Last week, I shared my evolving relationship with alcohol. I’m off it, basically. A big change has been at night; a glass or two of wine with Carrie used to be my nighttime ritual. It would help me unwind from a stressful day, relax and reconnect with my wife, and get me ready for bed. So when I decided to give up alcohol – or at least make it an occasional rather than regular indulgence – I knew I had to figure out another way to unwind before bed. I haven’t really settled on anything yet. I’ve only explored some of the research on nighttime unwinding and thought I’d share my findings with you.
I’m not going to include routine, everyday advice like “Read a book” or “Have sex” or “Listen to calming music,” despite their effectiveness. You already know about them so it would just be redundant (but do them nonetheless!).
We talk about aging gracefully, but what does it mean? How does one age gracefully? To me, it means ensuring your final years are good ones. Basically, we want to avoid the “regular” maladies of aging like dementia, osteoporosis, blindness, sarcopenia, and immobility. We want to live long and drop dead, not live long and wither away from a host of degenerative illnesses that prevent our ability to enjoy or even experience life, relegated to a bare room tucked away in a building somewhere. That scares me more than anything, more than heart disease or cancer or shark attacks: helplessness.
When I’m nearing 100, I want to be able to…
For today’s Dear Mark, we’ve got four questions. Actually, there are five because one of the questions has two parts. First, I discuss the anti-androgenic effects of peppermint tea. Beneficial for PCOS, a mixed bag for males? Next is a two-parter about heirloom wheat (is it Primal?) and failure stories (do I get email from people who haven’t had resounding success with the Primal lifestyle?). Then, I explain what your dip technique (tricep exercise, not chip consumption method) should look like in order to minimize the risk to your shoulder health. Finally, I help a reader out with a conundrum: being unable to get going in the morning because it’s so dark outside upon waking. My wife Carrie takes over from there, giving her take on a few approaches to feeding an adopted infant.
For years now, across multiple posts here on Mark’s Daily Apple, nighttime blue light has gotten a pretty bad rap. Although I’ve mentioned that blue light during the day is important (and natural sunlight is helpful), I haven’t focused on it, mostly homing in on the circadian-disrupting, sleep-inhibiting, melatonin-blunting effects. As a result, many of you may be entirely unaware of the potential positive, beneficial applications of blue light. Recent and not-so-recent research has confirmed that blue light can actually improve our cognitive abilities, including memory, alertness, reaction time, and executive function – at least in the short term. Oh, and it doesn’t always ruin our sleep. It might even improve it if you expose yourself at the right time.
Wait a minute – blue light is good for us? Sisson, you just got done spending the last few years telling me to excise blue light from my vicinity at night if I wanted a good night’s sleep, and now you’re saying we might actually need more blue light. What gives?
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?