Category: Self-Experimentation

What Screen Time Does to Our Kids (and What We Can Do About It)

For many parents I know, it’s one of those prime examples of “what I thought I’d never do before I had kids” versus “what I ended up doing after I actually had them.” After all, most of us were children of those pre-tech boom years. (Some of us were even pre-T.V.) We never had all the gadgets when we were growing up. Instead, we spent hours of childhood being bored and finding creative solutions that had no connection to a power outlet. Our tech toys were the likes of Lite-Brite or walkie-talkies (if we were lucky), not $600 app-loaded tablets. Summer road trip? That’s what Mad Libs were for.

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The Pitfalls and Limitations of Self-Experimentation

I’m a huge proponent of self-experimentation. We can’t always rely on funding for research relevant to our needs, interests, and desires, and those studies that are relevant are still using participants that are not us. We like control, when it comes down to it. We want to be the arbiters of our own destinies, and running (formal or informal) self-experiments of 1 can help us get to that point. But as helpful as it can be, there are both inherent limits to self-experimentation and common pitfalls people fail to take into account when designing their experiments of one.

I’m not referring to the basics of experimentation, like the need to control for variables or the importance of limiting the number of interventions you test at once. You guys know that stuff. I’m talking about the limitations most people don’t foresee:

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Why Some Like It Hot

We’ve explored the health benefits of cold (water) exposure. What about heat?

I decided to explore the health benefits of acute heat exposure in the form of saunas, baths, and steam rooms for one main reason: the sauna is a near-universal human tradition, and I’m always curious about those. Indigenous peoples of North America had the sweat lodge, those of Central America the temazcal. The Romans had the thermae, which they picked up and refined from the Greeks. Other famous traditions include Finnish saunas, Russian banyas, Turkish hammams, Japanese sentó (or the natural spring-fed onsen), and the Korean jjimjilbang. Are all these many billions of people across time and space sitting in heated rooms for the heck of it?

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Are You Sacrificing Your Health?

There’s that saying people throw out when a hypothetical situation is profoundly unappealing or flat-out unconscionable to them – “Not for a million dollars…”. Not for a million dollars. Not for ten million. Not for…what? Think for a second and identify the most important, precious, valuable principles and priorities that you wouldn’t sacrifice for anything in the world. Got ‘em? Let me ask this: does your health make the list?

If it did, think about how you got to this point. How and when did you decide your health was so comparatively critical? How have you arranged your life to live that priority each day? What’s been a fairly simple adaptation, and what’s required genuine compromise? What options have you been obliged to reject? What people have you disappointed as a direct/indirect result? And what have been the benefits that keep you committed? If health didn’t make your list, let’s put the obvious on the table. Honesty congratulated, why didn’t it register?

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How to Increase Your Heart Rate Variability

Last week, I introduced the concept of heart rate variability – the variation of heart beat to beat intervals. Far from the metronome we might assume it to be, the healthiest heart beat follows a fractal pattern, with varying lengths of time separating each pulse. A higher heart rate variability (HRV) suggests a relaxed, low-stress physiological milieu, while a lower HRV indicates a need for recovery, rest, and sleep. That’s why athletes use HRV monitoring to plan their workouts and rest periods, PR attempts and deload weeks: it eliminates the guesswork. Even if you’re not an athlete, the HRV is a strong diagnostic biomarker for general health and resiliency. Today, we’ll be exploring 16 ways to increase it.

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Have You Checked Your Heart Rate Variability Lately?

People are always looking for that one biomarker to rule them all, the number on a paper that absolutely determines your health, longevity, fitness level, sex appeal, happiness, and productivity. Throughout the years, it’s bounced around as researchers think they’ve found “IT” – from cholesterol to LDL to BMI to small dense LDL to CRP to blood pressure to pulse rate and back again – but we always come up wanting. The “one biomarker” never pans out because biology is complex and irreducible to a single number.

However, there is one biomarker showing promise as a broad indicator of overall health and fitness: heart rate variability (HRV), or the variation in the intervals between heart beats. If your heart beats like a metronome, with intervals of identical length between each pulse, you have low heart rate variability; this is “bad.” If your heart beats follow a more fractal pattern, with beat intervals of varying length, you have high heart rate variability; this is “good.”

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