One of my college roommates once informed me that after 9 p.m., I became an inoperable wench.
“That’s not very nice,” I said.
“No,” she sighed. “It’s not.”
Sleep. I’ve never been one of those people who can function without it. I’ve never pulled an all-nighter, my family knows I need at least six hours of sleep, I also tend to go to bed between 9 and 10 p.m. (to be fair, I wake up around 5 a.m. to work on my novel).
For the most part, I’ve never had trouble falling asleep, but staying asleep had become a problem over the last few years. I recently read a book (!) which changed that for me, and I want to share you with some of the highlights so you can get better Z’s, too.
I’m also giving one lucky winner a free eBook copy of this book …
The Story Behind the Story
Stevenson grew up poor, so fast food was pretty much all he ate. His healthy foods included fish sticks, macaroni and cheese, SpaghtetiiO’s, potato chips, and anything from a To Go bag. As a teen, he thought he’d found his ticket out of poverty because he was a two-sport athlete, performing at a high level. Then, one day, his hip shattered during track practice. He didn’t fall or injure himself. His body had just run on empty for so long that his bones literally disintegrated.
Overnight, his dreams disappeared. In college, Stevenson had no energy, and endured constant pain, so he had to keep dropping classes. At age 20, he was severely overweight, and had the spine of an 80 year-old-man.
Stevenson asked one his many doctors if his diet had caused this, or if exercise would improve his situation.
The doctor said, “This has absolutely nothing to do with what you’re eating. And exercise isn’t going to help.” He then wrote him a prescription to eat some more pills.
Talk about irony.
Luckily, Stevenson took charge of his own health. Instead of burgers and fries, he began eating grass-fed beef and organic oven-fries, as well as throwing in some fresh vegetables. He immediately had more energy, felt less inflammation, and made other changes, like going to bed earlier. He lost all the weight and got off every medication. His classmates and his professors, all saw his transformation. This inspired Stevenson to dedicate his life to helping others become the best versions of themselves.
Sleep Deserves More R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Stevenson says that 60% of people in the U.S. say they have difficulties sleeping every night (or at least every other night). More than 90% of all physician in-visits are for stress and inflammatory visits. “Poor sleep and stress often come hand in hand. Unless you give your body the right amount of sleep, you will never, I repeat never, have the body and life you want to have.”
What I liked about Sleep Smarter is that is goes beyond the cookie-cutter advice to ‘sleep 8 hours’ every night. Stevenson talks about the QUALITY of your sleep, not just the QUANTITY.
I Love You, Sleep
Me? I’m no world-class athlete. I’m just a wife/mom/author who needed to feel better dragging her ass out of bed every morning at 5 a.m. to finish writing Pennies from Burger Heaven. I’d always slept great, then one day … I didn’t. Melatonin and other over-the-counter supplements helped sporadically, while prescription medications (like Ambien) never worked. They just left me feeling groggy and un-rested.
A friend suggested I read Sleep Smarter, and it helped tremendously. I’m back to waking up feeling like Wonder Woman, instead of the Grinch. The book advertises 21 strategies, but it’s more like 75.
That overwhelmed me, so I only tried the tips that were super easy and cheap, if not flat-out free. Let me warn you that some of his suggestions will sound odd, if not completely woo-woo. There was plenty of advice on nutrition, supplements, exercise, meditation, etc., but I wanted to cover the lesser-known topics.
7 Strategies to Sleep Smarter
1. Get your ‘Friends” Out of Your Bedroom – This alone was a game changer for me. By friends, Stevenson means your cell phone, eReader, laptop, etc. Like many of you, I slept with my phone on my nightstand because it doubled as my alarm clock. My Kindle sat nearby to read before calling it a night.
Sleep Smarter says numerous studies have confirmed that the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) coming from our everyday electronic devices cause disruption of communication between the cells in our bodies — everything from hormonal problems to cancer from your so-called ‘friends’.
It was hard to move my phone and Kindle to another room, but I bought a $4.99 alarm clock from Target that runs on batteries. It may be the placebo effect, but I don’t care. I’m sleeping deeper and better than ever before. I’ll NEVER sleep with those devices by my head again. Even if I’m in a hotel room, I now charge my devices in the bathroom.
POWER TIP: Remove all electronics from where you sleep.
2. Technology Curfew – I suck at this tip, but when I do it — it makes a huge difference. Computers, iPads, televisions, smartphones, etc. all emit a sleep-sucking blue spectrum of light that highjack your sleep. This artificial ‘blue light’ from screens triggers your body to produce more daytime hormones (like the stress hormone, cortisol) that disorients your body’s natural preparation for sleep.
It’s best to stay away from all technology at least one hour before bedtime, though it’s harrrrrrd for me to avoid scrolling through Facebook one last time before turning in. Many electronics let you turn off ‘blue lights’ at certain times daily to minimize your exposure (you can google how to do this).
POWER TIP: Avoid all electronics at least one hour before bedtime.
3. Get More Sunlight During the Day – We are living creatures and need the sun. Yes, I know too much skin exposure can be dangerous, but Stevenson says more sunshine (especially before noon) helps your body produce more melatonin, which helps regulate your sleep. So, if you get more natural light during the day, and less artificial ‘blue light’ at night, you’ll be rewarded with better Z’s.
POWER TIP: Grab 5-15 minutes of sunshine daily to improve your shut-eye.
4. Get Grounded – This one is the most woo-woo tips of all, but I enjoy the hell out of it. We are born of this earth and the more we disconnect from technology, and connect to Mother Nature, the better we feel. Stevenson talks about the earth overflowing with electrons and other mumbo-jumbo that improves your health. WHAAAAT?
All I know is that when I slip my bare feet into the grass, I feel stupid, but I always sleep better that night. Sit or walk, it doesn’t matter. Just do it.
POWER TIP: Walk on the grass, soil or sand barefoot everyday to feel ridiculous, but sleep better.
5. Caffeine Curfew – Caffeine is a super-sized stimulant to your nervous system. When your nervous system is lit up, you can say bye-bye to relaxation. I don’t drink much coffee because I’m too hyper to begin with, and I NEVER drink more than one cup per day. For many people, 4 p.m. should be your cut off, but for highly-sensitive, but awesome folks like me, that means no caffeine after 2 p.m. Don’t even get me started on soft drinks because they are horrible for your health. Seriously, stay away from sodas.
POWER TIP: Cut off your caffeine between 2 – 4 pm.
6. Back in Black – Pitch dark. That’s how you want your room at night. My husband and I already had that one right on our own, but I’m more committed than ever to keeping it dark. This doesn’t mean just blocking outside light, but also pesky lights inside your room (alarm clocks, humidifiers, TV remotes). I already had a sleep mask that someone bought me as a joke (it says, DIVA) that I now wear sometimes. Again, I look beyond ridiculous in it, but I don’t care because I’m now the Queen o’ Snooze.
POWER TIP: Block outside lights, as well as cover or removed troublesome lights in your room.
7. Be cool – Stevenson says most people bundle up way too much to sleep. If the temperature around you stays too high, then it’s a physiological challenge for your body to settle into the ideal state for restful sleep. Studies show that the ideal room temperature for sleep is around 68° degrees. Anything above 75°, or below 54° messes with your shut-eye. Besides the room, don’t wear such heavy pajamas to sleep. If lighter pj’s bother you, try wearing socks to bed, too.
POWER TIP: Keep your room cooler, and try wearing lighter pajamas to bed.
I got life-changing results from just 7 out 75 strategies! Sleep Smarter is a definitely a book I will read again. I hope it helps you as much as it did me. Here’s to happy snoozing!
What kind of sleep problems do you encounter?
Congratulations to Glynis who won the free Kindle copy of Sleep Smarter!
Pick up your FREE copy today of the mystery, The Moon Rises at Dawn (SkipJack Publishing). Read, enjoy, repeat.