Summary of Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success
Life gets busy. Has Sleep Smarter by Shawn Steven been sitting on your reading list? Learn the key insights now.
About Shawn Stevenson
Shawn Stevenson is a health and wellness expert, author, and speaker. He’s also the creator of The Model Health Show, the #1 health podcast in the U.S., with millions of downloads each year. Stevenson graduated from the University of Missouri, St. Louis, where he studied business, biology, and nutritional science. He co-founded Advanced Integrative Health Alliance, a successful company that provides Wellness Services for individuals and organizations worldwide. Stevenson has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, The New York Times, Muscle & Fitness, ABC News, ESPN, and many other major media outlets.
“A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.”– Shawn Stevenson
Have you ever wondered how to boost your health through healthier sleeping habits? Sleep Smarter teaches you how to do exactly that.
Too many of us fail to understand the value of sleep and the incredible impact sleep can have on our health. This 290-page book gives readers actionable tips. You can use these tips to sleep better, feel better, and do better.
StoryShot #1: Sleep Is Critical for Optimal Productivity and More
“You will perform better, make better decisions, and have a better body when you get the sleep you require.”― Shawn Stevenson
Have you ever wondered why sleep is valuable? The average person spends one-third or nearly 230,000 hours sleeping in their lifetime. That can make getting in your 8 hours feel like a massive waste of time.
Many of us don’t know that getting enough rest is critical to optimizing the time we aren’t sleeping. Sleeping enough and sleeping well are essential for being productive during daylight hours.
Our brains need a compound called glucose to function optimally. And studies show that people who sleep less tend to have less glucose in their brain tissue. This phenomenon is mainly present in the prefrontal cortex, which helps us solve problems and perform more complex cognitive tasks.
Sleep handles everything from regulating our appetite and consolidating memories to strengthening immune system function and repairing damaged cells.
Sleep is precious for your health for these reasons and many more.
StoryShot #2: Sun and Screen Exposure Can Throw Off Your Circadian Rhythm
Humans need light. Since the dawn of human time, we’ve required sunlight to produce vitamin D. Our bodies can’t make this vitamin naturally. But we also need light because it regulates the circadian rhythm, aka our sleep-wake schedule.
Light exposure correlates with your sleep schedule because of a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin tells our brains when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. Melatonin needs exposure to sunlight during the day.
You can throw off your melatonin levels if you get too much light exposure when you’re supposed to be sleeping. This effect is why sleep scientists recommend not using blue-light screens before you go to bed.
“…Make it a mandate to turn off all screens at least 90 minutes before bedtime in order to allow melatonin and cortisol levels to normalize.”― Shawn Stevenson
StoryShot #3: Temperature Is the Most Important Factor for Sleeping Well
Your body has not only an internal alarm clock but also an internal temperature regulator. The circadian rhythm regulates both processes.
During the day, your body maintains a warmer temperature. However, your internal body temperature drops toward bedtime. Your body temperature will then progressively decrease as you sleep, hitting its lowest point in the day around dawn.
Studies show that optimal temperature is critical for getting to sleep fast and feeling like you’ve got a good night’s rest (i.e., higher sleep quality). A recent study showed that sleeping in a room that’s too warm significantly impacted work performance the following day.
A recommendation here is to sleep in a room set at 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius). This may vary by a few degrees from person to person, but most doctors recommend keeping the thermostat set between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 to 19.4 degrees Celsius) for the most comfortable sleep.
Don’t set your thermostat too low. Otherwise, you’ll need more blankets. More blankets can raise your internal body temperature and disrupt your sleep.
StoryShot #4: Going to Bed at the Same Time and Waking Up Early Improves Sleep Quality
Another factor that has a significant impact on sleep quality is timing. Specifically, timing includes when you go to bed and wake up.
Ideally, you should go to bed at the same time each night. However, because the optimal sleeping hours are between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., you should try to sleep at 9 p.m. at the latest.
Getting up early in the morning is another recommendation for getting the most out of sleep. Humans have evolved to rise with the sun. That means your body optimizes your circadian rhythm for an early morning start.
It’s also important to talk about how long you should sleep here. Adult men between 18 and 64 should shoot for at least 7 hours of shut-eye and up to 9 hours. If you’re over 65, you shouldn’t need more than 8 hours of sleep per night.
StoryShot #5: The More Diverse Your Gut Microbiome, the Better Your Sleep
One of the most intriguing theories to come from science over the last decade is the idea of the gut-brain axis. According to proponents of this theory, there is a bidirectional connection between the brain and the gut. And in the gut lives the microbiome.
The microbiome is a collection of billions of bacterial species in your gut. Scientists refer to the number and type of bacterial species living in your gut as microbiome diversity.
Recent studies have shown that the more diverse your gut bacteria are, the longer and better you sleep. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. The poorer your sleep is, the less diverse your gut microbiome.
And the lack of diversity in the gut isn’t just bad for sleep. It can lead to further health complications, like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
So, how do you ensure your gut microbiome isn’t keeping you up at night? Here are some tips:
- Eat a diet of diverse foods, including whole grains, non-animal proteins, and plenty of fiber-rich colorful fruits and veggies
- Try fermented foods (yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, etc.)
- Take a prebiotic or probiotic
StoryShot #6: Sex Before Bed Will Help You Fall Asleep Faster
Orgasms regulate the release of feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin. Orgasms also help produce oxytocin, which is a natural stress reliever.
Serotonin can trigger the release of hormones known as endorphins. Also released during exercise, endorphins activate your body’s opioid receptors. Opioid receptors, when activated, not only ease pain but also help you feel drowsy.
StoryShot #7: You Can Improve Your Sleep by Improving Your Lifestyle
Most of Stevenson’s Sleep Smarter addresses lifestyle factors that impact sleep. These lifestyle factors include:
- Alcohol and caffeine consumption
- Mental health
Exercise and Sleep
Getting more exercise can improve the quality of your sleep. Specifically, working out can help you fall asleep faster.
So if you’re prone to lying awake counting sheep every night, incorporating some moderate-to-intense training into your day can help.
Weight Loss and Sleep
Carrying extra weight can decrease sleep quality for various reasons. Obese people are at a higher risk of developing sleep apnea and other sleeping conditions.
Interestingly, the relationship between weight and sleep goes both ways. Studies show that you may crave more calorie-dense foods if you don’t get enough rest. This can lead to further weight gain and sleep disruptions, and the cycle continues.
Caffeine, Alcohol, and Sleep
You’ve probably heard that caffeine is a big no-no before bed. After all, this compound directly blocks sleepiness through its upregulation of the neurotransmitter Adenosine.
You may not know that caffeine can stay in your system for a long time. That’s why experts recommend avoiding caffeine intake after 4 p.m.
Another liquid that’s not good for restfulness is alcohol. While alcohol induces drowsiness, it harms sleep quality. Specifically, alcohol disrupts resting eye movement (REM) sleep.
Memory and learning consolidation occur during REM sleep. So, if you often have a hot toddy before bed, you could affect your memory and intelligence. You can avoid these effects if you abstain from alcohol for a few hours before hitting the hay.
Mental Well-Being and Sleep
Do you lay awake at night for hours, wishing you could fall asleep but unable to turn off your brain? You certainly aren’t alone. Being unable to sleep can often be a mental health condition known as insomnia.
There is good news, though. You can combat insomnia while also improving your overall well-being through meditation. All you have to do is turn off your thoughts and practice deep breathing techniques for just 10 minutes before bed each night.
Supplements That Help You Sleep
By now, you may wonder: what if diet, exercise, and meditation alone aren’t enough to help you sleep? This is when supplements can come in handy.
Magnesium and melatonin are the two most common non-prescription medicines for poor sleep. Magnesium is a naturally occurring mineral. As we mentioned earlier, melatonin is the hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm.
Magnesium can help you relax when taken before bed. The book recommends you use magnesium paste on your neck and back. This is the most effective way to deliver this mineral to your brain.
Melatonin should only be an option when all else fails. Our bodies produce melatonin naturally. So supplementing this hormone too often can throw normal melatonin production out of whack.
StoryShot #8: Set Yourself Up for Success With a Restful Environment
Where you sleep and what you wear when you sleep matter. This is why the Sleep Smarter book by Shawn Stevenson recommends creating a bedtime routine. He also discusses cultivating a so-called sleep sanctuary.
Before bedtime, make sure to choose the right clothing. Pick breathable materials like cotton and linen to keep you cool all night. You should also go for loose clothing that won’t irritate your skin.
A proper sleep sanctuary has a few essential qualities. One, you sleep better in the dark. This has to do with your good ‘ole circadian rhythm again. Black out your bedroom. Exposure to room light during the usual hours of sleep suppressed melatonin by greater than 50%.
Secondly, you sleep better in a room with clean air. The most natural way to purify your air is with houseplants. Plants take up carbon dioxide and other toxins from the air, putting out clean oxygen as a byproduct.
Some great houseplants to consider are pothos, snake plants, and mother-in-law’s tongue. These plants are easy to care for. Plus, they look great with all kinds of home decor.
Finally, avoid bringing work into the bedroom. Working before you sleep can increase stress hormones in your brain and body. And these stress hormones can decrease your sleep quantity and make it harder to drift off to sleep.
“High-quality sleep fortifies your immune system, balances your hormones, boosts your metabolism, increases physical energy, and improves the function of your brain.”― Shawn Stevenson
Final Summary and Review of Sleep Smarter
Sleep Smarter gives health-minded people a roadmap for sleep success. You’ll learn why sleep is so important for having a healthy body and mind. And you’ll get some real-life tips for getting better rest.
All the recommendations in this book are easy to implement. Getting more exercise and waking up earlier don’t cost much money. That’s why this book is an excellent resource for anyone on their journey to better health.
As a reminder, these are the main takeaways from Sleep Smarter:
- Sleep Is Critical for Optimal Productivity and More
- Sun and Screen Exposure Can Throw Off Your Circadian Rhythm
- Temperature Is the Most Important Factor for Sleeping Well
- Going to Bed at the Same Time and Waking Up Early Improve Sleep Quality
- The More Diverse Your Gut Microbiome, the Better Your Sleep
- Sex Before Bed Will Help You Fall Asleep Faster
- You Can Improve Your Sleep by Improving Your Lifestyle
- Set Yourself Up for Success With a Restful Environment
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