Sleep, Light, Alarms, Caffeine, Night Shifts, Naps, Sleeping Positions & More With Shawn Stevenson.

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Body, Diet & Nutrition, Health & Wellness, Mental Health, Mind-Spirit, Podcast, Podcast-new, Recovery & Sleep, Sleep

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Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

Sleep can be super confusing. I get lots of questions about it and have my own too…for example:

Are there healthy substitutes for sunlight?

What does it exactly mean to be a fast vs. a slow caffeine metabolizer?

What's the ideal nap length?

How can you limit the damage from a night shift?

What's the ideal sleeping position?

Should you use an alarm?

My guest on today's podcast is Shawn Stevenson just wrote the new book “Sleep Smarter: 21 Proven Tips to Sleep Your Way To a Better Body, Better Health and Bigger Success“, and today we dig into plenty of detail on the topics he covers in this book, which I highly recommend as a comprehensive sleep resource.

Shawn is a graduate of The University of Missouri – St. Louis, where he studied business, biology and kinesiology, and went on to be the founder of Advanced Integrative Health Alliance, a company that provides wellness services for individuals and organizations worldwide. Shawn has been featured in Entrepreneur magazine, Men's Health magazine, ESPN, FOX News, and many other media outlets. He is also a frequent keynote speaker for numerous organizations, universities, and conferences – all with outstanding reviews. To learn more about Shawn visit

During our discussion, you'll discover:

-How using natural medicine to rebuild his spine bones made Shawn want to write a book about sleep…

-How Shawn and I differ in the ways we quantify and track sleep…

-Whether there are sunlight substitutes you can use instead of sunlight…

-How to measure your UVA vs. UVB exposure…

-The difference between blue-light boxes, in-ear photo therapy and intranasal therapy…

-How many sleep cycles you should get each night…

-What Shawn thinks about the effect of caffeine on sleep if one is genetically tested and found to be a fast caffeine metabolizer…

-Shawn's top tips for people who have to work graveyard or night shifts to avoid the metabolic issues that can arise with circadian rhythm disruptions…

-The surprising link between gut bacteria and sleep…

-Whether morning vs. evening exercise is best for sleep…

-Shawn's thoughts on optimal nap time, and if you really need to limit your naps to less than 60 minutes…

-What the ideal sleeping position is…

-Why you should use black-out curtains and sleep masks even though your ancestors or “caveman” didn't…

-The best type of alarm to use to optimize your sleep cycles…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

What You Need To Know About Stem Cells previous podcast episode with Shawn

The OURA ring and HRV Ben uses for sleep tracking (and other sleep cycle tips)

How to use light to “hack” your sleep cycles

Intranasal light therapy

Apps to measure your UVA/UVB index

My podcast with sleep coach Nick Littlehales

The Sleep Remedy supplement

Dr J. Sleep Solution pillow

Do you have questions, comments, or feedback for Shawn or I about what we discuss in this episode? Leave your thoughts below and one of us will reply, and be sure to check out Shawn's book Sleep Smarter: 21 Proven Tips to Sleep Your Way To a Better Body, Better Health and Bigger Success.

Ask Ben a Podcast Question

31 thoughts on “Sleep, Light, Alarms, Caffeine, Night Shifts, Naps, Sleeping Positions & More With Shawn Stevenson.

  1. Jennifer says:

    Hi Ben. Great podcast! I was looking for that ring you mentioned that records your sleep rhythms.


  2. anup kanodia says:


    I love your podcasts. In this podcast, you mentioned probiotic enemas (coconut oil with probiotic and inversion etc.) I searched online for how to do it. I couldn’t find it. My friend has had chronic parasites for 16 years. I would love to use the protocol on her. thanks, Anup

    1. Yes…here you go: For some really deep cleansing: do a colonic or enema with 10 probiotic capsules fermented in 4-6 hours in room temperature coconut water and put it up there. Invert and hold for 10 minutes.

      But for parasites, I'd also use 3-4 NatureCleanse both morning and evening:

  3. Anton says:

    Ben, which blackout curtains fo you recommend? I’ve used two different ones but they still let quite a bit of light in the morning and force me to wake up before I get full sleep. Any tips are appreciated! Thanks!

  4. PaulG says:

    Hi Ben, good podcast. As someone who does competitive endurance sports and has a new-ish job which starts at 5am (all done by 830am) 6 days a week, I was somewhat alarmed to hear about the detrimental “night worker” effects. I generally set my alarm for 430am as my job is very local, so do you think this qualifies as “night work” or are we really talking about somewhat earlier? Paul

  5. Doug says:

    Interested in the SR1 sleep device you have highlighted before. Are you still using it and why was it not discussed in your podcast with Shawn? The SR1 seems like it would be a viable long term solution but I am hesitant to make the purchase as it is expensive for this broken down old pensioner and therefore I am interested in your further thoughts.

    I am a bigfan of your podcasts and appreciate the work you do.

    1. I totally still use it and recorded that podcast with shawn prior to using it much. I am a huge fan of it.

  6. Buckeye 37 says:

    Ben – apologies if I missed it, but has anyone experienced a major “void in communication” after ordering the Oura? I submitted my order on April 18th, after receiving the fitting kit, I responded with my ring size on May 2nd.

    Since then I have submitted 4 separate emails over the last 3 weeks about when I can expect to receive the ring as well as a shipping tracking #….but have not received a single response. They have gone dark, which is a no-no in terms of customer service for a company trying to launch a new product (without much of a track record). Anyhow – I understand new products can take longer to fulfill, but not responding to inquiries is quite frustrating. If anyone else or Ben has experienced similar, please share your strategy in getting the manufacturer of Oura to reply :).

    Much appreciated.

    1. Christopher Green says:

      Hello Buckeye37, I’ve had the same problem with the Oura support team. I ordered 2 rings at the end of April and had one arrive on May 26th. Still no response from Oura after several tries!! I will say I love the oura ring that just arrived!!

      1. Sorry for this – April/May has been really hectic for them! By the end of next week most orders from April/May have been delivered.

    2. Hi Buckeye 37. I ordered an Oura ring and inquired when it had been 2 months since placing my order. They responded right away saying that they had a back log of orders and were working hard to fill them. They suggested I register on their site and look at common issues/FAQ’s. It took many more weeks before the ring arrived but I just got it this week.

  7. Al says:

    I’ve found that if I can fall asleep on my back I get the most quality sleep possible. I always wake up refreshed. But it’s hard to fall asleep like that. Cold room and deep breathing helps, but I sometimes get “restless” and just go to my side which I sleep well, but no where as good as my back sleep nights

  8. Paul says:

    Hey Ben,

    You talked about a decaf coffee you found that is chemical free. Would you mind sharing what brand it is? I have been looking for one for sometime with no luck.


    1. Anything that is swiss water processed like the stuff at h….

  9. James Anderson says:

    Hey Ben. If I get blackout curtains or blackout my room. How do I maintain fresh air circulation in the room?

  10. Jamie says:

    Regarding the long narrative by Trevor about human bloatware and the correlation between invisibility and fear, I’d like to make a few points.

    First, there are some pretty smart scientists who have concluded that EMF is not good for us. Deep within this discussion of hormonal signalling linked below, Jack Kruse asserts that EMF and artificial light are the leading initial causes of brain signaling dysfunction. True, false, I don’t know, but I don’t think it has anything to do with fear, psychology, etc. One diligent researcher and practioner has come to this conclusion, and so have others. We can compare the divergent conclusions of these researchers and make our own choice or do our own experiments.

    Secondly, as for the collective fear of humans for the invisible I say, “So What?”. I can’t use that theory to make any decision. It is not an effective line of inquiry. If I believe it to be true, what do I do? If I believe it to be false, what do I do? It is only an academic discussion with no practical application. Useless at best, a self indulgent way to criticize someone else at worst.

    See this article by Jack Kruse.…

  11. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for sharing a preview article of that episode of your podcast. I always find it easy to stay up late at night. I mean no issues at all because most of my activities are done at night such as blogging that is why I coped up with that habit. My main problem is waking up especially waking up first hour in the morning (I usually feel exhausted). Like most people, I am that type of person that would love to extend few more minutes on my bed before getting up. And then, I would again add few more minutes until the extension becomes few more hours. I have tried using alarm clock that stimulates my adrenaline rush in order to get up easily. Can you tell me which alarm clock is best for people like me?

    Reading your article and looking through the comments section, I decided to try considering music as a way to sleep the night away when everything’s done. I’ve checked out the headphones especially made for enhancing sleep and would love to try it.

    1. I'd recommend the sunrise alarm clock you already saw in comments section!

  12. Andrew says:

    Ben, when using binaural beats, does it matter which ear is receiving which signal? I was reading a review of a sleep mask with headphones on Amazon and the reviewer complained that the headphones had been installed backwards, i.e. left speaker in right ear and vice versa, and said that this was particularly detrimental when using binaural beats. Is this actually a problem? Thanks!

    1. Never heard of that but it could indeed be an issue. :/

  13. Rodney says:

    Ben what headphones/earbuds did you mention for whitenoise when you sleep?

  14. Chuck says:

    How can I reset my circadian rhythm? I am exhausted in the and wide awake really late at night.

    Thanks Ben and Shawn!

  15. Trevor says:

    Ben Greenfield is scared.
    You’re not often aware of it, but there’s bloatware embedded in the operating system between your ears.

    Occasionally, it’s useful, but for the most part, it’s vestigial dead weight. These are the pre-installed cognitive systems that make me like shiny things, because some hairy ancestors were once naturally selected for their ability to find life-giving, shimmering water. And, I have an amusingly visceral fear of snorkelling, despite my ‘don’t breathe underwater’ instinct being made redundant by snorkels.

    There’s one particular piece of redundant psychological software I’ve had some direct experience with in my career, as an advocate for new forms of clean energy technology in Australia. When it comes to detecting potential threats to our safety, we over-estimate the threat posed by things we can’t see. The parts of our world we use scientific tools to detect, such as electromagnetic radiation, inaudible sound and nanoparticles, are more likely to be perceived as harmful – regardless of our ability to to measure exposure, and determine the levels at which these agents cause damage.

    A perfect example of the power of this factor in risk perception is our fear of electromagnetism. Recently, I was listening to an ABC Radio National interview about a new form of nano-structured battery gel – the host asked the developer of the technology:

    “As I understand it your battery, the battery gel, is designed so it could be built into the walls of a new construction, when I heard that I was a little bit worried about the thought of living in a house with batteries all around me, in the walls, is that dangerous?”

    “That’s why I went into a little bit of detail about why it is safe.”

    “I’m not worried about the fire thing. I’m worried about just, I don’t know, are there waves? Electromagnetic waves or anything?”

    The scientist responded with reassurances, but the host’s question highlights the continued existence of concerns about invisible electromagnetic radiation. In fact, community reactions to electromagnetism have seen a strong resurgence in recent years – the Australian Radiation and Protection Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) have a little-known but well-kept register of all complaints sent their way, regarding perceived adverse health reactions to electromagnetic fields – their most recent report shows a spike in 2012:

    The majority of cumulative reports over the full period come from Victoria, and relate to smart meters. It’s a good reminder of another big factor in how we respond to new technology – if we feel it’s forced on us by a government authority, people are more likely to respond with skewed perception of risk. Within this complex mix of factors, ‘invisibility’ will often feature.

    This part of our internal logic becomes prevalent in almost any technology that features something we can’t detect with our visual system. In 2012, a government survey of 1,000 people examined attitudes towards the use of nanoparticles in sunscreen and found that “Thirteen percent of this group were concerned or confused enough that they would be less likely to use any sunscreen, whether or not it contained nanoparticles, putting themselves at increased risk of developing potentially deadly skin cancers”. The Cancer Council, the Therapeutic Goods Administration and Choice all state that the use of nanoparticles in sunscreen is safe. That you cannot visually distinguish a sunscreen containing nanoparticles from one that doesn’t played a big part in this skewed risk perception – probably catalysed by the fact that a huge number of sunscreens were mislabelled.

    Invisibility plays a big part in the emergence of health fears around wind turbine technology, too – the risk is described as pervasive, inescapable and totally undetectable using normal senses. A submission to a recent senate inquiry into wind farms claims that “We know there are many things that we cannot SMELL that can harm us. The lethal dangers of breathing carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide are well established. We know there are things that we cannot SEE that can harm us. It is well established that ultraviolet light is invisible, yet it can make someone’s life miserable, with skin burns and eye damage if they are exposed to excessive amounts. The purported causal agent in this phenomenon, ‘infrasound’, is defined as sound below the hearing threshold of the human ear – around 20 Hz. Sound at this frequency is everywhere – you’re exposed to it when you drive, when you walk and when you stand near a fridge. Curiously, ultrasound (also inaudible but above the threshold of human hearing) has also been suggested as a ‘cause’ of this phenomenon.

    Though ‘infrasound’ has stuck, both fit the criteria – they cannot be detected using normal human senses, creating a threat that’s pervasive, uncertain and undetectable. It also creates a niche industry in spurious ‘threat detection’ – stories on prime time current affair shows featuring the misinterpretation of EMF meters thrive on this.

    Each of these are complex cultural phenomena. Plenty of invisible threats that science has confirmed are dangerous seem to be undervalued, too. Consider the threat posed by pumping obscene quantities of invisible greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (followed, naturally, with vague and ludicrous assertions that the entire planet’s scientific community has made an enormous accidental and coincidental mistake). In this instance, the agent involved threatens us indirectly, as opposed to the direct physical harm creating concern with agents like electromagnetism or infrasound, which seems to denature our fear. The sun’s radiation is invisible, yet we still take unreasonable risks with regards to exposure. This is because we perceive human-made agents as risky, and natural agents as safe – something known as the ‘appeal to nature’.

    Our in-built fear of invisible threats makes a weird sort of sense, when you consider that most of our in-built threat detection systems are geared very much towards moving organisms that look like they’re probably going to hurt us. Radiation, sound and tiny particles are all things we’ve heard can be harmful, but the nuances of dosage and amplitude are boring candidates for our attention.

    These are ancient parts of our brain’s operating system, and there’s really no way to uninstall this bloatware. It’s part of our thinking, and it’s now increasingly valuable to understand and preempt these features, particularly considering the increasing role of wireless communications in technology. Most recently, the rollout of the wireless NBN network could go more smoothly if health fears around them are better understood – which includes acknowledging and understanding that each of us is bundled with pre-installed bloatware.

  16. Alex says:

    Great episode! Ben, what’s the name of the alarm clock you use/recommend for waking up during certain phases of your sleep?

    1. Withings Aura Smart sleep system:

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