Ah, sleep: is there anything quite like it? So easily discarded and discounted when nighttime attractions present themselves and yet so dearly missed and pined after the next morning. You’ve heard me say it enough, so I’ll keep it short. A good night’s sleep is the foundation for a healthy, happy, productive existence. Good sleep keeps us lean and thinking clearly. And without good, regular sleep, we just go through life in a scattered daze, everything foggy, slightly confusing, and less enjoyable. We’re not really ourselves if we haven’t slept. We desperately need a good night’s sleep, every night.
So how do you get one? What would a day of optimal sleep promotion look like?
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Longtime readers of this blog would likely say that the answer to that question depends on several factors: how much light exposure you get during the day, how much light exposure you get at night, how your cortisol fluctuates throughout the day, how much coffee you drink and when you drink it, or what time you go to sleep. The best part is that they’re all modifiable. By changing them, we can change how we feel in the morning, how productive we are at certain hours, and whether we need that extra cup of coffee in the afternoon. We are not at the mercy of powers unbeknownst to us. We hold the power.
But is that the whole story?
Ah, sleep. We all know how much we need it, mostly because when we don’t get enough, the world takes on a different, more negative hue. Lights seem brighter and sounds more vivid, and not in a good way. Perpetual fogginess clouds our thoughts, slurs our words, and prevents us from focusing on anything but the coffee pot timer. And then there’s the sleep deprivation research corroborating our experiences and explaining in lurid detail just how vital sleep is for our health. I’ve done my part in bringing this information to you, focusing for the most part on the metabolic health benefits of getting sufficient quality time with everyone’s sweet slumbery mistress. I’ve linked to articles discussing the links between poor sleep and ill liver health, disrupted metabolic function, and cancer. If you’re a regular reader of MDA, you’re probably aware of all this. Bad sleep can make you fat, sick, and prone to serious degenerative diseases.
It’s Monday, which means it’s time for another edition of Dear Mark. This week, I’m covering four reader questions. First up is a really tricky one: ApoE4, the ancestral allele that’s classically associated with a host of maladies, like cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s. What’s the deal with it? We don’t have any concrete answers (yet), but I give my take on it. Next, I tell a reader who’s flying to Chile for vacation how I recover from travel-related sleep disturbances and realign my circadian rhythm. After that, I cover another paleo debunking that’s actually not much of a debunking, this time a TEDx video from Christina Warriner. And finally, I explore the eternal question of Halls cough drops, including whether or not any natural alternatives exist.
After last week’s post on healthy ways to begin the day, how could I not cover the flip side? Just as our mornings can mirror scenes of rampant pandemonium, evenings for many people are remarkably unhealthy in their own right. We collapse and barely move from the couch. We spend hours in front of media entertainment, basking in blue light way past our intended bedtimes. We succumb to the day’s stresses and take them to bed only to lose the chance for mental rest as well as physical relaxation. There’s a better way of course. It doesn’t take much hoopla or energy to make for a healthier or more Primal evening, but the benefits will carry us through the night hours and then some.
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