Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

147: Spike Your Creativity by Sleeping Smarter: Interview with Shawn Stevenson

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is a badge of honor worn proudly by those who embrace a “hustle” mentality. But the irony is this way of life will actually kill you. And when you’re dead, you’re not sleeping. You’re not creating, either.

147: How to Spike Your Creative Output: Interview with Shawn Stevenson

For whatever reason, we creatives have a tendency to sacrifice sleep at the altar of our work before anything else. God forbid we binge-watch Netflix less or stop bringing our smartphones to bed. The trouble is we’re doing more harm than we realize to both our health and creativity by burning the candle at both ends.

This week’s guest on The Portfolio Life is a bestselling author, sleep expert, popular podcast host, and fitness authority, Shawn Stevenson. Shawn and I recently spent a week together at a speaking gig in the Philippines, and I can tell you he is the real deal.

Listen in as we talk about the drastic effect of one day of sleep deprivation, common sleep myths, and how you can hack your health to perform at a higher creative level.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below (If you’re reading this via email, please click here).

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Show highlights

In this episode, Shawn and I discuss:

  • Why the quality of your sleep matters more than the quantity
  • The optimal time to stop consuming caffeine
  • Combatting the norm of perpetual exhaustion as a badge of honor
  • The truth behind your genes
  • How Shawn went from NFL level speed to the spine of an 80-year-old in high school
  • Why deciding to get well is a crucial step in your health
  • 3 pillars of changing your life from the inside out
  • How the time of day (or night) impacts your dietary choices
  • Creating a culture in your home of honoring sleep
  • Why you can’t pay back a sleep debt
  • The “Money Time” sleep window

Quotes and takeaways

  • “If sleep is for suckers, I’m a lollipop.” –Shawn Stevenson
  • The assimilation of nutrients is magnified by movement.
  • “There’s a difference between doing work and actually being effective.” –Shawn Stevenson
  • We are 60% more reactive to negative stimuli when sleep deprived.
  • A great night of sleep starts the moment you wake up in the morning.
  • Create a bedtime ritual for yourself, not just your kids.
  • Fix your gut to fix your sleep.

Resources

Do you get enough sleep? How would you rate your sleep quality? What do you want to change about your sleep? Share in the comments

Click here to download a free PDF of the complete interview transcript.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • I just started reading this book a few days ago.

  • Kortney Chung

    I can’t sleep very well, due to something really bad happened to me when I was 24, I haven’t been able to sleep like a dead ever since, I have been always alert even while sleeping, my friends make jokes at it said I sleep like a fireman( they can’t really fall asleep because they have to be alert all the time). Even if I sleep for 8 hours, it doesn’t feel like it. Guess I’ll have to give it a try.

    • Charles O’Connor

      I suffer the same problem. You’re not alone.

  • Katharine

    I always sleep well.
    After the first week of getting used to it, I discovered how to sleep with a CPAP machine, which totally made me a complete zonk-out pro! Of course, the awe has worn off now, but I remember that first night of totally amazing SLEEP. I could not believe how good I felt. It is true. Sleep! Haha!

    • Katharine

      Oh, I forgot to add: The thing also won me a guest posting gig! Hey!

  • Charles O’Connor

    In January I turned 34. Looking in the mirror a few gray hairs showed (actually they’ve always been there, I just noticed them), I realized I couldn’t do the things I did at 18-29 like eat sweets, stay up all night, or pull off smooth college moves like wait until 3am to study for a test and at 10am leave the room knowing I got an A (not that I’m in college anymore but you get the point). Somehow time changed my heart and its priorities. I’ve been published a few times since 2014, I’m only just now beginning to find my true writer’s voice after 12 years (thanks be to my lord Jesus Christ), l have this amazing girl who wants to marry me some day, and my angry youthful soul is at peace. Just recently I thought about taking better care of myself. Just recently I published a scholarly essay that will appear in the Lovecraft Annual. After completing it I felt nauseous and threw up. I realized I hadn’t eaten but 1 meal all day and only slept 2-3 hours. This post from Jeff couldn’t have come at a better time. Plus, since I have Asperger syndrome I’m forced to take better care of myself anyway. Yes, sleep is vital and overlooked. Thanks guys and sorry for this long post 🙂

  • Katharine

    If you snore, you are dying a little bit more, every time you sleep. Get a CPAP.

  • Caroline DePalatis

    Jeff – This was an amazing, valuable interview! I’m sharing it with my kids, especially my college-aged son who is starting to recognize his bad sleep habits and wants to change. I was especially intrigued by the anabolic peak of 10pm–2am (ah ha, I get it!), the longer-then-expected half-life of caffeine (now I realize…), and the need for a sleep routine for adults (amazing how we neglect that). Good stuff – so valuable! Thanks!

  • Laura Bennet

    Great post, Jeff and Shawn! Thank you. Very helpful information for our entire family. Our 2 youngest kids are teens who struggle with getting quality sleep because of academic and athletic demands. There is such a tremendous need to address this topic too. How can we help our kids sleep well when they have games right after school (4-7 start times) and get home at 8-10 at night and then have a couple of hours of homework on top of that? It’s not every night, but once or twice a week at least. Dedicated athletes and scholars in high school and college, and even middle school need help with this quality sleep issue. I’m looking forward to reading the book!

  • This is such a weird coincidence. Last week, while on vacation, I read “Sleep Smarter” and found it very thought provoking. I just pulled up your podcast listen to while unpacking from the trip, and here you were interviewing Shawn Stevenson!

    His book is AWESOME! I’ve implemented just a few of his tips, and have seen a HUGE improvement to my sleep. This was a great podcast for creatives. Thanks.

  • Yes! I’ve been writing to my audience for quite some time on the importance of sleep for your brain. In one article I geared toward kids, I added a rhyme/story to help kids understand. If you have little kids, read this to them…

    Once there was this sleepy little kid
    Who wouldn’t do what other kiddies did.
    When he climbed up in bed, he stood there on his head
    Till dreamclouds came, and then he ran and hid.

    He thought the clouds would rain his dreams away.
    He didn’t know they’d help his dreams to stay.
    All night he’d lie awake and wouldn’t take a break,
    And ended up so tired throughout the day.

    Now, surely you can see what this would do.
    Not sleeping makes you wimpy through and through.
    To be fit, well, and bright…get lots of sleep at night…
    Or this poor, sleepy kid might just be you.

    ~Tony Funderburk

  • I’ve always valued sleep but as someone who travels to other time zones every other week, I’ve found that the conventional wisdom of establishing a fixed time for sleep each night doesn’t work. I just heard some research on this that validates my experience: fixed sleep times are great for fixed schedules, but if you travel, actually keeping an irregular schedule improves your ability to sleep. Researchers suspect that’s why our circadian rhythms are on more like a 25 hour cycle: regularity may not be as helpful to some people as we once thought.

  • Jane Love

    I never really considered sleep to be that important. i always thought a few hours would do the trick. Well, thanks for the incite. Am off to share this to friends and my site – http://harmoniousjoy.com/

  • Thanks Jeff Goins, i really like all the articles of yours, i used to think that work hard like a hustler to become success and i forget to take care my sleep, my health. Now im trying to balance between work and sleep. Once again, really love your articles.
    https://daquyvietnam.info/

  • Janet

    Thanks Jeff!!

    I am really enjoying your content and wanted to share with you a tool that really helps me, and many others I have recommended it to, fall asleep quickly into a wonderfully restful sleep. I am thinking this may be something your wife could try to help combat the difficulty she has in falling asleep throughout the night with her baby-disrupted sleep.

    I am not affiliated in any way with this, it is just something I find really helpful and wanted to offer the suggestion.

    It is Insight Timer – a meditation app. https://insighttimer. com/ (hope it’s ok to provide this link!!). They have a HUGE variety of meditations, and sleep is one of the focuses. The meditation that I go to, over and over again to knock me out at night, is Yoga Nidra for Sleep by Jennifer Piercy. Of course there are others to explore.

    This is the app’s number one meditation and is easy to find in the app – under Guided Meditations – go to the Top 20, it is the very first one with over 1.3 million plays.

    Thanks for all the great content and discussions you share.

    All the best to you!

  • Vanessa Shinmoto

    Sleep is very important. But the normal, business hours schedule does not suit us night owls and I am so grateful that I managed to escape that schedule for the time being. These days, I sleep great and notice my mood is much brighter and I am less emotionally reactive and angry.

  • Hi, I am an erratic sleeper; one night I’ll possibly get 8 hours; the next it will be 3. I wish I could find the answer as I feel as if I’m on zombie mode most of the time.