The Science of Small Change | Andrew Huberman | Knowledge Project
In this episode of The Knowledge Project Podcast, Dr. Andrew Huberman, a leading neuroscientist and Stanford University School of Medicine professor, explores the profound impact of small behaviors on our health.
He delves into the effects of light on sleep and energy levels, the efficacy of supplements, impulse control, and exercises to slow aging.
Light Exposure and Alertness
Throughout the day, it’s beneficial to get as much bright light exposure as possible, and as little bright light exposure between the hours of 10 pm and 4 am.
This helps maintain alertness and well-being throughout the day and sets a timer for when you’ll get sleepy later at night.
Contrary to popular belief, blue light is beneficial for setting this clock in the brain.
Cortisol’s Role in Health
Cortisol, often referred to as a stress hormone, has a healthy peak every 24 hours that is non-negotiable.
This peak is responsible for waking you up in the morning, increasing your body temperature, providing focus and alertness, and positively activating your immune system.
If you get light in your eyes early in the day, this peak will arrive early, which is vital for mental health.
Melatonin, secreted from a small gland in the brain called the pineal, makes us feel sleepy and fall asleep, but it does not keep us asleep.
Light viewed by the eyes inhibits melatonin, so much so that if you spend more than 10 or 15 seconds in bright light, your melatonin levels will drop to zero.
This is why it’s recommended to start dimming the lights in your environment in the evening.
Regular Light Viewing
If you start getting regular about morning light viewing and evening light viewing, your system starts to fall into a very regular pattern where you feel sleepy when you expect to and want to be sleepy, and you feel wide awake when you want to be alert.
This is not a placebo effect but a real effect of the release of cortisol, adrenaline, and dopamine into your body.
Timing in Eating and Exercising
Timing in eating and exercising plays a crucial role in managing sleep and wakefulness.
Exercising in the morning or during the day and having the last meal around 6:30-7:00 PM can help regulate the body’s internal clocks.
Also, stopping caffeine intake around 2 or 3 PM can prevent sleep disruption.
Cyclic hyperventilation means sitting or lying down for… five minutes a day… and it looks a little silly when I do it, but I’ll just do it. Cyclic hyperventilation is going to be a big active inhale through the nose and then a passive exhale through the mouth… you’re generating adrenaline release into your system… this is active stimulation of adrenaline into your brain and body. – Dr. Andrew Huberman
Understanding Alertness Levels
The biggest peak in alertness occurs about 90 minutes before your natural sleep time.
Understanding this pattern can help individuals manage their sleep schedules more effectively and improve their overall health.
Light is perhaps the most powerful stimulus for our mental, physical health, and for our performance in every endeavor… what light does is it sets the foundation of our abilities and it does that indirectly and directly… it does it indirectly by controlling when we are asleep and when we are alert and it also has direct effects on the way that our nervous system functions. – Dr. Andrew Huberman
Supplements in Health
While supplements can be powerful and often a good alternative to prescription drugs, they should not replace behavioral tools.
Supplements can help in the moment, but they do not rewire the nervous system like behavioral practices do.
Therefore, understanding the role and limitations of supplements is crucial for health management.
Behavioral Tools for Health
Behavioral tools should form the foundation of all sleep and wakefulness strategies because they engage neuroplasticity, the nervous system’s ability to change and adapt.
These tools can help improve sleep quality, reduce stress, and promote overall health.