184: Todd & Tara Youngblood – Chilling Your Way to Better Sleep


Hey guys, welcome back to ONKEN RADIO (formerly NION Radio), the podcast where we explore the body, mind, and soul of the creative entrepreneur. It’s my goal to help you take your creativity, business, and life to the next level. I’m so glad you’re joining me on this journey!

Before we get started, I want to ask you a few questions: How much sleep do you get at night? Do you feel well-rested and energized to work on your Creative Alchemy? Getting a good’s night sleep is essential for our art, but we often overlook getting a full, effective night’s sleep when we’re busy. 

Today’s show is all about sleep and how getting the best quality sleep can improve your Creative Alchemy. I’m also discussing a revolutionary product that has significantly improved my sleep quality. The product is called the chiliPAD, and I cannot recommend it enough. I’m thrilled to have the chiliPAD inventors Todd and Tara Youngblood on today’s show, and we’re talking all about how you can improve the quality of your sleep. You’re going to learn all about creating a recipe for improving your sleep, how to develop your own sleep routine, and how getting quality sleep is more important than the quantity of sleep. 

If you’re looking to optimize your sleep for maximum creativity, you’re not going to want to miss this episode. Without further ado, let’s dive in.

Who Are Todd and Tara Youngblood?

Todd and Tara Youngblood are the creators of the chiliPAD, a pad that sits on top of your mattress that regulates your core body temperature. This device is so cool (literally) because it uses tiny tubes that run water through the pad, and you can set the water temperature to whatever you want. I actually discovered the device a few years ago through my friend, Matt Gallant, and it has completely changed the way I sleep. 

Todd and Tara are based out of Charlotte, North Carolina. They created their brilliant chiliPAD back in 2007, and they later founded their company Kyro, Inc. in 2016 based around their “Chili Technology.” In addition to the chiliPAD, they also sell the chiliBLANKET, which utilizes chiliPAD cooling and warming technology and functions as a weighted blanket.  

In addition to co-founding Kyro, Inc., Tara also authored the book Reprogram You Sleep: The Sleep Recipe that Works, which expertly gives readers knowledge and advice on optimizing their sleep schedules. 

In 2008, Todd and Tara suffered the tragedy of losing their youngest son. As a result, Tara began suffering from severe insomnia and depression. By the end of 2009, she had hit rock bottom with her sleep schedule. She researched and developed a full sleep recipe for herself that saved her sleep schedule. Tara and Todd have a ton of expert advice from their research that will improve your sleep, so let’s get started! 

The Recipe for Better Sleep

We began our interview by discussing the science behind getting better sleep and how the chiliPAD meets our sleep needs. The key to better sleep starts with our chronotype: 

“[Chronotype] is a fancy way of talking about your body clock or circadian rhythm. And it sort of looks at what kind of sleeper you are, [like] a morning person [or] night owl [and] when you should go to sleep.” 
– Tara Youngblood

There are different kinds of chronotypes, so discovering your best sleep is not a one-size-fits-all process. It takes research and self-discovery. It’s essential to discover your chronotype because then you can find your sleep switch. 

“Figuring out that ideal timing, and the magic of that really comes in figuring out something called your sleep switch. … Our neurons are triggered to sleep if we trigger them in the right window [of time] with temperature.”
– Tara Youngblood

We can trigger our sleep by adjusting our internal temperatures. This process of our internal temperature changing comes from our evolutionary background of sleeping outside. Our bodies used to adjust their temperature based on our environments and the time of day. 

“We used to live outside for most of our evolutionary existence as human beings. We existed by what the planet was doing temperature-wise. We didn’t have these consistent houses that kept our temperature at one temperature. … And our bodies got used to timing our sleep [around] that temperature. And so our body temperature actually goes up and down by a couple of degrees at core body temperature throughout the day. And in the middle of the night, it’s actually the lowest. [It’s] two degrees cooler.”
– Tara Youngblood

Triggering your sleep through adjusting your temperature is a process that differs from person to person. Tara falls asleep through her temperature warming while Todd falls asleep with his temperature cooling. Because of their differing preferences, Todd and Tara designed the chiliPAD to have different temperatures on each side of the bed. Regardless of whether your preference is being warmer or cooler, the essential part of triggering your neurological switch is experiencing a temperature change. As long as you’re changing your temperature, you flip your neurological switch and release melatonin to fall and stay asleep. 

Even though Tara and Todd are now experts on optimizing sleep, they actually developed the chiliPAD around comfort rather than science: 

“We actually started the chiliPad based on comfort. … I was sleeping chronically hot, and [I would] wake up a hot, sweaty mess. … So we really started [with] temperature, and then kind of through evolution, we found that there’s this magical thing that’s happening with temperature and sleep.”
– Todd Youngblood

Tara and Todd began researching how temperature relates to different sleep phases. An essential part of feeling well-rested in the morning and being productive throughout the day is engaging in deep sleep: 

“That first window as your core body temperature is dropping to its lowest point in the middle of the night. … And when it’s dropping, it wants to be colder. And when you do that, the density [or] the quality of your sleep [improves.] You get really good deep sleep, and that’s what makes us feel rested in the morning.”
– Tara Youngblood

When you lower your internal body temperature in your first phase of sleep, you’ll have better quality deep sleep. Another essential part of a good night’s sleep is getting a good amount of rapid eye movement (or REM) sleep. 

 “The second half of the night really is much more about REM sleep. … Just like [how] the earth was warming up, our bodies are warming back up closer to that regular average temperature. … [When you warm up,] you flip off your sleep switch.”
– Tara Youngblood

Your body becomes warmer as it engages in REM sleep. It’s returning to its average temperature to prepare you to wake up. Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night because you were hot, and you found it difficult to go back to sleep? Your body’s warm temperature triggers you awake, and then your body thinks that it’s supposed to remain awake. 

Your body’s fluctuating temperature during your sleep is why the chiliPAD is such an essential tool. You can set varying degrees on your chiliPAD throughout the night, so you can set it to become cooler with your deep sleep, and you can set it to warm up so that you wake up naturally. The chiliPAD has greatly increased the quality of my sleep, so now I’m much more productive during the day. 

I have such an easier time engaging in my creative projects when I’m well-rested. If you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, you should definitely check out the chiliPAD here.

Finding Your Sleep Routine

Finding your optimal sleep routine is essential for getting a great night’s sleep, but there’s no uniform routine that we should all follow. Our differing chronotypes determine how we can optimize both our sleep and our energy levels during the day. Biological factors determine our chronotype: 

“Your PER3 [or Period Circadian Regulator 3] gene is actually what dictates what chronotype you are. So it goes back down at a most basic level. You’re kind of born that way. … Everything in your body is governed by this clock. So when you should eat, when you should work out, when you’re at your cognitive best, when you’re at your most creative is actually all entrained to the same clock. … Your best time to make a smart decision has been studied and entrained to your biological clock.”
– Tara Youngblood

Isn’t that completely insane? Your chronotype determines everything from your sleep to when you’re the most productive in different areas of your life. So how can we learn our chronotype? It’s incredibly simple. Todd and Tara recommend that you Google “chronotype quiz” and take one of the many quizzes available online. Once you’ve discovered your chronotype, you can begin to plan your day out to be the most productive. 

In addition to learning our chronotype, we can also listen to our body when it’s signaling us to sleep. Oftentimes our body sends out a signal and we get tired, but we ignore the tiredness and stay awake longer. We then get a second wave of energy that makes it difficult to fall asleep. 

“And our body’s like, ‘Oh, something’s going on. I need to be more on high alert because I’ve skipped my window.’ … So if we’re supposed to go to sleep at nine and we go to sleep at 11, our window of opportunity is just that much shorter. We just don’t get the same density of deep sleep.”
– Tara Youngblood

If you’re the kind of person who has difficulty falling asleep, regardless of time, you may need to evaluate what’s causing your lack of sleep and develop a personalized routine for yourself: 

“[Ask yourself,] ‘Am I expressing gratitude? Am I journaling? Am I being intentional in my meditating?’ For some people it’s as far as doing yoga or Qigong … if they’re a person [who] needs to move to flow their mind. It’s about knowing those tricks for you. … There’s no one answer for any of us, but that’s the same with everything. There’s not one answer or one magic pill that’ll fix us all.”
– Tara Youngblood

For me, Vedic meditation is an essential part of my routine for falling asleep. I’ve even found that if I wake up in the middle of the night, Vedic meditation puts me back to sleep. What routine do you need to get the most out of your sleep? Maybe you need to try a new form of meditation to clear your mind or start exercising to release endorphins. Find your chronotype and the routine that works for you. 

The Importance of Quality Sleep over Quantity

Throughout Tara and Todd’s research, they found that getting good quality sleep is more important than sleep quantity. Our chronotype determines the optimal amount of sleep that we need. 

“Morning people tend to need more sleep than nine hours. That’s unfortunate, but that’s why I’m going to bed earlier. Some of it has to do with age. So the quality of our sleep diminishes as we age as well. And if you’re not getting good quality sleep, then you often need more of it. That’s why an elderly person is going to take more naps and sleep more. … So you really have to look at those quality numbers as much as that time in bed.”
– Tara Youngblood

Your sleep quality determines the amount of sleep that you need. Focusing on sleep density is an essential part of getting a good night’s sleep, especially if you don’t have time to sleep for eight hours:

“We continue to try to harp on the difference between the amount of sleep and sleep density. … And so when you know you’re going to have a short sleep, [avoid] doing things like drinking alcohol three hours before bedtime or some of the triggers that really impact sleep. Understanding how to manage those [is] how you manage your sleep density.”
– Todd Youngblood

There are some tasks that we can avoid to increase our sleep density. An incredibly common mistake that people do before going to bed that can hurt their sleep quality is looking at blue lights. Have you ever noticed the night mode on your phone or laptop? These modes filter out the blue light emitted from your screen to avoid disrupting your circadian rhythm and hurting your sleep density. 

Another essential key to getting good quality sleep is getting the right balance of deep sleep and REM sleep. I’ve recently found that I’ve been getting a great deal of deep sleep but not nearly enough REM sleep. Tara observed that too much deep sleep can actually be harmful:

“Your deep sleep [can] cannibalize your REM. … [Good sleep] is about that density and the balance of having all of the right things.”
– Tara Youngblood

Both deep sleep and REM sleep are essential for your health, so it’s critical to get a good balance of both. Deep sleep is essential for physical healing, while REM sleep is essential for emotional healing: 

“Deep sleep is about those deep healing times. It’s DNA repair. Shortly after falling into deep sleep, your spinal fluid actually comes up and washes your brain of toxins. … Your REM sleep is really much more about some of those emotions and those memories. … It’s really about focusing on that emotional recovery. So there [are] two sides of those coverages like physical and emotional, and REM sleep is really important long-term to keep feeling emotionally recovered and being able to manage stress in your life and all those sorts of things.”
– Tara Youngblood

We should aim to get two hours of deep sleep and two hours of REM sleep every night. The chiliPAD is a great tool for engaging in these different sleep phases because it controls the temperature. Like Tara observed earlier, your internal temperature is cooler during deep sleep and warmer during REM sleep, so you can schedule the temperature of your chiliPAD to create a balance between your deep sleep and REM sleep. The chiliPAD is truly essential for getting the most out of your night’s sleep. 

Become a Creative Alchemist with Todd and Tara Youngblood 

Alchemy is defined as the process of taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary, sometimes in a way that cannot be explained.

With that being said, I define Creative Alchemy as using the process of creativity to create a lens of which to perform alchemy. These principles not only apply to artists and creatives in their own creative processes, but to anyone who wants to create an extraordinary life in color for themselves. I’ve found that 80% of creating is alchemizing the thoughts, emotions, and other inner blocks that keep you from putting the pen to the paper. Navigating to the act of creation takes alchemical processes.

Todd and Tara are brilliant Creative Alchemists because they created a revolutionary device that they’re passionate about. Their creation is truly a gift to all of us creators because we’re at our best when we’re well-rested. Todd and Tara’s knowledge of getting the best quality sleep possible is absolutely fascinating and life-changing. Make sure to check out the full episode to learn about hypnagogic sleep, lucid dreaming, and even more awesome tips to get better quality sleep!

Also, make sure to check out Tara’s new book Reprogram You Sleep: The Sleep Recipe that Works, and don’t forget to order your own chiliPAD! Use the code Nick15 for 15% off the Ooler Sleep System and Nick25 for 25% off the chiliPAD

Thank you so much for checking out today’s episode! If you enjoyed it as much as I did, make sure to share it on Instagram! Tag Todd and Tera, @the_sleep_geek, and me, @nickonken, and share how this episode helped you get a better night’s rest! Also, make sure to leave me a five-star review on Apple Podcasts so that I can share this with more Creative Alchemists like you!

Remember, being a productive Creative Alchemist starts with a great night’s rest. Find out your chronotype and what routine works for you to get the best quality sleep! 

Until next time —

Nick Onken

You can Subscribe and Listen to the Podcast on Apple Podcasts. And please leave me a Rating and Review!



Some things we learn in this podcast:

  • Why Tara calls herself a sleep geek [1:15]
  • What are the principles to the recipe for good sleep [1:48]
  • How does the chiliPAD work [4:00]
  • How to figure out your sleep cycle [10:00]
  • How to adjust your sleep schedule when traveling [14:00]
  • How can you fall back asleep if you wake up in the night [18:00]
  • Where does Tara get her sleep knowledge [23:00]
  • When did Tara hit her sleep rock bottom [23:15]
  • What is the problem with medical studies [24:10]
  • How do you know how much sleep you need [26:20]
  • What is the difference between the amount of sleep and sleep density [29:15]
  • What factors affect your REM sleep [30:20]
  • Is it normal for an adult to wake up to use the bathroom in the night [37:10]
  • How to fall asleep more easily [38:25]
  • How to define sleep drive [40:12]
  • What is the nerdiest sleep fact [41:00]
  • What can lucid dreaming do for your brain [43:20]
  • How does lucid dreaming work [43:45]

Links Mentioned:

Connect with Todd and Tara Youngblood on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Chili Technology

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