Shawn Stevenson Sleep Smarter

Self-care

Model Health Shawn Stevenson’s sleep routine

Creator of the Model Health Show (the #1 health podcast) shares his habits for optimal shut eye

Model sleeper and dad Shawn Stevenson, author of new book Sleep Smarter and creator of The Model Health Show (the #1 health and fitness podcast on Apple Podcasts), sat down with us over a cup of Chill Cacao to share his habits for getting optimal shut-eye.

Top podcaster Shawn Stevenson with his family

How do you know when you're getting enough sleep?

There are a ton of sleep tracking devices on the market today, and I'm sure that there will be many more to come. Yet, for me, the most important metrics for noting if you're getting enough sleep (and good sleep quality!) is simply paying attention to how you look, feel, and perform. We call it beauty sleep for a reason, and, truly, we can see tired written all over our face. And if we notice that we're dragging along, more tired than normal, our not feeling mentally sharp, I encourage folks to not jump to thinking it's a nutritional issue, but, instead, to take a look at their sleep quality.

What’s more important: What time you go to sleep or how long you sleep?

Woman sipping Four Sigmatic Chill Cacao with Reishi before bed

Sleep minutes, like calories, aren’t just about the quantity... it's about the quality. If someone is sleeping for 8 hours, but their sleep cycles are inefficient because of things like artificial light exposure at night, consuming caffeine close to bedtime, or any of the other overlooked factors I talk about in my book Sleep Smarter, this can result in an outcome where their energy is low, their performance is subpar, and they simply don't look and feel their best. Whereas someone who's sleeping a little less, but has efficient, effective sleep cycles can be incredibly productive, mentally sharp, and feel amazing throughout the day. Yes, the amount of time we sleep matters. But, that number can vary quite a bit from person-to-person, and even vary within a single person depending on what's going on in your life! All of us need optimal sleep to thrive. And today, more than ever, it requires a little extra attention to get the sleep we need. Plus, the good news is that it will make every part of our lives more enjoyable.

What is your pre-sleep routine?

Sleep is truly a strange phenomenon. Even though we appear to be "unconscious," there's a lot of interesting activity happening in our brains. In fact, we know that someone is actually asleep when we can see correlating changes in their brainwaves. We can be "unconscious" and still not get high-quality sleep if we don't have efficient changes in our brainwaves (what we refer to as our stages of sleep). So, my pre-sleep routine is all about encouraging the efficiency of my sleep cycles/stages of sleep when I lay my head down at night.

  1. Shut down my tech devices at least 30 minutes before bed. The light from our favorite devices (TV, computers, smartphones, etc) can suppress your melatonin release in the evening. Melatonin helps to drive your brain smoothly through your sleep cycles. So, blocking your melatonin release to scroll social media is not the best idea.
  2. Dim the lights. It's not just our tech devices, but typical artificial lighting is strong enough to discourage melatonin release and even increase the release of stress hormones like cortisol. Your body really craves a light cycle (daytime) and dark cycle (nighttime), so the more we can support our body by managing our light exposure, the better. We can use dimmer switches, or even change out some of our lightbulbs for softer orange or red hues to help mimic sunset or seeing by fire/candlelight like humans have been doing for millennia.
  3. Sip Reishi. Several nights during the week I'll sip on my favorite Four Sigmatic Mushroom Elixir with Reishi to support overall sleep efficiency. And it's nice to just sit with my tea, chat with my family and/or listen to a podcast or audiobook.

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High dose, caffeine free, before bed to Chill

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What's the easiest thing that someone can do to improve the quality of their sleep?

The easiest thing to improve your sleep, without making any lifestyle changes, is to simply get blackout curtains!

How do you build a better environment for sleep?

The most important thing about creating a sleep sanctuary is creating a space free from what scientists are dubbing "light pollution." Again, we want to encourage optimal melatonin release, so if someone lives in an area where artificial light can creep in through their windows, it's a good idea to get some blackout curtains. 

In addition to that, it's a good idea to make the environment a little cooler if possible. Humans naturally have a drop in core body temperature at night to help facilitate sleep, so having the temperature too high can be disruptive to your sleep cycles as well.

Danielle Ryan Broida, RH (AHG)

Author: Danielle Ryan Broida, RH (AHG)

As a Registered Herbalist (AHG), Holistic Nutritionist, and Instructor of Mycology, my passions all blossom from the natural world. I believe fungi are the most important teachers on our planet, silently guiding us towards a world of more connection with each other, the earth, and the answers we need to solve many of Earth’s problems. As the current Instructor of Mycology at CSCH and Education Manager at Four Sigmatic, I’m so excited to bring you more education on functional mushrooms, adaptogens, and wellness, totally free.

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