The leading causes of death and disability worldwide are chronic degenerative conditions. These familiar diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and type II diabetes are increasing globally, at a dramatic rate, in every region, and in all socioeconomic classes. To be clear, chronic degenerative conditions exceed deaths caused by famine, war, and even infectious diseases. Importantly, this was not always the case.
What has changed? Certainly, it hasn’t been our genetics. Our DNA has changed very little in the past hundred thousand years. And yet, we are suddenly experiencing a virtual explosion in the prevalence of these conditions.
To understand why do these conditions are now so widespread, we have to ask if there’s any shared mechanism that underlies chronic degenerative diseases as a group. Indeed there is. In a word, it’s inflammation. All of these conditions represent a consequence of increased levels of inflammation within the body, and higher levels of inflammation can damage heart arteries, the brain, the joints, and even disrupt the function of the immune system allowing cancer to manifest.
So, if inflammation is at the root of what our now the most pervasive diseases on our planet, it really makes sense to explore how our modern world is amping up inflammation as this should clearly provide us some action points to live a healthier and longer life. Continue reading
Look around and ask yourself, could things be better? We believe the answer is a resounding yes. And this is our ultimate goal in bringing out our new book, Brain Wash.
Brain Wash is a functional roadmap for understanding how so much of what characterizes our modern world influences our brains and, most importantly, our decision-making. From our modern diets to our lack of restorative sleep to our virtual addiction to our digital experiences, the trappings of modern times actually conspire to keep us unfulfilled, impulsive, and self-centered. Brain Wash begins by bringing these powerful influences into stark reality. We present a framework for appreciating the negative impact of these exposures, and then provide a set of practical interventions for reclaiming our brains and improving our physical and mental health. Continue reading
When it comes to understanding the importance of sleep, we’re only scratching the surface. But given the recent science on this subject, it’s become quite clear that sleep is simply essential for optimal brain health. From flushing out metabolic waste to preserving memory and improving our emotional regulation, getting better sleep may be the quickest way to make major strides in your cognitive function and your ability to make better decisions. In Brain Wash, we outlined key strategies to help make restorative brain-healthy sleep part of your daily routine. In addition to those fundamental steps, here are three more ways to optimize for great sleep:
- Make sleep a priority. This may seem basic, but as a nation, we’ve largely relegated sleep to a second-class activity—something we do only if everything else is taken care of. But recent research on sleep shows us that this plan is incredibly counterproductive. Our decisions after a good night’s sleep are much better than after sleep deprivation. We’re less likely to overeat and snap at others, and we’re more likely to remember important facts and generally function at a higher level, not to mention all the long-term benefits to our health that seem to come from getting adequate sleep. With all this said, we must carefully weigh any perceived benefit of a few extra hours awake with the real consequences of missed sleep. Once we value our slumber for all its known benefits, we can start giving it the credit it deserves. Make your bedtime a bit more concrete, and your brain will thank you later.
- Make some physical changes. Sometimes, despite putting ourselves in the best mental space possible for sleep, we find our attempts at slumber ruined by the quality of our sleep environment. Our brains are incredibly sensitive to light at night, and blue light especially. With this in mind, making the bedroom as dark as possible should be your objective. Consider investing in blackout curtains if streetlights penetrate your sleep sanctuary. Unplug any LEDs or other bright lights. If loud sounds at night are an issue for you, consider investing in a white noise machine.
- Take a hot shower or a bath. As the body cycles through its circadian rhythm, temperatures rise during the day and fall at night. One way to get your body into the right state for sleep is to help cool it off before bed. A hot shower will feel great, and afterward, your body will cool off. Ideally, try to shower or take a bath around 90 minutes before bed, as this will give your body sufficient time to cool off afterward, getting your system ready for a great night’s sleep!
And if you want to learn more about the science of sleep, browse our focus page on the subject!
It’s an all-too-common scenario. Too many restless nights resulting in a visit to the doctor where you confess that you’re “not sleeping well.” In many cases, this results in your doctor writing a prescription for a sleep drug.
However, the problem is that the depth and restorative nature of the sleep you get on sleep drugs is not on par with good, natural sleep. Specifically, the deeper stages of sleep are interrupted by these drugs which can have profound effects on brain function.
So what can you do to improve sleep? Continue reading
Perhaps by now, you’ve heard of the glymphatic system. Personally, I’ve seen it be a subject both popular media and medical journals are devoting more and more attention to. But, what exactly is the glymphatic system?
Right now, I am in the middle of reading the New York Times bestseller Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, PhD. This is an incredibly informative book with absolutely brilliant supportive science that really explains what is going on when we are sleeping.
Over the past several years I’ve emphasized the critically important role that sleep plays, not only in terms of cognitive health and functionality, but with respect to general health as well. Quoting from Dr. Walker’s book: Continue reading