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When it comes to health, there is one criminally overlooked element: sleep. Good sleep helps you shed fat for good, stave off disease, stay productive, and improve virtually every function of your mind and body. That’s what Shawn Stevenson learned when a degenerative bone disease crushed his dream of becoming a professional athlete. Like many of us, he gave up on his health and his body, until he decided there must be a better way. Through better sleep and optimized nutrition, Stevenson not only healed his body but also achieved fitness and business goals he never thought possible.
In Sleep Smarter, Stevenson shares easy tips and tricks to discover the best sleep and best health of your life. With his 14-Day Sleep Makeover, you’ll learn how to create the ideal sleep sanctuary, how to hack sunlight to regulate your circadian rhythms, which clinically proven sleep nutrients and supplements you need, and stress-reduction exercises and fitness tips to keep you mentally and physically sharp.
Sleep Smarter is the ultimate guide to sleeping better, feeling refreshed, and achieving a healthier, happier life.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
KNOW THE VALUE OF SLEEP
The topic of this chapter is a little unusual, but it's probably the most important. Many people are negligent about getting enough sleep because they don't truly understand the benefits they could be getting from it. Once you understand the advantages of getting high-quality sleep, you'll be passionate about to putting these strategies into action for yourself.
So what is sleep? And why is it important?
Well, defining sleep is a lot like trying to define life. No one completely understands it, and if you try to explain it, you're more likely to sound like Forrest Gump than a world-renown scholar. (Life is like a box of chocolates . . . sleep is like pretending to be dead.)
The Free Dictionary defines sleep as a natural periodic state of rest for the mind and body, in which the eyes usually close and consciousness is completely or partially lost, so that there is a decrease in bodily movement and responsiveness to external stimuli.
That sounds a little weird, but the most important takeaway is that it's a natural periodic state of rest for the mind and body. If you're not doing it, then you're being completely unnatural. And nobody likes unnatural people.
What's more important is knowing the big prizes that sleep gives you. Generally, being awake is catabolic (breaks you down) and being asleep is anabolic (builds you up). Sleep is known to be an elevated anabolic state, heightening the growth and rejuvenation of the immune, skeletal, and muscular systems. Basically, sleep rebuilds you and keeps you youthful.
High-quality sleep fortifies your immune system, balances your hormones, boosts your metabolism, increases your physical energy, and improves the function of your brain. Unless you give your body the right amount of sleep, you will never, I repeat never, have the body and life you want to have.
In our culture, sleep is not respected very much at all. In fact, we are often programmed with the idea that to be successful, we need to work harder, we need to sleep less, and we can catch up on all the sleep we want when we're dead. To say sleep is not respected is really an understatement.
Working hard is unarguably a big part of being successful, but so is working smart. So many people in our world today go on plugging away with work, burning the candle at both ends, not realizing that the quality of work they're doing is being radically compromised. Research shows that after just 24 hours of sleep deprivation, there is an overall reduction of 6 percent in glucose reaching the brain. Simple translation: You get dumber.
This is also why you crave candy, chips, doughnuts, and other starchy, sugary things when you're sleep deprived. Your body is trying to compel you to get that glucose back to your brain as soon as possible. It's a built-in survival mechanism. This is inherent in our genes because, in our days as hunter-gatherers, that lack of brainpower could mean a swift death from a predator or a substantially reduced ability to hunt and procure our own food for survival. Today, a simple trip to the refrigerator can bypass your body's cry for more sleep, but those stress mechanisms are still alive and well within your body right now.
I CAN'T BELIEVE I DID THAT LAST NIGHT
The most valuable takeaway from this sleep deprivation "brain drain" discovery is that the reduction in glucose isn't shared equally. Your parietal lobe and the prefrontal cortex actually lose 12 to 14 percent of their glucose when you don't sleep. These are the areas of the brain we most need for thinking, for distinguishing between ideas, for social control, and for being able to tell the difference between right and wrong. Have you ever made a poor decision when you were up late at night that you wouldn't have made if your head was on right? Chances are you have.
It wasn't entirely your fault. Your brain was hijacked by a dumber (and slightly less attractive) version of yourself.
When you're sleep deprived, you are unknowingly setting up a steel cage match between your willpower and your biology. Sure, you might be committed to eating healthier, exercising more, or even choosing better relationships. But when your prefrontal cortex starts to shut down, if you've ever had a potato chip, if you've ever had sugary cereal, if you've ever had ice cream, your brain knows that it can find a quick source of glucose in those things and shuttle it back to where it is needed. Your willpower is now in a judo-style armbar as your entire body will compel you to seek those foods out.
The next thing you know, you have cheesy fingertips from jamming down a whole bag of cheese puffs, or you find yourself looking down the barrel of an empty pint of ice cream. Upset and defeated, you blame yourself, not realizing that you were set up for failure in the first place. When you are tired, you are not yourself. Well, at least not the best version of yourself. Being sleep-deprived will automatically stack the deck against you.
By sleeping smarter, you're going to be able to stack the conditions in your favor and put healthy choices on autopilot. You're going to get a ton of tips and strategies to make that happen, but first we need to take a look at how that sleepy brain is affecting the rest of your life.
PUT IT TO THE TEST
A study published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that poor sleep quality was equal to binge drinking and marijuana use in determining academic performance. The study reported that college students who were poor sleepers were much more likely to earn worse grades and even drop out of classes than their healthy sleeping peers.
Finding out that poor sleep can be as detrimental to learning as binge drinking should be a real eye-opener. Learning is a big part of our lives no matter what stage we're at. Our ability to learn and retain information is paramount to our success.
Whether we're in school or in the workforce, we'll often sacrifice sleep in the name of getting things done. But it's important to remember that there's a big difference between "working" and actually being effective.
By forgoing your sleep, you can absolutely do more work, but the quality and effectiveness of your work will be sacrificed. A study published in The Lancet that looked at a group of physicians proved that sleep-deprived individuals took 14 percent longer to complete a task and made 20 percent more errors than individuals who were well rested. Not only are we taking longer to do the same task, but we're going to have to spend even more time trying to go back to clean up the mess we've made.
If you learn to structure your time to get more sleep first, then you'll be able to get your work done faster and more effectively than if you zombie- walked your way through it. You'll be able to be more creative and energetic, and you'll have greater access to the parts of your brain responsible for problem-solving. The cultural idea of sleeping when you're dead will only accelerate the day that it becomes your reality. And the impact that sleep deprivation has on your brain will make your life a whole lot harder while you're still here to enjoy it.
YOUR BRAIN NEEDS A REHAB
Since the beginning of documented human history, philosophers and scientists alike have postulated what the real purpose of sleep is. Since it's this weird state that we're in, unconscious to the world around us, this would be the time that we'd be most vulnerable to danger and predation. From an evolutionary perspective, you'd think that we would have evolved out of sleep by now if it was making it tougher on our survival.
But what's been discovered is that sleep is actually what has enabled us to grow and evolve to the incredible level we have. Sleep hasn't been an evolutionary problem; it's been an evolutionary catalyst.
The human brain is the most powerful structure on the planet. It has enabled us to build our bodies and to build skyscrapers--to build automobiles and to build spaceships--to unlock the power of technology to create the Internet and to unlock the power of our DNA to understand life. Our brains can think externally of any new circumstance, analyze the past, forecast the future, and create limitless strategies to get there.
Billions of brain cells are controlling every function in your body as well. It's important to understand that each brain cell is capable of doing what your whole body does. These cells eat, communicate, reproduce, and even make waste. Scientists have discovered that this process of waste removal might be one of the biggest connections to our critical need for high-quality sleep.
Your body has what is essentially a cellular waste management system called the lymphatic system. It's responsible for eliminating metabolic waste and toxins to keep you healthy. However, the lymphatic system does not include your brain. This is because your brain is a closed system controlled by the blood-brain barrier, which decides what can go through and what cannot. Your brain is heavily guarded by cellular bouncers that can spot a fake ID a mile away.
Scientists have found that the brain actually has its own unique waste disposal system, similar to that of the lymphatic system. It's called the glymphatic system--with the added "g" as a special shout-out to the glial cells in the brain that control it.
All of the dynamic functions the human brain does result in a lot of waste products, all of which need to be removed. This waste removal literally makes room for new growth and development. Removing and recycling dead cells, tossing out toxins, and shuttling out waste is critical to brain function.
Researchers at the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center have discovered exactly how sleep relates to all of this. During sleep, the glymphatic system becomes 10 times more active than during wakefulness. Simultaneously, your brain cells are reduced in size by about 60 percent while you're asleep to make waste removal even more efficient.
Because your brain is so active while you're awake (learning, developing, and helping you to be awesome), it's continuously building up a lot of byproducts that are mainly removed by the restorative power of sleep.
If the waste removal system in your home gets backed up, then things are going to get real nasty, real fast. The same thing holds true if you're not sleeping well and your glymphatic system doesn't get to do its job. As a matter of fact, an inability of your brain to remove harmful waste products is believed to be one of the foundational causes of Alzheimer's disease.
DON'T SLEEP ON SLEEP
We've just covered a small slice of the pie on why sleep needs to be a top priority on your list from this day forward.
Always remember the value of your sleep. You will perform better, make better decisions, and have a better body when you get the sleep you require. Sleep is not an obstacle we need to go around. It's a natural state your body requires to boost your hormone function; heal your muscles, tissues, and organs; protect you from diseases; and make your mind work at its optimal level. The shortcut to success is not made by bypassing dreamland. You will work better, be more efficient, and get more stuff done when you're properly rested.
POWER TIP #1
When you know you have a big task, project, or event coming up, pull out a calendar and plan ahead how you can get your ideal number of sleep hours in. Oftentimes it's as simple as setting up a schedule. But people overlook it because, well, it's just too easy.
If it's important to you, you'll schedule it. Stick to that schedule as well as you can, and know that you will get the work done better and faster if you're more rested. We usually sacrifice our sleep to cram in more work because we didn't plan efficiently. And as the wise Benjamin Franklin said, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."
POWER TIP #2
Begin reframing your idea of sleep. Instead of seeing sleep as an obstacle to work around (something you "have to" do), start seeing it as a special treat for yourself (something that you "get to" do) and love the entire process.
A real change begins with a simple change in your perception. Start to think of sleep as an incredible indulgence, like a sensuous dessert, a relaxing massage, a hot date with someone special, or something else that you really look forward to. "I've got a hot date with sleep tonight, and we are really going to get--it--on!" Start letting go of the stress surrounding sleep and allow yourself to enjoy it. You work hard enough in your life as it is. Treat yourself to some incredible sleep. You deserve it.
Now that we've gotten to the deeper connection as to why your sleep is so valuable, it's time to dive into the real nuts and bolts of sleeping smarter. You're about to be equipped with some powerhouse tools and tips that you'll be able to utilize for a lifetime of great sleep. Let's go!
Table of Contents
Foreword Dr. Sara Gottfried ix
Author's Preface xiii
Chapter 1 Know the Value of Sleep 1
Chapter 2 Get More Sunlight during the Day 9
Chapter 3 Avoid Screens before Bedtime 19
Chapter 4 Have a Caffeine Curfew 24
Chapter 5 Be Cool 35
Chapter 6 Get To Bed at The Right Time 41
Chapter 7 Fix Your Gut to Fix Your Sleep 51
Chapter 8 Create a Sleep Sanctuary 63
Chapter 9 Have a Big "O" 69
Chapter 10 Get it Blacked Out 75
Chapter 11 Train Hard (But Smart) 81
Chapter 12 Get your "Friends" Out of Your Room 93
Chapter 13 Lose Weight and Don't Find it Again 101
Chapter 14 Go Easy on the Bottle 115
Chapter 15 Play Your Position 123
Chapter 16 Calm Your Inner Chatter 135
Chapter 17 Use Smart Supplementation 151
Chapter 18 Be Early to Rise 157
Chapter 19 Use Bodywork That Works 165
Chapter 20 Dress for the Occasion 173
Chapter 21 Get Grounded 181
The 14-Day Sleep Makeover 189
It's Time to Say Goodnight 241
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Shawn how to improve our sleep quality has really shown immediate benefits. From having more energy throughout our day for us to keep up with our active children, to building a better relationship with my amazing wife (after 17yrs and counting, we seek out everything to stack the cards in our favor to maintain a healthy relationship). Shawn has an innate way of simplifying things, making the 21 strategies extremely practical for everyday people. I strongly urge anyone and everyone to buy the book and begin using the strategies immediately, may it find you in the best health and provide you with added benefits
NOT JUST FOR INSOMNIACS! Shawn Stevenson does it again! I have pretty good sleep habits, but I picked up Sleep Smarter because I truly love the science-backed information in Shawn Stevenson’s podcast, The Model Health Show, which is always chock full of great information that I can implement in my daily life. If I’ve learned anything from the podcast, its that a person’s health and wellness is made up of more than just eating well and exercise. Sleep Smarter not only offers great tools you can use immediately to get better sleep, it also discusses in depth how sleep is critical for overall health of the body and mind. Although getting good sleep is important to me, I was most interested in how sleep affects a person’s overall wellness, including weight management, stress management, and daily living, and this book did not disappoint! I was shaken to find out that one night of sleep deprivation can make a person as insulin sensitive as a person with type 2 diabetes. This book doesn’t just give tips and tricks for better sleep (which are very helpful and easy to implement). Sleep Smarter dives head first into how sleep affects weight management, how the body functions, hormones, daily performance, and much more. If your goal isn’t necessarily just sleeping better, but is for overall health and wellness, this book is for you! I am not normally a reviewer, but this information is too good not to share with others. I genuinely hope that others pick this book up and give it a read. The information contained in Sleep Smarter can make a real difference in your life.
This book is well written and entertaining with actionable recommendations that will immediately impact your sleep. Shawn describes the science behind every recommendation (in layman's terms) and how it can impact your overall health. This book is for those just beginning a health journey, or those seasoned veterans who want to take health and fitness to the next level! I also love that I can apply and teach these techniques to my children and instill these good habits for their lives!
If you are in pursuit of optimal health, sleep is a key component. This book has improved the quality of my sleep and I KNOW it will do the same for you! Shawn does a great job of presenting a lot of heavy hitting information into a simplified and easy to read format, making it easy for everyone to understand and apply the principles he presents into their daily routine. Highly recommended!
Inspiring, educational, definitely enlightening
I was initially skeptical about this book, but after gaining valuable information from his podcast, I decided to give this a read. This book is phenomenal! It breaks down the importance of sleep, but in a casual tone so I’m able to understand and apply the advice. I’ve already noticed a drastic change in my energy levels, so I’d recommend this to anyone who’s looking to better the quality of their lives, but not sure where to start. You can thank me later.
I would have appreciated reviews from real people and not those either paid or those that Shawn asked to write in. Way to 'sales-pitchy' and you can tell not authentic reviews. The book was o.k. not amazing. I think you can get much of what he writes at free websites-very basic and does not really help if you are truly sleep-deprived
Shawn Stevenson has created an invaluable resource with Sleep Smarter. Sleep is so essential to our health, yet we often sacrifice it for work, play, or Netflix binging. To begin with, Shawn has reminded us about the importance of sleep. Sleep Smarter goes far beyond that though with so many practical tips on how to improve your sleep, from how to handle caffeine, to what time to go to bed at night, to the importance of nutrition. This book is fluff-free, it's well-researched and is full of real ways you can get better sleep. Thank you Shawn for sharing this information. I believe Sleep Smarter is a must-read for anyone who wants to improve their health. I highly recommend this book.
He arrives. "So, what is it?"