I first learned of Shawn Stevenson via a podcast he did with James Altutcher and learned he has the #1 health podcast on iTunes. Yep, I wasn’t listening to health podcasts among my eclectic choice of podcasts. But after hearing his interview, I gave his a try and do enjoy it. I also checked out his book: Sleep Smarter, 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health and Bigger Success which is the purpose of this post. In 21 chapters, this book goes through a different major idea in each chapter with 3 action points to help your body get the best sleep possible so that you are energized for the day, can focus, have the physical strength to work out, reduce cravings (yep, a lot of those sweet cravings come because you haven’t gotten enough quality sleep) and many more positive things for your body and mind because as we know, everything is connected.
Here are a few of my favorite tips from the book: Give sleep a priority. Aim for 8 hours each night. Yes, this is difficult for parents of young children. I hear you. It is difficult for me too, especially on those days when kid 1 wakes up at 5am with me and kid 2 goes to bed at 8:45pm leaving me with 15 minutes of kid-free time. HOWEVER, the benefit of getting enough sleep is that I am in a positive mood all day and can be focused on my time with my kids. Getting enough sleep is really important to happiness. I think a lot of grouchy people out there are sleep-deprived.
Three other favorite tips were to wake up with the sun and get early morning sun exposure. Doing this also ensures you are sleeping between 10pm and 2am which is supposed to be when the body does the majority of it’s repair work (the main purpose of sleep). Early morning sun exposure helps the body regulate hormones. I already wake up with the sun, so that is easy for me, but I am making more of an effort on work days to get outside and soak in some sunshine before going to work. I also take a quick walk outside in the middle of my workday to get another boost of vitamin D from the sun.
The next tip is a challenge: avoid screens before bedtime - smartphones, laptops, tablets, TV… all of them. How many of you fall asleep while watching TV at night? Well, Stevenson goes on to explain that the blue light coming through these devices messes with the hormone melatonin production which affects your sleep. Switch off these devices 90 minutes before bedtime. I know what you’re thinking “boo, hiss! This is when I watch my TV shows that aren’t kid-friendly.” Sorry guys, but it is up to you what you make a priority in your life. So, what are you supposed to do in that time? Read a physical book, listen to a podcast, take a bath, have a conversation with your partner, write in a journal, create something. Basically, get a hobby that doesn’t involve these kinds of electronics! LOL. If you feel you really have to be on your laptop working, try getting a blue light filter for the screen, or wear some orange glasses to filter it out. Better than nothing!
Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. Beds and bedrooms should be for sleeping and ahem, sex. Remove all electronic devices from your bedroom. Get an actual alarm clock; don’t use your phone. (This one I’m still hesitant on. I put my phone in airplane mode so theoretically it isn’t transmitting EMFs (electromagnetic fields) on my nightstand while I sleep, but it probably is.) Put a timer on your Wifi router to turn it off at night (going to try this one!) Get a grounding mat to also protect your body against EMFs and help with balancing free radicals in your body. Get your room as dark as possible - you don’t want artificial lights from the rest of your house or outside your house interrupting your sleep, so use black-out curtains. Cool down your room - ideal temp is 62-68 degrees. This can be tough for an air conditioner to accomplish in the summer in the desert, so do your best. There are also cooling mats you can buy for your mattress (info included in his bonus guide www.sleepsmarterbook.com/bonus - enter your name and email to get it) but they are a little pricey.
What are you eating and drinking throughout the day? Stop drinking caffeine 6 hours before sleep, maybe more, experiment and see what works best for you. Stop drinking alcohol 3 hours before bedtime to give it a chance to exit your system and not disrupt your sleep. If you are waking up to pee, you aren’t getting good sleep! Work on losing weight through healthy eating habits to get better sleep. Look into magnesium supplements you can take orally or rub topically before bed. Most people are deficient in magnesium and it is needed for healthy sleep among other body functions. Stevenson has recommended varieties in his bonus guide. Although he doesn’t mention this in the book, avoid eating bedtime snacks so your body can focus on repair and not digestion while you sleep. I recommend a 12 hour fast each night, so if you eat dinner at 6pm, you should not eat breakfast until 6am, giving your body a 12 hour break from the digestion process.
Get physically ready. Wear light, comfortable clothes or nothing at all. Have your partner give you a massage and then return the favor. (Another great screen-free activity before bed.) Speaking of partners, having a big O before bed can really relax one for a great night’s sleep. When you exercise, it is best to exercise in the mornings to give your body all day to cool down before bed. It also gives times for the sleep hormones to kick in. Speaking of exercise, he shares that strength training is better than cardio for better sleep and weight loss. Pretty cool, since strength training doesn’t seem to take as long to accomplish either.
He concludes the book with a 14 day sleep makeover plan to help you incorporate these tips little by little so it doesn’t seem so overwhelming and the new habits are more likely to stick.
Well, I’m already working on more morning sun exposure on work days, buying a timer for our WiFi router and looking into buying new grounding sheets for our bed. What new tips and ideas are you going to try? Are you going to check out the book? I recommend it if you aren’t already getting fabulous sleep every night and waking up ready to jump out of bed and enjoy the day!
With love, hugs and smiles,