Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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Category: Sleep

Is “8 Uninterrupted Hours a Night” Flawed Conventional Wisdom?

Conventional Wisdom always gets an eyebrow raise from me. I can’t help it. Eventually, I take an honest look at whatever the experts are saying, but skepticism gets first dibs. I’d call it an instinct if it weren’t learned behavior from years of being burned. For example, I once took to task the most pervasive “truth” around: that everyone needs to drink eight glasses of water a day or risk kidney failure, toxin buildup, bladder cancer, and debilitating constipation. It was pretty easy to do.

But it’s not all BS. Smoking is bad for you, for example. See? I can admit when they’re right!

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17 Ways to Improve Your Sleep

Like last week’s stress post, I’m not going to delve deeply into why sleep is so important. I’ve done it before, and doing so again would simply take up valuable space that’s better used for action items – for actual sleep hacks that you can put into effect immediately. Just rest assured that it’s crucial to health, longevity, immunity, recovery from training, cognition, aptitude while operating vehicles and/or machinery, insulin sensitivity and, well, do I need to go on? If you want to enjoy your limited time on the planet, you better get your Zs.

Despite the long list of health benefits, sleep is one of those things that people skimp on, whether by necessity (work, traffic, kids, busy schedules) or because they figure they can simply “power through it”. The supposed ability to lower our sleep requirements through sheer will is pervasive. “Tough it out” is a popular slogan, as are “Sleep is for the weak” or “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Then there’s Virgil’s “Death’s brother, Sleep” (or, alternately, Nas’ “Sleep is the cousin of death” – thanks, Worker Bee). What we end up with, then, is a nation of overworked, overly fatigued men, women, students, and even children shambling through days dotted with Starbucks Ventis and ridiculous energy drinks. If you count yourself among their numbers, or perhaps you just want better sleep, read on for some tips and tricks:

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Monday Musings: Poop Transplants, Sleep Deprivation and Going Nuts

And now for another round of Monday Musings…

Let’s Talk Sh**

Poop is the new probiotic. Doctors have been using fecal transplants as a “last resort,” mostly to treat the rising scourge of Clostridium difficile, a gut bug that affects about 250,000 Americans every year and proves extremely resistant to antibiotics. Shooting a fecal extract from healthy people into the C. diff-ridden colons of the affected has a 95% success rate. Some docs are pushing for the last resort to be the go-to move. I can’t argue with that.

But gut health isn’t just about acute infection. It’s also about basic metabolic health. A study showed that sterile mice receiving a fecal transplant from obese mice gained more weight than sterile mice who received transplants from lean mice. And most recently, a Dutch pilot study gave 18 obese males with pronounced metabolic syndrome fecal transplants from lean individuals. They did not lose weight, but they did experience improved insulin sensitivity and triglyceride numbers. These improvements reverted after about 12 weeks.

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Vibrant Health is About More Than Food

I’ve been thinking about human health for a long, long time – pretty much my entire life. When I was running marathons and battling injuries and illness, I was missing it, and so I sought it. I figured moving on to triathlons would help, maybe by “spreading the damage” across three disciplines, rather than just the one, but that didn’t do it. And so I started tweaking my eating plan by paying attention to anthropological evidence of the human ancestral diet. Obviously, this worked, and for a while, I felt I’d found the optimal path to human health. Things were good.

But my journey didn’t stop at diet. It wasn’t enough. My physical activity had to change, too: resistance training; sprints; hikes, walks, and other long, easy movements; and a marked de-emphasis on Chronic Cardio.

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Sound Cues and Circadian Rhythms

Yesterday, I showed how environmental, behavioral, and social cues act as zeitgebers to human circadian rhythms, and I tried to be as thorough as possible (without outstaying my welcome). I left out one very important environmental cue with the promise of more information today – sound.

I can’t recall exactly where I heard about it, but it was someone’s offhand reference to the notion of the calls of songbirds affecting our circadian rhythms that convinced me I should do a follow-up to the blue light piece from earlier this year. The notion of bird calls affecting us on a deeper level than a regular sound makes some intuitive sense to me, so I did some searching to see if there was anything to it.

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Circadian Rhythms: Zeitgebers, Entrainment, and Non-Photic Stimuli

For all the unchecked randomness in this world, there are at least some things you can count on. The sun always rises and it always gets dark, and that’s something life – all life – has learned to rely on. Our internal clocks, known as circadian rhythms, tend to match up with this established external cycle. In essentially all known forms of life, from the earliest cells and bacteria to plants and mammals, the circadian rhythm is characterized by a period of around 24 hours.

You might recall a previous MDA series on how blue light can affect our circadian rhythms, and what we can do to maintain normal, natural levels and timing of blue light exposure. Long story short – it turns out that our exposure to blue light is akin to exposure to daylight, and getting too much – or too little – at the wrong times can disrupt our natural circadian rhythm and affect the quality of our sleep by changing when melatonin is secreted in our bodies. In other words, blue light is a major human zeitgeber (the ten-dollar word of the day); an exogenous cue that synchronizes our internal clock. But it’s not just light that affects our circadian rhythms.

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