Let Sleep Smarter be your Guide to Better Health

March is National Sleep Awareness Month, so I’m sharing with you a book I read several years ago about sleep!  I’m a big fan of Shawn Stevenson and have been listening to his podcast, The Model Health Show for many years now.  His book, Sleep Smarter is one of my favorites offering insights and research about the role of sleep when optimizing our health and well-being.

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Have you sacrificed sleep to get things done?  With a never ending list of to-dos, sleep seems to be the last thing on our mind.  However, to have the energy and serve to our fullest potential, we have to pay attention to the quality of sleep we get each night.  How do you feel when you’re sleep deprived?  I know I can’t fully function when I’ve had less than 7 hours of sleep.

THE VALUE OF SLEEP

Shawn Stevenson learned the value of sleep going through his health transformation journey.  In college, he was diagnosed with a spinal condition called degenerative disc disease.  According to Shawn’s doctor, this was an incurable disease.  That his spine was rapidly deteriorating and he had a spine of an 80 yr old man.  But instead of merely managing through the pain, he became proactive at learning more about his body and overall health.  This led him to make changes in his diet and exercise that incredibly made the pain disappear and eventually healed him.  Sleep also played a big factor during this healing process.  Because of the powerful way sleep transformed his health, he knew he needed to write a book about it.  If you’d like to learn more about Shawn’s story, listen to his podcast episode, My Story of Healing: The Soul and Science of Transforming Your Health.

Always remember the value of sleep, you will perform better, make better decisions, and have a better body when you get the sleep your require…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…You will work better, be more efficient, and get more stuff done when you’re properly rested.” – Shawn Stevenson

FIVE WAYS TO OPTIMIZE SLEEP

How can we optimize sleep?  Thanks to Shawn Stevenson and his bestselling book, Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success, we have 21 strategies available to help us sleep better at night.   Here are 5 of the 21 you can try to help you get the sleep you deserve!

Artificial blue light emitted by electronic screens triggers your body to produce more daytime hormones (such as cortisol) and disorients your body’s natural preparation for sleep.

This is a hard habit to break for many.  We are lost without our devices.  It’s in our hands the minute we get up to the minute we fall asleep.  The ‘Social Media black hole’ have us trapped!  When we scroll on Facebook or Instagram, our body releases a powerful chemical called dopamine.  Dopamine is a brain chemical that causes a seeking behavior.  It is then followed up by the opioid system where it gives us the pleasure of the results we seek.  We get stuck in this continuous loop of constantly seeking and being rewarded.
How do you solve this problem?  Look for a pleasurable alternative!  For me, it’s reading a book or writing in my journal.  For you, it could be listening to music or talking with your loved one.
However, if you really need to do work to meet a deadline, Shawn Stevenson recommended a blue light blocker whether it’s a pair of glasses or an application (he uses f.lux) on your computer screen.  I think all smartphones and newer laptops has a nighttime setting to block out the blue light.

Electronic devices emit both electric and magnetic fields known as EMFs. EMFs cause disruption in the communication among the cells in our bodies.

The book provides details about the risks of cell phone EMFs.  In 2011, a document was released by the World Health Organization (WHO)/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifying cell phone radiation as a Group 2B carcinogen based on an increased risk of  a malignant type of brain cancer, glioma from cell phone use. Yikes!
EMF also affects our sleep, that it significantly disrupts melatonin secretion.
“Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland and other tissues in your body that send signals to your cells to prepare you for sleep.”  When melatonin isn’t properly secreted, the quality of sleep is negatively impacted.
Best tip is to invest in an alarm clock if you use it as alarm.  Or you can also turn on airplane mode and still use the alarm function.

Optimal Room Temperature for Sleep is around 60 deg to 68 deg F

What’s your thermostat setting at night? The body’s core temperature fluctuates throughout the day.  At night, when your body is ready for bed, it automatically drops to prepare for sleep.  Apparently, if your house is warmer than the ideal temperature it’s harder for your body to get good sleep.  My daughter has complained before when she didn’t get enough sleep because she felt hot.  So we now keep our house at 65 deg or even lower overnight.
Besides the thermostat in your home, you also have to check your “Internal Thermostat”.  Stress and anxiety are likely contributors to an increase in core body temperature.
“…stress can arouse your system, elevate your body temperature, and unwittingly disrupt your sleep.  You absolutely must have a strategy to manage stress in our high stress world today, or you can sleep in an igloo and still not be cool enough.”
 

Meditation increases ‘feel-good’ hormones and endorphins, lowers stress hormones like cortisol, and even reduces inflammation in the body.

Speaking of strategies to manage stress, meditation has been a proven strategy.  Meditation might be intimidating to some of you, however you can keep it simple.  Start with a five minute session – take a moment to focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body.  The trick is to do it more often throughout the day to feel calm and stay present especially during stressful moments.  For me, using the Calm app has helped me stay on track.  Every morning, I’ve made it as part of a routine to meditate at least ten minutes.
“As the American Academy of Sleep Medicine research showed, meditating in the morning is proven to help test subjects sleep at night.   You’re creating a conscious neuro-pathway to relaxation, a buffer against stress, and a profound sense of presence that will help you sleep better in the evening.”

Remember, food isn’t just food – it’s information.  And the types of food that you eat, along with the nutrients they contain (or lack thereof), automatically incite processes that determine what your body, health, and sleep will look like.

Did you know gut health affects your sleep?  95 % of serotonin, the building block for melatonin, is found in the gut!  As mentioned previously, melatonin is the hormone that signals your body to sleep.  The book further explains the physiology of the gut with how serotonin is produced relative to the health of your digestion.  Basically, you want the bacteria (friendly and unfriendly flora) to achieve a natural balance to effectively produce serotonin and melatonin.
Here are some items listed in the book as clinically proven to damage your gut microbiome – so beware: Agricultural chemicals ie. pesticides, Processed foods, Repeated antibiotic use, Chemical food additives and preservatives, Chlorinated water.

Are any of these strategies already a part of your optimal sleep quality practice?  If they are, yet you still struggle with sleep, many more tips are available in Sleep Smarter.  I find myself referring to this book when I notice my quality of sleep has been sub par.  Check it out for yourself!

Image credit sleepsmarterbook.com

27 Comments

  1. I’ve always been so bad about getting good sleep… I need to check this out!

    1. I think it’s a great resource. The final pages of the book is dedicated to incorporating the strategies day by day into a 14-day plan to make it even simpler for those who are interested in upgrading their sleep quality.

  2. Thanks for all the tips!! I definitely need to practice some of these.

    1. You’re welcome Brandi. I hope it was helpful.

  3. I love reading and this is a book I need to add to my library. I’ve set a goal for this month of sleeping more, and making it a priority. This is something that I know will benefit me in many ways. Thanks for sharing! Xoxo

    1. Wow Jenny, that’s an awesome goal! I need to set the same as well since I’ve been waking up very early (around 5am) but haven’t adjusted the time I go to bed. Yes definitely check out the book. Thank you!

  4. I love sleep haha that being said, I USUALLY go to bed too late. I’ve been trying to get to sleep by 10:30, though, and I see it helping!

    1. Gosh I remember sleeping in very late in the day on the weekends before I had kids. Not anymore! My problem is going to bed late as well. My goal is around 10pm.

  5. Sleep is one thing I have never had a problem with, I can sleep almost anywhere. But this was very informative and I’ll be sharing a few of these with my husband. Thank you!

    1. Good to hear sleep is not an issue for you at all.

  6. This is all great advice, I definitely need help with sleeping. I agree that turning off electronics is a hard habit to break! Just like now, I’m on my laptop right before bed….. haha.

    1. Thanks Stephanie! Yup electronics is my weakness but working on limiting the amount of time I spend on it each night.

  7. Wow, what a great in-depth post on a very important area for our everyday health and ability to enjoy life and be productive. I know I will be referring back to this and reading for at least a second or third time to get all the points but it will be worth it to improve my own sleep quality.

    1. Thanks Nicole – I hope it helps!

  8. I’ve been having a hard time getting to sleep but I also am on my iPad before bed and never thought before about how that effects my sleep….

    1. Yes I believe the light from these devices significantly affects our sleep cycle. Hope your sleep improves soon!

  9. This is really interesting. Any strategies to get better sleep are welcome over here, lol.

  10. Fabulous advice. I need to take it to heart…as I sit here typing in bed!

    1. I understand – it’s more common for us nowadays to do work before bed.

  11. OMG I would freeze at 60-68 degrees!!!! So would our hedgehog! We keep it at 72 and I still pile on the blankets.

  12. I definitely treasure my good sleep nights! We keep our room around 66 and that really helps. Now to get my hubs to put his phone away sooner at night

  13. One thing I started to do this week was limiting my screen time on my phone an hour before going to bed. It has really helped!

  14. Well considering it’s 7:15 pm and I’ve now been awake for 15-1/2 hours, yeah…

  15. I really need to work on better sleep habits. These are great places to start. I need a good bedtime routine that doesn’t start with falling asleep watching tv. 🙂

  16. These are great sleeping tips! I need to start practicing the no cell phone zone – I scroll news articles in bed before I go to sleep, but the articles fuel my anxiety. I know this, yet I do it to myself every night anywas 🙂

  17. Great tips! I really should get back into reading/journaling again–it’d definitely be better than all the screen time.

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