IMPROVING FITNESS AND MOOD WITH LIGHT

We are cavemen…well, more accurately, savannah men. Remembering that fact can benefit our health. We’ve come far since hunting and gathering. We don’t hunt or gather anymore, we have no real predators and life is much easier. There’s an app for everything. But, our biology, these physical meat vehicles, they've had some trouble adapting to modern times.

I’m not saying we should start sleeping outside, shuck all technology and start eating insects. That’s weird. But, we can make minor, convenient changes to our daily routines. Changes that will provide our ancient biology with vibrant health. We can eat paleo, and we can exercise in minimal shoes, we can even manipulate our light exposure. That’s what this article is about.

My Problem

Recently I’d been working late in Los Angeles. Driving home in traffic exposed my eyes to hours of vehicle headlights, after sunset (I’ll explain why that matters in a minute). By the time I made it home I was physically tired, but my nervous system was jacked up. I had trouble falling and staying asleep. I was also eating a very late dinner, right before bed.

I couldn’t wake up in the morning. I was hitting snooze multiple times and was even late to work. I was pounding coffee like a tweaker to stay focused. My positive attitude sank and I felt like shit after a couple weeks of this schedule. I didn’t feel like myself. My mojo was so off that even my morning dump disappeared. One night I actually woke up just to take a shit, before going back to bed.

Beast Mode had been deactivated.

Circadian Rhythm

We are a diurnal species. We’re supposed to be awake during the day and asleep at night. We have internal clocks which run on a 24 hour loop. When we fall out of synch with these internal clocks, health and performance deteriorate. When we align ourselves with these clocks, health improves. These systems are not coincidence. They've been perfected over hundreds of generation of humans. Just recently though, things have changed.

Light controls our master clock and food controls our peripheral clocks. Our master clock influences our nervous system, which influences basically everything in our body. Our peripheral clocks influence other organs, the adrenal gland, esophagus, lungs, liver, pancreas, spleen, thymus, and skin. You could say that within these two clocks is central command. maybe even the key to optimal health.

We have photo receptors in our skin and eyes that react to light. When we expose ourselves to light, our body responds by waking up, readying itself for the day. When we remove light, our bodies respond by winding down and becoming sleepy. Paleo man had one main light source, the sun, and it ALWAYS ran on schedule. Modern man has virtually limitless forms of light; TV, phones, headlights, lightbulbs, billboards, you name it. These artificial lights follow no schedule. It seems almost impossible for modern man to align his master clock with natural light rhythms…CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

Think about it. You’re reading this article right now on some sort of illuminated screen. Most likely a phone. If you happen to be reading this in the morning or mid-day, congratulations! You’re not killing yourself slowly. On the other hand, if you’re reading this after sundown, or even in bed, you’re sending a signal of light through your eyes. You’re telling your nervous system it’s daytime, time for hunting and gathering. The blue light emitted from your screen mimics that of a mid-day sky. Your brain then halts melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that makes you sleepy. It’s time for bed and you’re telling your nervous system it’s time to hunt. Idiot. Remember, your body doesn’t know it’s 2016. Your body was designed a very long time ago. We must respect this ancient technology.

Finding my rhythm

I simply started copying the sun. If the sun is out, I expose myself to natural sunlight. If the sun is down, I limit artificial light as much as possible. My home is very dark after sundown. Most of the lights are off and we use candles. There’s just enough light to see where you’re walking. We limit computer, phone and TV use after sundown too. If we want to Netflix and chill we use blue blocker glasses. They reduce blue light exposure to eyes. I wear them when driving at night also. You’d be amazed at how early you become sleepy in the absence of artificial light. Have you ever been camping and noticed you’re falling asleep at like 7:30 p.m.? Yeah, it’s like that.

I started using light to my advantage in the morning. Light wakes us up right? I wake up around 4:00 a.m. and sit directly under an infrared heat lamp and a blue LED light. Within 2 minutes, I’m ready to play Final Jeopardy, super woke! The blue light to the eyes shuts off melatonin production, the sleepy molecule. I stare straight at it for a full minute. Wow so pretty. The warm infrared light penetrates my skin and stimulates mitochondria. Mitochondria are the organelles that make energy. I’m literally turning my body on with light.

Video: My office setup

I also started eating breakfast to wake up my peripheral “digestive” clocks. For years I did only fat blended coffee for breakfast, which worked great for fat adaptation. Currently, a big breakfast with veggies and meat seems to align more with my circadian rhythm. I reduced the size of my dinners and eat them as early as possible. After about a week of this routine, my morning turd returned. Halleluiah!

This has worked so well for me that I was able to quit coffee. I suspected coffee was causing anxiety. Too much caffeine. Removing it improved sleep as well. I feel more calm and relaxed throughout the day. Now I drink a variety of teas. Pu-erhJapanese sencha and rooibos are outstanding.

The Results

I just feel better. I don’t know how to quantify that aside from less noticeable anxiety and more subjective happiness. My time spent with my lady and baby is more connected. I easily wake up hours before I need to, about 4:00 a.m. I look forward to my morning light therapy, which has turned into a quiet time. I read, sip my tea, grub my keto breakfast and sometimes do a little writing. I’ve lost about 10 pounds since beginning this program. I’m also sleeping much better. 

The Main Ideas:

1.       Avoid artificial light like the plague after sundown. We use candles in our home. 

2.       Use blue blocker glasses if you must be exposed to illuminated screens or other forms of bright light at night.

3.       Expose yourself to lots of light during the day. Natural sunlight is best. Earlier in the day seems to be best.

4.       Wake up early and blast yourself with infrared and blue light.

5.       Eat a good keto/paleo breakfast.

6.       Try removing coffee.

7.       Carve out some morning quiet time for yourself to connect with your inner Yoda

If you’re interested in online coaching, hit me up. Gabe@ancientgains.com Cell- 714-926-9282

Have a good day,

Gabe