Dear Mark: Bedtime Routine, One Marker, DOMS, Primal Fantasy Lives, Basic Exercise, and Outside Eating Situations

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering several questions from readers about my own personal routines and interests as well as a Primal take on beginning fitness. First, what’s my sleep hygiene routine? Do I even have one, and how has it changed over the years? Second, how do I make sure I’m staying on track in life? What’s the “one marker to rule them all”? Third, are there any good supplements or interventions for DOMS—delayed onset muscle soreness—due to training? Fourth, what are two places I’d love to live, and live Primally? Fifth, how should a totally inexperienced person who’s just lost a bunch of weight through eating alone get started with exercise? And sixth, how do I handle myself in eating situations where I have no direct control over the quality of ingredients (oils, etc) used?

Let’s go:

Question for you – what does your nighttime sleep hygiene “routine” look like? I am experimenting with the best ways to wind down and prepare my body and mind to fall asleep, and am curious to learn more about your regimen or any tips you have.


Be sure to check out the upcoming post on sleep I’ve got in the works. It will help answer your questions.

But I’ll talk a bit about my personal routine. My ultimate goal is to wind down from the work day—clearing my head of current and future concerns and stressors so that I can focus on the here and now, spend time with family, and turn off for the night. That’s not to say I’m not thinking about work or business at all. I’m just not doing so actively. In fact, it’s when I’ve cleared my head of the day-to-day stuff that new ideas hit me. I’ll jot ’em down if they seem to have legs and move on.

Up until a few years ago, my “wind down” routine involved a couple glasses of wine with dinner. It did the trick, sure, but there were side effects. I started waking up around 3-4 AM every morning. And my gut health really took a hit, with my old IBS symptoms returning. Those weren’t acceptable to me.

I limit the wine at night more carefully now. I’ve also switched to dry farmed natural wine from Dry Farm Wines—lower alcohol content, zero added preservatives, minimal sugar, more ancient fermentation methods—and I don’t have the same negative effects. But even then, I don’t use wine to relax before bed.

I’ll turn electronics off; the blue light they emit kills melatonin and makes your circadian rhythm think it’s daytime. If I’m on top of my game, I’ll light a bunch of candles around the house and forego artificial lights altogether. If I have to attend to some business or write an email or anything, I’ll wear blue light-blocking goggles and make sure f.lux is activated on the computer and the phone is on night mode, both of which reduce blue light.

I’ll spend quality time with my wife, be present in the moment, talk quietly about our day, laugh about something or other. I won’t be scouring social media trying to find something out in the world to feel angry or powerless over.

If it’s been a particularly trying day (or week), I’ll take some Adaptogenic Calm to take the edge off the cortisol.

My routine is mostly about avoiding or eliminating the supranormal stimuli that occupy our brains, suppress our natural melatonin, and make getting to sleep at a reasonable time impossible. It’s very basic and very effective.

If you could only choose one way of measuring/tracking your performance (in life generally, across the board) for the rest of your life, what would you select eg how you feel when you wake up, or your ability to play ultimate frisbee intensely for 60 minutes, or how your posture looks in the mirror etc?

LDL cholesterol.

Just kidding.

I’d ask myself “Do I feel excited about my day, my week, my month, and my year?” If the answer is “yes” to all, I’m in a good place and everything else is working to support that.

I would be interested to learn about the best ways to combat muscle soreness following tough workouts. Sometimes I feel like my progress is slowed because I’m too sore to workout again. Any special recommendations?

The main thing is to just weather the storm. Soreness is unavoidable, especially if you’re really pushing yourself.

Massage can help. If you don’t have access to someone who’ll massage you, self treatment with a foam roller or lacrosse ball can be effective.

Compression garments may help with muscle stiffness.

Taurine helps. Eat beef hearts or take supplements.

L-citrulline helps. Eat watermelon or take supplements.

I’d love to hear about your ultimate primal food destinations. Where you’d love to go for certain wild delicacies, bluff oysters in NZ etc… & your top three areas in the world to live primally.

Fun idea. I’ll do two fantasy scenarios. Maybe more later when I can think of them.

Hawaii, Big Island or Kauai (can’t pick): Swimming/paddling every day, spearfishing, keeping centipede-fed chickens and goats and grass-fed cows for eggs and milk and meat, grinding my own coconut butter, hiking through jungles and valleys, across lava beds. In the mornings, Carrie does yoga and I do pullups and KB swings. There’s nothing quite like the tropics. I think maybe a long lost ancestor of mine washed ashore in some South Pacific island, ingratiated himself among the locals, then married and sired several children, one of whom caught a merchant ship back to northern Europe.

Mediterranean (Greece, Turkey, southern Italy): We walk down the slope through gnarled olive tree grove to our small boat, sail out onto cobalt sea, drink unpronounceable local wine, nibble hard sheep cheese, and grill the pair of fish (and unexpected octopus!) I just caught on charcoal grill. Afterwards go for a swim, diving down to wrecks of Bronze Age warships; coming up to lay on the deck just in time for midday UVB-rich sun.

What are suggested ways for overweight and/or “out-of-shape” people to start an exercise regimen (after they have dialed in their diet)?

Start walking every day. Half hour minimum, hour ideal. Take your walks in as interesting a location as you can find. Nature trails are better than treadmills. Dense city streets are better than empty suburban sidewalks. Do that for three weeks.

Lift something heavy twice a week. Your own bodyweight may suffice. Weights are great, too. The Primal Blueprint Fitness program is very simple and very effective, especially if you’ve never done any exercise before. Start there.

That’s it.

Hi Mark,

I would like to know how you handle eating in social situations, restaurants, personal residences, weddings, etc.

Do you ask a lot of questions (like what kind of oil was used) or totally avoid anything suspect as politely as you can, or just not worry about it?

I vet all my friends for cooking oil preference, so there’s no danger there. Anyone who uses an oil containing over 20% omega-6 PUFA get the boot from the Sisson circle.


If I’m at a restaurant, I don’t make much of a fuss. If it’s a breakfast joint, I’ll request that they cook everything (scrambles, omelets, etc) in butter because every breakfast joint has butter on hand. I’ll ask what kind of oil’s “in the dressing” because that info is readily available.

If it’s Indian, I’ll request that they cook with “real ghee” or “desi ghee” (as opposed to “ghee” made from vegetable oil). I did have a Thai place I loved where they kept a jar of coconut oil around for our orders. It may seem like an awkward request, but most places just want to please their customers.

I have no qualms about traveling with and busting out my own Primal Kitchen® products, though.

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading and have a great rest of the week. I’d love to hear any of your responses to these questions, too.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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19 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Bedtime Routine, One Marker, DOMS, Primal Fantasy Lives, Basic Exercise, and Outside Eating Situations”

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  1. Nice post! I think red light and infrared treatments are supposed to help muscle soreness also.

  2. I 2nd the Greece fantasy for obvious reasons…thought about doing that quite a bit. I would also add in the nostalgia feeling I have there as I traveled to Greece for the summer growing up more than a handful of times.

  3. Re walking for out of shape or elderly or disabled , heat tolerance is important. If my husband was told he had to walk only outside he wouldn’t walk. His heat tolerance is abysmal and he has a gait impairment. That means we walk inside in the humid midwestern summers. Grocery stores are the preferred venue, they are open early in the morning, a grocery cart allows him to stand upright in a way he can’t otherwise and give him stability when he begins to tire, allowing him to walk longer.

    1. I think anyone would agree that, if it came to walking indoors/on a treadmill or not walking at all, any exercise is better than none.

      I don’t walk outside because I can’t leave my 5 year old alone in the house and I would be lucky to get him to walk with me for 15 minutes, tops. He would want to ride his bigwheel or play in his sandbox (all great things, but again, I can’t leave him alone to go walk),

    2. I live in Florida, and at this time of year I walk in the very early mornings. I get exercise and see some lovely sunrises over the lakes.

      Your husband might also consider using an elliptical or cross-trainer. He can hold on to the rails for balance and stability.

    3. Heat tolerance is a major issue. Grocery stores are great for dealing with this as they are air conditioned. Our favorite is Costco, but don’t know if you have a big box store near you. Not only do you get to hang on to a cart, but you can get a free sample or two. Mom used to walk in a mall near her home with other seniors, but it meant a drive to to the mall as it was a couple of miles away. That may not work for you and may prove to be more of a problem that it’s worth. Eventually it turned out to be more than she could handle.
      She did get a bicycle type exercise machine that didn’t take up too much room and used to just sit on it and peddle away slowly at her own pace while watching TV in the comfort of her home. Hope this helps and take care.

    4. Grocery stores are such a great place for a walk for people who are limited physically. Even if we only need a couple of items, the husband and I nearly always still walk the entire store ‘just to see what’s there’.

      And in summer when the humidity never lets up we’ll also go to the nearest big shopping mall and have a leisurely walk for an hour or so (and then a long sit for me to recover 🙂

  4. For muscle soreness, maybe go a less hard (a little bit), and fuel your workouts.

  5. My Ancestral Sleep Routine (I couldn’t help it)…

    1. Get morning sun exposure (at the same time everyday) to regulate sleep / wake cycles.
    2. Finish last meal at least 3 to 4 hours before bedtime… trust me, you can do this too.
    3. Earthing… you can do it the old fashioned way or you can use grounding sheets like we do (Google it). We go on barefoot hikes all the time… we use an EMF meter to make sure there are no electrical fields around our bed… we turn off the wifi (actually don’t have wifi but you do, so turn it off at night)… put your phone in airplane mode and make sure that there are no electronics (nor lights) anywhere near you.
    4. Your sleep temperature should be between 64 and 68.
    5. Use blackout curtains and blackout blinds… room needs to be pitch black. No battery lights, no night lights, nothing!
    6. Use Himalayan salt lamps at sunset instead of regular lighting.
    7. Wear UVEX safety glasses at least 2 hours before going to bed… this one is seriously a big deal. They cost $9 and they make all the difference. If you’re not going to do anything else, do this!
    8. Last but not least, sleep on the floor like our tribe does… why you ask… because our bodies were never meant to be in a cast, courtesy of your bed, all night. Why do you think you wake up feeling like a stiff Rick. Katy Bowman is a biomechanist and author of Move Your DNA. She sleeps on the floor. She got us sleeping on the floor.

    1. “6. Use Himalayan salt lamps at sunset instead of regular lighting.
      7. Wear UVEX safety glasses at least 2 hours before going to bed… this one is seriously a big deal. They cost $9 and they make all the difference. If you’re not going to do anything else, do this!”

      Talk about “Ancestral” :))) And I’m not even mentionning the scam surrounding Himalayan salt lamps potential health benefits.

  6. Liver King, thanks for sharing. Some out of the box ideas to ponder. Been Primal for over two years, it’s been great. More sleep and water intake are current goals, both I struggle with.

    We are also hikers. What was the transition like to bare feet and what kind of surfaces do you hike?

    Thanks again.

  7. As a former “overweight and/or “out-of-shape”” person, I’ll second Mark’s exercise advice 100%, but would add that it’s worth starting out with a (good) trainer if you haven’t done weight training before (or even if you have).

  8. Loved this!!

    So much fun hearing more about your lifestyle Mark. Can you answer more from that post later on this week?

    I’d love to see an expanded list of your ideal places to live primal?

    Also wondering how you deal with very acute stress, such as losing a loved one, or losing your job, or a cancer diagnosis. I’ve had that trifecta come down all at once this month. I’m stessed to say the least. I’d love to hear how you combat life altering stress, or how you would theoretically.

    Cheers Mark, & Grok on.

  9. So many great questions and answers here. The sleep hygiene one was timely, since that’s something I am really working on right now. I have the UVEX safety goggles that Liver King mentioned. Not the best look on me, but I’m trying to get better about wearing them. And big yes to the very simple answer for someone who is out of shape and overweight…it doesn’t need to be complicated. Walking can be such a mood lifter too! My favorite question/answer was about the ultimate marker…completely agree with Mark on this one…as long as I”m excited about what’s going on in my life, I’m doing something right!

  10. Hi
    One the most useful things I learned when training as a nutritional therapist was about using L-glutamine to prevent/reduce DOMS. It is the best supplement I’ve tried for DOMS: 5-10g straight after a workout is enough after a moderate workout.For heavier workouts, take the same pre-workout and 5g at bedtime as well. It’s worked for all the clients I’ve recommended it to, and I wouldn’t be without it.

  11. Hey, Mark! Maybe you could add Alaska to your ultimate primal food destinations! You could hike through the northern rain forest to a wild river overflowing with sockeye salmon. My husband and I could teach you how to catch your own dinner. (There aren’t many foods that can compare to sockeyes fresh from a river.) You could pick blueberries on the trail home for your dessert. I would recommend cooking the salmon over a camp fire with Alaska grown broccoli and carrots. Doesn’t that sound like fun? 😉

  12. Mark, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on citraline vs. arganine. Thanks