What follows is a transcript for the encore episode Sleep - Dr. Dan Pardi - Neuroscience.
Topics within the interview include the following:
- What we can learn from sleep patterns of hunter-gatherers
- The science behind biphasic and polyphasic sleep
- Exploring sleep chronotypes
- Can you be genetically predispositioned to needing less sleep?
- The relationship between stress and sleep
How toxins affect our sleep cycles and sleep quality
- Human optimization as an identity
Daniel Schmachtenberger: Welcome to the Neurohacker Collective podcast. This is part two in our series with Dan Pardi on sleep optimization. I'm not even going to introduce Dan or do a catch up because this session [00:00:30] is really just a continuation of the last session. If you haven’t seen the last session, part one on foundations of sleep, we'll have a link below. Go watch it first because we're not even going to recap. We're just going to dive in deeper. This is such a deep and critical and rich topic that we wanted to continue beyond what we could fit into one reasonable podcast, and so we're going to just dive on in to where we left off at the end of that last session. Dan, thank you for being back with us so we can go further.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Good to be back. Good [00:01:00] to be back.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: All right, my friend. I know you have a talk coming up soon on hunter-gatherers sleep, and we kind of touched on the topic of circadian rhythms last time and some of the dynamics that are involved in regulating circadian rhythms but let's go deeper into circadian rhythm from an evolutionary point of view. Circadian rhythm are daily rhythms and hormones and other things that affect waking sleeping cycles. Talk to us about hunter-gatherers sleep.
What We Can Learn From Sleep Patterns of Hunter Gatherers
Dr. Dan Pardi: So this is part [00:01:30] of a broader topic of [ancestral 00:01:32] health. I think that the way we try to understand what we need to do to be healthy today is good to go back and think about what were the forces that shaped our genes over millennia that are perhaps not attended to, or of course their environment is different, our lifestyles are different, and so understanding what things were like is a great starting place. It doesn’t necessarily provide direct answers the way [00:02:00] that if hunter-gatherers did something this way, and we need to do it that exact same way in order to be healthy today, but it is a really good starting place. What I like to do is first understand whatever that subject is, how do they eat, what's their movement like, what was their sleep like, and then think what does the current science tell us in these subjects.
Mash those up and then think about ... There is the art of health sciences. You bring it all together to try to make good decisions based off of the [tea 00:02:28] leads you have available to [00:02:30] you. So what is hunter-gatherer sleep like? Well, it hasn’t been well-characterized up until recently, but there has been some investigations, one which was led by Jerry Siegel, who I interviewed a while ago, that looked at three different hunter-gatherer societies, the San, Tsimane, and the Hadza. These are modern day hunter-gatherers that live like our ancient ancestors did as well so they are not influenced by the forces of modernity.
How do they sleep? Well, the thought [00:03:00] leading into this research, at least one hypothesis had been that these communities sleep longer. They go to bed when the sun goes down and they wake up when the sun goes up. What this works found is that the characteristics of these three disparate communities were actually all quite similar. In fact, they didn’t sleep more than what estimates are of modern hunter-gatherers but rather they slept a little less, or I would say they slept on the lower end of what is considered the normal [00:03:30] range.
What was that timing? About 5.7 to 6 and a half hours per night. Sounds was pretty low, but we hear we should be getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. That’s according to the national sleep foundation. A really important distinction here is how people report their sleep and how sleep studies analyze sleep, so if I were to ask you Daniel, "What was your sleep last night," people might say, "Well, I went to bed at midnight and I woke up at 8 and therefore, I slept 8 hours." You do not say, [00:04:00] "I went to bed at midnight I woke up at 8. I had 85% sleep efficiency and therefore I slept 6 hours and 42 minutes, and I had this amount of wake time after sleep onset."
That's what a sleep study will report to you, so when you hear the statistics that these communities averaged 5.7 to 6 and a half hours per sleep per night, then that doesn’t mean that you want to spend that amount of time in bed, that’s all the time you need in bed. In fact, if you looked at their sleep period, [00:04:30] so that's different than sleep time, sleep period is what you report. Well, that is the amount of time they spent in bed to get the sleep that they got. Their sleep period was 7 to 8 and a half hours, which falls right in line with what the National Sleep Foundation and their estimate or their analysis of the literature on science and how much sleep that we need tells you, so actually they are less often you'd think.
Other things, did they nap? What do they sleep on? Well, they sleep on these platforms that [00:05:00] they make. They have temperature fluctuations that are across the night, of course, so the temperature drops. All of these communities, the average temperature was somewhere between 55 to 90 across a 24 hour period of the day, across the seasons, and so a couple times a year, then the temperature is getting down to about 55° at the lowest point. If you think about modern sleeping environments they tend to be oftentimes too hot. That can [00:05:30] disrupt sleep, but they also don’t change over the night. We don’t know if changing environmental temperature is in any way important for optimizing the depth of sleep that you get, but it’s a hypothesis that’s worth exploring. We talked about it in that interview.
Actually, with modern smart homes, you might actually be able to work with your [nest 00:05:48] device or other electronic devices to actually emulate a minor condition such as this so you go to bed and the temperature is, let's say, 67 and over the course [00:06:00] of the night it drops 4 to 5°, and then it rises up a little bit again. So that is interesting to observe that in those populations, and it’s also interesting to think about what we might be able to do about it now. You actually might still be, you might be able to emulate environmental conditions that mimic what was happening on the [FISA 00:06:17] scene even if you’re in Minnesota and it's -20° outside. The fact that we have temperature control could be ... is not always a good thing, but it can actually be a good thing when we take the knowledge that we have, what we think is useful, and [00:06:30] then we can basically emulate what those conditions are.
Light is a good example of that. Smart homes and offices in the future will also try to emulate what natural light is like so we get blue enriched white light during the day, much more like sunlight, even though it's not as intense, and then also as the day goes on and outside the tone and intensity of light is changing, then your environment will do the same so then help you produce the hormones that help you initiate sleep and keep the timing of your sleep [00:07:00] consistent day-to-day.
A lot of this stuff doesn’t happen now unless you have the knowledge and you're working to implement that into your life. This is what I do, so whether you put on glasses or you use certain types of filters on your electronic devices so they admit less blue light. The point being here is that it’s an exciting time and technologies perhaps could save us from ourselves because it's interfered a lot. What else to go back to the hunter-gatherer sleep? [00:07:30] Now, when you go into those sorts of environments, it’s difficult to bring an entire sleep lab. So what you lose in resolution, you gain in observing really more naturalistic behaviors.
Did they nap? Well, these hunter-gatherers were instrumented with actographs, which are things that monitor light and also physical activity. The algorithms are pretty well defined, if you’re trying to sleep and you can then look at how much movement a person is undergoing to then predict sleep stages. It’s not detecting those sleep stages [00:08:00] directly by using EEG or electroencephalography to then look at brainwave activities. There’s new tech that's coming on that can do that, but as sleep research has done enough analysis to pair up, these are movement patterns that take place during the sleep stage, you can be just [half 00:08:22] of movement patterns. You could say, "Well, this is probably happening."
Now, it's harder to detect if somebody is napping during the day just by low periods of movement [00:08:30] so you have to make some decisions. You have to say, "Well, there's absolutely no movement for 15 minutes in a row." Then that might constitute a sleep period, or a nap. What they found, at least in Jerry Siegel’s work, is that napping didn’t occur often. There were some differences across different times of the year. David Sampson has now followed up doing additional work looking at different communities, some of the [hots 00:08:54] as well, and he found that they do nap so we have a bit of a disparity in what the research is telling us. I think [00:09:00] the point is is that we know plenty of societies and cultures around the world do nap, and I think that instead of trying to find is there a one natural pattern, I think that we find that multiple different patterns are probably natural and fall into the range of healthy, as long as you’re getting, again, adequate sleep, and you can maintain a biphasic pattern and still be ... without having major consequences to your health.
The Science Behind Bimodal and Polyphasic Sleep
Daniel Schmachtenberger: So let’s talk about the people who got [00:09:30] sleep in two separate phases, so bimodal sleep.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah, so a researcher by the name of [inaudible 00:09:38], he's at Virginia Tech, made a lot of noise a couple years ago. It was published all over BBC, USA Today, etc. about his work, where he was ... He’s a historian, but he was looking into historical texts and identifying that it was common in those texts for the author [00:10:00] to describe a period of first and second sleep, as he called it. So people would go to bed early. They'd have an awake period in the middle of the night. During that time they would sit around a fire, have sex, work on things, and then they would fall back asleep for a second sleep period.
The response to that was that we’ve not been sleeping naturally by sleeping in one consolidated chunk, and this is actually the right way to do it. I don’t think that that’s correct. I think, again, what you found is probably, what that [00:10:30] sort of data tells you is that this was done previously. It doesn’t tell you that a monophasic sleep period is actually abnormal. So yeah, that’s ... The important part here is that people that do have middle of the night arousals might, if they are experiencing that as insomnia, it might just be more of a natural rhythm. So if you go to bed early, then wake up for a few hours and go back to sleep, that can cause a lot of anxiety.
Insomnia is really more of an anxiety disorder. It has multiple different types, [00:11:00] but if you worry about your sleep, that is almost the surest way to then have your sleep be disrupted and be impaired. The good that can come from that is that if you realize, "Hey, I have this weird pattern that doesn’t match what is commonly described," then you can still be okay. You just need to make sure that you’re getting adequate sleep.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: I want to come back to insomnia and anxiety in a little bit but I want to continue on this for a moment. Obviously, if there are people who got up during the agrarian period, [00:11:30] in the middle of the night, they sat around a campfire, they didn’t turn on lights that were very blue and very bright, so they weren't going to affect their circadian rhythm exogenously in that kind of way. They didn’t turn on the TV that has fluctuating light and a lot of arousal stimulus, so the idea that someone might want to get up during the middle of the night and go back to sleep as opposed to lay there stressing out, awesome. What they do during that time matters.
They probably want to do things where they don’t come into full [00:12:00] hyper-stimulation, if that’s avoidable, and some might have where they just have discrete phases of sleep at different points in the day, but I think it’s interesting because that work, as I saw it, was mostly not hunter-gatherer period. It was agrarian period, right?
Dr. Dan Pardi: That's right.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: It was already different because you have to wake up at a certain time to deal with the livestock, and so you have to ... It was the beginning of changing evolutionary environment, [00:12:30] so it indicates some previous things but not necessarily evolutionary things.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah. That's right. Yeah, previous anthropological patterns that we’ve been able to identify through historical texts. Now, is there enough time between some of those early texts to have some evolutionary adaptation? Possibly, but again that's very ... It's not a lot of time in terms of evolutionary scope, but yes, it still does matter. The amount of, the sophistication of the technology that we invent [00:13:00] can be a good thing but it also has a chance of disrupting our patterns, our natural patterns, with more strength and so when you move from a hunter-gatherer existence into more of an agrarian, even horticulturalists to domestication animals, plants, industrialization, you're going to have, if you have a candlelight and time pressure to get up and farm the fields versus wake up whenever and then go and hunter-gather, that’s one shift. It's a bigger shift when you have high-definition, high-definition [00:13:30] television screens, and work that’s coming in at all times of the day. If you’re an executive, then you’re dealing with some time zone that’s far away and you’re taking a call at midnight just to be up with your team, that’s common but that’s new.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: So for the most part what we call recorded history has not been long enough to affect our evolutionary biology via natural selection all that much, maybe some epigenetics, but [inaudible 00:13:53] hunter-gathers interesting, this ancestral health is interesting. I think one of the main things we find is there is some common patterns, [00:14:00] but there's also a lot of differences because we're a very adaptive species. Inuits probably had some different sleep dynamics than people in Polynesia because duh, that's a fairly different adaptive environment. So I’m curious about a couple of other things from this. I actually don’t know the research on this, but I have heard things about, that obviously in an evolutionary environment, you didn’t want to have everyone asleep at once.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yes.
Can You Be Genetically Prone to Needing Less Sleep?
Daniel Schmachtenberger: So you had some people who were watching and that there might have been, [00:14:30] there’s a hypothesis that you end up having night owls and early birds that are actually genetically different because they were people who took night shift, who took different rotations. Can you talk on that?
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah. The sentinel behavior. Some of the early thoughts and hypotheses around this is that one of the reasons why teenagers have what's called delayed sleep phase syndrome, which means if they ... It’s very common if you have a teenager that you’re yelling at them to go to bed. [00:15:00] It's 1 o’clock and they're up on their phone and you're telling them, "Go to bed, stop playing with whatever. You've got school in the morning," there’s a reason why teenagers tend to stay up late. It's because that age group, it's common for them to have what's considered delayed sleep phase syndrome, which means that they just don’t get sleepy until later.
The hypotheses has been, that was one of the first adult responsibilities that a teenager had, that they would be up watching your tribe while the rest of the tribe slept. What [00:15:30] David Sampson’s work has recently shown in his population is that there was very little time, even in a small community of 20 to 50 people, that everybody would be asleep at the same time, so you had people that would wake up extra early, you would have people that would stay up very late, and at any given time, there was always somebody awake. In fact, I think, I'm not going to remember the statistics exactly, but it was something like out of 200 days' worth of data they collected on sleep, [00:16:00] that there was only 18 minutes where they could detect that everybody was asleep at the same time, which is pretty-
Daniel Schmachtenberger: Not a good idea.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah, exactly. To watch out for the lion, watch out for the intruder, watch out for something that could harm the group, makes complete sense. What was fascinating about it is even in this small group of people that those behaviors were maintained of having somebody up at all times.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: Teenagers in that is one thing, who have a genetic predisposition holistically. [00:16:30] I have seen some mouse studies that showed nocturnal predispositions or early predispositions. I think it was the FB Excel 3 genes and there was some interpretation that would be relevant for humans. Is there some indication that circadian rhythm is actually genetic and not the same, that there are people that have predisposition towards altered circadian rhythms?
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yes, there’s been some good papers on this recently. We know this to be true. There are owls [00:17:00] and larks is how we describe these different types of phenotypic expression of when you feel like being up, when you're most alert, when you perform at your best, and when you feel like sleeping, and so it’s very ... The nice thing about it is knowing in the future as we become more aware about these genetic tendencies, then we can create work environments that enable people to not have to try to fit everybody into one [00:17:30] sort of square, that you get to take part in your work, particularly with the freelance economy.
You've got to do your work when you feel best. If you're groggy in the morning, you can take a lot of time to get up and get going, but then you might be working well into the night and that feels good to you. If you maintain consistency with that pattern, that can be very healthy. What’s not healthy is when we have alternating, rapidly alternating, changes in our circadian timing. The body doesn't work as efficiently, [00:18:00] and people who do that oftentimes can feel very ... I wouldn't say dysfunctional, but far from optimal, sometimes dysfunctional. So it’s hard to remember, it’s hard to think, you’re not as alert, your body’s not working as well. You could gain [fat 00:18:14]. Pretty much the system, the body systems, are not working well.
Going back to this, yes, we do have tendencies. Again, hopefully in the future we'll have really good clarity about what those tendencies are from a genetic perspective, and then you'll have [00:18:30] a societal structure that allows for people to, again, participate in a work culture but not try to force everybody to do ... "Hey, we've got a meeting at 7 AM Monday morning. Be there." That can be really painful for people and it can ruin their productivity for the rest of the week.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: So this is an issue with the way we do statistics in science in a new area before we've learned how to do, say, phenotypic understanding. If you're putting everything on a Bell curve and you have a predominant phenotype, then of course you're going to average to the predominant phenotype [00:19:00] in a way that might be totally inappropriate. I'm curious to hear your thoughts on, there's so much in the literature about the timing of sleep is important, not just the regularity but the hours of sleep one gets before midnight are more meaningful. You have more HGH, etc. than after midnight. I would imagine that that is probably based on primary phenotypic expression, and true for most people but not true for everyone, but that degree of insight wasn’t actually clear in the studies.
So [00:19:30] then, of course, I think for most people early to bed, early to rise, generally earlier to bed, earlier to rise is actually good. It’s actually well-aligned with evolutionary biology. Well, people have a hard time with that, and they actually feel better when they have a later schedule, then it can be stressful for them to think they’re getting shitty sleep. Can you say anything about ... I’m sure this isn’t right, but I have heard that there is a distribution that's guessed at like 15% in the lark, 15% in the owl and some in [00:20:00] the center of the Bell curve. Does that seem like what you might expect, and how do you inform people to standardize to a best practice versus to what they notice works well for them?
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah, 15 to 25% on both sides that have more extreme tendencies. You’re right, you cannot use population averages too proscriptively so because this whole group of people’s averaged 8 hours of sleep or went to bed at this time performed well. Therefore, you need that. It’s a good starting place, but the individual [00:20:30] is different than the group average. So for example, just using sleep time as an example, if you were to say, "Yeah, the average of this group was 8 hours of sleep. That's what they needed," and I said, "You should get this and this is what you actually need," then I could be prescribing you too much sleep or I could be prescribing you not enough.
If you tend to be one of those people that needs more, then I’m prescribing a sleep debt, and if you tend to be one of those people that needs less, you [00:21:00] actually might develop insomnia because then you’re getting to bed, you're laying there, you're worrying about your sleep and it creates a situation that's right for producing insomnia.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: You take the best practices as a starting place. Pay attention to what actually works for you and don’t stress on it. If it works for you doesn’t [take 00:21:15] the best practice.
Dr. Dan Pardi: That's perfect. Perfect example.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: You talked to me about polyphasic sleep. Since we talked about the possibly of bimodal sleep, where someone is sleeping in two different sleep chunks. What about more than two sleep chunks?
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah. This is some work that gained popularity [00:21:30] a few years back. I don’t hear much about it these days. I'm not surprised. It was originally devised by the military as a strategy to help people perform better after multiple days of inadequate sleep. So let’s say you’re on a mission and there is not a good place to sleep. You're up for a hundred hours. If you sleep in small increments along the way, if the opportunity allows, will you perform better at hour 95 to 100 than you would’ve if you didn’t get [00:22:00] 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there? The answer seems to be yes.
That literature was then interpreted as, "Well, we only need ..." You can actually absolve yourself of needing to get 8 hours of sleep or 7 hours of sleep by sleeping in these 20 minute chunks. There was a lot of problems with that sort of analysis. One of them was that they were prioritizing certain sleep phases, like REM sleep, as most important and the only thing that was actually really necessary. What happens is when [00:22:30] you don’t get enough sleep, there is ... You'll actually get deep sleep and REM sleep more robustly and sooner, but it’s actually because the expression of a buildup of pressure for those. It means you're not getting enough.
What you really want is to have regular, the really most important part about circadian timing is a regular period for you. Your period could be later, where you wake up late and go to bed late, but you want to try to maintain that pattern. Your body will work best [00:23:00] if it’s consistent in that you’re going to bed at three in you're waking up at let's say 10 or 11. If that’s your pattern, great. Try to keep it consistent. If that’s shifting though regularly, then that could be a problem. The people that, I would say that people that do have that pattern naturally are a bit disadvantaged because a lot of modern life, it's easy to stay up later but it’s not always easy to not get up earlier.
There are just things in life that make us have to get up earlier, particularly if you’re [00:23:30] not just a freelancer, but you work at a company that has meetings at 9, for instance. So that is some of the vulnerabilities of that phenotype, where if you ... The result of it is that if you just have to get up early a couple nights a week, excuse me, get up early a couple mornings week, it might mean that you’re really operating in what’s identical to jet lag and you’re going to be [00:24:00] suboptimal. It might be adequate. You might be able to do a fine job for the task at hand, but you probably are unlikely to access your best work.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: It’s interesting. I know there's a whole group that got into polyphasic sleep, as you mentioned two years ago. I know Tim Ferris about it in Four Hour Body, and the military pioneered it for obvious reasons. There were people that pioneered it long before. Bucky Fuller was famous [00:24:30] for pioneering this on his own, and a lot of inventors and artists like Tesla and Salvador [Dolly 00:24:37] did these very strange sleep schedules because one, they didn't have to interface with the world and two, they found sometimes they would do long sleep and then very long wake periods because they wanted unbroken consciousness for a while.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yes.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: They wanted to be able to fall asleep the moment they had any tiredness at all, do these shorter naps. When they gave themselves permission to do their own thing, and you can [00:25:00] imagine that from an evolutionary environment, you want some people awake, a few people awake when the tribe is sleeping but otherwise you actually want the tribe large awake at the same time so they can do shit together. Three is a [coherence 00:25:10] pressure beyond the individual [optimization 00:25:11] pressure. You can imagine if you remove someone from the coherence pressure and they just aren't finding their own individual optimization and relationship to their work, it might look like very different expressions.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yes. I think programmers today experience that. I know a few, where you get into the zone and it takes a while to get [00:25:30] to that place where you are really in a flow state and you don’t want to disrupt it. You want to work in that flow state until you recognize your performance is no longer there. That might not fit standard sleeping patterns. I've known some people that have gotten into some trouble with that. If you have, here’s the problem with maintaining altering sleep schedules. In a situation where you have full autonomy over your schedule and you can just, again, be up for a day and a half [00:26:00] doing really incredible stuff, but then sleep for a while, that’s good but now let's take another example of somebody who regularly gets naps at 3 in the afternoon, 2 in the afternoon.
That is a period, a 24 hour period, where to have the circadian dip, which is in our alertness drive, so all the sudden there’s a mismatch between the amount of sleep pressure we've built up and how much that sleep pressure is being counteracted by our awake system. When there's a dip there, that causes you to be a little sleepy so it’s hard, even if you’re very sleepy during the day it’s hard to actually sleep unless you’re in [00:26:30] that zone. Most naps take place then. Most countries that have a siesta, that’s when the siesta is. There are reasons for that, but if you are in a culture where you're usually getting a nap during that time and your body trains to that pattern but today you actually have to drive from San Francisco to San Jose at that time, then you’ve trained your body to be really sleepy at that time, and that can be dangerous if you're driving.
If you're just having a meeting with somebody, you can certainly [00:27:00] not perform very well, so it can be a bit risky when you don’t have full autonomy of your schedule, but that’s again where there is the art of health promotion and health education. Then there’s also the art of personal health practice, which is you making decisions in your life about what’s going to work, oftentimes by trying to understand what the literature tells us as best as possible and also by then understanding the realities of your world and what's going to work. There’s no hard and fast rules, I’d say. There can be [00:27:30] on some things but a lot of what we're discussing are not, but even then, I will oftentimes if I'm a bit sleepy, I will avoid taking a nap and just try to go to bed earlier.
That works for me because I want to try to maintain regularity of that schedule, but I also know that occasionally if I've just not been getting enough sleep, I will absolutely take a good long nap and that can help me really catch up where even, more so than just what I could if I was just getting a full night sleep. A little turning that back to a specific [00:28:00] conversation about naps. Then, is there any more points about polyphasic sleep? Yeah. The other important point here is that you also have to look at what people say and juxtapose that against what was the sensibilities at the time? If people at the time ... Sleep was considered something that was laziness, that was sort of anti-productive.
Now, we have an appreciation of sleep and so the tide has completely turned [00:28:30] and you see companies like Google, etc. with sleep pods, and so now it’s more celebrated. Sleeping is not laziness. Sleeping is self-preservation, it is taking good care of yourself. It’s the equivalent of not eating a Twinkie. So when you hear people like Edison say, "I only got X amount of sleep per night," they were either one of the genetically few people that actually had no [untoward 00:28:54] side effects from getting very little sleep, which is possible, or they were lying or [00:29:00] not representing what their actual sleep patterns were, and that is possibly too. That has absolutely happened, and it’s hard to know at this point without being able to analyze some of these people who've claimed this what was actually going on there.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: Let’s talk about people who have genetically less sleep need and then the polyphasic claims because I think there's an interesting intersection. There are people that just actually need less sleep. It’s a small percentage of the population, [00:29:30] something like 3% of the people that actually really wake up refreshed continuously on 6, 6 and a half hours’ sleep, compared to 7, 8, 9 hour sleep.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Even less than that.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: I have seen some at the 5-
Dr. Dan Pardi: Right. 4 or 5. Yeah.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: I think there are a few genes that we've seen correlation with the [DEC 2 00:29:50] genes and then a few others. With that one, and I think it’s probably too early to know and I haven’t done the research well, but my superficial understanding is [00:30:00] that those genes correlated to specific processes regarding circadian rhythm regulation that the people who were sleeping six hours and less per night and being well-refreshed actually had the same amount, the same amount of time, of Delta and REM sleep and just less of the light phases of sleep. So it basically regulated the ratio of time that people were in the deeper phases. That makes a lot of sense, that basically [00:30:30] they're sleeping more efficiently because they are getting more potent phases for a longer percentage of the time. Then it would make sense that people start trying to optimize and say, "Okay, I don’t have those genes but can I optimize for the percentage of time that I’m in the deeper phases?"
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah. There’s compensation. All of us might have a ... If you were to be put into an environment that was fully permissive for you getting what we'll call complete sleep, the exact amount of sleep that your body would want, there [00:31:00] is a buffer that we all have to get a bit less and not have major side effects. Particularly, you have consistency. So let's say just to make the numbers easy, you need 8 hours of sleep and you’re always going to bed at the same time, midnight and waking up at 8. You could probably do pretty well if you only were getting 7 hours of time in bed, but you are maintaining a really consistency phase, the timing, and you would see some efficiency.
[00:31:30] It might not be optimal, but what you lose in terms of the benefits of more complete sleep to the hour that you gain, then also again you might not really detect if there’s a big difference there. The thing about the people that get 4 to 5 hours of sleep without [untoward 00:31:51] side effects, you wonder are they just getting very high sleep efficiency only and they've gotten rid of the lighter stages, [00:32:00] or are they also getting more recovery from even less REM or sleep, the actual physiological processes behind the expression of REM or non-REM is more efficient? That’s hard to detect. It’s always interesting, though. We spend a third of our lives sleeping, and so the desire to gain more life by figuring out a way to get more time awake without consequence is, I get [00:32:30] it. I get it. It’s sort of been in the same realm of extending maximal lifespan and aging, would be really nice to have but there’s nothing that has been discovered so far that has resolved our innate need for getting the sleep that we need.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: We can talk about the need for less sleep from a genetic perspective, and I think that’s a partial understanding. We can also talk about inducible increased or decreased sleep needs so when you talk about increased efficiency [00:33:00] of repair. We could also talk about decreased damage happening during the day because of actually a more efficient physiology. If we know that during sleep the body is addressing inflammation, it's addressing oxidative stress and radical damage, if someone had less oxidative damage happening while they were awake, if they had less inflammation, it’s a reasonable line of thought to say they might actually need less total sleep because there's less repair to have [00:33:30] happen.
So it's possible that people who need less sleep might just have more efficient physiologies genetically, but the claim has ... I've seen the claim so many times and I’m just kind of curious, speculating here, that somebody goes to [inaudible 00:33:46], they go to some meditation retreat where they're actually in a profoundly low amount of psychological stress, and maybe physiologic stress, and they're like, "I don’t feel like I need hardly any sleep. I feel very well rested," and maybe not enduringly [00:34:00] but for a period on very little sleep, or when people are juice fasting and [inaudible 00:34:05] restriction. You think, "All right. Well, how much work does it take to digest a lot of food? Is it possible that when you decrease the total amount, you are decreasing what the body has to process, that it might actually have less sleep need?"
The idea that if we decrease the psychological and physiologic stresses and increase the efficiency of process, that that might be part of the story, it also seems quite likely [00:34:30] because we know that when people are ill, they need more sleep, whether it’s just a cold or whether it’s an autoimmune disease, because their body has a lot more to do on the repair side.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah. One of the ... There’s some truths there, and that’s why we don’t have a specific sleep number that is [infungible 00:34:51], like I get 8 hours exactly every night, but our body is always processing stress, whether it's psychological or physiological, and sometimes [00:35:00] we need more and less, even depending on where we are in that moment. If you think about, what we tend to think of very, very healthy people, so young athletes, particularly like work with Stanford athlete ... Sherry [inaudible 00:35:16] did some work with them, and you see that those people don’t need less sleep. They need more.
Part of being healthy is enduring light stressors that, like we see [00:35:30] with cold exposure, heat exposure, even xenohormetic compounds from food. These are things that actually will up regulate your endogenous detoxification systems by eating them. We tend to think, "Oh, the vegetables are really good for us. They provide vitamins, minerals." It's actually these other vital nutrients that cause a little bit of stress to the body, which then keeps it stronger. It’s like getting a suntan, a little bit of exposure will stimulate the production of vitamin D. Too much exposure will burn you, so being healthy is not avoiding stress but it’s actually [00:36:00] getting the right amount of stress on a regular basis across a variety of different domains that your body then recovers from adequately.
People that are getting a lot of physical activity, they actually perform much better, whether it’s shooting accuracy, whether it’s sprint speed, reaction time, whether it’s their mood. When they are told to spend 9 hours in bed versus getting let's say 8, said, so they feel like, "I’m getting a great amount of sleep," and they're told to get more, [00:36:30] and they perform better. That’s the trend of the data right now.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: I think the most obvious example there is bodybuilders. If someone’s in hypertrophy, there's just a huge amount of actual physiologic repair because they're beating the issue up and there’s a lot of anabolic process that has to happen and so 9 or 10 hours sleep might be important, whereas if they weren't bodybuilding they might be fine on 8. Then they have to decide to invest in it. This is interesting, defining what we mean by health, because it's not one [00:37:00] thing. [inaudible 00:37:00] medicine coming from the yoga tradition said people shouldn’t exercise beyond 60% of their peak capacity because they were not focused on athletics. They were focused on longevity, and they were looking at longevity in relationship to not having peak stress occur.
They definitely talk about decreased sleep need, if you'd [write 00:37:20] decreased stress dynamics. I think we probably don’t know this topic, enough detail, but the idea [00:37:30] right now, people should all sleep more, for the most part, and do everything they can to get enough good quality sleep. The ability to have increased efficiency of that sleep through both technologic and other means that might decrease the total need without decreasing the amount of repair is certainly an interesting future sleep hacking topic.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah, and one caveat too, to this whole conversation, particularly with the polyphasic sleep, people found that once they acclimated [00:38:00] to that schedule, they could get a 20 minute nap and feel quite refreshed, and so by purging sort of the sleep pressure metabolites that had built up causing people to feel more sleep, causing people doing this to feel more sleepy, they could purge those pretty quickly. There’s also an alteration in ion balance around neurons, which will then cause alertness as well. It's one of the reasons why naps are more restorative than you’d expect, given the amount of sleep that someone gets into.
It’s not a lot of sleep, but it’s quite refreshing where you have improved [00:38:30] cognitive performance for 6 to 10 hours after the nap, and so there’s ... Yes, those things can happen, but are you ... Let's say you can manipulate one aspect of cognition or something that you’re basing, "How do I feel," off of, "Do I feel very sleepy right now," you also might not be giving your body enough time for full recovery of your kidneys, or for purging of beta-amyloid that’s accumulating in the brain, and so that’s why in the future [00:39:00] as we develop more powerful interventions that can intervene in sleep and can potentially cause efficiency, we’ve got to be vigilant to whether or not it’s fully restoring the body in every way you want it to, or is it manipulating aspects that you care about but it’s also putting you in a risky situation. That’s a possibility too. It'll take time to figure all that out.
How Inflammation, Mental Health, and Our Modern World Affect Sleep Quantity and Quality
Daniel Schmachtenberger: Let’s talk about things that damage sleep, that either [00:39:30] increase the total amount of sleep need that someone has, or create sleep issues or decrease sleep quality because we know a lot of people that have to spend more time in bed or no matter how much time they spend in bed are still not refreshed because of things going on in their physiology and psychology. Let’s get into some of the primary sources and mechanisms that mediate that.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah. Like most things in physiology, sleep itself, there's a U-shaped curve that [00:40:00] describe the amount of sleep we need that tends to associate with better health outcomes, and so you if get less, which we most commonly talk about, then there are impairments to both mental performance and physiology, but there’s also impairments to physiology when you’re getting more than you need, and this is where the conversation gets a little bit confusing because on one hand, you do have naturally long sleepers like you have naturally short sleepers, and so just looking at sleep time, it’s difficult to prescribe [00:40:30] what’s going on or to decipher what’s going on just based off of sleep time itself.
You have to know what the person’s history was because the person might be sleeping longer because they have a chronic infection. The chronic infection is causing inflammatory markers that are promoting sleepiness and longer sleep, and that is a very different situation that somebody that naturally just sleeps longer feels fully refreshed, and that’s just their sleep need.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: There's a correlation causation thing here where all the articles that have said sleeping too long is bad for you [00:41:00] feel irresponsible to me because the main reason that people are sleeping too long is something else that has already bad for them is happening and the sleeping too long is a side effect, not the cause of the poor health issue. I’ve never seen anything that showed increased amount of sleep that wasn’t related to some physiologic stress that increased sleep desire is a pathological vector in and of itself. That seems like a mistaking correlation and causation.
Dr. Dan Pardi: That is such [00:41:30] an important point to make. I’ll give you an analogy. Work in Alzheimer's space, you notice that the accumulation of amyloid beta, which is a protein aggregate that associates with the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease, work that looked to try to just get rid of amyloid actually made the situation worse. The response of producing these purging aggregates of beta-amyloid was a response by the body to protect itself. So yes, we do want to see a reduction in beta-amyloid, [00:42:00] but we also don’t want to sort of- We want to promote it, the better clearance of it in a healthier system. We don’t want to be removing something that is actually helping the situation further.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: Even LDL. LDL has protective responses where artificially lowering it with statins can increase damage that’s happening to the vascular system that LDL was actually a predicted response to.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah. We see this a lot in science, health science.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: If we come back [00:42:30] to sleep, when we say increased amount of sleep, beyond people who are sleeping 9, 10, 11 hours, it's bad for you, that really seems like nonsense to me. The thing is that if you have stuff that’s bad for you going on, you're probably going to be sleeping more and we can see correlation, but we shouldn't be trying to tell these people, "Force yourself to sleep less when you're fucking exhausted." We should say, "Let's actually look at inflammation and chronic infection, stress and what's going on for you."
Dr. Dan Pardi: That's absolutely right. It is a great opportunity to say, "Hey, take a deeper look." You don’t want [00:43:00] to end there. If somebody is now needing 9 to 10 hours of sleep where before, 5, 10 years ago, they were getting 8 hours, well it's good to know that history. Now they're needing more than they used to. That’s abnormal. Something is probably going on, but have you always slept that long? Also, what age are you? Sometimes if you’re younger, things can change more unpredictably depending if you're going through a growth spurt or if you're dealing with other sorts of stressors going on in your body, and so [00:43:30] you have to look at the time, the history of the person.
Then what I would say is, if you are getting 9 to 10 hours of sleep per night and you are also waking up and you don’t feel refreshed, that’s really key as well. This is idiopathic hypersomnia, which means it’s unexplained why this person remains sleepy despite the great amount of sleep that they're getting. That is a miserable situation. It’s treated very similar to how narcolepsy is treated with stimulants, but with narcolepsy, they're missing a protein [00:44:00] that is orchestrating arousal and with idiopathic hypersomnia, yes give them stimulants and that can help, but again we don’t exactly know what's happening to generate that response.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: That's what the word idiopathic means, right?
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah, exactly.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: Anytime we have a disease that we label idiopathic, it just means, "Here’s an effect that we don’t understand." A deeper understanding is important. Here's where I actually think the functional medicine world understands a shit-ton more than the traditional approach in sleep sciences here [00:44:30] is if we see someone who used to sleep 8 hours and is fine, now they're sleeping 10 hours and they're still tired, obviously we see that when someone has a flu, we also see it when someone lupus, we also see it when they have other forms of rheumatism or things like of course, if the inflammatory load is high, we might see that the quality of their deep sleep is going to be less from the information, from the pain, and just the total amount of repair needed is more. Fibromyalgia, [00:45:00] those cases, or on the psychological side, depression.
Again, if someone is depressed so they don’t want to get out of bed, whether we think of the depression as physiologic rheumatism of the brain or whatever, which is a popular set of new insights, or we think of it as just they have existential or relational issues but they don't want to get out of bed, the increased sleep need is not the cause of the problem. Being depressed is bad for you, and then the side effect is sleeping more, or lupus is bad for [00:45:30] you and the side effect is sleeping more. So then we want to break it down and say that it’s not one thing, that now you’re sleeping 10 hours might be 1000, any of 1000 different things. Now, we want to go do good differential diagnosis to actually see, "Is it gut issues? Is it inflammatory markers? Is if bruxism? Is it [noctoria 00:45:48]?" What’s going on for them.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah, it’s really, it is ... Particularly, the immune system is difficult to find out what’s going on [00:46:00] because there may not be a smoking gun, so there was an inflammatory situation that was occurring that was causing some sleep [inaudible 00:46:08]. It's difficult to then identify a [blood 00:46:11] marker that is related to the experience, the behavioral experience that the person is having, but yeah, you’re right. We definitely know that, for example, microbial products like bacterial [endotoxins 00:46:22], a low dose of those we know when injected into somebody, they can actually increase non-REM sleep, but a high dose will disturb [00:46:30] sleep. That is that sort of bimodal response of a little bit of inflammation can actually help you sleep more, but too much can actually disturb the sleep itself.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: [crosstalk 00:46:39] basically means exercise, right?
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah, or being sick.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: Right, but then chronic sleep, meaning you've probably got pain signals happening all ... Chronic information, you've got pain signals all night long and/or you have total physiologic stress and damage happening because tissues are actually affected. [00:47:00] Now, that becomes, this is a chronic versus acute scenario.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yes. Yeah. So you’re right. Going back to exercise, when you ... I gave a presentation at [inaudible 00:47:14] a few years ago, and I was talking about the inflammatory response. The presentation was all on why we get fat, and one of the things that I was discussing was the inflammatory response to weight training. What you see is that there is the cytokine interleukin [00:47:30] six is triggered in response to muscle breakdown. That then leads to an inflammatory ... Even though that is an inflammatory marker, it leads to the production of an anti-inflammatory marker that affects the brain and has a propitious effect on the functioning of our circuitry.
Additionally, that same sort of thing can happen in promoting sleep. We talked a little bit about this last time, if I remember correctly. Let's say, getting a little bit of exercise, or getting exercise can be very good for you [00:48:00] as long as that exercise is not a lot more than what you have been doing. That is a moving target as well. If you’re not exercising a lot, then you just need a little bit to then generate that positive effect on sleep, but let's say you haven't ... Let's say that you tend to work out but you haven't worked out for a month, if you go back to doing the amount of exercise that you did before that period off, that alone can be disruptive to your sleep.
It's just hard to know what's going to happen, but that's why we always want to be metering our own efforts to [00:48:30] be healthy, like with exercise or sun exposure, based off of a moment of pause and think, "How much have I been getting recently?" A lot of people don't do that, that ability to do that is actually a really important healthy [meter 00:48:42], too.
The Benefit of Mild Stress (Hormetic Effects)
Daniel Schmachtenberger: I think this is a critical topic, which is understanding hormesis. To just clarify that everybody knows the word, hormesis in any adaptive system that has an ability to adapt to certain kinds of stresses that it actually requires stressing that adaptive capacity to maintain it. If you stress it more in the [00:49:00] right ways, the adaptive capacity can increase so if I lift a weight that’s heavier than I can easily lift, the muscle will grow in response. If I’m exposed to a little bit more cold than I can normally process, my body will get used to more cold. If I go to way too much cold, then I just get frostbite or hypothermia. If I lift way too much weight, I just rip a tendon.
If I hold a weight and don’t ever put it down for a long time, I’m also going to get damage. The question is, how much stress, of what kinds of stress, for what [00:49:30] duration, and then how much rest and repair to actually up-regulate the system as opposed to the kind of stress that just damage the system? I think it’s both a factor of, as you mentioned, how much stress relative to the current capacity, which is like in yoga, you go to the point in the stretch where you feel a stretch. If you aren’t there yet, you’re not working, but if you push too hard, you just rip a hamstring.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah, set yourself back.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: There is a range that is actually hormetic, and then if you stay in that stretch [00:50:00] for four hours, you're going to be damaged. You need to do the right amount of it, and then you need the right amount of chill and repair time. So if we’re exposed to a pathogen like just kids getting to play in dirt, or being exposed to microbiome, it's actually hormetic for us producing antibodies, but if we're exposed to a pathogen that our body actually can’t process, so like we don’t want expose to a little bit of HIV or Hep C, or Ebola, and even [00:50:30] if it’s say exposed to a pathogen chronically, like mold in our house, or dysbioses in our gut, so we have a continuous exposure or subclinical parasitic infection or a bacterial infection, which is actually much more common than traditional medicine that only looked at acute infection and taught, this is obviously not hormetic because the body is not recovering.
If someone’s had a low-grade infection for 20 years, it doesn’t mean that it stressed the system and it responded. It just means it overwhelmed the system and the system just [00:51:00] resettled to having an infection. I think that’s a really key thing for people to understand the difference of, "Is this a kind of stress I want to expose myself to in the right pulsed doses or is this something I actually want to get rid of my exposure to?"
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yep. It’s actually ... The paradigm of athletics in relation to physical activity for health is a good one here because so much of what is endorsed [00:51:30] and encouraged in our world for having merit in terms of like going out and being physically active, doing a tough [letter 00:51:37], running a marathon, doing these extreme things that are notable and are big challenges, but are they what we need in order to be healthy? I think the answer oftentimes is no and in fact, those things can get in the way because one, they can create a large mental barrier for what you think you need in order to be healthy and two, if we think, go back to those hunter-gatherers, [00:52:00] yeah they were getting regular physical activity, but it wasn’t extreme.
It was regular and it was throughout the day, and they also had a lot of sedentary time in that day as well. So we get great stimulus, we get great benefit from just a little bit of stimulus. If there is a desire to push that farther, there’s also a long window where before that becomes problematic, but the problem is is that we tend to hold as sort of the apotheosis of what health looks like as these extreme athletes alter endurance, [00:52:30] they actually might really be pushing the boundaries of what is considered healthy. There might be a real consequence to that in terms of their longevity because of the amount of stress that they have now acclimated to be able to handle.
They can tolerate running 100 miles in altitude, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're healthier. It might actually mean that they’ve curtailed their individual lifespan, so to tie this back, my perspective about what we really need to be healthy is getting these, like you [00:53:00] said, regular, I would say somewhat mild to moderate, exposures that just keep our physiology working well. With that perspective, the it’s actually a lot easier to do it because you’re looking for more of a balanced approach versus trying to have a silver bullet, "Just exercise but I don't care about my sleep or my physical activity, or my food," excuse me, but rather that we get a bit of benefit from all these different areas and that that’s our opportunity to do a lot of things well, but each one of them is not that difficult.
Getting out and getting 10 [00:53:30] to 20 minutes of sun exposure every day is doable. It’s got its own challenges but we can do it. What you don't want to do is go in and then say, "Well, I haven't gotten exposure to the sun for a month. I'm going to go sit out for four hours." That's an analogy.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: I think a very simple example of athletics is, I don’t think anyone thinks that being a professional NFL athlete is really good for the quality of your life as an older person. When you look at most competitive sports, even Olympics, most gymnasts are going to damage [00:54:00] their joints in the process of doing what they’re doing. Most ballet dancers are going to, and so you recognize that you're taking a very generalist physiology and hyperspecializing it and that’s going to ... You're going to actually push past the zero-sum capacity at a certain point and start optimizing at the expense of other things.
I want to talk about this, what kinds of stresses are good and what kinds aren’t good because people are starting to understand hormesis as there is good stress, and this is super important. [00:54:30] Scott Carney was the guy who wrote Wim Hof’s book, What Doesn’t Kill Us. It was all about this, he was out here with us visiting recently. It was this idea, if it doesn’t kill you, going to make you stronger. This is hormesis. This is how physiology works. Besides that it needs to not be too intense and besides that you need to rest in between, I really want to make the distinction between acute and chronic stressors and then bring it back to sleep for a minute and causes of difficult sleep.
So chronic [00:55:00] infection that is not coming from an acute, "I’m exercising" or an acute exposure to some infection that my body is going to clear, but I live in a house that has mold and I'm being exposed all the time, or I’m drinking from water bottles that have plastic xenoestrogens and then continuously, or I live in a world where just the VOCs in my paint are continuously creating toxins. Not only is this continuous rather than [temperate 00:55:27] exposure, it's also exposure to things that were not [00:55:30] in our evolutionary environment and we don’t even have evolved mechanisms to deal with well. I think environmental toxicity and chronic infection, as well as excessive sugar, as well as excessive psychological stress, as well as excessive blue light, there’s a few of these that are just modern health hazards that are not hormetic at all.
They’re just chronic stresses that are damaging all of our hormetic mechanisms, and the goal would be to be exposed to as little mold as possible, to be exposed to as [00:56:00] little environmental petrochemical toxicity as possible to actively work on detoxing previous exposure. I know there’s a lot of thought about detox being bullshit because there are people who go about it in an unscientific way, but exposure to petrochemicals, the body doesn’t detox that well osmotic movement into tissues. That’s a fairly straightforward thing that I think [functional 00:56:22] medicine has done a good job of understanding, and I think that this is a lot of people's sleep issues.
Other than the psychological [00:56:30] part, which is also chronic stress that than acute, we're dealing with a bear thing, I think chronic physiologic and psychologic stressors are like the foundation of almost all of the sleep issues. They might express as apnea or insomnia or bruxism, but they’re actually all from the same underlying set of chronic stressors that we need to address.
How Chemicals and Toxins Impact Our Sleep Cycles and Overall Health
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah. Some evidence that supports this is the loss of years off of total lifespan in societies where [00:57:00] pollution is a really serious problem. You see the loss of like 10 to 15 years of life, and you also see the development of obesity at much higher rates when you live in a heavily polluted environment with lots of chemicals circulating in the air. Why is that? Well, just like you said, it can disrupt your sleep, which itself has a disrupting effect on your metabolism. It can disrupt your breathing, which can have a disruptive effect on your sleep, which can have a disruptive effect on your metabolism. It, itself, [00:57:30] is inflammatory and inflammation can then disrupt healthy metabolic processing and energy regulation, which can lead to obesity.
That's sort of a vicious cycle right there. So whether or not it’s happening in your environment, which is what’s overhead in the sky above you or in your local environment, in your home, whether it’s a mold or some other toxic substance that you ... It’s hard to perceive, but you realize you’re having an effect. It’s an area that is worth looking into, and it’s frustrating because it can [00:58:00] oftentimes be hard to detect, but some people, you’re almost lucky if it’s frank enough where you can detect it and solve it versus when it’s constantly disturbing you but it’s not obvious enough where you know where to look and how to solve it.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: Yep. There's a whole group of people that have multiple chemical sensitivities, where the small of perfume, the smell of gasoline, the smell really bothered them and it didn’t used to, and the idea that they just had more total antigen than they could process [00:58:30] and so their systems are getting more sensitive because it's not processing them, it's not clearing them well, they've pioneered this, [work 00:58:39] with them has pioneered this field of environmental medicine, looking at environmental toxicity as a tier one source of some health issues. I think the key thing is talking about subclinical stuff because what we’re used to thinking about in medicine is acute stuff, meaning acute toxicity.
Acute mercury [00:59:00] poisoning is fairly straightforward. I get exposed to an industrial level of something, and I’m vomiting instantly. We have to go do acute medical [chelation 00:59:08] therapy or whatever it is, or acute mold exposure, which is like some degree of Aspergillus that where I’m in shock, which is very different than a low level of something. It's starting to create decreased system, an increased system burden where I might not start having obvious symptoms for years. It might be multiple [00:59:30] different sources that are then overwhelming the system, getting a confluence from a certain amount of VOCs in the carpet and a certain amount of glyphosate on the food, and a certain amount of mold in one of the environments that are all effecting the system's capacity to create antigens as fast as they're coming into the system.
Dr. Dan Pardi: It’s really scary because our world is continuously being populated with these potential intermediaries, [01:00:00] intermediate things that are affecting your health but in a way that is going to lead to diabetes downstream. It's going to lead to advanced aging. It's going to lead to alterations in metabolism. It’s going to cause brain fog, and it’s affecting you day by day, but like you said, it’s subclinical. You don’t have a diagnosis to work from. Even then, if you were diagnosed diabetes as a result of these environmental exposures, you'd be [01:00:30] given something that is just trying to address the diabetes itself and not the cause. So it’s difficult.
We think about Wi-Fi, we think about toxins and things that are in our environment, and I think the fact of the matter is there are signals that a lot of stuff does matter, and yet there’s also, there's hypotheses that we don’t know if it’s going to actually affect us or not. I don't [01:01:00] know. I'm curious to ask you, Daniel, because you've thought a lot about this. What is your strategy in this world where a lot of these things are ... How do you address it when you’re not sure what the problem is?
Daniel Schmachtenberger: Yes. For resources for people who are interested here, and this is obviously, affect sleep. It affects lots of other things. We're going beyond just the scope of sleep here. When we're looking at what are the chronic subclinical, [01:01:30] subacute stresses that are non-hormetic, stresses on physiology, that can lead to decreased homeodynamic capacity of the system and chronic illness, when we look at autoimmune disease, there's not a clear cause. When we look at neurodegenerative disease, when we look at most cancers, there's not a clear cause. That's why we don't have good solutions for them so we say their idiopathic and it's because they don’t have one cause. They have multiple causes, usually. Each of the causes have [01:02:00] multiple steps in the transform.
Before the autoimmune antibodies expressed, inflammatory cytokines were increased. Before the cytokines were there, there might have been changes in settler signaling molecules, opioids. Before that, the actual infection or the toxicity or the structural issue that created the chronic inflammation or whatever it was came into play. If we have multiple steps of causal cascade and we have multiple different streams coming in together, and then we end up having clusters [01:02:30] of symptoms based on tissues or spore processes that are affected and we call that cluster rheumatoid arthritis or insomnia or Alzheimer’s, does everyone with Alzheimer’s have beta-amyloid? No. Does everyone would beta-amyloid have Alzheimer's? No. Does everyone with Alzheimer’s have [inaudible 01:02:46]? No.
These are statistical correlations of something that's actually more complex. How we think about complexity medicine here is we have to understand what are all the factors that can come together into a specific expression, and [01:03:00] knowing that those same factors can come together with other dynamics into different expressions and how do we [inaudible 01:03:05] understand those? I think this is what naturopathic medicine, integrative medicine and the best current dysfunctional medicine are really trying to do progressively better, and so regard to say the environmental causes.
I think if people want resources, studying the building biology movement is good [01:03:30] for understanding what makes the actual buildings that you live in/work in healthy for people or not healthy. This is things like you've smell that new carpet smell that's kind of funky or paints or glues or whatever. Well, that kind of funky smell if you're living in it and sleeping in it isn’t just funky. It’s those, the formaldehyde, the other [inaudible 01:03:51] organic compounds are either neurotoxins, carcinogens or endocrine disruptors. We'll look at the breast milk of mothers and see [01:04:00] 100 or 200 petrochemicals in nontrivial amounts. That's a big deal.
So the building biology movement I think is very valuable if I think about our local environment. If I think about the larger environment, there are some places that are just not the best places for people to live. If you are living and working in an industrial and more polluted areas, this is just going to be suboptimal and if you can modulate some parts [01:04:30] of it, which is if we're spraying chemicals on food that are designed to kill insects that are the most robust fucking creatures that can make it through nuclear holocausts and we're putting that on our food and then we're eating it, and whether it’s an herbicide like glyphosate or pesticides, fungicides, those are not things we want to spray on our food. Those are pretty real effects.
Now, can we get organic food in progressively better [permacultured 01:04:59] [01:05:00] food like that? Totally. Does that decrease a source of toxic exposure? Definitely, and we decrease the obvious things like, "Don’t eat aspartame and artificial colors and trans fats." Definitely. Can we look at a lot of the medicines that we use that are sources of pretty acute toxicity? Look at the fact that water in a lot of cities, municipal water, has so much pharmaceutical in it because people are peeing out them and pharmaceuticals will take ... This are fairly serious things. [01:05:30] I would say building biology is one good source. I would say mold by itself is a big enough issue because the way we do modern building and because we started using fungicides in paints that made mutated forms of molds that were more pathogenic, and because it seems like molds actually respond to certain signals of wireless that are common in increased mycotoxins, studying mold and how to assess your environment for mold is a pretty big thing.
The percentage of houses that I see [01:06:00] that have some non-obvious mold that is actually pathological is enough that I think everybody should look into it. I think Dave [inaudible 01:06:08] movie was a good introduction. The [mold 01:06:10] movie. I think going to like Dr. Schumacher’s website, Mold Avoiders, Mold Survivors, and other people who are pioneers, Dr. Ray in environmental medicine, is good and then actually finding, if you’re interested and you think you’ve got chemical sensitivity or whatever, actually studying environmental medicine a little bit and maybe finding a doctor, a functional [01:06:30] medicine doctor, who can do testing. Science is not perfect yet.
When we’re looking ... We look at the [metabolomics 01:06:38] to look at metabolic byproducts that indicate what’s happening to the cell, to the cells, and trying them for a toxicity, we can look for toxins directly via a number of different assay methods and in different fluids and in different issues. The field is advancing, but I would say the very best of functional medicine is meaningfully [01:07:00] further ahead than where traditional medicine is in this case. The best where functional medicine is is very different than the best of where [Wu 01:07:11] medicine is, and it’s important to make the distinction. You’ve got like one camp that calls itself evidence-based medicine, but it's still is pretty much, "There are the pharmaceuticals that work on double-blend placebo-controlled, large multi-location [mice 01:07:25] crossover trials," but work means yes, the statin lowers low-density lipoprotein. [01:07:30] That's true.
It might also, though, cause a [hepatotoxicity 01:07:33] in neurotoxins, and whatever else, and it's not actually addressing why you have high LDL and now you can't ever get off it because your ability to regulate cholesterol yourself is bad. We call that evidence-based medicine. I would say that that whole field is just so bad at understanding complex systems that it’s like if you have acute illness, go there. Otherwise, that's really all it does. It's acute illness. Then you’ve got people who will pay lip service to whole [01:08:00] systems but don’t understand it well, and they’ll just pretty much muscle test you, or kind of intuit what you should do and recommend naturally sounding things, which is probably not going to do very well or cut it either.
Then you've got people who are actually trying to do science well, but the appropriate complex system science mostly not paid for by pharmaceutical interests, and it’s not good yet, but it’s getting better. I would say the Institute for Functional Medicine is probably leading the way [01:08:30] and groups like the Systems Biology Institute, which are led by the very best biologists in the world who developed genome sequencing who are looking at putting [omics 01:08:39] together are really contributing to that with exponential medicine and other lines coming, so if people want to get good resources to learn more, I would say look at scientific-based medicine, but complex system science because your physiology is a complex system. Not just, [01:09:00] "We looked at all the stuff that had clinical trials, did meta-analysis and these things affected some metric," and finding a doctor at IFM is probably a good start, doing more research along those lines is a good start.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah. Here's what I have to offer to this. So for an individual trying to make good decisions in the world to be healthy, if you have something going on that you don’t know the cause of or you don’t but you still are trying to be healthy and not find yourself [01:09:30] in an undesirable situation later, think of heuristics that can guide you through life because they're very powerful. There's something called the Commander’s Intent, which you don’t want to hand a military operation a 87-page field guide and say, "All right, do this." You want them to study that, understand it, but then if you give them win hearts and minds, it is an idea that will [01:10:00] then guide in the diversity of real-life.
I think here, one heuristic that I live by is just trying to live as naturally as possible. Drink out of glass. Get some sun exposure. Again, try to remove plastics as much as I can without being obsessive about it because there is a type of personality that can worry about this stuff so much that they develop health issues in response to worrying about these perceived [01:10:30] health limiters, and so we also know, as a more optimistic perspective about our world, is that there are, there has always been things that can challenge our health. Mine are to [find 01:10:45] all ways.
We also know now that in the United States, health span or lifespan is longer than it’s ever been with living close to 80 years on average. This is not all with full health, but we’re living longer [01:11:00] than we ever have, and so that’s a good thing. Sometimes we can forget that. I agree with you about functional medicine and modern medicine. I think modern evidence-based medicine is very good for dealing with acute issues, have an infection that is serious and you’ve broken a bone or something in that order. What I like about functional medicine-
Daniel Schmachtenberger: crosstalk 01:11:26] under attack.
Human Optimization as an Identity
Yeah. What I like about functional medicine [01:11:30] is that they are more apt to test. It’s not, "Well, we can’t offer you this diagnostic because that doesn’t fit into our sort of cost payment structure," but rather, "Let’s look at your blood work. Let's look at your microbiome. Let's look at a bunch of different things, and let's do the best that can with the information that we have today." The problem with that is that you're right, the best of functional medicine are light years ahead of what sort of care and service you can get elsewhere but within the community, you also might have people that are less skilled. The level of quality ... Like any discipline that’s [01:12:00] big. There’s a big quality difference, and then again, at the same time while we do want excellent healthcare providers, we also need to remember that nobody will have more influence over your health across a lifespan than you will by the decisions you make, the knowledge that you know, how you implement that into your life.
That is really critical to your health as well, not outsourcing this core competency. This is a big part of what I do with humanOS, as you know, Daniel. [01:12:30] We all need better expertise and this should be fundamental to the educational process of humans growing up, understanding how to take care of ourselves and our environments that affect our health so that we can have a better even interaction with our healthcare providers, so that we can use technology that can help us, so that we can use guidance that our healthcare provider gives us to fine-tune the direction that we take our lives, how we live day by day.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: So you're saying a couple things that are so important. I just want to [01:13:00] reiterate them. One of our core memes at Neurohacker is empowered responsibility, which requires getting out of the deferred to an authority complex, and with regard to your own money, yes you can have an account, yes you can have someone that does financial planning help with you, but ultimately if you lose your money or not, they don’t care that much. You really do. If you don’t understand it well enough, you’re just disempowered. Well, what matters even [01:13:30] more than that is your health, and if you find 10 different doctors that all disagree on what you should do, if you don’t understand it well enough to make an informed decision, they’re not going to be [inaudible 01:13:41] if you do the wrong thing, or healthy.
There’s a place for you to say, "Oh, this is my body. I need to understand this well enough that I can really take responsibility to even find what kind of doctor to know to ask the right questions, to know if I think they’re good or not." Of course, you use them as tools but you have to use them as tools [01:14:00] where you take responsibility. You sure at shit cannot expect to do a medical intervention and not address the foundational causes of health and wellness, and have it really work. Empowered responsibility is that you have to learn more and it's also that you have to apply it, or you have to just be okay with suboptimal life. So there’s a ... On one end of the bell curve of medicine is really understanding the causes of complex illness, and we get into now here the deep systems biology functional medicine of [01:14:30] how much is, what kinds of toxins, what kind of infections, within what genetics, within what microbiomics, within what brain scan patterns.
The other side of what we’re looking at is the shit that is just true for everyone that accounts for 80% of it. If we haven’t done this first, if we've done this and we're still dealing with complex stuff, then we need to start tuning, but you do such a good job of helping people get that you can do so much to live longer, healthier, happier, [01:15:00] that is just about actually applying the foundational critical stuff that has just been hard for us to apply. This is, are we sleeping enough and well? Are we getting enough in the right forms of movement, and are we eating well? Are we getting enough water, not eating too much sugar, not eating shit and not eating too much heavy stuff right before bed or more calories than we can burn? Foundations, before we even get into raw food vegan versus paleo [inaudible 01:15:25], are you eating [donuts 01:15:26] versus [inaudible 01:15:27]. [01:15:30] That difference is pretty profound.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah. It really is, and I think that the idea of human optimization should not be considered an action, but an identity. It’s not something that you do to optimize once, but it’s a mind frame or a perspective that you have that is constantly learning, constantly [01:16:00] trying to think about trying the new thing that is maybe a little less tested but curious versus sacrificing that opportunity cost to do something that you actually know is really good for you, and so it’s this ongoing engagement that those who can develop that relationship with their own health of always learning, always trying, always engaging, reminding, remembering what those priorities are by thinking [01:16:30] about what you’re ... how do you design your environment as best you can to remove these toxic substances that could interfere with your health.
Whether you know that they are now or not, can you get on top of it before an issue happens? How do you then stay engaged? There’s also people that will feel like, "Yeah, I know these things, therefore I've got it," versus, "Well, what has your pattern actually been over the last two years?" [01:17:00] A good example is when I started to work on Dan’s Plan, a very early version, I was commonly speaking about sleep and I would talk about how I was getting 8 hours of sleep per night. When I started to measure my sleep, I realized I was getting like 6 hours and 45 minutes per night. I measured three months and I thought, "Wow. I'm getting less sleep than I claim that I am," but it’s not that I was lying to the people that I was speaking to when I said I got 8.
I really thought that I was. That sort of awareness then enabled me to course correct. I started to actually attend to my sleep a little bit differently [01:17:30] and spend more time in bed, and I felt better as a result of it, but that is something that is a good lesson for me to have experienced, but the lesson is ongoing. You can always be learning by your recent patterns. What's that?
Daniel Schmachtenberger: [inaudible 01:17:45]
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: Even as a sleep expert, even as someone who did doctoral research in the space, you’re still learning what’s helping your sleep and helping your heart rate variability every day.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah. It is very difficult to [01:18:00] perceive all the different factors that matter in our health all the time and to have engagement with different tools that can keep you mindful, that keep you engaged, that keep you performing well towards your goals is ... That's what we see with the quantified self-movement. It’s one of the great values, but I think that even the quantified self-movement is limited in that feedback and triggering of behaviors and setting goals is valuable, but a lot of that falls flat [01:18:30] without the self-actualization of this self-empowerment and knowledge behind it.
You’re not going to incur friction in your life if you don’t get its value, but if you empower these devices, these helpful tools, which are increasing in their power to intervene, if you understand them better and you empower them with value, they’re more likely to be helpful. So a big heuristic that we base our activities off of at humanOS is how can we help humans benefit from the world’s best information today on health [01:19:00] and from its best tools and technology that help us make that a part of our life? It's not out there in the ether, but it’s actually a part of what we do and it’s benefiting us.
Last time we talked about quite a few things that people can do that are foundational to improve their sleep.
Foundational Tips to Get Better Sleep
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yes.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: Getting exercise in the day is pretty important, that getting the right light in the day is pretty important, that not eating heavy meals before bed is important. We talked about a number of those things.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: Now there is, these are difficult to [01:19:30] actually apply. It takes some practice. Typically, if people try to apply all them at once and they get to fail at all of them at once after a week. So you’re good at helping people learn how to take that knowledge into action. I want people to go to humanOS and check out the resources for how to take quantified self-data and take what you know and take goals and put it together, but just briefly here regarding sleep, whether someone [01:20:00] decides that the first step that they should take is exercise or working with their sleep environment or their blue light or whatever it is, what would you say is some general important evidence-based practices on how they can actually implement any of those things successfully enduringly?
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah, so the work looking at whether or not quantification and self-tracking, if it’s helpful, is varied but generally, [01:20:30] since I follow this space closely, we tend to see that these sorts of behavior of tracking can have a favorable effect on long-term outcomes, which are at least long-term by the definition of what that study looked. So you see people walk more, you can see people get more regular sleep, or at least in terms of their sleep timing, and then ... Yeah, so those are ... We already have indications that engaging with these types [01:21:00] of health behaviors, which I'll call using a tracker, can actually lead to the behaviors that then get you the results.
Let's say you walk ten thousand steps a day and that defines your lifestyle for a year, then that leads to the results that you want right, so whether it’s cognition or avoidance, [Z's 01:21:21] or maintaining leanness or maintaining your current weight, whatever that is. Now, specifically, when you think about getting good sleep, what [01:21:30] is it you’re actually trying to do? Well, you want to get adequate time to get the sleep that you need so you need to plan to be in bed for enough time for you to get all that sleep that you want. That takes a period of understanding yourself.
What I try to do is aim for complete sleep, which I tend to get about 7 to 7 and a half hours of sleep per night, but I try to be in bed 7 and half to 8 hours per night so that if it tends to be one of those nights where I sleep longer, then I’ve enabled my [01:22:00] body to get that sleep. I also try to go to bed pretty consistently around the same time, and that’s hard. Knowing even what I do it, it's still, you’re oftentimes making a decision about doing something else that’s fun and missing out in that versus cutting it off and saying, "Hey. There will be more time for that tomorrow." That is the reality of the challenge once you believe sleep is important and want to attend your own sleep goals.
What can you do during the day? As you said, getting regular physical activity, [01:22:30] so I created something called [In-Tune 01:22:32] Training. It stands for integrative and opportunistic movement, or training. The problem that it's solving is even people who are active regularly, it’s sort of periodic. They might be going to the gym a couple times a week. I try to make every day have some physical activity in it so, In-Tune training gives a list of body weight oriented activities that change every single day and you actually just write down your [01:23:00] repetitions, if you will, as you do them across the day.
For example, if today one of the exercise is to do 50 push-ups, you don't have to do them all at once, you do a little bit here, a little bit there, but the result of that is you’ve actually reduce the friction to say yes to starting doing a little bit of activity right now, and the result of that is that it’s easy to have every day have some physical activity in it even if I don’t finish that workout of the day. For me, that’s part of not only my physical activity practice, but it’s a critical part to my sleep practice because I do sleep better when I’m getting regular physical activity in my life.
We [01:23:30] know that the research absolutely supports that. My friend Matt [inaudible 01:23:33], who is a co-author on one of the papers that I published, has done work specifically in that area. What is the influence of physical activity on sleep itself and what is the influence of getting good sleep on your desire or likelihood that you will get physical activity the next day? So there is absolutely this sort of virtuous cycle here where the better you sleep, the more likely you feel like getting physical activity and eating well and then the more likely you’re eating well ... The more that you’re eating well and getting physical activity, the better your sleep quality will be. We look at these [01:24:00] things in isolation but we have to then pan out and say, "Okay, they’re all affecting the other." Yeah. We can talk a little bit about specifics of food on sleep quality too if you'd like.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: You either get a vicious cycle where you are feeling shitty so then you want a quick hit more, which is going to look like some sugar or some caffeine or whatever, which is going to give you a quick hit, but then actually drop you and then you feel shittier and then you ... So you can vicious cycle between [01:24:30] psychological imbalance, physiologic imbalance or behavioral dynamics, or there's a virtuous cycle where you actually start getting positive feedback on the actual lift of baseline rather than on spikes that then crash. So you start exercising and then exercise makes you want to fall sleep, and then because you feel well rested the next day, it should be energy to exercise because you’re actually feeling better.
You're not creating sugar as much and then you’re feeling more better, and now you’re getting positive feedback on weight loss, muscle tone, increased [01:25:00] capacity. So we obviously want to drive that. One of the things you're saying is that this exercise help with sleep is profound enough. The behavioral hack that you gave is lower the barrier of entry to exercise so we don’t procrastinate it because if I've go to do an hour of training and I've got to drive to the gym and etc., then I can put it off. If it’s just, do fucking 5 push-ups, there's a good chance that I might do 10 while I'm down there. Even if all I did was 5 or 10 push-ups, [01:25:30] I will still sleep better and do better than if I did none because I made it too big a deal.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah. I actually feel that In-Tune Training is a skill that people should add to their health practice. It doesn’t mean that you can’t do other forms of exercise that you love that are your hobbies that feel like the right way for you to sort of express physicality in your world. That’s very different for different people, but what In-Tune does is it actually [01:26:00] takes a lot of mental pressure off of having to make that work in your life. Now, you can get into good routines where you’re very consistent with it, but what inspired me to create this was two Stanford wrestlers that I know had independently, one week apart from each other, told me, sort of confiding in me like, "Gosh, I haven’t made it to the gym in a month. I've been so busy with work," now me telling them, "Oh no. Exercise is really important and you should do [01:26:30] it," that might remind them of what they already know, but it’s not that they aren't doing it because they don’t believe in its value.
They’re not doing it because their perception of what is valuable is spending an hour and a half to two hours in the gym and killing their body because that’s how they were trained as athletes. Athletes actually have a common problem with this, when you have to change your mindset from the performance enhancement mindset to the physical activity for feeling great every day, performing well mentally and living long and feeling good. That’s a different sort of [01:27:00] a mindset. That’s what I operate in now. So whether or not, you don’t have to think, "Well, I'm doing In-Tune," or "I have to choose, I do In-Tune or I don’t do this," rather for me, I like to go to spinning classes and cycling. Cycling is really fun for me, but I don’t stress about if I’m going to miss it or not, because I’m busy, because I have something I can do here now, and so I think that this is actually a really critical skill because as simple ...
As we all know that physical activity is good for us, [01:27:30] and yet still I think the patterns that we maintain of sort of feast and famine or doing too much or having this perception of what is needed doesn’t totally match the literature. I have, every day I take all the opportunities, large and small, to use my body and be physically active. That is very liberating.
Exploring HumanOS: Your Operating System for Healthy Living
Daniel Schmachtenberger: Yeah. So learning about In-Tune Training, is that a humanOS?
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah, so humanOS has In-Tune training. It's over a hundred different workouts. [01:28:00] They're all approximately the same work volume. They’re not, each workout is not that much, but I do them ... I try to, I think about doing them every single day, and then there are days that I miss and I don’t do any reps at all, but my goal is to do at least one rep of one of the exercises every day. The way that I designed it is that it’s balanced across upper body, lower body, posterior [chain 01:28:22] core cardio, and then I gave a value for every rep or every second of every exercise. Then you get feedback about whether or not [01:28:30] the volume of work that you’ve actually done is relative to the Department of Health and Human Service's weekly exercise recommendations. I keep my exercise volume at or above 100 to 150%. I know that I’m getting good adequate volume of physical activity to help me with things like, just to keep my body healthy, if not necessarily advancing my performance.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: Yeah. I know that a big meme right now that I think is great is movement rather than exercise, and specifically movement as [01:29:00] a way of living for humans as of a [base-state 01:29:03] rather than something that you do now and again, so that we just think about it again from an evolutionary or an agrarian perspective. People should, people were moving most of the time. They were not sedentary that much. So to just think about it, "Can I be moving more? Can I take this meeting on a walk? Can I take this phone call on a walk? Can I ..." whatever it is-
Dr. Dan Pardi: Totally.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: I think makes a meaningful difference to the mindset of sedentary as a [01:29:30] given and exercise as a thing.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah. De-convenience your life. Park farther away, take the bus. Like people that live in cities like New York can be healthy because they walk a lot. Having a car is inconvenient, and so places where you see, like in the Netherlands where people are bike riding a lot, places where you see a lot of walking, that tends to correspond with markers of population health, whether it’s lower BMI or other measurements that [01:30:00] have some angle into how healthy you are. You can construct this on your own, and you will have to because you are the ones that is then sitting in the pilot seat of your life.
If you work in an environment that is not permissive to doing physical activity throughout the day because of the type of clothing you have to wear or how socially awkward it might be, you can do a little bit of work before, a little of the physical activity before work, some perhaps in work or at lunch and some after, [01:30:30] but that’s very important. Take all the different opportunities. Squat down, stay in the [quadrep 01:30:35] position. Hang from things. Do push-ups. Use the body that you have and the more that you use it, it’s actually energiz- ... The more you actually want to, so it’s a whole different mindset. Then you see opportunities. You're walking down the street. You see opportunities to play. Play with the body that you have and the environment that you’re in. I know this is a sleep talk, but this is very relevant to getting good [01:31:00] sleep.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: As a closing thought, I think one of the most important things you said is pay attention to the balance between how one does things that actually matter to their physiology without adding psychological stress, kind of like anytime there is an understanding of what is better, that means there is an understanding of what is worse, which means that there is some feeling good about what is better, which means there is feelings bad about what is worse, and then there's the possibility of a vicious cycle on that.
[01:31:30] This is the way that any kind of ideal creates a shadow, creates a vicious cycle into the shadow loop, and so whether this is what is good for us to do spiritually, mentally, emotionally, for my work, for my family, it’s very easy to get into a negative loop on the negative. It's very important to learn how not to do that. Is it true that eating sugar is bad for me? Yes. Is it true that stressing about eating sugar is bad for me independently [01:32:00] of the sugar? Yes. Are there people who just say, "Fuck it. I don’t care about what I eat. I'm just going to not stress," and now they are healthier because they are not stressed? Yes, but is the food still affecting their body? Yes.
So it is very easy to have an either/or that’s says, "Fuck it. I’m not going to worry about this because I don’t want the worry," but physics is still physics, or I'm going to pay attention to the physics but then whenever I don’t think I'm getting enough sleep or water is handed to me out of a plastic bottle, I'm stressing myself out. [01:32:30] There has to be a, "How do I do the best that I can at the physics level and biology of it?" Do that from a really neutral place that doesn't spin on negatives.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah. It’s such an important point. Orthorexia, which is an unhealthy obsession with being healthy, is real thing and that doesn’t necessarily ... Try to identify if you have acclivity towards stressing out about being healthy or not doing something that you think is healthy. Failure [01:33:00] is a part of being healthy. You're going to not do the thing you want to do so many times. It's how you respond to that, and it also is your pattern, your overall pattern, defined by the fact that didn’t do it, or did you just miss a couple days or you just missed a couple days regularly but still, your overall pattern has a sensible healthy dynamic to it.
That is, that helps you go easy on missing a ... not get a good night's [01:33:30] sleep and not beating yourself up. Eating something that tastes great but you know is not good for you and not feeling bad about yourself. Not exercising for a couple days in a row or getting the amount of physical activity that you want and feeling awful. The nice thing is once you have a good healthy relationship with your body, and you also have a good perspective about how to construct your health pattern day by day, it's also sort of self-regulating. If you're like, "I don’t feel that great. I didn't get enough [01:34:00] sleep because I stayed up late," or "I didn’t get exercise. I don't feel that good. I'm going to go out for a walk. I'm going to go do something that I know will immediately put me back in a better frame of mind," and so go gently. Keep educating, know what matters, think about the determinants of good health according to these different domains: sleep, exercise, food.
There is a simple layer but in order to do the right things in that simple layer for a lot of people, you have to go beyond that and you have to know the details and connect the dots, so that’s [01:34:30] why this conversation is valuable because I bet everybody who started to listen to this today, but even if you didn’t know much about sleep, still believe that is important for our health. It’s not like as we're coming to you trying to convince you of something, believing that you don’t already think that, but it’s rather seeing those connections creates a more sort of valuable dimension in your mind about its place in your life. Whether or not you remember all the details is not important, but it can add a motivational source for you to [01:35:00] continue to engage with sleep as something that matters to your performance and your health longterm.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: Just on the psychology element of it, because I think it's so important and it’s not ... Health is just one expression, but almost everywhere somebody sets January 1st goals. Health are usually part of them but there's a bunch of other ones. Then they fail at it, and then they beat themselves up for it, and then the beating themselves up makes them feel bad so they want to do whatever addictive thing makes them feel better in a hurry, and they [01:35:30] just flail out of it. Then after they've done that enough times, they stop wanting to try because they've imprinted hopelessness. How does one effectively work towards things is a very deep topic, and the best training I ever got on it was actually in meditation training because it was a simple thing.
In meditation training, someone is given an instruction. They're going to focus on their breath. They focus on a mantra. They focus on a sensation, whatever it happens to be. It’s fucking hard to hold your focus there, so your mind wanders [01:36:00] and the instruction is generally as soon as you notice that your mind wandered, bring it back to the focus on the breath or the mantra, whatever it is. What'll happen is after someone’s mind has wandered a bunch of times, then they don’t come back to the breath when they notice it. They go, "What the fuck is wrong with me? Why does my mind wander? Am I ever going to get this meditation thing? Maybe this meditation thing isn't right. Maybe I'm a fuck up," which is still their mind wandering.
It's actually still not being focused on their breath or the mantra, but in a just particularly destructive way, it's almost [01:36:30] as if they’re trying to do this behavioral psych or motivational psych on themselves. They’re just ... It's kind of like someone fell and instead of getting back up, they just start flailing on the ground beating their arms on the ground. It's like, "No, no, no. Just get back up," and so in meditation, it's so clear. No matter how many times your mind goes somewhere else, analyzing why is never the thing to do. Just come back to the mantra. Once you've done that enough, you start being good at being able to hold it. It's just a new training.
Any beating yourself up or wondering why is just another, not doing what [01:37:00] is here to do. The moment you notice, "I haven't exercised all week," all it is is, "Oh, I'm going to do 5 push-ups right now," not beating myself up about it or make a big plan of how I’ll start exercising forever. Be like, "I just come back to whatever my intention was right now, and now I'm back on track."
Dr. Dan Pardi: Yeah. Yeah. There's so much value to get from a meditation practice. It’s so simple in that it has such transferability to the value that you receive there to other things that you’re working for in life, but [01:37:30] humans have the inimitable ability to use executive functioning in our minds, which is the ability to forecast the future, to set goals, which are temporarily remote, which means in the future, to strategize about how to arrive at those goals, what's our best strategy to get there, to course correct once we advance towards those goals, get new information and realize that maybe there’s a better path to go there.
Those abilities are fairly unique to humans, at least no other species [01:38:00] on earth has the robust capacity that we do to do that. As a result, we can aim for health outcomes that we want. "I want to feel really young when I’m 80 years old. I want to perform like I'm 40 to 50. I want to lose weight. I want to ..." whatever it might be, "solve this health challenge" to "have this performance benefit." They tend to sort of ... Your source of motivation can be grouped into different things. I either want to get, like I want to optimize who I am [01:38:30] or I’m solving a health challenge or I’m doing this good thing for someone else in my family that I care about. There's all these different sort of motivations that can make us focus on this.
Out of all the other things that we can focus on, we focus on this part of self-betterment. With that, you need to then, I think, think about what is the right sort of tribe that you are seeking information from or who are you getting your information from? What are your goals and your process to get there? But [01:39:00] the path of this, I call it personal [health 01:39:02] mastery, takes a lifetime. It’s like the ancient figures where you work on something for a lifetime and you just continue to achieve new levels that sometimes take 10 years for you to get from one level to the next. After you’ve gotten far enough, they become harder to attain, but there is few things that I think, if anything, that is better to attend to and to [01:39:30] invest in than yourself because of that, it is going to affect all of your experiences that you have in that moment and going forward.
So the investment that you make today in learning these things by listening to this podcast are not just going to pay off now, tomorrow or the next day, but possibly, very possibly, for the rest of your time. That’s why I think the investment in this area, whatever it is related to health, find good information, find the right tools, [01:40:00] continue to learn, and stay engaged. Stay engaged.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: Dan, thank you. Unfortunately, we're out of time for today, and there’s other things that would be fun to talk about but we really covered the things that I was hoping we would. If people have a lot of questions in any specific area that we didn’t address, maybe we’ll come back to them at some point.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Great.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: [inaudible 01:40:22] I think was a really great intro to sleep foundations, and thank you for making the time to come do this with us.
Dr. Dan Pardi: I was happy to join [01:40:30] you Daniel, and I’ll come back anytime if there are questions.
Daniel Schmachtenberger: Thank you my friend.
Dr. Dan Pardi: Take care.