Saturday, July 9, 2016

SLEEP SMARTER: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success

Sleep is often the first thing we sacrifice in order to do everything from work harder to binge-watch our favorite shows. 

Unfortunately, this also means sacrificing our mental, emotional and physical performance, as sleep deprivation can lead to immune system failure, diabetes, obesity, depression, memory loss or worse.

We need a wake-up call when it comes to recognizing the importance of sleep in lives, and SLEEP SMARTER: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success (Rodale; March 15, 2016) by Shawn Stevenson, BS, FDN (as seen on TedX, ESPN, ENTREPRENEUR, ESPN and more), host of the wildly popular podcast “Model Health Show” and Founder of the Advanced Integrative Health Alliance, delivers just that.

Through years of research and consulting the leading health experts, Stevenson discovered that the missing piece in many people’s quest to optimize their hormone function, balance blood sugar levels, get the numbers on the scale to move or simply not feel like they’ve been hit by a truck is sleep.

In SLEEP SMARTER, Stevenson reveals the simple, surprising and highly effective strategies readers can start employing right away, including:

YOUR BRAIN NEEDS A DETOX EVERY NIGHT Scientists have found that our brains actually have their own unique waste disposal system, similar to that of the lymphatic system; it’s called the GLYMPHATIC system. 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 recyling dead cells, tossing out toxins and shutting out waste is critical to brain function. If the waste removal system in your home backs up, then things get nasty. The same holds true if you’re not sleeping well and your glymphatic system can’t do its job – this is believed to be one of the foundational causes of Alzheimer’s Disease.

IT’S NOT ABOUT GETTING YOUR 8 HOURS, IT’s ABOUT GETTING TO BED AT THE RIGHT TIME It’s been shown that human beings get the most beneficial hormonal secretions and recovery by sleeping during the hours of 10pm and 2am—you get the most rejuvenating effects during this period, and any sleep that you get in addition is a nice bonus. Some people get eight or more hours of sleep but still don’t feel rested when they wake up; this is because their bodies are being deprived of the regenerative sleep they need between 10pm and 2am.
LEAVE THE OFFICE ON TIME “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is a common refrain in our culture. Everyone is trying to work harder, burning the candle at both ends and forgoing sleep. But it’s actually making us less efficient: our quality of work suffers when we don’t sleep. Research shows that just 24 hours of sleep deprivation leads to an overall reduction of six percent in glucose reaching the brain. Simple translation: you get dumber.  Instead, work smarter and schedule sleep. If you know you’ve got a big task, project or event coming up, plan ahead and set it up so that you get an optimal amount of sleep and can do your best work.
DON’T ORDER YOUR LUNCH IN, TAKE A WALK AND GET SOME SUN It may sound counterintuitive that getting more sunlight during the day can help you sleep better at night, but science has proven that to be the case. Light exposure (specifically sunlight) triggers your body to produce optimal levels of daytime hormones and neurotransmitters regulate your biological clock; too little light exposure during the day and too much artificial exposure in the evening negatively affect your ability to sleep well at night. In fact, a recent study focused on the sleep quality of day shift workers revealed some shocking results. When compared to office workers who have direct access to windows at work, the office workers who didn’t have access to windows got 173% less exposure to natural light and as a result slept an average of 46 fewer minutes each night. Sleep deficits resulted in more reported physical ailments and lower vitality.
LISTEN TO YOUR GUT The food you eat can dramatically impact your quality of sleep. Scientists have uncovered that the human gut is a mass of neural tissue, filled with 30 neurotransmitters (like the brain). Additionally, the gut has 400 times more melatonin than the pineal gland in your brain.  It has been found that your gut bacteria also have a circadian timing system and there’s a virtual “changing of the guard” that happens every night to help keep the good guys in control. If you don’t sleep, or don’t sleep well, then it gives the opportunistic bacteria a chance to take over your gut and brain.
SLEEP SMARTER lays out the effects of screentime before bed, when you should have your last cup of coffee, why good sex can result in good sleep, what to wear (or not wear) to bed, how to create a sleep sanctuary, the best time to exercise, the good-sleep nutrients and minerals your body needs, your best sleep positions and much more - including a 14-day plan to make over your sleep.
Throughout the book, Stevenson also weaves in his own inspiring personal journey to better health. As a teenager, he was diagnosed with a degenerative bone disease that crushed his dreams of becoming a professional athlete. After a period of depression, Shawn took matters into his own hands. Unwilling to accept the “un-curable” diagnosis his doctors gave him, Shawn took a functional medicine approach to his health, including upgrading his sleep, and completely reversed the degeneration. He graduated from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with a background in biology and kinesiology and went on to found the Advance Integrative Health Alliance, which provides wellness services for individuals and organizations worldwide. Shawn has dedicated his life to showing people that they have the power to become their strongest and healthiest selves and that it all starts with a strong foundation: sleep.

My Thoughts

I have always resented sleep. Those are eight perfectly good hours that I could be doing important things. Unfortunately, sleep isn't optional, but at least now I can get the most out of it, thanks to Sleep Smarter. This book gives you tips and suggestions to help you get a better night's sleep, and use the time you're resting to improve your mind, body, and soul.

This book is a quick read and is packed with lots of information. It gives you a whole outline of things to do during the day that will help you get a better night's sleep. These are little things that aren't earth-shattering changes, like eating certain foods or getting the right amount of sunlight. You get tips on how to still your mind, the right positions to sleep in,and supplements that may help you get a better night's sleep naturally. At the end of the book there is a 14 day planner to help you track your success. This is a wonderful guide to a great night's sleep that will help you sleep better and awake more productive.