Welcome to the Low Carb Leader podcast! This podcast is the very first episode under the new name and the new direction we are taking. The reality is that it’s hard to be productive if you have less than optimal health. The Low Carb Leader podcast will focus on helping you to achieve optimal health, which will ultimately lead to optimal performance at work and in life. Although the direction has changed, we are still geared towards helping you to become a great leader.
We are privileged to launch the show with a powerhouse guest! Shawn Stevenson is a professional nutritionist who is widely known for his bestselling book: Sleep Smarter and his podcast, the Model Health Show, which is consistently the Featured #1 Nutrition and Fitness Podcast on iTunes.
In today’s episode, Shawn will be sharing some of his top tips to help you improve your sleep to get you on track to becoming a healthier, better leader!
“Our life is really guided by the questions we ask.”
On Today’s Episode of the Low Carb Leader:
- Shawn talks about his experience, after he was diagnosed of degenerative bone disease and degenerative disc disease at age 20, and how he pushed himself to find a solution to his condition.
- Exercise, sleep, and a lot of different factors influence your genetic expression. We all have different genetic options that are within our body, which will make you the best or worst version of yourself.
- Each one of your sleep stages correlates with brain activity, which correlates with different programs in your body. Your body is in tune with these levels of sleep to the degree that it’s really the key to your recovery.
- The Golden Time (or Money Time Sleep) usually happens between 10:00pm to 02:00am Click To Tweet. This time provides the greatest anabolic window.
Shawn’s Top Tips to Help You Improve Your Sleep
- Exercise in the Morning
Exercise is critical for the assimilation and detoxification of your body. Studies have shown that people who exercise first thing in the morning, sleep better and are in the deepest anabolic sleep cycle.
- Fix Your Gut to Fix Your Sleep
You need to know what your body needs, depending on your current health condition or sickness, and give your body the raw materials that it needs to rebuild.
- Make the Most Out of Body Work
Traditional recovery, restoration, and relaxation techniques such as massage therapy, acupuncture, or acupressure, are incredibly helpful ways to balance your sleep health.
- Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success
- Fat Burning Man with Abel James: Shawn Stevenson: Hack Your Sleep, How to Reverse Aging, & The Best Sleep Position
- Michael Breus – America’s Sleep Doctor
- TMHS 175: Discover Your Chronotype And Leverage The Power Of When – With Dr. Michael Breus
Reach out to Shawn Stevenson:
- Shawn Stevenson – Official Website
- Shawn Stevenson – Podcast
- Shawn Stevenson – Twitter
- Shawn Stevenson – Facebook
- Shawn Stevenson – Instagram
- Shawn Stevenson – LinkedIn
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Subscribe & Review the Low Carb Leader!
Thank you for joining us on this week’s episode of the Low Carb Leader Podcast! Our podcast is devoted to helping you attain optimal performance at work and in life. If the topics and interviews we have shared on this podcast have inspired you, please subscribe to the show on iTunes or Stitcher and leave your honest feedback to help us reach even more Low Carb Leaders.
Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook and Twitter and visit our new website at LowCarbLeader.com to help you improve your sleep habits as well as other helpful guides to help you lead a better life, business, and career.
Read Podcast Transcript
All About Sleep with Best Selling Author, Shawn Stevenson
Welcome to The Low Carb Leader podcast, formerly titled The Aspiring New Leader podcast. If you follow the show at all you have definitely noticed some changes. The logo is now different on iTunes and Stitcher. The website is now called The Low Carb Leader, and it can be found at thelowcarbleader.com. No worries, though. If you type in newtoleadership.com you will be directed to the new website. Also I don’t even have the intro and outro complete yet, and I will place that in when I receive it this week.
A Focus on Optimal Health and Performance in Work and Life
So why the change? The new podcast direction is going to be focused on creating optimal health and ultimately optimal performance at work and in life. Fundamentally it’s hard to be productive when you have less than optimal health, and sometimes you may think that you are at your best when you really are not because sometimes you don’t really know what your best is because you’ve felt the same way for so long.
Today’s episode on sleep will highlight ways to improve sleep quality and improve health and performance. You will learn that it’s not quantity of sleep, but quality. I hope that if you are a regular listener you will stay with us because we have some amazing topics coming up. So just with the change in format, don’t panic. Just stick with us, and I think that the new direction of creating health, wellness, energy is going to make you so much more productive at work. And we will have topics on leadership down the road and how creating a healthy lifestyle contributes and improves your work performance.
In next week’s episode I’m going to take you through all the reasons for this change and also take you through some of my history and why I’m passionate about this topic. This is what I research. This is what I love to learn about. And I’ve been involved in this for at least five years. So I’m going to take you through my history of low-carb lifestyle and how it has improved my performance. We will talk more next week about that. Now on to the show.
Shawn’s Professional Bio
On today’s show we have Shawn Stevenson. He is a best-selling author and creator of The Model Health Show, featured as a number one health podcast on iTunes with millions of listener downloads each year. A graduate of the University of Missouri – St. Louis, Shawn studied business, biology, kinesiology and went on to be the founder of Advanced Integrative Health Alliance, a company that provides wellness services for individuals and organizations worldwide. Sean has been featured in Entrepreneur magazine, Men’s Health, ESPN, Fox News and many other media outlets. He is also a frequent keynote speaker for numerous organizations, universities and conferences. Shawn is the producer and host of The Model Health Show, a number one iTunes show, a podcast with over 7.5 million downloads. So welcome to the show, Shawn. We’re very happy to have you here.
Thank you so much for having me.
So we have Jacob with us today. Welcome, Jacob.
Thank you, Dan.
So before we begin we’re going to be talking about sleep today, but I want you to know I read your book, and I think I employ all 21 steps into my – I’ve changed a whole bunch of stuff.
That’s pretty incredible. That’s remarkable actually. It’s kind of like giving people a smorgasbord to choose from, but to execute on all of those is pretty impressive.
Yeah, so I bought – I got a lightbox. I’m out grounding when it’s not snowing, and I sleep a lot better now that I quit drinking coffee at 7:00 at night. That’s my number one tip.
You see, and it makes me look like a genius.
Yeah, awesome. So I did a lot of the sleep stuff before. I’m one of those blue blocker glasses, you know, I wear those every night. I think it’s very helpful though.
Awesome, yeah. Definitely everything that we put into the book is all clinically proven, and most importantly, it’s all about efficacy and whether or not I’ve used it to great degree and to great advantage, and the things that I put into the book are things that worked for me as well. So happy to hear that. And like you mentioned about not drinking coffee at 7:00 at night, it’s just like it’s not rocket science. But sometimes we need to see some clinical data to back it up and to show what it’s doing to our body and also to give people an opportunity to still utilize things they love but just take advantage of them in a different way. So I’m a huge fan of caffeine. I think caffeine is phenomenal, but it’s just where we place it in our day makes a world of difference in how it impacts our sleep. So that’s really what the book was all about.
Yeah, it’s a great book. Before we get started on the sleep, though, I’ve recently watched your Abel James interview, and if you would just kind of walk through your story because how you reversed a pretty serious spinal degeneration disease that you had, I think that’s an amazing story. Do you mind going through that real quick?
How Shawn Reversed his “Incurable” Spinal Disease
Sure, yeah. So that was the first Abel James interview then. That was a really interesting opportunity. Abel is an incredible guy, and has such a wonderful audience. And I came on air initially, and I shared my story. So being diagnosed at the age of 20 with degenerative bone disease and degenerative disc disease. So my bones and my spinal discs were degenerating rapidly to the degree that my physician said I had the spine of an 80-year-old person when I was just 20. And my body was basically breaking down from the inside out. And to make a long story very short because there are many facets of this story, but 2.5 years went by dealing with this diagnosis, and it resulted in a tremendous amount of pain and suffering and of fear. I actually had a lot of fear of just getting up and moving around because I would get this sciatic pain that was shoot down my leg, and it trained me very strongly to be docile and to stay put.
And so lack of movement, lack of mobility, not just my back is breaking down, now my entire body is going to atrophy, all of my muscles. And also I gained a lot of weight, about a 50- pound weight gain. And this was not intentional. This was basically 50 pounds of chubbiness I put onto my frame, as well. And all of this kind of really culminated in a moment of decision that I had because I was definitely in a really dark place, rock-bottom, loss of purpose, very isolated. Even though I would have different girlfriends – you know, I was in college at the time – I still felt very isolated, and I didn’t feel like I really mattered. And you know this is a really strong human need is to have a sense of significance. And so I really was kind of drifting apart from that. And I saw different physicians to try to help me to get well, but they all kind of had the same diagnosis and the same prescription, which was take these drugs, try this back brace, stay put, bed rest, don’t do anything that can hurt yourself even further. And I’m sorry that there’s nothing else you can do about this. This is an incurable situation.
And so I had an opportunity to decide whether or not I was going to buy into that. And for 2.5 years I did, and I saw my life slip away. And so in this moment of decision I realized that I had been putting my health and my opportunity to even have a life off onto my physicians to try to fix me. And even though they meant well, that was not an intelligent decision for me to make. And many of us make that decision unconsciously because we give them the final say about what’s possible for us, which is totally ignorant because they don’t walk in our shoes. They can’t tell me what’s possible for me. And it’s really – this is something called a nocebo effect, just to kind of get to the science on it. A nocebo effect is a negative injunction that basically every cell in your body is trained to believe and to buy into. It’s kind of the opposite of the placebo effect, which placebos are about 33% effective on average across clinical studies, some being over 90% effective. Some placebo studies for things like bipolar disorder or depression, people are getting a sham medication and their condition is reversing because of our belief is so strong it literally changes our biochemistry.
And so when I realized that I had been putting all my stock into what they were saying it just kind of hit me like a ton of bricks that I can even – I can give up right now or I can do something about this. And that’s when I really decided to take my life by the horns in a way and to do everything that I can in my power to get well. And this is really important is that people ask the question, you know, instead of why me, why is this happening to me, why won’t anybody help me and all these kind of disempowering questions, our life is really guided by the questions we ask. So I started asking, what is it that I need to do to recover from this? What is it that I need to do to change? What is my spine and my bones actually made of, and how do I find these things?
So I started to ask these questions, and it led me on a very interesting journey. And just to kind of summarize what happened thereafter, over the course of the next six weeks I began to just in – there’s a statement out there when the student is ready the teacher will appear – just devouring all these books on fitness and nutrition and mobility and all these different areas, stress management, meditation, all of this different stuff that I had never heard about before. And I lost 28 pounds in that first six weeks. And the pain I had been experiencing for 2.5 years was now gone. It was as if it never happened.
And a little bit further down the line, a few months later I got a scan done of my spine. This was actually about nine months later, and I regenerated the tissue that I lost in my spine, and my bone density increased radically. And my two ruptured discs in between my vertebrae had retracted on their own. And so I was no longer in this condition, this so-called incurable spinal degeneration and bone degeneration disease. And so from that point I have been serving and helping other people to do the same thing. So I eventually opened up my clinic, worked with a couple thousand people, writing – then I started writing books, doing live events and speeches and traveling all over the place and meeting people and starting my podcast. And all of this has really culminated to where I’m at today.
Yeah, that’s such a cool story. The one part I really like – actually there’s two points. The one about your doctor saying that it doesn’t matter what you eat, but your point was, and then he told me to eat a bunch of pills, which I find pretty amazing because being in healthcare I think we treat a lot of the symptoms instead of looking at the cause. And so, and then the other thing is what was the level of disbelief? When you basically changed your approach toward nutrition and fitness and fixed this major problem that you had, did people believe you when you told them, or was it – well was it one of those like you’re kind of a fanatic in alternative health? What did you experience there?
Well, the good news is for me is that – and why my show is so successful and why so many people are connected to me is I’m a very analytical human being. I’m looking at a tree right now outside of my office, and I don’t feel the need to hug the tree. Like I might. You know, there’s some grounding potential. There’s some free electrons there and all that kind of stuff, but it’s just not my natural inclination. I have to consciously train my mind to want to interact with metaphysical things or kind of things that are outside of our reality. And I do understand that humans, we only do see a certain spectrum of light, for example. Some animals see more infrared, some see more into ultraviolet. We are able to see a certain spectrum of reality, but there is more to it. I do get that. But the science is really kind of the hallmark thing for me. And so I was always looking for how does this actually work? So that’s number one in that communication and making it very grounded in its evidence.
Number two was results speak for themselves. When people would see me months prior to this kind of transformation, I mean I looked really bad. I do have some pictures out there floating around, which that’s the thing. It’s like those things are not very becoming, but for people to see where you came from, I looked older when I was 20 years old than I do almost 20 years later. I looked really, really bad. I was just pale, overweight, just like I looked like I was in pain because I was. So for people to see me walking around on my campus, for example, that’s actually where my dedication to service started. Where my career really was birthed was on my university campus, where people saw this transformation firsthand and they started coming up to me. I didn’t have to tell anybody. They were like what did you do because I didn’t look like a person who lost weight. This is important. Because using a traditional diet and exercise program you can get somebody who is an apple-shaped person to basically become a smaller apple. It’s not actually changing their structure. It’s not changing their body composition. And that is entailing what we study, which is nutrigenomics, and also how exercise, sleep and all these different factors influence your genetic expression so that you’re actually printing out the best version of yourself, which we all have these kind of genetic options that are within our bodies.
And so that was the other part is when people saw me I looked like a radically healthy person, not somebody who just lost weight. That was very attractive. So that was the birthing of my career. People started to ask me for help. So it wasn’t anything that I had to sell people on. And that skill just kind of evolved over the years to where – and that’s why I even call it The Model Health Show is I don’t have to tell you. I don’t have to talk about it. I don’t have to get you to buy in. I’m providing a model of what’s possible, and it’s all backed by science, and it’s all backed by my personal example. So I hope that makes sense.
Yeah, that’s so cool. I wanted you to share that story because that’s pretty amazing. And I think just the power of nutrition and giving yourself what you actually need to thrive. So the topic today is sleep, and you have written this pretty awesome book on sleep. Do you want to just give us an overview of maybe why you wrote it and what the book is about?
Sleep Cycles and Brain Activity
Sure, so this was first and foremost kind of birthed out of my own struggle. When I was dealing with this degenerative spinal condition my biggest challenge was when I went to bed at night. When I laid my head down on that pillow I didn’t know what was going to happen. There was a lot of anxiety and stress around it because for me just moving around if I would change positions at night I would get that sciatic nerve shoot, you know, nerve impulse shoot down my leg, and it would be so jarring and painful it would wake me up. And to have that happen several times a night you know you’re obviously going to get pretty crummy sleep. And so medication was my answer, over-the-counter and prescription medication, and finding the right cocktail for myself to basically knock myself out. And what that is is really it’s a pseudo-sleep. It’s not allowing your body to actually self-regulate and go into the normal sleep cycles.
And when we talk about sleep cycles this is all related to brain activity. So your brain is switching from beta – like we’re all in beta right now. Beta is your normal waking state, shifting to Alpha and Theta and Delta, and each one of those sleep stages correlates with brain activity that correlates with certain hormonal programs, neurotransmitter programs, digestive programs, detoxification programs. Your body is in tune with these levels of sleep to the degree that it’s really the key to your recovery and you becoming better or worse depending on how you lie on this spectrum. And so that was really the catalyst. But in reality for me I forgot about it. Once I got my sleep dialed in – because this is the real key for my recovery. So I mentioned how I turned things around, but I didn’t really detail how that was. One was through changing the way that I was eating, and again asking the simple question what is my spine actually made of, and seeing that this wasn’t just calcium like marketing says, but sulfur-bearing amino acids, polysaccharides, vitamin C and silica, for example. Vitamin C is critical to regenerating tissues. I had no idea about that. I was drinking like Sunny Delight trying to get some vitamin C. I just wasn’t getting what my body needed in a pasteurized form. It wasn’t even something that was really bioavailable.
So when you give your body the raw materials it needs it can actually rebuild you. But the assimilation is important. Exercise is critical for assimilation and detoxification. That’s what exercise, number one, is about, not getting a flat belly. That is a side effect. The number one reason exercise is derived from the word “exorcism,” which means to get rid of things that shouldn’t be there basically. You’re exorcising those things. That’s what exercise really is about. It’s for that purpose, assimilation detoxification. And then the sleep component, this is when your body releases the vast majority of reparative enzymes, anabolic hormones, those things that really build you up better and stronger.
And so I saw that firsthand happen in my life. But the crazy thing is when you are truly healed from something you no longer think about it. But when you’re dealing with that thing you think about it all the time. So once I was well I just forgot about my sleep struggles for years, even into me opening up my clinic and working with people every day and seeing all the different issues that we were working with. But it wasn’t until about five years ago that I would really – because this would bother me a lot because you would see maybe we’d have a 70% to 80% reversal rate for people dealing with type II diabetes. Maybe if they’re just on Metformin or just low level interaction or new interaction with insulins, things like that, like being able to help so many of those people.
The Catalyst for Writing the Book, Sleep Smarter
But what about that other 20%? Why are they not getting the results everyone else is getting? And finally it hit me after over five, six, seven years of being in practice to ask people about things other than their nutrition and their exercise but to ask them about their relationships, their work schedule, their sleep quality. And it just blew my mind when I saw how many people were struggling with sleep, and it just didn’t even register to my mind that they would think that that’s okay. And they wouldn’t attribute that to why they’re not getting the results.
And so when I found that out I made it an absolute must to find out some clinically proven strategies that can help people to improve their sleep quality as quickly as possible, not have them sleep more because if anybody knows this, who has been in the healthcare industry, it’s not the easiest time getting people to do the thing that they really need to do. So how can I basically ninja tactic and slide something in that they don’t really have to change their lifestyle too much. So but of course the master practitioner is working to get people to change their lifestyle, for sure, but I wanted to make it simple. And that’s really the catalyst.
So once we incorporated those things into the clinic and getting people to incorporate practices that improve their sleep quality, it’s like the floodgates would open for these people, and the thing they had been struggling with for months, even years and sometimes even decades began to be reversed. So whether it was a struggle with obesity, a struggle with blood sugar management, a struggle with blood pressure, we saw all of these things across the board improve. And that was really the catalyst for the book getting written was seeing the benefit firsthand in all of these clinically-proven strategies that were not well-known at the time. Many of them in the book now are permeated into our culture, and many people have heard of them, but it’s thanks in part to the work we’ve been doing for the past five years in getting it out there.
Money Time Sleep
In the book you talk about going to bed at the same time, and I think people have heard that throughout the years. But you really focus on this golden time from 10 PM to 2 AM where a lot of the restorative processes happen. Talk about that a little bit
So we call it money time sleep, and this is where – there’s a certain – it’s called an anabolic window, and if you look at evolutionary biology and you understand truly for centuries, for centuries upon centuries human beings have adhered to the signals of nature. We didn’t really have a choice but to do those things. We didn’t have the ability to manufacture a second daytime basically with lighting our houses, lighting our homes, sorry. And today we have that capacity. Of course we did have light. We had light in the form of fire for a very long time now in human evolution, but having fire outside when we’re talking about living more on the earth, not having these elaborate homes and facilities, it’s a dangerous thing even to be out at night and having a fire. This is something that might attract attention from rival tribes, or bandits or things of that nature, so nighttime was a time to seek shelter, to seek refuge and to recover and to be ready because we are not nocturnal creatures. And so we are really designed and evolved to be up in the early part of the day, to gather food, to hunt, to harvest and to come back to the tribe, come back to the community and to interact, do all the things that we need to do during the day and then seek shelter again.
So we have this kind of imprint in our genetics. There’s a certain thing that our genes expect of us, and within that window, though, there is a spectrum of where people lie as just a genetic tendency. There are people who are more definitely the quote early birds, but more people tend to want to sleep a little bit later, stay up a little bit later, and that’s all right. And then there are some people that are the quote night owls. And my friend, Dr. Michael Breus, who is often referred to as America’s sleep doctor, calls these individuals dolphins. Instead of like an owl, because dolphin is actually a mammal, and their sleep cycles are very sketchy, when we’re talking about people who don’t have a normal routine, people who deal kind of chronic sleep issues.
But then he also talks about the wolves. So wolves are more of the people who we would considered quote night owls, and they’re staying up a little bit later, but still they’re going to fall into this window somewhere if they’re doing things the right way for themselves. So instead of them getting to bed at 9:00 PM like some of the – there’s also the lions and the bears, and now it sounds like a total Wizard of Oz thing right now I’m talking about, but people can pick up his book as well, The Power of When. Or check him out online. He’s – actually he was on my show. Just listen to that episode of my show. It’s a very, very clear definition of what that looks like.
But 9:00 PM, you know some people just can’t even keep their eyes open, and then some people it’s going to be closer to midnight. But from 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM is this greatest anabolic window where your body’s naturally going to produce the greatest amount of human growth hormone if you’re asleep during that time period. That’s the catch because it’s during sleep that your body produces the vast amount – I’m sorry – the vast majority of HGH, which is kind of anabolic, regenerative, just powerhouse hormone that’s really like a master hormone. So that’s really the key. And plus reparative enzyme activity. Many people forfeit that recovery because their body is now using that energy that would be used to repair them, mind and body, while they’re sleeping, basically that energy is now shifted if they stay up too late, shifted to keeping them awake and running the system that should be – that is giving you ample feedback that it was time to go to sleep. So this is why you might experience what we call the energy second wind. This is when you’re tired at like 7:00 PM at night, you’re yawning. You’re like I’m going to get to bed early, but then you find yourself watching a movie or working, whatever the case may be. Now it’s 11:00 at night, 12:00, and you’re just wired awake. And you’re now experiencing what we call the energy second wind.
And so that’s really what we want to aim for is to get as much time as we can in that anabolic window between 10:00 PM and 2:00 AM, and that’s going to vary depending on the time of year, how far you are from the equator, all that stuff, but generally if we can get to bed shortly thereafter it gets dark outside, for the majority of the year, that’s really just again nature is giving us a signal and you’re going to get more benefit from your sleep if you do.
Personally I started following like at 9:00 I’ll turn off the TV and just relax and try to get to bed by 10:00, and I’ve been doing that for like, since I read your book, and I wake up now at like 4:30, 5:00 just wide-awake. It’s like completely changed how I feel when I wake up.
I’ve heard that more times than you could imagine. That’s exactly – your body knows. It knows what to do once you fall in natural rhythm.
What’s your take on – hopefully I’m using the right term – bimodal sleep, where they say that people will sleep four or five hours, wake up and then mill around for a little while and go back to sleep? Is that something you see people doing, or is that just kind of a theory?
So there was a lot of noise being made about this theory – again, this theory, and what it was doing really – well okay, so basically just to summarize what it looks like is that they were saying historically, so even centuries ago as we’ve already been talking about, humans would go to sleep and we’d have basically two sleeps. So the first sleep you go to bed, you sleep for 3 to 5 hours, you wake up for a short time period, maybe an hour, then you would go back to sleep for another sleep of 3 to 5 hours. Now there is a couple of caveats here. First and foremost, it’s going to sleep early enough that you can fit two sleeps in in this dark phase, which is again, if people are talking about buying into that or utilizing that today, that would require you getting to bed in that anabolic window that we’ve already been talking about. So you’re going to be winning, yes.
Second part is historically this was not a time where people would be having access to what we have access to today when they’re up. So today – well historically maybe you have some candlelight. Maybe you do some journaling or some reading. That’s even a little bit later but prior to that even some reflection, some questioning, some praying, some looking at what the meaning of what your dreams were, some discussion, very quiet, intimate discussion, having sex, maybe having a little bit of food, something that was obviously more natural.
Well today you can wake up, you can flip the light on, you can read, check out your iPhone. You know, people are looking at their Android or their iPhone, or maybe they watch some TV or whatever the case might be. And what that’s doing is totally suppressing your melatonin and elevating your body’s cortisol level, which, if you go back to sleep, now your sleep cycles are going to be deranged. And so that’s really the big caveat here even having this discussion. You’ve got to do two things. You’ve got to go to bed early enough, and you’ve got to make sure that you’re not suppressing your melatonin by engaging in these different apparatuses that we have access to today. And so that’s number two.
And the big thing here overarching is that this theory, for many of us that doesn’t feel natural or normal at all. Like you just go to sleep and you’re asleep, and you wake up in the morning. Especially when you’re doing things that are in accordance with nature, and that’s really the underlying premise of this whole thing, when you’re doing the things like you’re doing, you’re going to find that when you go to sleep your body just desires a deep, restful, long sleep. And there is no inclination to do that thing.
And lastly, I truly feel, just being in this field for as long as I have, and working with as many people as I have, and also being able to talk to many of the top people in the world in this field, it also, that article or that work that was really making waves for a while is giving us permission, is giving us permission to do abnormal things. It’s like oh, well I’m going to wake up and I’m just going to be up and start fumbling around or whatever the case may be. That’s one side. But another side is it’s giving us an opportunity. So it’s more so the first thing I just mentioned, but this opportunity lets people know – and this is the perspective I’m coming from is that if you do happen to wake up, it’s okay. Maybe your body has this kind of deep-seated, historical thing your DNA is tied to. And it’s okay for you to wake up for a little while, but just use this time to reflect, do some breathing exercises, to meditate, to maybe put on some guided meditation or some light music or something, or maybe to have sex or to eat a little bit of something without turning on all the lights in your house, something to just calm you down, keep you relaxed, and it’s just letting you know that things are okay. So there’s a lot there for that subject, but I hope I gave you a little bit of a good answer.
Oh yeah, that’s a great answer. Out of all your tips what would be maybe your top three or four if somebody wants to start today improving their sleep?
Tips for Improving Sleep Quality
That’s tough because it’s really individually dependent on where your potential and/or struggle points are at. And so I really like to start with the low-hanging fruit, but again, for some people this isn’t going to apply as much. But again, looking at evolutionary biology, your genes expect you to when the sun rises, shortly thereafter you’re doing activity. You’re being active. Your genes expect you to do that. And so for most of us our activity is basically stressing to get out of the house, get the kids to school and sit in your car. You sit at work all day, and you know what I’m saying? So there’s not really an activity per se or a physical movement.
Exercise in the Morning
So Appalachian State University did a study, and they found that people who actually do exercise first thing in the morning sleep better than people who exercise in the afternoon or in the evening. So they tested this having people exclusively work out at 7:00 AM, 1:00 PM or 7:00 PM at night and found that morning exercisers spent more time in the deepest anabolic stages of sleep, which we talked about how important that is. They had more efficient sleep cycles, and they had a 25% greater drop in their blood pressure in the evening compared to the other times of exercising, which correlates with the activation of your parasympathetic nervous system, a.k.a. your rest and digest system and turning off your fight or flight system, your sympathetic nervous system. So you get all that benefit by doing some physical activity in the morning. And the only thing that you need to do is just put in play maybe 5 to 10 minutes of exercise in the early part of the day, and it’s really that simple. Even if you have like a greater time – like I go to the gym in the evening, whatever. But also we talk about in the book how we want to have a certain cutoff time because of elevation of your core body temperature and this whole thermoregulation process, elevating cortisol too late at night, those kind of things. You do want to exercise intelligently in the right window if you’re exercising in the evening after work. So that’s all in Sleep Smarter, but the bottom line is you can still get that 5 to 10 minutes of exercise in because it’s going to help to reset your cortisol rhythm. So your cortisol will be elevated in the morning like it’s supposed to be. It’s natural. And then gradually decline throughout the day. So that is number one tip that everybody can use.
But again, there might be people who exercise in the morning already but still have crummy sleep. But it’s because this is not their issue. This is not their issue. Their issue might be gut problems that are deranging sleep-related hormones and precursors. Their issue might be social media, where they’re engaging in social media late at night, or you know constantly watching. And today we’re in the Golden Age of television. So many good shows. I understand. But instead of getting to sleep they’re watching just one more episode. Let’s watch just one more. And so that might be their issue, not the morning exercise. So again, all of this depends on the person.
The Importance of Gut Health
The second thing is, and since I mentioned it, it would be really advantageous – and this is Chapter 7 in the book, one of my favorite chapters – “Fix Your Gut to Fix Your Sleep.” And in it we disclose that you hear about this sleep-related hormone, melatonin, and most of us think that this is brain-related, which it definitely is. But I was taught in school that it’s produced in your pineal gland, and that’s the end of the story. But you can actually have a pinealectomy where your pineal gland is removed and still have relatively – the same relative amount of melatonin in your system. How is that even possible? Well there’s actually 400 times more melatonin located in your gut than in your brain. And this was really kind of shocking for people when I put this information out there. The thing is I didn’t put it out there. I put it out there in a way that the public at-large could get their hands on the information. But the research has been out there for a long time. But again, it’s just asking the right questions.
And so I also disclose that researchers at Caltech, for example, found that there are certain bacteria that communicate with the cells that produce sleep-related neurotransmitters and hormones like serotonin, for example. So your bacteria cascade in your gut, which we are more bacteria than we are human cells. We can have upwards of 10 times the amount of bacteria cells than we have human cells. But those bacteria, we evolved having a symbiotic relationship with them helping us to be healthy. And so when we start to derange – and literally we have, there are different species of bacteria. And it’s sort of like what we’ve been doing with our planet. There are all these endangered species. We’ve lost a couple thousand species of bacteria on average, the average person, due to our abnormal lifestyle practices. And also some are just extinct, that we just don’t have anymore unless you go to in indigenous tribe or something like that.
And so we want to make sure that we are taking care of our gut health. And in the book we detail how to go about that and also make sure that we’re including plenty of good sleep nutrients, good sleep nutrients that are precursors to sleep-related hormones and neurotransmitters. So for example we talked about vitamin C earlier and how it relates to regenerating tissues. Well, vitamin C is also important in building a certain pathway for sleep-related hormones, as well. And there was a study that I published in the book, and this was from the Public Library of Science, that found that individuals who are deficient in vitamin C, which is an essential vitamin, have a greater tendency towards having interrupted sleep where they’re waking up multiple times during the night. And simply by elevating those vitamin C levels they were able to reverse that condition. So there’s a whole list of nutrients like that and how they tie into your sleep health in the book. And so that would be tip number two is to make sure to focus on fixing your gut to fix your sleep.
Relaxation Techniques and Therapies
Tip number three, again this is very difficult, there are so many different things, but I’m going to go ahead and use something that’s a little bit more – it might seem a little bit on the fringe, but I was able to find massive amounts of research affirming how effective this is. But making sure that we are taking advantage of bodywork. So what do I mean by that? I’m talking about practices of traditional kind of recovery, restoration, relaxation, so massage therapy, acupressure therapy, acupuncture therapy. These things are across the board incredibly effective for improving sleep quality. And many people who have had a massage out there know that a lot of times people fall asleep on the table because it’s so relaxing.
And so one of the reasons that it works is it helps to increase oxytocin, which is known as its quote kind of cuddle hormone. But oxytocin – and I also cited this in the book, but it’s clinically proven to basically buffer or protect your body against the more harmful effects of cortisol, which cortisol is not bad it’s just when it’s produced too much or at the wrong time. So it can defend your body against that. So oxytocin. There’s a boost in serotonin, as well. But bottom line is it’s very effective because the kind of underlying foundational reason is it helps to activate your parasympathetic nervous system and turn off your sympathetic fight or flight nervous system. And the more often that you’re able to utilize that, the better because so many of us, we are so good at going from 0 to 100. We are so good at that. But going from 100 to 0 is much more difficult. So we need to have those strategies in place for that, and I share several studies in the book talking about acupuncture and how effective it is.
Literally – and acupressure as well – there’s an acupressure point on your hand that simply by manipulating this point – and there’s a well-documented study on this – it was able to increase melatonin metabolites. So basically your body was producing and/or utilizing melatonin far more effectively, and it was proven not just did it do that, but also – and this was a study done in a hospital where they actually had all these patients were able to manipulate this point on their hand, found that it improved the sleep quality of people dealing with chronic sleep issues due to cancers and things like that.
So getting back connected to our own bodies and doing basic things to take care of ourselves internally, externally and also creating a great sleep environment is a whole other thing that we talk about in the book, as well. But so there is just a few things, and there’s tons that people can take advantage of. But it’s very difficult to choose a top three.
Yeah, and you talk about the value of meditation. I’ve got a question for you. I use the binaural beats, and I’ve done that for like a couple years, kind of a bio hack. What’s your thoughts about that? It seems – that’s one of those things where you can’t really tell if it’s effective, but it seems like it’s lowered my stress levels. Any thoughts about that?
Oh sure, yeah. You know, what it really boils down to, like you just said, it’s kind of anecdotal for yourself. But there is some data to back this up as well. But they’re – I feel that you really want to go to, when we talk about binaural beats, companies that are providing binaural beats that actually have some science to back up their technology to make sure that it’s doing the right thing with your brain because one of the first things that I talked about was this isn’t about sleeping more, which many people do need to sleep more, but many people are sleeping enough as far as the hours they’re on the mattress, but they’re not getting efficient sleep cycles. And that’s really the key. So this really boils down to your brain function and to helping your brain to shift gears, to modulate itself, to entrain itself to be able to naturally go through the normal sleep cycles.
So many of us have pushed our brains into very abnormal states where if we talk about your hypothalamus for example, which is considered this master gland, and it’s the interface between your nervous system and your endocrine system. So your nervous system is kind of how you’re sensing and feeling, experiencing the world. And then your endocrine system is how you’re feeling things. So this is your hormonal system. And so if that data gets skewed you might have abnormal reactions to things that are really not bad for you, or you’re not having reactions to things in a positive way to get yourself safe to things that can hurt you. So that whole system can get thrown off. And things like binaural beats meditation, the right kind of meditation, the right kind of binaural beats depends on you – and this is a place for you to experiment but also do your research – can be incredibly effective at getting your brain back to a base point, get your brain back to a balance point. It’s where we can even get into this whole brain thinking or whole brain integration. So many of us are like tipped way off into the more analytical, calculating, busy part of our brains. Guys tend to have that tendency a little bit more. But to get that whole brain patterning back online I think is really effective.
Setting the Proper Sleep Environment
I’m going to jump to one other topic real quick, the idea of blackout curtains and setting the right stage for your bedroom. But you cite a survey that talks about putting the light underneath, a quarter-sized light underneath their knee and how that affected patterns, and I think a lot of people think well as long as my eyes are closed or covered I’m good, but there is a whole problem with the way your skin senses light correctly.
Yes, so that is – so we have these photoreceptors in our skin. And just a really quick, kind of aha moment obvious thing is that your skin can literally change colors because of light hitting it, the sunlight specifically because your skin can literally pick up that photo radiation. And so all light impacts your skin, and anything that impacts – and your skin is also the outermost part of your nervous system. We just talked about that interface in your brain with your nervous system, which is really, really fascinating. But bottom line is this. When it comes to light in the evening it’s not that it’s all light. Natural light is all right. This is what we’ve been utilizing forever. Moonlight is not the problem. The problem is when you live in a suburban area, inner-city area and you’ve got street lights outside beaming into your room, or your neighbor’s porch light, or many of us are putting artificial lights inside of our bedroom that are on at night in some form or fashion.
And so this study mentioned this from Cornell University, and they do incredible work obviously. But they had a person sleep in an otherwise dark room and put this light behind their knee just the size of a quarter, and it was enough to manipulate their sleep cycles and to alter their sleep cycle, simply by having this tiny light hitting the skin behind their knee. All right, so what we want to do is if you are exposed, your bedroom is exposed to unnatural light, so artificial light, definitely want to get yourself some blackout curtains. I mean hands down because what’s being dubbed now by researchers and experts is called light pollution and how it’s impacting and disrupting your sleep cycles. But artificial light is the key. Natural light is not an issue. And I actually give a lux chart, this kind of luminance chart in the book and showing how even a dim light bulb, how much stronger it is as far as its effect, its luminance than moonlight on your body. And how much strength is coming from it, should I say?
And actually right here by my desk here I just got sent some lightbulbs that NASA is using to help their astronauts because they don’t have a sleep cycle really because they’re in outer space. So their whole thing with the moon and the sun is kind of irrelevant. To help them to have a little bit more natural melatonin cycle is they use these light bulbs that don’t have that same blue and white light spectrum that impacts our sleep so much. We’re talking about literal rocket scientists here knowing that this is true.
Yeah, that’s cool.
All right, so this is really interesting stuff. But for us in our application it’s really simple. Just get the blackout curtains. You don’t have to know about any more of it.
And I actually went out and bought – because we just live up the road from you, so you understand the weather. And I went out and bought a lightbox with a 10,000 lx, so I wake up in the morning and I blast that in my face for a while to try to get that first of the day sun because I know you said that was important. So we have to let Jacob ask at least one question since he’s been sitting here so patiently.
I get one. That’s how it works in the show. You know, it really hit home to me when you talked about blackout curtains and reducing the light because we’ve got blackout curtains at our house for our daughters’ rooms. And then you mentioned growing up with a nightlight, and I’m like oh my gosh we’ve got blackout curtains and then we stick a nightlight in the room. How counterproductive to their sleep is that? But also on the side of that you talk about making the bedroom a sanctuary and getting the EMF admitters out of your room. What’s your thoughts on sound machines and white noise?
That’s a great question. Wow, I love that insight that you had. That’s powerful. These are things that’s just like they’re hiding in plain sight for us. But yeah, I mean the reality is our romance with technology is only going to grow. And there is Wi-Fi signals bouncing around everywhere even if you live out in a remote forest basically like we do. And so it’s just understanding that, and it’s just doing what you can to ensure your body can be as healthy as possible in this ever-changing, abnormal world. Now when it comes to these like white noise, for example, white noise machine or you know playing a little bit of music from maybe it’s your phone or something like that, you do want to make sure, number one, that if at all possible you’re not having your phone in your room on. So we’re talking about the signal being on, so making sure that it’s on airplane mode or something like that.
The second thing is we want to get as much of the electromagnetic noise out of our room as possible. So for me personally there is nothing in my room except there is an alarm clock across the room that has a full shut off dimmer. That’s it. There’s no other electronic devices in my bedroom. The phone is in the kitchen. I’ll get it when I get up in the morning – actually not right when I get up in the morning, after I do my morning ritual. And then I’ll go and check my phone. But outside of that – and so you want to be just conscientious about the electronic devices you’re bringing into your space in that close proximity to you. And so you can see many of these have electromagnetic fields that go out several feet, and they’ve been found to – they’ve literally – and I cited a study in the book, and there’s court cases behind this whole thing – it’s absolutely crazy – that they do in fact disrupt the communication between the cells in your body leading to things like cancer. And so especially our cell phones. So definitely – and the crazy thing is people from the age group of like 18 to 25, like 80% of them sleep within a foot of their phone. It’s like right by – or even closer, or with their phone on their pillow or in the bed with them. This is crazy. It’s crazy, and this is something we have not had the opportunity to do until now. And we don’t know the effects fully yet on what that’s going to have on our brains, on our bodies and on our overall resilience that we really want to have.
I think that they are fine to have those devices in their room, but make sure that it’s in the minority, like keep as many things out as you can, but if that’s effective for you because certain sounds, for example, those are things that can be very soothing. The sound of running water, so even like a small fountain or something like that can be incredibly soothing for people and help them to sleep. So again, this is all person-dependent, and I hope that made sense.
Very much so. Thank you.
Yeah, unfortunately we’re coming to the end of our time. I have a whole bunch of other questions. We might have to get you back on the show just to ask those. But so to our listeners, not even related to sleep, just general health in general, what’s one thing or two things you would tell people that could make the most positive impact on their life if they started doing differently?
Better Sleep and Hydration
Really quickly the first thing that comes to mind is – well, it’s really just based on the topic we’ve been talking about because it’s so overlooked and so devalued in our culture today. But as I cite in the book and as I talk about all over the place now, when it comes to even weight loss, having high quality sleep is the most effective way to increase your body’s rate of fat loss compared to sizable amounts of exercise and sizable amounts of calorie restriction and diet. To the degree that one of the studies that I’ve been citing lately found that people lost 55% more body fat when they were on the same exact diet, same exact diet, but they were sleep deprived in one phase and they were getting adequate sleep in another phase. They lost 55% more body fat simply by getting adequate sleep. It’s a huge leverage point for optimizing your hormones, your neurotransmitters, your digestion, every single bodily system. Your genes expect you to get high quality sleep. So that’s number one. So to put a little bit more intention and love into making sure that you’re getting high quality sleep because that’s the really – that’s really the key to having the results we want.
And number two would be something that I just did right when you asked that last question is to make sure we’re getting adequate hydration. This again, it’s such a simple thing. But so many of us overlook this, and I’ve had people come to me doing all of this stuff right, and I ask them about their water intake, and more often than not people know. And the first thing out of their mouth is you know I know I need to work on that. This is so simple. Every single system in your body is really operating in a water medium, so as soon as you start to become dehydrated – so even a 5% drop in your body’s normal hydration level can damage your DNA. This is not – again, this is not rocket science. You want your body to print out the best version of you and to do the processes that it’s designed to do, you need to get optimal hydration. And also there is a process, this water-induced thermogenic effect as well, drinking a certain amount of water actually increases your metabolism. Not eating food or taking food away from yourself, just drinking more water. So those are the two things. I recommend half of your body weight in ounces of water each day. So if you weigh 200 pounds, 100 ounces is your target for the day.
I realized – just a comment because through your part about the caffeine and the coffee, so I was drinking so much coffee I think I was probably stressing my body like drinking way too much. So for five days I just quit, and now I’m down to like just a couple cups in the morning, where it used to be maybe 20 or something maybe, I don’t know. But what I found is that now I drink – I wake up and I drink like 20, 30 ounces of water with lemon, and that kind of sets the stage, and since I’m not drinking coffee all day I just naturally drink more and more water, and it feels a lot better than – because I was getting to the point where drinking coffee I was just – it was making me tired because I probably had adrenal fatigue or whatever. I feel so much better drinking water. But waking up and drinking a huge glass kind of sets the stage for your day of drinking water, at least in my experience.
Yeah, I totally agree, and I love that anecdotal story, too. If – you know, when, the thing is water. It’s water. It’s not other liquids, just water. When you can remove a few of those interactions with liquid X, the Mountain Dew or the coffee, whatever it is and just have more water in that place, all of a sudden you start seeing greater results. And it’s really as simple as that.
How to Connect with Shawn
So cool. So Shawn, how can people get a hold of you? And we will link the show notes, of course, to your book. And you have a great summary on your website of the 21 tips. But tell us how we can get a hold of you and learn more about what you do.
Sure. So people can connect with me via, you know, first thing is the podcast, wherever they listen to any of their favorite podcasts they can look me up. It’s The Model Health Show, The Model Health Show. And we’re usually, I’m very honored to say, at the top of the charts on iTunes. So we do a lot of great work there. And our secret recipe is that we care. We really care. And just providing great service and a world full of insights in every show and making sure that every show is a standalone master class on that subject matter. And then you could also connect with me online at themodelhealthshow.com. So that’s themodelhealthshow.com. And you can listen to the show there as well. If you choose we’ve got videos of many of the episodes there as well so you can be in the studio with us. I’ve got some pretty epic articles there. We’ve got all of my social media. You can find me there as well. I’m very active on like Instagram, Insta Stories and things like that, kind of taking people through my days.
And finally, Sleep Smarter. You can find anywhere you buy books. Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Apple, you know the iBooks, any of that stuff you can find a book there. Also, crazy thing happened that it was number one in the US on audiobook with Audible this past year as well. And actually Audible just messaged me a couple weeks ago, and they’re highlighting it again to kick off this year as one of their new year top performers and things people need to get on board with as they go into the new year to have their best year, their healthiest year, most productive year ever. So Sleep Smarter is one of those books. So you can find it on any of those platforms, and there’s more information at sleepsmarterbook.com or anywhere that you buy books.
Yeah, I actually listened to the Audible, so I think I was the one that probably tipped you from number two to number one.
Awesome. Appreciate it.
The audiobook was great. It really was because I think that’s a – when I drive I just listen. But I consumed your book pretty quickly, and a lot of great tips. So I would recommend everybody go out and see what Shawn does and definitely read the book because it really is life-changing, and you just feel so much better.
So in closing I just want to say thank you so much for being on the show. We’ve really enjoyed our time. It’s gone so fast. So Jacob?
Yes, it has. Thank you, Shawn.
Yeah you’re doing great, and congratulations on the podcast, being so successful and on your book being number one. Keep doing everything that you’re doing. We really appreciate it.
Thank you so much, guys. I really do appreciate that, and I don’t have any plans on stopping anytime soon. So thank you so much.
Well thank you.