Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sleep like a Cavebaby

It's important to think of health as a synergy of elements. All the different aspects of health (diet, exercise, stress, etc.) work together in order to maintain optimal health and happiness. But the most important of all is sleep, and here's why:

Sleep is recharging. When you sleep, the body enters an advanced state of repair across certain biological levels. That means not just muscle repair, but also hormonal regulation and other vital processes that are hindered if the quality and quantity of sleep is disturbed, such as from toxins in the diet or noise from the neighbor or light from the window. So how can we sleep paleo? Here are some key points:

Wake with the sun. In nature, our paleolithic ancestors slept at night and rose when bright. There's a body of evidence that light sensors on our body trigger hormonal regulation throughout the day.

Pitch black. That means blackout curtains or better. Even artificial light will confuse the delicate rhythms of hormonal regulation.

Cool as a cave. A hot night will interrupt REM cycles and dehydrate you. Too cold won't work either.

Perfect silence. When I buy a home, I plan to soundproof the bedroom from noisy neighbors. If REM sleep is interrupted, you have to start all over with Stage I sleep again.

Eat right. Toxins of all sorts may be adversely affecting the quality of your sleep so avoid them all: gluten, dairy, lectins, alcohol, sugar, salt.

Be hydrated, but not too hydrated. Basically this means drinking water after dinner, but not right before bedtime. This is to avoid waking mid-sleep to pee.

Sleep a lot. Eight hours should be the bare minimum. Our ancestors were likely in a state of sleep-rest the entire night.

The issue of bedding will depend on the type of sleeper and will have to be trial and error. If you like firm, go for it. If not, then go ahead with plush. It makes sense that cavemen would have taken some time to procure a comfortable spot in the wild.

There are some 'natural' supplements out there, but the only one that caught my interest was magnesium (by a friend's recommendation). I've only taken it for a few days, but so far I've had great sleep. Plus, the bottle is cheap ($7 for a year's supply). Hope this helps!


  1. Welcome to the Paleo Diet. As an avid martial artist and near vegetarian almost a year ago I too was saved from gluten when I read about John in the New York Times and saw him on The Colbert Report. I also read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. I am in my late 30s and feel as good as I did when I was 20.

    Here's a great article on sleep in modern hunter-gatherer tribes. Turns out sleeping in a sound proof chamber is not exactly paleo. Which makes sense. Humans lived in a wild environment and often slept during the hottest parts of the day to conserve energy and keep cool. They would party at night and make plenty of noise to ensure that predators stayed clear of the activity. They slept in huddled groups and not in individualized sleep compartments like we now do.

    Anyway, its just something to consider while you do your research. Most sleep researchers study sleep under a civilized sleep paradigm. Its important to understand sleep in the wild for an evolutionary viewpoint.

  2. Thanks very much for sharing, MC. Great link. I'm especially interested in the social dimension of sleep, having others around as a form of security, warmth, etc. That's something that can certainly be incorporated into a modern lifestyle.

    I only advocate silence as a means for uninterrupted sleep. Since long daytime naps are impossible for most modern folk, the nighttime has to be utilized, and complete rhythms of sleep are important. But I think you're right about the natural element, maybe the sound of wind, rain, or river would enhance sleep. Very interesting. Thanks again for your input.

  3. Just like vitamins, sleep is very important for our health. It helps regain energy. The lack of it might affect you in a lot of ways.

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  5. I agree with you in a lot of ways. Being healthy is not about what you eat or whether you exercise. You always need time to relax and one thing you can do is to sleep.

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  6. These are the reasons why sleep is very important for our health. I make sure that I relax and rest through sleeping so I can regain my energy. I don't rely too much on vitamins.


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