Sleep Smarter

Book review: Sleep Smarter (Shawn Stevenson)

Continuing with the sleep health theme of the month, here I review Shawn Stevenson’s bestselling book Sleep Smarter.

The author

Shawn Stevenson is the American podcaster behind The Model Health Show. He was diagnosed with degenerative bone and disc disease as a teenager, which led to weight inactivity, poor food choices and subsequent weight gain. One day he made the decision to reverse what doctors thought was irreversible. He fixed his exercise, diet and sleep and now helps other people to improve their lifestyle.

The book

This book has an interesting structure. It’s divided in 21 chapters, each one is a tip for better sleep. At the same time, every chapter finishes with a few “power tips” to achieve the recommended action. Think of these as steps toward the goal.

Below is the chapter title list with my comments in parenthesis. You might have heard a bunch of those tips in the past few years as there has been more evidence pointing at sleep hygiene as an important aspect of good health.

  1. Know the value of sleep
  2. Get more sunlight during the day
  3. Avoid screens before bedtime
  4. Have a caffeine curfew
  5. Be cool (as in temperature)
  6. Get to bed at the right time
  7. Fix your gut to fix your sleep
  8. Create a sleep sanctuary
  9. Have a big O (i.e. orgasm)
  10. Get it blacked out (i.e. use black-out curtains)
  11. Train hard but smart
  12. Get your “friends” (i.e. electronic devices) out of your room
  13. Lose weight and don’t find it again
  14. Go easy on the bottle
  15. Play your (sleeping) position
  16. Calm your inner chatter
  17. Use smart supplementation
  18. Be early to rise
  19. Use bodywork that works
  20. Dress for the occasion (i.e. what to wear or not wear in bed)
  21. Get grounded (i.e. put your bare feet on the ground)

My personal opinion

I have the audio book and like the fact that is narrated by the author. I think this is especially important when the author’s voice is known from other media, in this case, his podcast.

The book itself presents very practical advice in a language that is relatable and easy to undertand. There are plenty of jokes and references to pop culture that will keep you smiling.

On the other hand, some information might not be super accurate, for example nutrition value of certain foods as he does not account for bioavailability. Also, the author sometimes mentions a single study as evidence for a claim, without appraising its scientific validity. Finally, he has an interesting way of pronouncing the word “influence” that you might find annoying.

Who should read this book?

This can be a great read for people who are struggling with their health and haven’t realised the importance of sufficient sleep. In addition, if you have sleep issues but you don’t know how to fix them, you will find useful tools in Sleep Smarter. If you read this book and/or want to dig deeper in the science, I would recommend reading Matt Walker’s Why We Sleep.

Notable quotes

Below are a few notable quotes (verbatim and paraphrased) that I found useful in the book.

  • It’s not only “you are what you eat” it’s also “you are what you eat ate”
  • One night of sleep deprivation can make you as insulin resistant as a person with type 2 diabetes
  • “If it’s important to you, you’ll schedule it”
  • “A great night’s sleep begins the moment when you wake up in the morning”
  • Use caffeine as a boost, not a crutch
  • “If health is your #1 priority, then don’t work the night shift. If service is your #1 priority and night shift is a part of that, do everything you can to stack your conditions in your favour following the rest of the sleep smarter strategies.”

More information

To learn more about the book visit the Sleep Smarter website.

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