In this episode, Zack explores the vital role sleep plays in overall health and well-being with Alex Colkitt, Founder and CEO of AC Holistic Wellness. They discuss the connection between sleep and mental health, suggest reminders of sleep importance, and emphasize the significance of a consistent sleep schedule. You’ll learn tips to help form healthy sleep habits and how prioritizing rest can lead to better decision-making and emotional stability.
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- . Sleep is the cornerstone of good health
- . The five second rule
- . How to fall asleep and stay asleep
- . Finding your sleep sweet spot: The mini sleep study
Welcome to The Lawyerist Podcast, a series of discussions with entrepreneurs and innovators about building a successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. Lawyerist supports attorneys, building client-centered, and future-oriented small law firms through community, content, and coaching both online and through the Lawyerist Lab. And now from the team that brought you The Small Firm Roadmap and your podcast hosts
Zack Glaser (00:35):
Hi, I’m Zack.
Stephanie Everett (00:36):
And I’m Stephanie Everett. And this is episode 449 of the Lawyerist Podcast, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today, Zack talks with Alex Col about why sleep matters.
Zack Glaser (00:49):
Stephanie Everett (00:59):
Zack in your other life, you are a track and cross-country coach.
Zack Glaser (01:04):
Yeah, yeah. High school track and cross-country. Teach kids how to tie their shoes and run five Ks.
Stephanie Everett (01:12):
I love that. And recently you had a couple of your team members, your students actually qualify for the big state meet, and I’d love to hear how that was, and specifically how do you help them get ready and manage an event like that?
Zack Glaser (01:26):
Yeah, it was neat. I think we had 12 kids go to the state meet, and that was a lot for us. We’re a very small school. One of the things I, I’ve had somebody go to state meet in the last season and then this season, and these are 14 to 18 year old kids. And we’re teaching them a lot of things about life. And one of the things that we come across every time we get to a big stage, this is managing your nerves, getting yourself ready, because these kids, certainly not all of them are going to go on and run professionally. None of them really, but But they are going to go on and sell companies and go to big meetings
Stephanie Everett (02:05):
Or appear in court.
Zack Glaser (02:06):
Or appear in court. Exactly. And so one of the things I talk to the kids about is managing their nerves and how to deal with traveling somewhere, packing, bringing the appropriate stuff, making sure you’ve got all the things around your performance dealt with and then going into your performance relaxed. And it’s really interesting to see the different styles and the different ways the kids do it.
Stephanie Everett (02:31):
Any takeaways that US adults might learn from that we might have forgotten and are a good reminder?
Zack Glaser (02:39):
Yeah, I think everybody does things differently, but the one thing that seems to work kind of across the board is kind of visioning, imagining what you’re going to do, what it’s going to be like, and going through the motions until it’s nothing to you, until it, you’ve gone through the scenarios, you’ve got in the four by 100 relay and you’re the second leg and you sit there and just imagine and get into a meditative state of what’s going to happen when my other runner is coming towards me and I have to reach out and grab the baton. Same thing with court. What’s going to happen when I stand up and I make this objection. But running through it in your head seems to be the one thing that kind of goes through with everybody and seems to help everybody.
Stephanie Everett (03:28):
Yeah, I love that advice. I really practiced that probably for the first time, really intentionally after my divorce. So I hadn’t gotten divorced and I was going to a mutual friend’s wedding and it was going to be the first time that I saw my now warmup husband is what I like to call him. And my therapist worked with me a lot on that. And we visualized what is it going to look like when I walk into that wedding reception and have to interact with him and how am I going to feel and how do I want to present myself? And we focused a lot on those feelings about how I would show up because I can’t control what he’s going to do, but I can control how I feel at every moment. And I can say, with all honesty, we finally, that night obviously happened and there was a moment really late in the evening where we ended up at the bar at the same time getting beverages. And I just remember him looking at me and being like, you seem different. You seem amazing. Yeah, he, and I was, in my head, I was like, yes, it worked.
Zack Glaser (04:35):
It takes a lot to do that, to be in a peaceful place a lot of times. I specifically had a runner this weekend who was going around and trying to figure everything out. It was his first time going to state and he was going to the track and watching and seeing how it was getting started, whether it was a two count or a three count, and he was getting himself really riled up trying to over prepare. And if he had just sat down and envisioned what it is he can control, then he would’ve been much more balanced
Stephanie Everett (05:10):
For sure. I mean, think to the last day I had a court hearing, I was nervous beforehand. I mean, there’s something, there’s probably something a little wrong with you if you’re not a little riled up a little because it’s that anxiety that gets you going, that allows you to perform at your top level. But I love this idea of reminding everyone, take a moment, visualize. And the other message I heard from you was like, prepare. If you’re not stressed about whether you brought the right cord for your laptop, you can kind of sit in and relax and be in the moment with everything else that you need to do.
Zack Glaser (05:44):
Take care of the things that you can take care of. And really, I’d love to hear what other people do to prepare themselves for court and to prepare themselves for those big days in LinkedIn or Twitter or Facebook, wherever people find this episode.
Stephanie Everett (06:00):
Let’s share among the community all our best practices. And now here’s Zach’s conversation with Alex.
Alex Colkitt (06:10):
Hey, I am Alex. I am a life coach and motivational speaker, and I help high achievers overcome burnout for good in their lives by helping them reduce their stress, increase their happiness, find meaningful work that they get excited to get out of bed for every morning and really find the impact and fulfillment in their life that they’re looking for.
Zack Glaser (06:32):
Hey Alex, thanks for being with us. That sounds like the opposite of every boss I worked for when I was a practicing attorney. Yeah, reduce stress, make you more fulfilled. So I appreciate you coming in here because obviously our listeners usually kind of live in a world of higher than normal stress. Yes. So it’s nice to think about that sometimes. And you have actually done a sleep seminar for us at Affinity Consulting Group, and I listen to that and that that’s where I learned about you. And it affected how I approached sleeping, quite frankly. It changed the way I think about sleeping and have thought about sleeping for my entire life. So thank you.
Alex Colkitt (07:18):
Yeah, good. I was going to say, then I did my job. That’s exactly what those seminars are for. Get you to think a little differently about what we have been taught around health and holistic health. So myself, before I became a coach, I worked in corporate in New York City and I was in corporate marketing and I was so stressed out all the time and I was not sleeping. And I was a miserable version of myself and what I have learned through my own career transition and my pursuit of happiness, cause I was very, very similar to you, my bosses didn’t care if we were fulfilled. They were just hoping we got our work done on time and the revenue goals were being met every month. That’s what we cared about. And I decided that I needed to take care of myself. And when we oftentimes think about health, our minds immediately go straight to diet and exercise.
But I truly believe sleep is actually the cornerstone of good health because when you wake up exhausted, you’re going to slam your snooze button till the very last second. You’re going to get out of bed and frantically start your day. It’s chaos. Immediate, immediately you’re rushing around, you’re throwing your stuff in the car, you’re not eating breakfast, you’re grabbing a cup of coffee, you’re going to work, you’re going to your desk. You’re still in that frazzled energy. Then you’re at your desk all day. You probably still haven’t eaten something that’s nutritious. And then lunch rolls around. You are like, okay, let me grab something quick cause I have more things to do. Then you leave work, you’re like, I have all these responsibilities. I’ve got to go pick up the kids. I got to do this or that and the other thing. And you are just in this exhaustion cycle of chaos and franticness. And if we had just prioritized a little bit of sleep, you wake up feeling much more positive, much more problem solver oriented. You have more time for those things. So I believe sleep is the cornerstone of good health because it is going to be the catalyst for other choices throughout the day, positive or negative, depending on the state you wake up in.
Zack Glaser (09:31):
Yeah. So I think the kind of natural question to that is I get that. I think a lot of people go, I would love to have more sleep. Would love it. Yeah. How do I do that though? I’ve got kids, I’ve got soccer, I’ve got work, I’ve got all of these things. How do I prioritize sleep when I don’t have time to do the sleep that I have right now?
Alex Colkitt (09:55):
So I would actually challenge you because I think we have a lot more time than we tell ourselves we do because we spend a lot of time doing mindless things like being on our phone, sitting in front of the TV and just being a vegetable after all of the exhaustion because we just want to zone out and do nothing. But if you maybe turn Netflix off 20 minutes earlier than you normally would, you give yourself an opportunity to put in place a few wind down rituals if you will. I don’t love the word rituals, but things that help you transition from your chaotic day into a more relaxing, calm evening and giving yourself that space. It really, like you said, it comes down to priorities. And when you are saying yes to getting some sleep, ask yourself what are the trade offs? What are you trading off there? And my guess is I would challenge everybody who’s listening to this is you could probably spend less time on your phone doing mindless things and probably a little less time in front of the TV watching whatever is on Netflix.
Zack Glaser (11:05):
But I do those mindless things on my phone to relax, let’s say, to turn off. And I kind of stay up because I don’t want to go to bed because I don’t want to get up to, because I’m done with my stuff today. And so now I’m in this moment in the day where I have no other responsibilities. I’m just trying to relax and I don’t want to leave this moment. How do I make that a time where I’m okay with going to bed? I, I’m okay with leaving that theoretically relaxing moment and going to sleep and then knowing that I’m going to wake up to a stressful day the next day.
Alex Colkitt (11:39):
So I think looking at it from, so we are in the moment instant gratification type of beings. We are wired for the instant gratification. But when you start to look at longer term outcome of how you want to feel the next day versus how you feel right now in this moment, I think that starts to boost motivation to want to shut the phone down, turn the Netflix off, and make different decisions. Because when we think about, because I used to do this too, when I worked in my corporate setting, I would boycott going to bed because I was dreading what was on the other side of my night’s sleep, right?
Zack Glaser (12:19):
Yeah, absolutely. Yes.
Alex Colkitt (12:21):
And sleep is actually your number one defense against stress and chaos. So we’re kind of doing ourself a disservice by staying up late to get that me time because then the next day you’re at a disadvantage to actually combat some of the stressful things you’re anticipating versus getting in the good night’s rest. And those things would not be as stressful and chaotic because you’re building your stress resilience up, like I said. So if you get the seven to nine hours of sleep that you need the next morning you’re going to wake up the next day, you’re going to probably have more time in the morning to eat breakfast, have a slower start, not chaotic and frantically dive right into whatever you’re doing, which if that’s the note you’re starting your day on, that’s probably what you’re going to pull throughout the rest of your day, that type of energy.
So if you’re giving yourself the opportunity to start in a more calm head space and have enough sleep to be actually in a positive mood for the rest of the day, the email from Karen probably isn’t going to piss you off as much. Or the last minute meeting that your boss is throwing on your calendar isn’t going to irritate you as much. You’ll probably say, okay, I can handle that. The problem solver mindset kicks in of, right, this email isn’t that bad when we don’t sleep enough. That’s where our moods take a major hit and we’re like highly irritated. Everything seems catastrophic, and you’re just not setting yourself up to be able to handle those situations in a more rational standpoint. Whereas we react very emotionally if we are tired, right? Yeah. So it’s just removing, I mean that’s a very long answer to what you asked me, but in the moment it’s asking yourself instant gratification versus long-term outcome. How do I want to feel tomorrow? And then making decisions that help you get to that place.
Zack Glaser (14:26):
Well, so I also think about kind of having lack of sleep. I kind of put it in the same box as my mental health. It is really difficult sometimes to recognize that your mental health is lacking or starting to go downward because you’re trying to use the thing that is breaking or bending to fix the thing that is breaking or bending. And so kind of the same thing with sleep. When I’m tired, that’s when I’m not making good decisions. So it hits 10:30, 11:30, 12 o’clock at night, and I’m really tired still, and I’m not making those decisions to prioritize sleep. Are there any kind of tricks or ideas that I can do to set those habits or have a touchpoint kick myself in the rear without having to really think about it? Past Zach? Yeah, told current sleepy Zach to do this thing.
Alex Colkitt (15:20):
Absolutely. So have you ever heard of the five second rule
Zack Glaser (15:24):
Only as it relates to food that hits the ground?
Alex Colkitt (15:28):
Perfect. Okay, well, this is a new five second rule. So once you get to the gym, right, you are not regretting the workout at all, right? Once the object is in motion, it’s going to stay in motion, right? So this five second rule theory is the way to get you out of your head and talking yourself out of why you shouldn’t do something and just start to take that action. So if you’re sitting on the couch and you’re like, okay, Netflix triggers you to play another episode, and you’re like, man, I want to stay up, man, I want to stay up. And you’re like, I should be going to bed. And you start to play that mental game with yourself. Yeah, take a deep breath. Five second role means you count down from 5, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and you just take action. The first baby tiny step. Don’t even think about your 20 minute bedtime routine. What’s the first thing you need to do in that routine? Just focus on getting that first thing done. So the five second rule helps you get started in a moment of indecision before your brain talks you out of it, because that’s what our brain’s going to do.
Zack Glaser (16:35):
So I’m sitting there, I’m watching Mandalorian, and I want to see the next episode, but I go 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and I stand up. Yep. I can see that. I can envision that going, oh, well, I might as well turn the television off at this point. Yeah, I’m already going that direction. Yeah,
Alex Colkitt (16:53):
Okay. You like fluff the pillow once you throw the blanket over the side and then you start walking away and then all of a sudden you’re in the bathroom, you’re brushing your teeth, your pajamas are on, you’re in bed and you’re ready to go. You don’t even think about those things because my guess is you already have some level of a nighttime routine, whatever that looks like. So to get the motivation started, use that five second rule. And then if there are things that you want to insert into your routine that you think are going to help you actually relax outside of scrolling on your phone, we call that habit stacking. So for instance, if I wanted to insert two minutes of stretching by stretching our muscles out, we are triggering our parasympathetic nervous system, which is our rest and digest nervous system, which is calming.
That’s going to tell our body we’re getting ready to chill. So if I’m like, okay, that’s a really beautiful habit to insert into my nighttime routine so that my body knows we’re transitioning from the stimulation of the day into calm and relaxing of night so that I can fall asleep faster. So if I wanted to incorporate that into my nighttime routine, I would stack it in between habits that I’m already doing during that time. So every single night I’m putting my pajamas on. That is enough, obviously, and every single night I’m brushing my teeth. So I would say, okay, as soon as I get into my room, I’m going to put my pajamas on. And then after that I’ll do my two minutes of stretching, and then I’m going to sandwich that with my teeth brushing because we don’t like change. We don’t doing anything outside of anything new.
And so what you’re doing is kind of tricking your body and your brain to slipping in those habits within something it’s already very familiar with. So it’ll be easier to stick to that and be more consistent when it’s not totally disrupting your entire routine already. That’s where we oftentimes fail when it comes to building new habits and making changes to our life because we go from zero to a hundred, we’re like all or nothing. And then it’s like, I’ve never lifted a weight before in my life, and all of a sudden now I’m telling myself I’m going to the gym to strength train five days a week, our body’s going to be like, what the hell is going on? So yeah. Yeah. Habit stacking is a way to start to build tiny habits that are so easy for you to do within things that are already happening, and that’s going to help you. Again, five second rule, going to get you motivated to get going, and then the habit Snacking’s going to help you build a routine that sets you up to fall asleep quickly once you’re in bed.
Zack Glaser (19:40):
I love it. I love tricking Zack. I love tricking, tricking myself into doing the things future Zack. I’m coming for you, man. Yeah, I’m going to get you into a much better place whether you like it or not. Well, let’s take a quick break, hear from our sponsors, and we’ll be back and we’ll talk about some of the habits that we can use before we go to bed that will help us have a better night’s sleep.
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So we’re back with Alex Colkitt, and we’re talking about sleep as a way to reduce stress as way to combat stress, and frankly, just at the risk of overstating it, make our lives better. And before the break, we were talking broadly about how to put some of the habits into place that help us go to sleep because frankly, all of us would like to sleep 12 hours. That’s the beauty of vacation a lot of times is what do you want for vacation? I want to sleep. So how do we make that happen? How do we prioritize that? And so now I, I’d like to talk about how do we make the sleep that we are getting best and get ourselves to sleep and stay asleep?
Alex Colkitt (23:40):
Yeah, I love this question. I think for busy professionals, I would argue, and especially from clients I’ve worked with, the thing that they find the most difficult is actually falling asleep and getting to bed. Because what tends to happen is we are go highly stimulated the entire day, and then we get into bed and we feel exhausted, and then that’s when our brain is like, oh, we have a minute to think about something. And then it turns on and then anxiety brain is going crazy and you’re like, I’ve got to do this tomorrow. I got to go there tomorrow. I have to run this errand and I have to do that, right? And you’re laying down and you’re like, I was exhausted on the couch five minutes ago. Why am I wide awake right now running through my to-do list for tomorrow and worrying about things that I cannot control right now?
So I would say the number one habit to help kind of reduce that mental chaos that you experience as you’re trying to fall asleep is grabbing a piece of paper, a journal, something that you can leave by your bedside and actually write out all of the things that you’re feeling in that moment and write all of the things that you’re thinking about that you need to do tomorrow and put them on a piece of paper. Because what that does is it signals to your brain that you’re not going to forget the things, right? Because we’re not just looping it over and over again in our head. I have to remember to do, I pick up little Tommy after whatever. You can put it on that piece of paper. You also want to write down, like I said, how you’re feeling, right? We oftentimes don’t really ever check in with our feelings, and we kind of live in this just again, go mentality.
But by recognizing, alright, I’m actually feeling like, okay, today, today was an okay day. I’m not too worried. I am feeling a little stressed about these couple of things I need to focus on tomorrow. And just giving them that acknowledgement gives them the opportunity to settle down a little bit and not just continue to rear their ugly head in your head on loop, right? And then another tool with in that kind of brain dump is you always want to end on a positive note of three things that you’re grateful for by giving your brain an opportunity to see the perspective of things. So yes, tomorrow might feel very chaotic based on the to-do list you just created for yourself, but if you remind yourself of the bigger picture of life, like, wow, I’m so grateful for my job because it affords me the lifestyle I want to be living.
I’m so grateful for the time I got to spend with my loved ones this evening watching this movie. If we put our lives in perspective in comparison to this chaos we’ve created in our head, and in reality, I’m not going to negate the fact that there are actual chaotic things. We tend to blow things out of proportion more often than not. So again, that grounds us in the perception of we have a lot of really positive things happening in our life. And then you set that piece of paper down and you say, I am not worrying about this till tomorrow because there is nothing I can do about it right now. And that allows you to get some sense of mental peace and we’ll help you again calmly let that go for now and fall asleep a lot faster. That’s probably my number one recommendation when I hear you’re having a hard time falling asleep or you are waking up in the middle of the night because again, your brain is still in that chaos mode of like, did I forget something? Yeah. So I would say if you’re having a lot of that mental chatter, using the journal exercises is a really good place to start.
Zack Glaser (27:30):
So I could do the journal exercise in the middle of the night when I wake up at three o’clock in the morning and I think, oh, I forgot. I forgot about blah, blah, blah. Because to me, that’s the thing that really gets me is I can use counting exercises or I do my multiplication tables very difficult. I try to do multiplication tables because it shuts off the anxiety side of my brain, but then at three o’clock in the morning I wake up and I can’t shut off that anxiety side of my brain. So I can do that at that time period. I could journal those things and say, all right, we got ’em Zack. They’re out of your head, they’re on the paper. You’re going to remember them in the morning.
Alex Colkitt (28:05):
Yeah, absolutely. And another thing that it does for you, when we’re holding things in our head, it’s hard for us to really understand the urgency of those things and how big they actually are. So by putting them on a piece of paper, it helps you remove the emotional side of it and just rationally look at the things that you need to do and sort through them in a healthier way because you’re like, okay, you look at that list and you’re like, all right, I can tackle this, I can tackle that. That feels good when it’s all living in our head and we’re like, we’ve got that thing and that thing in, right? It’s all kind of muddled together and causing a lot of that anxiety. But when we rationalize it, it helps us calm that anxious mind.
Zack Glaser (28:51):
That makes a lot of sense because I have noticed that I will have kind of unattached anxiety and then I’ll go grab these little things and I’ll blow them out of proportion. And if I were to write them down and say, no, Zach, there’s three things. Each of those things is going to take five minutes in the morning. You’re fine. You have to tie your shoes in the, I mean, they’re little things that mine hangs on and won’t let me get it back to sleep a lot of times. So I know you touched on it briefly, but what is kind of the sweet spot on the amount of sleep that we need to get? Quite frankly, in college I needed to get nine to 10 hours of sleep. I didn’t, but I needed to get nine to 10 hours sleep, otherwise I was a different person. I am actually a different person when I don’t get enough sleep. So what’s that sweet spot? What should we all be sleeping 16 hours?
Alex Colkitt (29:38):
No, definitely not 16. But
Zack Glaser (29:41):
I needed somebody to tell me that I did because I want somebody to tell me that I can sleep 16.
Alex Colkitt (29:47):
I mean, feel free. I don’t think you’re going to feel rested. I feel like that might work against you a little bit, probably. I will say, so everyone is different. There is no right answer per person. However, there have been many studies done saying adults 18 plus need on average, seven to nine hours of sleep. And oh, that feels right. Yeah, again, that’s a pretty big range. And the way you can really figure out what is right for you, because again, there is no one size fits all model. You need to be getting eight hours of sleep every night is you can do a little mini sleep study on yourself. So for me, I figured out, I learned that my sweet spot for sleep is eight hours and 15 minutes. Okay, you’re a different person.
Zack Glaser (30:33):
Get getting that tight specific sleep study. That’s awesome.
Alex Colkitt (30:36):
And the way I figured it out, it’s super easy for a week straight. You write down what time you go to bed, what time you woke up, and then you rate yourself on either a scale of one to five or you can put a happy face, a math face, or a sad face, and then just track what that looks like. So you’re like, okay, when I woke up with seven and a half hours of sleep, I was feeling real groggy, or if I woke up with eight hours, I was energized, I jumped out of bed. So it’s connecting the action with the feeling is what that’s going to do for you. And then it’s just making the analysis over the seven day time period and really figuring out that sweet spot.
Zack Glaser (31:21):
So I mean it probably same journal that I’m writing down all my thoughts as I go to sleep down in. Yeah. Okay.
Alex Colkitt (31:28):
And again, it really is based on how you feel. So really, really tap into how you feel within five to 10 minutes of your eyes opening. And big tip, do not hit the snooze button. Your snooze button is your arch nemesis when it comes to your sleep cycles. So when the alarm goes off and your eyes open, immediately do something. So sit up in bed so that you’re not likely to roll over and hit or have a cup of water next to you so you could drink some water to wake yourself up. This snooze button is your arch nemesis, and it’s going to cause you to feel way worse. I promise you. When you wake up in the morning,
Zack Glaser (32:12):
I thought you were going to say throw the water on your face, the type, that’s how my mind is working in the morning is if I have the water right there, what I’m doing, throw it in your face, throw, oh, I’m up. I’m up.
Alex Colkitt (32:24):
Okay, Zack, you do that and let me know how that goes.
Zack Glaser (32:27):
Yeah, that’s going to be frowny face no matter how much, yeah, how much sleep I get.
Alex Colkitt (32:32):
Oh my God.
Zack Glaser (32:33):
Okay, so I’ve got to get eight hours of sleep a night during the week, and that’s five nights, but I can really only get seven hours of sleep each night. So I’m missing five hours. Can I just sleep five more hours on Saturday?
Alex Colkitt (32:47):
Yeah. I love this question. So if you feel like it, however, from an actual restoration standpoint, you will always have what we call a sleep debt. And again, if you need eight hours of sleep every single week and say you’re like you said, missing two, maybe only getting six to seven every night, that’s going to add up really quickly. Did needing 10 hours on the week to make up 10 hours on the weekend, which is extremely unrealistic
Zack Glaser (33:22):
On top of the rest. Yeah,
Alex Colkitt (33:24):
Exactly. On top of your normal eight hours on a Saturday night that you need to be getting. And your body can adapt to that. But what you’re doing from a longevity standpoint is actually not allowing your body to reset and rebalance all of its processes. So at night you need that much sleep because that is when your body is actually restoring a sense of equilibrium with all of your hormones with, that’s when it’s cleaning out things. That’s when your brain is consolidating its memories and rejuvenating. When we are asleep, it’s a very active state, so we’re doing a lot at night. We don’t know it, but our body is working overtime to recharge. And when we’re not getting that sleep, we’re missing out on our body’s ability to actually function optimally because we’re not giving it the opportunity to reset. So I’ll give you an example from a stress standpoint.
So during the day when we are stressed out at work, if something’s happening, our body is releasing cortisol, which is our stress hormone. The only way to really reset cortisol in our body is at night when we’re sleeping. So if we’re not getting enough sleep, our body can only bring our cortisol levels down so much. So then when we wake up the next morning, they’re not at baseline. They’re at five points above baseline because our body wasn’t able to get rid of everything. And that way we’re starting our next day five points above baseline of cortisol in our system. So we’re starting off on a stress note, and then we’re adding more stress to that which gets that level of cortisol continues to increase. And then if we’re not sleeping, it’s even harder to pull those levels down over time. And when our body is constantly flooded with cortisol, our nervous system is in a heightened sense of survival. And that’s not good because then we’re never able to relax and actually function accordingly. So if you’re not getting enough sleep, your body isn’t ever going to work optimally. It can adapt to it. However, that sleep debt is really important to be very mindful of because if you get way too far deep into debt, it’s really hard to pull yourself out of it. And again, you’re just your body.
Zack Glaser (35:45):
It’s like sleep bankruptcy.
Alex Colkitt (35:46):
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. That’s exactly a perfect way to think about it. And again, our body’s extremely adaptable. However, that’s not a good thing long term because chronic stress over time is what leads to burnout. And that’s when you start to deal with physical symptoms, mental systems, emotional systems. Our bodies go into overload mode and that’s when things really start to break down.
Zack Glaser (36:14):
So even if we were to catch up that sleep debt on the weekend, we’ve still just run ourselves a little hotter than we probably need to or should with that stress level the whole week. Because we’ve, we’ve been kind of building that up. And even if we do get it set reset on the weekend, which we probably aren’t anyway,
Alex Colkitt (36:35):
Zack Glaser (36:36):
Not running that hot during the week, it still wouldn’t help us very much.
Alex Colkitt (36:39):
Zack Glaser (36:40):
Well, I would continue to talk to you about this for a long time cause I’m sure there’s a ton that we can glean from this and a ton more that you know about all this stuff. But before we go, I’d like to know just kind of what are your top tips on maximizing your sleep? Things that we can do around our sleep that can help us heighten it, increase it, and give ourselves the best opportunity?
Alex Colkitt (37:06):
Yeah, I love this question. So when we normally think about improving our sleep, we focus a lot on the quantity of time where we’re like, okay, well, I need to increase the amount of time that I’m sleeping in order to improve my sleep. But there’s actually two other really important components of sleep, which are the quality of our sleep. So are you getting into a deep sleep and staying asleep for an extended period of time? And then also consistently, so how consistently are you getting those hours of sleep and the good quality sleep? So all three of those components work together to improve your overall sleep. So I think my number one tip is if you’re like, holy crap, I barely have five hours to sleep a night, try to make the best five hours of sleep that you can possibly get, and then consistently get those five hours of sleep every single night of the week.
So if it feels overwhelming to be like, all right, tonight I’m going to put myself to bed at nine when I normally go to bed at 1130, and then you’re struggling, try instead maybe moving your bedtime up to 11 and then 10 30 and then 10 and slowly and gradually try to improve the quantity while simultaneously working on consistently getting more sleep and improving the quality of that sleep. So that’s one big tip. It’s not all about just the hours that you’re going to bed, it’s actually making those hours count and consistently making those hours count. So three things to keep in mind when it comes to improving sleep there. And then I would also say sleep schedules are really important to stick to, again, to help avoid that sleep debt from happening. So waking up and going to bed at the same time seven days a week, so even on the weekends, not sleeping in until noon.
So if you normally are getting up around six or seven in the morning, try to wake within an hour of that every day of the week. And then the same with bedtime, that’s going to help you sync up with your circadian rhythm, which is your internal clock, and it works on a 24 cycle with the rising in the setting of the sun. And when you sync up that clock to be consistent day over day, what that’s going to do is tell your body that, okay, it’s morning time and it’s going to trigger peak wakefulness during specific hours, so you’re going to feel more awake in the morning. And then it’s also going to tell your body to wind down and be consistently tired at a specific time, so you’re going to feel more tired and ready to fall asleep at night more consistently. So syncing up that clock is really important because that’s going to help with the consistency aspect of improving sleep. So those would be my two big things,
Zack Glaser (40:04):
And I’ve got one more question that I’m a little scared to ask.
Alex Colkitt (40:07):
Okay, here we go.
Zack Glaser (40:08):
Caffeine. Oh, I drink a lot of coffee in the day and I like coffee. It tastes good, it’s nice, it’s warm. I’m guessing not to put words in your mouth, but I’m guessing that eight cups of coffee is not the right thing to do each day for my sleep.
Alex Colkitt (40:27):
So I’m like, I love the experience of a cup of coffee. I love the flavor, I love the warmth, I love the ritual in the morning, and I’m never going to tell somebody never to drink coffee again because I love it. I think moderation is key because another very important biological processes in our system is adenosine, and this is our sleep pressure that’s going to build up over time. And so if we are drinking a lot of caffeine, our adenosine receptors aren’t going to be triggered. Caffeine holds those back. So when the caffeine wears off and has a half-life of six hours, that’s maybe 3:00 PM you’re going to get this huge rush of tiredness, and then all of a sudden you’re like, I need that other cup of coffee. You’re like, oh my God, where’s the eighth, ninth, 10th cup? Right? So the more caffeine you’re drinking, the more you’re actually working against yourself as far as improving because you’re blocking one of the biological processes that actually helps us fall asleep and feel sleepy at night.
So my recommendation is if you love coffee and you love the flavor, drink it before 10:00 AM especially if you want to go to bed by 10:00 PM because caffeine’s out of our bloodstream after 12 hours. So I would limit it to one cup in the morning if you can. And then if you love, again, the experience of a coffee switch to decaf, it tastes relatively the same. I am on a decaf kick right now, but it still gives me the thing that I’m craving when I want the coffee. So if you are going to drink it one cup in the morning, I’m never going to say never. It’s all about moderation, right? Yeah. Right.
Zack Glaser (42:19):
Yeah. That’s just impossible. I could never actually stop.
Alex Colkitt (42:22):
Exactly. Because if we constantly are blocking this sleep pressure and then we get to bed and we are exhausted again, there’s still so much caffeine in our bloodstream as we’re sleeping and our body is just working to get rid of that, and it’s not actually doing the other things it needs to be doing at night to restore our balance.
Zack Glaser (42:43):
That makes a lot of sense, because full disclosure, we’re recording this at right around three 15 my time, and I’m thinking, man, I’m take a nap here in a little bit because my caffeine is wearing off. I have been cranking caffeine all morning, and it’s starting to wear off. Normally though, I’d go get another cup of coffee, but that will affect my going to sleep tonight, which I don’t want to do. I think everybody wants to sleep well. People want to sleep well, they want to sleep long, they want to sleep deeply, but we don’t always know how to do it. We don’t always trust how to do it because at some point, kind of going back to what you were saying at the beginning of looking at it from a long-term perspective instead of the instant gratification, like, I will feel better tomorrow if I sleep eight hours or seven hour or whatever it is that you need, just kind of actually taking a moment and doing that.
Alex Colkitt (43:41):
Yeah. And I’ll challenge you, instead of grabbing a cup of coffee for the afternoon, go for a 10 minute walk, it’s going to give you the same amount of energy and that energy boost you’re craving, so you’re physically moving your body, and that’s going to give you a little hit of endorphins, and that’s going to give you the same amount of energy as drinking another cup of coffee, but in a much healthier way. So you’re getting the hit of physical activity, and then it’s also going to help you fall asleep easier later.
Zack Glaser (44:08):
Fantastic. Fantastic. I will unfortunately go do that. No, I, I’ll take your advice today.
Alex Colkitt (44:17):
Fine. I’ll go for a walk. Yeah, fine.
Zack Glaser (44:20):
I, I’ll go for a walk and I’ll, I’ll get healthy and I’ll sleep well, and it’ll be all your fault, Alex. All your fault. I’m
Alex Colkitt (44:27):
So sorry to ruin your life.
Zack Glaser (44:31):
Exactly. Well, hopefully some of this information has equally ruined other people’s lives in the podcast, and I hope people have gotten a lot of good information from this. Alex, thank you for being with us. If people want to find more of you, what you have to say and all that, I know they can go find you on Instagram at alex dot Cole Kit, and that’s C O L K I T T. Where else could they connect with you?
Alex Colkitt (44:57):
Yeah, I’m a big fan of LinkedIn, so you can find me on LinkedIn as well. I do a lot of live trainings there. I have a lot of cool resources there for you to check out. So LinkedIn is where I’m at too, and you just search my name.
Zack Glaser (45:10):
Fantastic. And we’ll drop those links in the show notes here. But again, it’s Alex Col, kit, c o L K I t T. Alex, thanks again for being with us. I really appreciate the time.
Alex Colkitt (45:20):
Yeah, thanks for having me. This is a great conversation.
The Lawyerist Podcast is edited by Britany Felix. Are you ready to implement the ideas we discuss here into your practice? Wondering what to do next? Here are your first two steps. First. If you haven’t read The Small Firm Roadmap yet, grab the first chapter for free at Lawyerist.com/book. Looking for help beyond the book? Let’s chat about whether our coaching communities, are right for you. Head to Lawyerist.com/community/lab to schedule a 10-minute call with our team to learn more. The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said in this podcast is legal advice for you.
is the Legal Tech Advisor at Lawyerist, where he assists the Lawyerist community in understanding and selecting appropriate technologies for their practices. He also writes product reviews and develops legal technology content helpful to lawyers and law firms. Zack is focused on helping Modern Lawyers find and create solutions to help assist their clients more effectively.
Alex Colkitt is a hustle culture drop out turned Founder & CEO of AC Holistic Wellness. As a life coach, happiness expert, stress management & burnout recovery specialist, mental health advocate, corporate wellness workshop facilitator and motivational speaker, she’s on a mission to empower high-achievers to find and pursue their authentic happiness unapologetically so that they can create more impact and find more fulfillment in life.
Last updated June 9th, 2023