Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes: Light therapy

I’ve been making a lot of changes in my life lately. A lot has been influenced by the Ben Greenfield podcast. But other places too. I’m slowly becoming more of a biohacker than I have been all my life.

The biggest change right now is reading myself to sleep. And I go to bed a half hour earlier (yikes, 830pm). At first, I was reading a self-help book on retirement planning. Its fun reading but stirs too many thoughts. I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking about things I need to do. So I switched to fiction. Well, its semi-fiction since I know a lot of it is true. I’m reading a fly fishing novel by John Gierach. He’s like the Mark Twain of fly fishing. I love it. I go to sleep thinking of beautiful mountain streams.

I’m also trying to get rid of blue light. I wear these goofy glasses when I read to block any blue light. I really can’t explain to you all the scientific effects of blue light on the body. But the research is amazing! It has helped me get a half hour extra of sleep a night. I am now getting 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep, which is super important in our lives. Of all the biohacks there is, sleep should always be number 1. Nobody is immune to needed sleep, no matter what they tell you.

OK, just a little tangent on sleep. Research shows that we go through 5 stages in a sleep cycle. It starts with a light drifting to deep sleep to REM sleep. Most intense dreams happen in REM sleep. To be honest, I’m a light sleeper and rarely if ever remember dreams. But since I’ve changed my sleep patterns, I am remembering more dreams, particularly right before I wake up. We go through these 5 stages of sleep in roughly 90 minutes. We should get at least 5 cycles of this 90 minutes of sleep a night. That equals 35 sleep units per week (7×5). Research shows that a nap of 20-40 minutes can equal one of these sleep cycles. It turns out that we can accelerate the 5 stages when we nap. Napping is best done between 11am to 2pm. I haven’t done a lot of napping during the work day, but I do at home a lot. But I do have a camping mat, blanket and pillow in my office. I will be more positive about doing it knowing that it is helpful.

Yesterday, I installed (rather poorly) blue light filters on my computer screens at work. I have two larger 24 inch screens and a 14" laptop screen. Next time, I’ll get the filters that hang over the front of the screen instead of the semi-adhesive type. It took some getting used to, but I’m growing into them today. Now I need to figure if I want to turn off the terrible fluorescent lights overhead. It would look funny to have a red light in my office. So for the sake of professionalism, I need to find a good option. I would like to get a red light for 10-20 minutes of exposure per day. It has numerous healing effects that I cannot fully explain. But I will add that some day soon.

I’m also trying to not wear sunglasses. Again, I need to read more on this. But here is a huge tangent:

Researchers (citations coming) claim that many of our cancers are caused by living indoor lifestyles. Incidence of skin cancer and other cancers is statistically higher for indoor workers than outdoor workers. Sunlight enables production of Vitamins A & D leading to strong bones and other health factors. Our retina in particular along with the pineal gland is responsible for reacting to sunlight in a way to produce melanin. Melanin is what is needed to help us protect our skin and prevent burning. We never want to burn. And this isn’t different for any ethnicity. The only caveat are the true redheads who lack melanin producing genes. The problem is, we spend 40-60 hours in an office and more time at home indoors, then we go sunbathing and boating on the weekend in large doses. Our bodies aren’t ready for that. But if we spent more daily time in the sun, we would be much more protected. A problem is sunglasses. When we wear sunglasses, it disables this melanin producing effect because the sun isn’t triggering the needed response in the retina. So I’m wearing less sunglasses. I need to read more so I don’t overdo anything. But it all makes sense.

The other aspect of the sun is the intense reaction our bodies have relative to the sun. Our circadian biology says that our bodies and hormones are greatly affected by the sun. You wake with the sun and go to bed with the sun. It means you’ll be up more in the Summer and sleep more in the Winter. Its what bears and other diurnal animals do. I’ll talk about this more later, but the night owls who are eating snacks at night are greatly comprising your health. This morning, I went outside and watched the sunrise. I stood gently moving in the cool air and read a chapter of a book. But you could also walk, do sun salutations, or just bask in the sun. Being both a little aerobic and having skin exposure triggers so many chemical reactions in our bodies. More on that as I learn more. Watching both the sunrise and the sunset can have a major effect on our circadian rhythms.

I know. You probably think this is all goofy nonsense. But if you care about preventing cancers; getting better sleep; want to regulate fat storage and burning; want to maximize growth hormones (including testosterone) for muscle growth and healing; and live a longer, quality filled life, then you should care about this too.

Much more to come!

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