and gratitude in that bucket. I put down my phone and read. Those ingredients settled my mind and allowed my body to work.
I also found the trick to trigger my sleep switch. Yes, there’s actually a sleep switch. You can flip it. It’s magical. Temperature is the key to that. More specifically, a change in temperature.
When you think about our lives today, we wake up at one temperature in our house. It’s about the same temperature in our car. It’s about the same temperature in our office.
It’s also about the same temperature we go back to sleep at night. There is very little environmental change.
But outside where we evolved, that temperature drops as the sun goes down, our bodies are looking for a change in temperature.
For me, this is warming up in a snugly, tight, warm bed. I love a warm bed. For my husband, it’s completely different. He would fall asleep on a slab of ice if he could. So it doesn’t matter what that change is.
But you do want to flip that switch. When you do, you can fall asleep in less than 30 minutes. For me, these days, less than 15, a far cry from the hours and hours of tossing and turning and not falling asleep.
Bedtime bucket checked.
The next bucket of the night is your deep sleep bucket.
And for me, this is from when I fall asleep to the middle of the night or from 10 to 3. Deep sleep has been called the fountain of youth, because when we’re in deep sleep, we heal.