Do you remember the television show, The X-Files? FBI Agent Mulder – with a mind open to everything possible – investigated alien sightings, the supernatural, and the seemingly unexplainable. His partner, Agent Scully, was a medical doctor who didn’t readily accept paranormal (aka “out there”) hypotheses and instead sought scientific proof and explanations for each of their cases.
I’m a combination of those two characters. I’m open to eastern philosophies and alternative beliefs, but I’d have complete buy-in if there was scientific proof. I hope that if I arrange my furniture according to feng shui, good energy will flow. I’m all for a round of smudging with the desire that burning sage will remove bad energy. I’m willing to try these methods with optimism that they’ll work, but I’d have 100% buy-in if there was scientific proof to support these practices.
Recently while researching why some people wake up at the same times each night and have difficulty staying asleep, I came across a book called Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life: How to Harness the Power of Clock Genes to Lose Weight, Optimize Your Workout, and Finally Get a Good Night’s Sleep by Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar.
Since I preach that time management is all about mind management, one of the time management “tricks” we look at is getting a good night’s sleep. Many of my clients get into a vicious cycle: They don’t sleep well, so they load up on coffee and sugar during the day to stay awake. Between lack of sleep and the brain attempting to operate on caffeine and sugar, they’re not able to work at optimal brain levels during the day. This leads to working into the evening. With their brains on overdrive plus with caffeine still in their system, they can’t fall asleep early. So they stay up late, and the whole cycle starts over for the next day.
We work on different ways for them to curb those bad habits in order to improve their productivity levels. We focus on working with their brains instead of against them.
Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life doesn’t revolutionize the ideas often mentioned in relation to calming your mind, getting a good night’s sleep, staying in better health and therefore improving mental alertness and productivity. What makes this book different is that it gives specific examples to follow in order to be more successful.
For example, I’ve read countless times before that meditation is good for clearing the mind and getting refocused. The instructions have always been along the lines of “don’t think about anything.” That sounds simple enough. But after 30 seconds, thoughts tend to creep in. If you’re not supposed to have thoughts, what are you supposed to think about? How exactly do you empty your head? Dr. Kshirsagar explained that meditation is the union of body and mind. When you meditate, you should feel your breath as it enters your nose and exits through your mouth. You should take note of what the rest of your body feels like when you’re going through this process. When you’re paying attention to your breath and body, your mind doesn’t race. This is how you can just be.
Throughout the book, he takes popular concepts that health and wellness experts tell us to practice and breaks them down into simple explanations of why they work, what the objective is, and how to successfully accomplish that practice.
The other game-changer in this book is the explanation of chronobiology. This is the scientific study of body rhythms and cycles. This science has evolved in only the last two decades because the research expense decreased exponentially thanks to technology, so more scientists have been able to get funding for studies. Chronobiologists have been studying formerly “woo woo” beliefs and either debunking them or scientifically proving that they do work.
In Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life, Dr. Kshirsagar combines Mulder and Scully. He takes the beliefs of Ayurveda (five thousand-year-old Indian beliefs based on what we call circadian rhythms) and presents scientific studies that explain how these rhythms work. Even more importantly, he shares recommendations for how to implement these practices in an overscheduled, western, twenty-first century life.
Here are just a few of the eye-openers for me:
Energy – The food you ingest the first half of the day determines your energy levels for the next day, so it’s important to load up on nutrients during breakfast and lunch.
Digestion – Your digestive system begins cranking up at 6 A.M., peaks at mid-day, and winds down at 6:00 P.M. If you eat your biggest meal at night, it negatively affects your sleep patterns and causes weight gain.
Electronics – I’ve read in many different articles that electronics should be shut off at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. Dr. Kshirsagar shares research that shows the light from electronic devices like phones, tablets, computers, e-readers, and television screens suppress melatonin, which is the chemical that causes us to sleep. Therefore, all electronics should be shut off by 8:30 P.M. in order to allow the body to go through its natural sleep cycle.
Sleep – The body’s natural “power sleep” time is 10:00 P.M. to 2:00 A.M. You should be falling asleep by 10:30 at the latest; hence the electronics shut off by 8:30 P.M. to allow two hours for the melatonin to crank up.
Here are a few chapter titles that might capture your interest:
It’s Not You; It’s Your Schedule
The Right Sleep Routine for You
You Are When You Eat
How to Build the Perfect Day
And here are a few topics that he explains which might catch your attention:
*Why you exercise or only eat one meal a day, but don’t lose weight
*How we give ourselves a version of jet lag, which causes sleep issues and even constipation
*Why staying up late to “catch up on work” when you get that sudden burst of energy late in the evening actually puts you further behind
*Why “feel the burn” exercising might be detrimental to certain body types
When I started sharing some of the findings in the book with my husband, he decided to read it, too. We don’t always see eye to eye on everything, but because Dr. Kshirsagar explains these concepts so simply, gives recommendations on how to accomplish this so you don’t have to think of solutions on your own, and supplies scientific proof to back his recommendations, my husband is fully on board with tweaking our schedules in order to operate with our body’s natural rhythms instead of against them.
If you want to sleep better, lose weight, or work at higher levels of productivity, I highly recommend you read this book. Get details here about Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life:
To learn more about how to work with your brain instead of against it in order to improve your time management, be sure to check out The Inefficiency Assassin: Time Management Tactics for Working Smarter, Not Longer.