Today’s episode centers around essential but simple, actionable insights we can all easily integrate into our busy, everyday lives in order to optimize our life and state of health.
One primary focus in this show is highlighting the importance of cultivating (and improving) our morning and evening rituals and habits to optimize all aspects of our health, especially sleep. You’ll learn about how seasonal changes alter the amount of sleep your body needs per night, the science behind why keeping your bedroom clean, sparse, and uncluttered actually leads to better sleep, and why 60 – 68 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for your sleeping environment.
You’ll also learn why it’s important to still go outside even on cloudy, overcast days, the adverse health consequences that come with prolonged periods of sitting/stillness, and the reason why our brains actually require downtime for optimal function.
Getting the optimal hours of sleep is the basis of everything else in a healthy lifestyle. Have a slow-down ritual to prepare for bedtime. [02:26]
The consumption of food is best in the daytime and your sleep environment should be dark and cool. [08:20]
After a good night’s sleep, we are ready for a high-energy morning, up with the sun. [10:30]
Move more. Avoid long periods of sitting. [14:56]
Reduce stress by meditating, doing yoga, taking a nap, and spending time outdoors. Learning to quiet the mind is a challenge in today’s world. [19:33]
It is important to socialize. Put your phone down and talk to people. [24:15]
Eat real food. Eliminate refined sugars, grains, and industrial seed oils. [25:55]
- Brad Kearns.com
- Brad’s Shopping Page
- Lights Out, Sleep, Sugar, and Survival
- The Sleep Revolution
- Dr. Jack Kruse podcast (Part 1, Part 2)
- Brad’s Morning Exercise Routine
- Dave Rossi podcast
- The Talent Code
- Wired to Eat
- The Hungry Brain
- Good Calories, Bad Calories
- The Hacking of the American Mind
- Dr. Tommy Wood podcast episodes (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
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Brad (1m 42s): Hey listeners, let’s call this breather show back to basics with important insights from some of my favorite shows and favorite notes of things that never made it onto shows. We’ll just jump from one important topic to another. But the theme is going to be simple, actionable insights, not getting too complex or deep into the scientific rationale. Just a takeaways because we’re so busy. We can all use the reminder if some of this information is review or familiar, but I love listening to people hitting the same themes, especially about peak performance and focus and things that I struggle with in today’s day and age of constant potential for distraction. Brad (2m 26s): Hyper-connectivity all that stuff. So I’m going to hit that a little bit here, but the first thing I’m looking at is my notes from the great shows from Dr. Tommy Wood. One of my favorite overall big picture, simple, sensible reasonable players in the progressive healthy ancestral health scene. He’s a physician specializing in pediatric brain research at University of Washington and doing his best to live the healthy, happy fit life with his wife. Also a medical research professional up there, and his two epic boxer dogs, some of the greatest animals I’ve ever seen. Brad (3m 6s): But Tommy was really good at pulling out some of the, the basic big picture insights, even though he’s steeped in the science and extremely detailed and knowledgeable about all matters of healthy living. He offered up this top five simple ideas to achieve optimal health and, and number one for him was sleep enough. This has to be number one and everything else flows downstream from getting adequate sleep. I believe that if we focus on our evening habits and rituals, we can go great lengths to improving this often overlooked or lip service topic. Brad (3m 46s): So we all know this is important. We’ve all read the articles there and listened to the experts. Talk about how we need to sleep a certain number of hours a night, which I think when you quoting a number it’s kind of an oversimplification of the big picture of how to sleep optimally. There’s probably a sensibility to say that most of us need between seven and eight and a half hours a night. I also love the insight from one of my favorite books on the subject called Lights Out, Sleep, Sugar and Survival, where they talk about the seasonal variation in your sleep needs, your optimal sleep patterns. And so in the winter, we require more sleep because the days are shorter. Brad (4m 29s): There’s more periods of darkness and darkness is strongly calibrated with our circadian rhythm to wind the brain and the body down and get more rest. So we have a natural tendency to be less active, maybe dialing back our fitness goals and our fitness regimen in the winter, resting more, spending more time in the dark asleep. And then in the summer, because of the longer days and the more light hitting our brains, we have a natural tendency to be more active, even things like consuming more carbohydrates. Naturally we can process those better in the summer. All part of the evolutionary example and accordingly optimal sleep from the authors of Lights Out. Brad (5m 11s): They contend that eight hours is probably a good, optimal goal in the summertime, the long days, and then increasing that to nine and a half hours for most people in the winter. And I realized that because we have the ability to light up our indoor environment and live in an artificially lit world year round, that we don’t have as much seasonal variation as the ancestral evolutionary example. But the more we can correct the more we can get in close harmony with our circadian rhythm, governing our metabolic biological functions by the rising and setting of the sun, the healthier we can get, because we have so many major offenses to circadian function these days. Brad (5m 55s): So what that means is when it gets dark in your environment, whatever time of year, wherever you live, if you live near the equator, it’s, I’m going to be much of a big deal. It gets dark at 5:30 in the winter and 6:30 in the summer, right? But if you in the Northern latitudes, like, like a great percentage of the population does these days, we’re talking about a huge variation, meaning a huge variation in your sleeping patterns. And so when it gets dark, let’s do a little cue here to honor the sunset, respect the sunset, much respect going out to the sunset and just kind of think in the back of your mind, this is the initiation of wind down time. I know that’s cramp your style in Stockholm, Sweden, when it gets dark at 3:42 PM or what have you, but it’s just a little cue that you don’t want to go and do a crazy workout in darkness. Brad (6m 45s): You don’t want to have giant meals. You don’t want to have incredible high stimulatory festivities, and the more you can wind down as it gets closer and closer to your desired bedtime, the healthier you’re going to be. So another goal would be to prioritize that final hour before it’s lights out to calming mellowing activities. Arianna Huffington does a great job in her book, The Sleep Revolution, talking about the wonderful benefits of an evening ritual, where now it’s time to take a bath and pour the soap bubbles in, and you read a relaxing reading, like a leisure reading in the bathtub, get out, change into your pajamas. This is all cues to the brain to trigger a graceful transition from wakefulness to sleepiness. Brad (7m 30s): And we want that melatonin to start flooding the bloodstream in the hours after dark, it’s called dim light melatonin onset. D L M O. It’s a very strong genetically programmed function where the hormone melatonin starts to rise in the bloodstream. It’s known as the sleepiness hormone, but it does a lot more than that. And once it’s in there, you’re going to start having, you know, a slower brain function, a calming relaxing of the central nervous system and other metabolic functions, reduced heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormone function, and ease into a nice, graceful, and efficient period of sleep. But if you interrupt that with a crazy workout in the evening at the gym, with the rock music blaring into your earphones, or of course some of the stuff is allowed, you’re going to go have fun and have an evening of celebration. Brad (8m 20s): That’s going to be a departure from your standard routine. So I’m not saying live like an aesthetic and a, it turned out all the lights when it gets dark and read a book. Boring, boring, but just keep that idea in mind that we want to start winding things down in general, after dark, especially when it comes to eating meals. There’s so much good research on time-restricted feeding and the adverse effects of consuming a significant amount of calories after dark. I know that’s tough to get around, especially in the winter time, but we want to do the best we can to prioritize caloric intake during the well lit hours of the day. And so if you can have these wind down periods at night and then have an optimal sleeping environment, along with the behaviors, the environment is going to be your bedroom. Brad (9m 7s): We want that to be dark cool between 60 and 68 Fahrenheit and completely free of distraction. So there’s no screens, no TVs allowed charge your devices outside of the room, if at all possible, and just keep it simple, spartan, no clutter, no things that are going to provoke a, a stress response because science shows that even looking at a pile of clutter or an unfinished home improvement project in the corner, or having your work desk situated in your master bedroom, all these things are going to be a negative point score. We want a nice, peaceful, simple sleeping environment and achieving total darkness is super important for the sleep hormones. Brad (9m 50s): I did a great show on Dr. Jack Kruse’s article about the checkpoints in the 24 hour circadian rhythm and the hormonal processes that are occurring. So you can listen to that great show where he talks about the best time to exercise, the best time to have sex, the best time to do important high cognitive work. And 12 to 3:00 AM is the time when human growth hormone and other adaptive and restorative body functions really kick into high gear, but they require and are very, very sensitive to light and dark. So they require total darkness to come out and play and repair your brain, repair your muscles, repair all the metabolic functions in your body. Brad (10m 30s): And so we want to have that dark sleeping environment, get a good night’s sleep. And then in hand in hand with our evening sleep patterns, we want to have these high energy high activity mornings where we’re up near sunrise and immediately exposing our eyeballs to direct exposure to sun. I’m not saying staring at the fiery orb that rises in the sky. That’s not a smart idea at any time, but having unfiltered exposure. So not through glass or not through sunglasses, but getting as much natural light as possible into your central nervous system. It’s called the SCN. Brad (11m 11s): Is the receptor of light, the super charismatic nucleus located or sending messages to the hypothalamus through your retina. And boy, when you tell yourself it’s light, when you experienced the lighting of the earth, another day, all kinds of wonderful hormonal processes kick into play a downregulation of melatonin in favor of a rise in the mood-elevating hormone of serotonin. We also get a downregulation of adenosine or a blocking of adenosine. The same thing that caffeine does the sunlight will do if you expose your eyes to direct sunlight in the morning. And adenosine is a neurotransmitter that builds and builds and builds over the course of the day. Brad (11m 52s): And when it goes in high levels, that also contributes to your sleepiness in the evening. That’s why caffeine is so powerful as an energizer because it blocks adenosine, allowing you to feel alert and energized. But getting morning sunlight exposure is superior to a drink of coffee because it also has other consequential effects, including promoting the rise in serotonin the desirable rise in cortisol, the prominent stress hormone that we talk about a lot in a negative context. When we talk about an overly stressful lifestyle, too much cortisol production, but in the morning you want that adaptive and desirable spike in cortisol at rise in serotonin, decline in melatonin, consequently, because serotonin is a precursor to melatonin and then the lowering of adenosine. Brad (12m 43s): So you feel alert and energized. That’s why I’m so enthusiastic about my morning energizing routine, the flexibility, mobility leg, and core strengthening routine that I do every single day immediately upon awakening, always with a direct exposure to sunlight in the winter months, I’m also getting some adaptive cold exposure, cause I’ll go and do that thing outdoors, even in freezing temperatures and in the summertime, same thing, getting the sun on my face as I’m going through the motions. And because I’m getting the blood flowing and doing some medium to challenging exercises, I also always feel better when I finish, even though sometimes it’s a drag to get started. If I’m kind of tired of recovering from hard exercise. Brad (13m 26s): The first thing I do every day, highly recommended is a movement routine. So getting the blood flowing and getting the cobwebs out of your brain, getting the final hormonal responses of dropping that adenosine, rising the wakefulness hormones. It feels fantastic, no better way to get out and move. And if you’re not inclined right now to jump into an ambitious movement regimen, like I present on my YouTube video, it can be as simple as leashing up the dog and heading out the door for a walk first thing in the morning with that direct sun exposure. And when I say sun exposure or light exposure, more accurately, I’m talking about just getting outside, even on a cloudy overcast day in, in the Northern hemisphere, you’re still getting sufficient sun exposure. Brad (14m 14s): You’re getting brightness into that super charismatic nucleus to cause all the beneficial effects. So it doesn’t have to be a bright sunny day in the desert of Arizona. It just means getting outside and getting moving. Oh boy, what if it’s too cold in the winter? So what? Under dress and get a little bit of a chill for your 15 minute walk with your dog. That’s a fantastic hormetic stressor that generates all kinds of health benefits. So our obsession with being comfortable and easing into the day with a cup of coffee and a long lingering morning ritual, where we’re doing the crossword puzzle and looking out the window, let’s try to modify that a little bit to get your butt outside, get a little chily. Brad (14m 57s): Of course you can go back in and take a hot shower and all that wonderful stuff, but we want to regain some of these ancestral traditions where we put our body under certain forms of stress and exposure to become stronger, more energetic and more resilient. So that is just number one on the list of Dr. Tommy’s top five that he offered up on our show. The next one, again, it’s going to be so simple, such a great takeaway. The next one has moved more and Tommy’s quote is lift, walk, sprint, jump, climb, whatever you want. Just get moving. We’ve talked so much about this on the podcast. Brad (15m 37s): I love how he grew up all of those together, right? So we’re grouping in the super hardcore CrossFit enthusiasts that’s going and doing the workout of the day and the, you know, challenging athletic fitness goals, grouping them in with the people who are strolling around, maybe not such a morning person, but just getting used to the idea of leashing up the dog and walking slowly around the block for 15 minutes, these all count toward our urgent objective and quota to achieve a bare minimum of all manner or any manner of general everyday movement. Of course, we have the exercise and fitness objectives that make such a great contribution to long, healthy, happy, vibrant, energetic life. Brad (16m 20s): But if that’s not your thing, if you’re not throwing weights around in the gym anytime soon, and you don’t have a big desire to do that, you do have that obligation to just get up and move more. So we want to start out our day with movement and then set a goal to engage throughout the day with frequent movement breaks and avoid these prolonged periods of stillness, which have so many adverse health consequences. If you Google the cheeky term sitting is the new smoking. You can see all kinds of research talking about how our metabolic function declines, even our cognitive abilities declline. After as short as 20 minutes of sitting at a desk, especially even at a standup desk where we’re one better than sitting our butts in a chair and having all the muscular imbalances and things caused by prolonged sitting. Brad (17m 12s): It’s just the prolonged stillness. That is the big problem. And guess what? It doesn’t take a massive lifestyle overhaul to improve your movement objectives. You simply have to get up and even moving for one minute out of every 20 when you’re sitting at a desk or when you’re engaging in evening digital entertainment. Yes, you’re allowed you had a rough day and you get to celebrate, relax, and enjoy some shows on your favorite streaming service. But it’s certainly easily enough to get up and maybe do some foam rolling in between binge watching. When the little sign on the corner of the screen says, the next episode will begin in 10 seconds, 9, 8, 7. Brad (17m 55s): Yeah. Get up and do some gentle basic exercises stretches, especially when you’re talking about a computer, a digital working environment where you are sitting and typing and not doing much with your body. And I also am a huge fan of micro workouts. So this is where you put your body under some form of challenge resistance load to perform a brief explosive effort as your movement break. So, Hey, that’s great. If you can get up and move and stroll around the office courtyard, or walk down the hall to get another post-it note and return to your desk, or go refill your ice tea and climb one flight of stairs and return to your work situation, but even better would be to huff and puff a little bit in a one or two minute break from work. Brad (18m 42s): I talk about my devices and enticements that are in my visual field all day long. So I can look up and see a pull-up bar in my field of view all day long when I’m working at my computer. And that will make me very likely to go over there and perform even just a single set or pull the stretch cords that are hanging from the pull-up bar, even for 10 or 20 or 30 seconds or a minute long set. And so when can, when we can remove this kind of intimidation factor or this complexity factor to what it means to be physically fit and do a workout, you know, getting in the car, driving over to the gym, looking for a parking space, checking in, seeing if any machines are, are available or we’re going to have to wait a little bit, all that nonsense can be put into a different category of just achieving the basic movement objective, including doing some explosive effort. Brad (19m 33s): When it’s time to take a little bit of break. Next on Tommy’s top five list is reduce stress, quote, meditate, do yoga, take a nap, spend time outdoors. Oh my gosh. Let’s think of all those things that have been so marginalized by our potential for hyper-connectivity and constant digital distraction in everyday life. We do not do enough of piling on the other side of the scales of justice from the stress side of the scale to the rest, relaxation, restoration side. If you can envision that a blind lady with the, the scales of justice and the familiar contraption. Brad (20m 18s): And so I know we do things that we believe are stress balancing or stress relieving. After a long, hard day in the office workplace, we head over to the gym to burn some calories and get a sweat and work on our physical fitness. So that’s a nice way to balance life and it pursue disparate goals. But you have to understand that a workout and a difficult, stressful workday, or a difficult personal encounter that is stressful. All of these things pile on the same side of the balance scale, and we need to do more just general. We need to pursue more general downtime. So yes, sleep will go in that category as the most prominent way to balance stress and rest in daily life. Brad (21m 4s): But this other concept of downtime, which I’m really big on where you perhaps, you know, just pivot in your office chair and stare off into space with no agenda and no podcasts playing in the background and no cognitive demand or going outside and raking the leaves for seven minutes without being on a phone call or thinking about anything else. Meditate was the first thing that Tommy mentioned in his list of things to do. And Dave Rossi, my many time guests on the podcast, such a huge fan of meditation, he’s got his own course for novices to get started and, you know, enjoy this experience rather than feel intimidated. There’s many great apps and things that can get you to be dabbling in this, this challenge of quieting the mind, you know, the, the forgotten art in today’s hyper-connected fast paced world. Brad (21m 53s): So anything that you can do to reduce stress, boy, adding that to the, to the balanced scale would be really nice. Here’s another tidbit. If you’re trying to get better and you’re driven and, and so compelled to pursue these awesome goals of being a better career person or athlete. The research from Daniel Coyle wrote really nicely about this and The Talent Code. I heard more content about this on the Huberman lab podcast recently, the way the brain learns is it requires this downtime to process the input, the stimulus that you’ve been given to it. Great example from the world of golf, the great Ben Hogan, legendary golfer, had this penchant for hitting a lot of balls. Brad (22m 37s): He practiced harder than any other golfer of his time. And he was legendary with his practice habits and his quest for perfection on the golf course. But what he would do on the driving range would be to hit balls for 15 minutes straight, and then he would stop and smoke a cigarette. So we can take that example. Don’t, don’t do that part of Ben Hogan’s ritual, but what he achieved from taking these frequent breaks was this five minute downtime for the brain to process the learning input from working on his golf swing. And I think Huberman was talking about this across a broad range of brain learning and functionality. The violin players mentioned in The Talent Code and the research of K Anders Ericsson is, is showing this to where, you know, to really cement learning, you take these breaks and just sit on the bench, sit on the park bench after shooting a hundred baskets and let it seep in. Brad (23m 33s): Not that you have to replay in your mind and visualize the a hundred shots that you just took, but rather just giving the brain a break to do its work. And of course, a lot of this stuff is accelerated during the sleep hours, too. And there’s the examples of the college student studying for the final exam. Should they cram and put in extra hours and pull an all-nighter or should they just go to sleep with their fingers crossing? Well, I hope I did sufficient studying and the answer clearly is to get that sleep, to embed and process all the hard studying that had been done. So we cannot cross over that balance point of too much input and not enough cognitive refreshment to process the input and get better at what we’re going for. Brad (24m 15s): So that’s the reduce stress. Number three, on the list of Tommy woods, top five ways to achieve optimal health with the simple insights. Number four is socialized quote put down the smartphone have fun with friends and family. Have sex. And that is from a guy who’s at the very cutting edge of scientific research for healthy, optimal living. And so when you can unwind all the, the massive amount of information, we’re thrown out about how to live our lives perfectly and the perfect exercise routine and all the information about diet, boy, it kind of renders this stuff less effective, or almost irrelevant if you’re not nailing the, you know, the true most rich aspects of human life, which is a social connection and all that great stuff about, you know, not only enjoying your life, but making a contribution in that manner. Brad (25m 10s): I was listening to a podcast with Esther Perel. They very popular therapist. She was talking to Peter Attia and she said that we formed our relationship ourself self-concept through or via our relationships with others. So everything’s bounced off of others. This kind of makes sense, right? If you’re doing a, a solo journey along the 2,237 mile Pacific Crest Trail all summer, and the most interaction you have with other humans is a friendly, hello, as you’re passing on the trail, and then you’re left to your own thoughts, your self-concept and the things that are running through your head are gonna be quite different than if you’re engaged in a bunch of high intensity, important relationships in everyday life, such as with family, friends and in the workplace. Brad (25m 55s): So it’s kind of interesting that, you know, the way you get put out the energy that you put out, the way you conduct yourself with others is going to be mirrored and reflected back to you. Meaning that we want to prioritize our social connections and our social conduct, rather than just putting our head down and thinking that whatever it is that we have to do our work or our problems are so important that we can just blow everybody off. That’s the recipe for a mental disaster, isn’t it. So prioritizing socializing, social connection makes the list of the top five and then a fifth is eat real food. And I think Tommy’s tidbit here is quit splitting hairs and, you know, trying to hack this idea of what is the optimal diet. Brad (26m 42s): And then the problem is really simplified no matter who you are and what your belief systems are around food. If you can simply eliminate the big three toxic modern food categories of refined sugars, grains, and industrial seed oils. You are so far down the line to healthy, optimal eating that you’re going to celebrate and be in fantastic shape when it comes to disease risk factors, and every other marker, probably maintaining ideal body composition as well. I’ll put a little caveat here for the very popular plant-based movement, where the decision to exclude the vast majority of the most nutrient dense foods on earth, for whatever reason, not going to judge here and not going to challenge anyone’s moral objections to consuming an egg or a sardine. Brad (27m 32s): But when you do that, you are entering a very high risk dietary mode. And I don’t think that’s an opinion as much as just a statement of factual science. When you’re talking about a nutritional profile of the various foods on earth. Can you do it? Yes, you can. People are thriving. They’re writing a best-selling books about this, and they make some really excellent points to object about the industrialization and the mechanization of modern processed foods. And so when we’re talking about animals produced from feeding operations and chicken coops and adverse farming methods, when it comes to whether it’s fish or cattle or what have you. Brad (28m 18s): Yeah. We need to sit up and take notice and make the best choices possible and not buy in and support that industrial food complex, but rather try to source local and all those great messages. But I will make that distinction when you’re making the decision to go plant based in the name of health, that’s a highly objectionable point of view there just because of what you’re sacrificing. Now, back to the back to the subject, if you can get those hyper palatable, nutrient deficient, heavily processed foods out of the diet, you are going to avoid these common problems of the high carbohydrate high insulin producing, producing nutrient deficient diet, where we are compelled to overeat due to the nutrient deficiency of the staple foods in this grain-based high carbohydrate diet, furthermore, as detailed in great books like Wired to Eat, The Hungry Brain, Good Calories, Bad Calories, The Hacking of the American Mind, Dr. Brad (29m 21s): Robert Lustig. Furthermore, when you leak these foods into the diet, these hyper palatable heavily processed foods, often they combine refined carbohydrates with high levels of fat something that’s completely foreign to our genetic experience as hunter gatherers, right? It does not exist in nature, a Twinkie, an ice cream, potato chips, milkshake, all the things that combine sugar and fat together. These foods hijack the pleasure receptors, the dopamine pathways in the brain, to the extent that they provide that amazing instant gratification. Who can argue that a slice of New York cheesecake isn’t delicious. But what they do is they leave you craving more and more, and you become, in a sense, an addict to these hyper palatable nutrient deficient process foods. Brad (30m 7s): So the goal of just ditching those and transitioning over to real food will get you so far down the path of healthy eating that we need not even continue the discussion until we’re there and wondering, Hey, should I try this carnivore? Or what about keto? What about paleo? What about strict paleo? What about casual paleo? What about plant-based all that stuff can come downstream from cleaning up your diet. So to review, we have inspired by Dr. Tommy Wood and his great shows, the top five ways, simple ways to achieve optimal health. Number one, sleep enough. Number two, move more. And that counts all kinds of movement, including intense exercise, including just walking around the block with your dog. Brad (30m 49s): When you wake up. Number three, reduce stress. Number four socialize, prioritize social connection. And number five, eat real food. Thank you for listening. That was some fun stuff and more to come, let us know what you think by sending an email to email@example.com. Thank you so much for taking the time to leaving a review on the podcast player that you use. Apple podcasts is the most popular, but if you use a little one, a boy, that’s really, really would be fun to be spreading the word to others in that manner. It really helps the show. And oh, as always appreciate your support that dah dah, dah, dah. 3 (31m 31s): Thank you for listening to the show. I love sharing the experience with you and greatly appreciate your support please. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with feedback, suggestions and questions for the Q and A shows, subscribe to our email list of Brad kearns.com for a weekly blast about the published episodes and a wonderful bi-monthly newsletter edition with informative articles and practical tips for all aspects of healthy living. You can also download several awesome free eBooks when you subscribe to the email list. 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