Shawn Steven, Author of the bestselling book “Sleep Smarter” shares firsthand insight on better quality sleep. Remember when you were little and it was nap time? You fought it. There were so many more cool things to do than…sleep. Now, sleep might seem like the mythical unicorn; yeah, you’ve heard of it, but you never really can catch it! Shawn Stevenson, author of Sleep Smarter (not to mention the co-host of The Good Dad Project podcast), let us in on a few of his tips he delves into throughout his book.
Sleep Smarter came from Shawn’s own health struggles
Living through his own struggles with health and weight in his early 20’s, Shawn also struggled with getting an adequate amount of sleep. To help himself out, he began taking over the counter sleep aids (think Tylenol PM) as well as prescription Ambien. Thinking this would give him the sleep he needed, he didn’t realize his sleep was not quality while taking these sleep aids. Side note: As a matter of fact, he would come to find out in sleep studies, these “aids” were actually reducing the amount of quality sleep he was getting. You’ll find that taking just 20 Ambien pills doubles your risk of premature death-yikes. As his health continued to fail, Shawn desperately searched for better ways to get good sleep. His studies in sleep and nutrition and fitness led him to identify keys methods to improve sleep and overall health. Ultimately…this lead to Sleep Smarter!
Sleep Smarter and Lose Body Fat
Shawn cites one study from the University of Chicago which found that putting people on the same strict diet, but manipulating their amount of sleep, triggered a 55% reduction in fat lost for those subjects that had adequate (8 hours) of sleep over their sleep deprived counter parts. Yep, that’s right, you may be eating healthy and working out regularly, but if your sleep is lacking, your results may be, too. It’s because our bodies make the greatest changes during these precious hours. Guys, the greatest secretion of natural human growth hormone (you know, the one that builds muscle and repairs tissue) takes place in the early hours of quality sleep.
Sleep Affects Every Area of our Lives
Sleep affects everything: how we interact with others, our work, our fitness, and our sex lives. Think about it-if you haven’t had a good night’s sleep, you probably are not in the best state of mind to make rational decisions or deal with difficult situations. Ok, great. So, now we know all of the things that lack of sleep will do, but how do we fix the problem? Shawn gives three quick tips to improve your sleep right now (by the way, his book has a list of 21 things to improve your sleep).
Sleep Smarter Power Tip #1:
Remove TV screens from the bedroom. Your bedroom should be the place you sleep and are intimate. It is not a movie theater. The light from the screen inhibits your body’s natural sleep hormones, signaling your body to stay awake. Just like TV screens, your time with your personal devices should be limited before bed (Shawn says 90 minutes before bed). Blue light, the light associated most with decreasing melatonin (sleep hormone) emanates from these devices. Checking the latest Twitter feed may be tempting right before bed, but if it keeps you from having the best possible night’s sleep, it’s not worth it.
Sleep Smarter Power Tip #2:
Keep the room dark. Shawn says that our skin has receptors that can detect the smallest amount of light. Investing in black out curtains and eliminating all possible areas where light can creep in will aid in getting you some quality z’s.When you work out plays an integral role in how well you sleep. In a study conducted at Appalachia State, subjects were asked to work out at three different times. Subjects in phase one worked out at 7am, phase two at 1pm and phase three at 7pm. The results? Subjects from phase one spent 75% more time in the anabolic (think muscle growth) phase of sleep. These same subjects also had deeper sleep and a 25% reduction in blood pressure while they slept. Shawn suggests that one of the first things you do in the morning upon waking is five minutes of body weight exercise. This will help your body utilize its greatest resources for muscle building as well as prepare your body for a great night’s sleep.
Sleep Smarter Power Tip #3:
Shawn also highly recommends a bed time routine (your kids do it, why don’t you?). Letting your body know that it is time to sleep will help to trigger the hormones necessary to settle you down for a great night’s rest. So, maybe the mythical unicorn known as sleep isn’t so out of reach.
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Thanks for checking out this episode of How Sleep Impacts Us as Parents and How to Sleep Smarter.