Sari Eitches, MD
Everything I know about keeping a schedule, I learned from my 2 year old. Toddlers thrive on predictability and consistency when it comes to sleeping, eating, and movement. We adults are not so different. Studies have shown that keeping a consistent schedule has been particularly helpful in the treatment of conditions as varied as insomnia, migraine headache, chronic fatigue, obesity and depression.
To figure out your ideal sleep time, start with what time you have to wake up and count 8 hours back. If you have to be up at 7 am, aim to be in bed by 11 pm for an 8 hour “sleep opportunity.” From here, count back another 2 hours- so 9 pm- to start unwinding and unplugging. Many of us work until we “pass out” and ignore this important step of letting the day go and preparing for rest and restoration. Create a ritual to divide day a night- this can be a cup of tea or glass of wine, aromatherapy in the shower or bath, or a meditation or gratitude practice. It is best to avoid all electronics for these 2 hours and ideal to charge phones outside of the bedroom. If you must use electronics, use a blue-light blocker (apps, extensions or even amber-tinted glasses) to minimize their effect on your circadian rhythm.
There has been a lot of buzz about intermittent fasting lately and its benefits for weight, energy and even hormone balance. While it is not for everyone, its basic concept of scheduling our meals helps most people feel their best. As a rule of thumb, I recommend that most people eat their first meal of the day within an hour of waking and their last meal about 3 hours before going to bed. This would work out to eating only between 8am and 8pm in the sample schedule above. Additionally, most feel best eating something small every 3 hours throughout the active part of their day. This allows us to limit fluctuations in blood sugar because we are using the fuel we get from food as we need it. We also sleep better and have less nighttime heartburn and bathroom trips if we do not eat right before going to bed. It also allows the body some overnight rest from the demanding task of digestion.
If this is not on your schedule, it will not happen. I recommend scheduling at least 20-30 minutes of self-care every morning. This can include some of the same practices as the wind-down rituals above or can be something more energizing such as a brisk walk, or breakfast outdoors. Scheduling this in the morning protects and prioritizes the practice and also allows us (and our families, friends and colleagues) to benefit from a more present, efficient and compassionate version of ourselves throughout the rest of the day.
It is recommended that we exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. We are most successful when we commit to an exercise schedule ahead of time. One does not accidentally find themselves on a spinning bike- this takes planning and intention. However, this does not give us a pass to be sedentary for the remaining 9,030 minutes of the week! Take advantage of unscheduled opportunities for extra movement throughout the day- such as walking meetings, taking the stairs, and finding the farthest parking spot.
Hopefully the above suggestions help get us into a healthful and energizing rhythm this autumn, and throughout the year.
Dr. Sari Eitches is a Dual Board-Certified Internist and Integrative Physician. She will be on maternity leave for the Fall and Winter of 2017, you can schedule an appointment at Akasha Center by emailing email@example.com, or calling 310-451-8880