It’s probably my life’s greatest irony that I’m generally not good at sleeping (see my last name). I’m a light sleeper, sensitive to light and sound more than most people. I’m not unhappy that that’s the case (I’ll be the first to wake up in a fire or other threat), but it does suck when you’re trying to get a full night’s rest.
There’s also the question of sleep quality (not just quantity). Ever feel like even with 8+ hours you just can’t be refreshed?
Intro Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson. Sleep quantity and quality are essential for a healthy body and mind. In fact, as he points out, lack those things and tiredness will be the least of your worries.
Shawn himself is walking evidence. His health was so bad in college that doctors were left confused at his chronic poor health and yet convinced that he would live the rest of his life in pain and overall bad health. Genetics, or something, they thought.
Fast forward a few years later, with improved diet and sleep, and everyone’s just as confused. This time, though, it was at the insane 180 that his body took. Everything was not just better, but fixed. Herniated disks even healed – definitely not a normal occurrence.
He proceeds to explain why poor sleep contributes to poor joint and bone health, chronic tiredness, poor academic and other performance, and even inability to handle stress. Healthy sleep, on the other hand, allows the body to heal and maintain itself properly.
If nothing else, Sleep Smarter will enlighten you to the power of sleep in your life and help you understand sleep itself. That is incredibly valuable. You spend about 1/3 of your life sleeping, after all.
Sleep Smarter’s chapters are concise and to the point. They’re also practical, with “Power Tip” sections at the end of each. The 14-Day sleep smarter plan and online bonus guide are helpful and practical resources for those who really want to do a sleep makeover. I recommend following the journal yourself, or maybe slowing things down further and walking through a chapter or two a week while you employ the strategies he gives. By slowly building the habits and Power Tips into your life, you can make healthy sleep choices a growing norm that sticks.
I haven’t employed every last tip from Shawn, but I have made significant steps and improved my sleep quality noticeably. In particular, Shawn “woke me up” to the importance of getting your body going in the morning and getting sunlight during the day. These things help your body know that daytime is awake time – and night time is not. This means the right hormones will be released at the right times and you’ll be kept on rhythm, optimized for healthy sleep when you need it each night.
My only critique is that a couple chapters feel short and somewhat lacking, particularly the one on mattresses and sleeping positions. It’s still satisfying and helpful for an introduction, but something so essential could have used some more robust treatment.
Finally, I will say that some of Stevenson’s claims and cited research is a little more “indy”. It’s newer and hasn’t yet stood the test of time. This doesn’t invalidate the research by any means, but it’s worth noting.
He also bases his general approach on what would have been historically natural for humans, but it might not be guaranteed that such things are actually what’s best for us or our sleep. That said, most of the book argues very soundly and has at least preliminary research backing it. Stevenson is also slow to put you on supplements and is often going for low-risk, quite natural solutions that are reasonable in logic as well as cost.
So, whether you agree with every conclusion or assumption made by Sleep Smarter, you will indeed be a smarter sleeper walking away from it. If you take your health seriously, make the read. You won’t be disappointed.