Mollie is the creator of Sleep Is A Skill, a company that optimizes how people sleep through a unique blend of technology, accountability, and behavioral change. The company was born from “scratching her own itch” after a lifetime of poor sleep habits culminated into a mega-challenging bout of insomnia for months without end. With a background in psychology & human behavior, she went down the rabbit hole to solve her own sleep disturbances without sleeping aids. She became fascinated with chronobiology, and by extension, its practical applications to restore a state of homeostasis not only to her sleep but also to her life as a whole. Knowing the difference between a life with sleep and without, she’s now dedicated her life to sharing the forgotten skill set of sleep.
How did you come to be the master of sleep?
It started with me being anything but the master of my own sleep. Sleep is a Skill was created to solve my own problem with my sleep. Until then, my identity was “a night owl”. If anything was going to be cut from my calendar- it was sleep.
My experience with extreme insomnia changed the course of my life. It was a scary time of wondering, “Is it always going to be like this?” I really felt like I genuinely could not go on with the way that it was. I realized that unless I took matters into my own hands I would end up taking pills every night to finally fall asleep. This was very transformative because I really had to turn my whole life upside down to make a difference. Once I took matters into my own hands I was so excited to share everything I learned and started working with individuals, then small groups, and suddenly it was what we have now!
What is your circadian rhythm & why is it important for your sleep, health, mood, and waistline?
As human beings we are diurnal creatures, meaning we want to be active during the day and at rest at night. For humans, that period is on a 24-hour rhythm. Within the course of that 24 hours, there are a number of things that take place during different times. From digestion, hormones, or glucose levels- it’s all on an internal clock even if you aren’t trying to manage it yourself.
You could argue that here in the West especially, we have a misaligned circadian rhythm. So we don’t experience the same consistent experience when we sleep, wake up, when we get hungry, or when we get tired. This misalignment can cause a multitude of problems- including sleep problems.
What is “Social Jetlag?”
During the week, most of us generally keep a consistent sleep/wake schedule. Throughout the course of the week, we fall asleep and wake up around the same time. But during the weekend, we have a completely different schedule. We might go to bed 2-3 hours later than usual and in turn, wake up 2-3 hours later. On Sunday, we find ourselves still feeling worn-out and we might have a hard time falling asleep. Monday comes and you still feel tired and behind, even though you’ve had two days off. This misalignment causes this ‘off’, tired feeling that we can call “Social Jetlag”, even if you haven’t gone anywhere.
How consistently do we have to follow our circadian rhythym to have these benefits?
We’re striving to set up a system for ourselves where our bedtime and wake time will stay fairly undisturbed throughout the week. We want to be staying within the same 30-minute window for our bedtime and wake time. Of course, there will be times that we need to stray from this. But we want to stay within that window as much as possible. So we can set up our day to facilitate a better sleep/wake schedule, making it more sustainable.
How is our modern lifestyle impacting our sleep quality?
So much! A lot of what I do when I work with people is entrainment. Eventually, we want our bodies to pay attention to our natural time-givers. This can be anything from light exposure, temperature, the food we’re eating, exercise, etc. Since the invention of the light bulb, our behaviors as humans has changed dramatically. Once we were able to lengthen our day with light easily, we stopped looking to our bodies for guidance. This is just the tip of the “light exposure” iceberg, without even getting into the effects of technology, food, and exercise. On the positive side of technology, there’s so much sleep-tech on the horizon that can really help us restore our sleep schedules.
How can we strengthen our circadian rhythm?
Light is extremely important to help set that daily clock. We really want to get outside as quickly as possible in the morning in order for our internal clock to reset. Almost every cell in our body has photoreceptors that sense light and darkness, communicating that with our bodies. Exposure to light in the morning will help our bodies wake up, and the darkness tells our cells to get ready for sleep.
Temperature can be treated similarly. Our bodies increase in temperature throughout the day, peaking at around noon or so. Our temperature will naturally decrease after this but we really want to cultivate a drop in body temperature in the evening. If you’re able, you can turn your thermostat down to decrease your ambient temperature. This drop will bring in that sleep onset, helping us fall asleep quicker and more deeply.
Exercise should be in alignment with our temperature and light exposure. Heavy exercise should be kept during daylight hours, but post-sunset you can shift to calming exercise. Light yoga and stretching will support that decrease in temperature.
Meal timing will affect sleep and temperature as well. Having dinner before 7:00 pm will support a lower heart and respiratory rate throughout the night, as well as your body temperature. Lastly, we can look at our thought timing. We should strive to consume stressful content and thoughts during daylight hours where we can take action, rather than in the evenings. Working to identify what is causing you stress at night and bringing that into the daylight hours will really help your sleep schedule.
Sleep gadgets. Which ones should we care about?
First, I would recommend some type of sleep tracking. Today there are trackers that can capture all necessary data for you. If possible, find a tracker that monitors your heart rate, temperature, and respiratory rate as well. With all of that data behind you, you are able to see your habits over time and see what changes you need to make. An application on your phone is a great start but eventually, you want to switch to a wearable device like the Oura Ring or Biostrap.
An immediate change would be keeping your bed cool. Finding the right mattress for your body is important, but a quick and easy change you can make would be keeping your sleeping area nice and cool. That temperature change can cause immediate results for many people. Some foam mattresses can trap heat, so breathable bedding will help counteract that heat. Finding a good mattress is a process, and often expensive though, small changes like new, natural bedding is also really helpful.
You can also raise your mattress slightly to help with your circulation, and try out new sleeping positions. Sleeping on your stomach isn’t desirable, but you can try sleeping on your side or back to see which one feels right for you!