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The Top Sleep Gadgets To Improve Your Health
Does your brain automatically go to “sleep gadgets” when you think about optimizing your health? Most, often, when we think about optimizing our health we often go to diet and exercise first. But there is another very important (and often neglected) factor that, if left unchecked, can negate any progress you may be making in other areas of your health. Getting your zzzz’s!
This is where sleep gadgets and tools come in. We now have access to sleep activity trackers and apps that are like having a sleep technologist right in your room!
So if you want to uplevel your health, start with your sleep. If you’re not sleeping enough or well enough, your quality of life can be impacted. Quality sleep is critical for physical, mental, and emotional health—both in the short term and the long term.
Your body needs sleep to reset, restore, and repair. It takes this time to form neural pathways that are critical for information retention, memories, critical thinking, cognitive function and regulation of emotions and behavior.
Your body also needs sleep to keep your blood, hormones, and organs healthy. For example, sleep is necessary to heal and repair your blood vessels; failing to do so can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and increased risk of stroke. A lack of sleep is also linked to a risk of obesity and weight-related health problems.
Sleep interacts with your daily life as well. Without rest, you’ll be unproductive, unfocused, and unmotivated, which can quickly disrupt every area of your life, from your career to your personal relationships.
Studies show that just ONE night of poor sleep can alter your DNA, change genetic expression and negatively impact your health. You can read more about the importance and role of sleep here.
With the accessibility of new tech at your fingertips, you can now find all the sleep help you need. Let’s explore some of the latest and cutting edge sleep gadgets to optimize your health.
Track your sleep
Most men think they are getting good sleep. But sleep doesn’t just mean ‘8 hours’.
It’s not all about the number of hours slept, but the quality and depth of that sleep as well. Understanding the quality of sleep is critical to improving your health. So how do you know you’re actually getting good sleep if you aren’t tracking it?
In order to make adjustments that will improve your sleep, you need to first understand how you’re currently sleeping. And this is why tracking your sleep is so critical. Did you know one week of “poor sleep” can decrease testosterone levels by as much as 15%?!!
Tracking your sleep helps you understand not just how long you sleep, but also the quality of your sleep. It helps you analyze your sleep patterns to improve your sleep schedule and environment.
The best sleep trackers will monitor how much deep sleep versus light sleep you’re getting, how long it takes you to fall asleep (“sleep latency”), and how often you wake up throughout the night.
You want a sleep tracker that will take into account your movements alongside the external environment of your bedroom to best optimize your nights.
Check out these tools that offer comprehensive sleep tracking:
The Oura Ring is a small wearable ring looks sleek and unobtrusive on your finger but packs a punch with its wide range of technology. During the day it tracks your activity and calories. At night, it monitors temperature, movement, and heart rate so that you can understand the areas you need to focus on to improve sleep.
Every day you’ll have access to data on your sleep cycle types, the quality of your sleep and the quantity. This ring gives you access to wellbeing trends with daily, weekly, and monthly views of all contributing factors to your sleep, including stress and workout recovery!
Garmin Fenix Watch
The Garmin Fenix Watch is a rugged accessory made for outdoor adventures and also for your indoor rest time. It does a lot of what other smart watches does: tracking heart rate and movement. But it also has GPS, satellite reception and advanced biomechanical measuring for athletic performance.
When it is time to wind down, this watch also has the ability to the ability to track and provide data for light and deep sleep, REM (rapid eye movement), and awake time throughout your cycle. And, many stylish options!
Of course other wearable watches such as Fitbit and Apple Watch have the capacity to track your sleep cycles as well, however you want to research whether or not it is meeting your needs as each wearable is different. If you have a health and fitness tracker, check to see if it will also track and analyze the quality of your sleep. The more your activity tracker can do, the better the picture of your overall health.
If you’re someone who is nervous about uploading your biometric data to an unknown server and don’t want to use a wearable sleep tracker, you can still benefit from tracking your sleep the old school way – with a journal. Keeping a physical sleep journal or log in a sleep tracker app on your phone can help you recognize you have a problem. Start by tracking when you go to bed, when you thought you fell asleep and any awakenings during the night.
What if your challenge isn’t staying asleep, but falling asleep in the first place? There are a number of factors that might make it challenging for you to fall asleep, from the external environment of your bedroom to your internal mental monologue. Tracking can help you determine where to focus. Let’s now discuss how to improve your bedroom environment to help you sleep better. (See the best wearable tech options here: How Wearable Tech Is Revolutionizing and Personalizing Healthcare)
Fall asleep faster
For a strong majority of us, the trouble with falling asleep comes from the incessant train of thoughts running through our heads. Whether you’re stressed about work, thinking about your to-do list, or wondering if there are aliens on other planets, we all fall into the endless loop of thoughts that make it hard to fall asleep.
So here are some sleep tech tools that can help soothe anxiety and quiet thoughts.
A lot of people are finding success with the Headspace App to meditate and drift to sleep. You simply throw in your headphones, turn on the app, and listen to gentle sleep music and guided meditations to help you raise your mindfulness and drift into a calm, deep slumber. What distinguishes Headspace from other apps is the clinically-validated research that informs their product, so you know that they are always using the best health and meditation technology. This sleep app helps you create a customized plan and makes recommendations based on your personal settings. It’s free (or you can buy a premium subscription for expanded access) so why not try it out tonight?
For suggestions on other sleep gadgets that can help you fall asleep, read about Men’s Health Top 13 best gadgets. (https://www.menshealth.com/technology-gear/g23397130/best-sleep-tech/)
Get deeper, high-quality sleep
As I’ve mentioned, the quality of your sleep matters even more than the quantity. Too many of us may “sleep’ for 8 hours, but the majority of that is “light” sleep. If you’re not getting deep REM sleep, your body isn’t fully rejuvenating and resting. The main reasons you’re not getting deep sleep is because of your bedroom environment or not getting enough oxygen (which causes snoring).
Are you a snorer? Snoring doesn’t just drive your partner crazy—it actually worsens your sleep quality as well! Snoring occurs when you’re not getting enough oxygen while sleeping, so your body overcompensates. Your body requires more oxygen during sleep to assist in the recovery and restoration process. Without good breathing, you aren’t inhaling the necessary oxygen, so you won’t get a good quality of sleep.
There are a lot of snoring devices out there that you can try. But most men don’t want to put a loud, cumbersome device on their faces to try and get rid of snoring.
SmartNora is a no-contact anti-snoring device that’s showing a lot of awesome results. You place an Expander device insert in your pillow and a Nora sensor on your nightstand. When the sensor hears you snoring, it activates the Expander. This gently moves your pillow to stimulate the throat muscles, which minimizes or stops snoring altogether.
Some men say the Nora is a little obtrusive the first few days when you feel the motion, but most men quickly get used to it. It’s a much better solution than nose strips, mouth guards, and muzzles.
Improve your bedroom environment
There are four key environmental factors that impact your sleep: light, noise, temperature, and air quality. What can you do about these?
There are two aspects of light that impact your sleep: blue light and light pollution.
Blue Light vs. Red Light
Blue light is the light emitted from electronics, like phones, laptops, and even some light bulbs. Research has proven that blue light suppresses melatonin production and circadian rhythm about twice as long as other wavelengths, which can drastically impact both sleep quality and quantity. Those who have to spend lengthy periods of time in front of screens, perhaps for work, may wish to source prescription glasses which block blue light.
Red light on the other hand, is known to boost melatonin production and soothe you into sleep (amongst other benefits like activating the lymphatic system and reducing inflammation). But you don’t necessarily need your bedroom to have a Moulin Rouge glow. You can buy red spectrum bulbs, which minimize blue light wavelengths and maximize red ones without leaving your room rosy-colored. Try Lighting Science’s Good Night Biological LED Lamp (lsgc.com). Originally developed for NASA astronauts on the International Space Station, it looks like a regular white light but with all the sleep inducing benefits of red.
In addition, you’ll want to reduce and remove blue light in the evening. This can be done with just a few simple shifts:
- Turn on “night shift” on your electronic devices. This reduces blue light by utilizing orange light instead.
- Better yet, don’t use your electronics 2-3 hours before bed. This ensures you’re not subjecting your eyes and brain to any unnecessary light.
- Invest in blue-light blocking glasses. You can choose yellow tinted ones like TrueDarks or newer generation “clear” lenses that reduce 90% of blue light.
- Use Philips Hue ambiance color lights in your bedroom. If you find you respond best to color changes, you can use a setting that mimics a sunset. You can also program it to turn orange/red at night and blue in the morning to naturally promote your circadian rhythm.
Your brain is biologically programmed to be “on” when it sees light and “off” when the sun goes down. So even the smallest stream of light pouring into your bedroom could keep your brain in active mode, even while you’re sleeping. This can make it hard to fall asleep, or it might keep you in a lighter sleep cycle throughout the night.
The best way to do this is with blackout curtains, which block any and all light coming from your backyard or neighbors’ houses. You can also purchase blackout liners for your existing curtains.
Sleep masks are another option, if you don’t mind something on your face. These can make it challenging to wake up in the morning, though, since your brain isn’t exposed to light first thing.
Any background noise can be distracting and disturbing for your brain, even if you’re not conscious of it. A lot of people prefer to sleep with white noise makers or fans to drown out any external noise and drift into a deeper sleep.
There are a lot of different options to block or adjust the noise you hear at night, based on your preferences. Some popular choices include: CozyPhones, Nightingale Sleep System, and Dreampad.
These sleep headphones are made for comfort. CozyPhones wear like a head band with breathable material so you can put on your music, books, or meditation without disturbing your partner. This works especially well if you don’t want to keep earplugs in all night.
You can also check out other headphones like Bose SleepBuds or QuietOn.
Nightingale Sleep System
The Nightgale sleep system works if you and your partner both want white noise. This system creates a blanket of sound throughout your room using a stereo effect, which masks environmental noises and lulls you into a gentle sleep. You can even connect it to a smart device to get weather, traffic, and other alerts built in to help wake you up in the morning.
The Dreampad relaxation pillow plays soothing music and sounds to help you sleep right through your pillow, traveling through your entire body. This helps you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. It uses gentle vibrations so it won’t wake up your partner, and it’s been backed by a number of studies as one of the best ways to minimize pre-sleep stress.
Note: If you want to listen to music but don’t want the music to stimulate your brain, consider listening to binaural beats. Theta waves initiate drowsy, light sleep while delta waves keep you in a deep sleep. You can find these sorts of binaural beats on meditation apps like Insight Timer or even on YouTube videos! (Check out this video of 8 hours of theta waves.)
Studies show that sleeping in a cold room is actually better for your health than sleeping in a warm one. Our body temperature naturally drops while we sleep, so a cooler bedroom can reinforce the body’s instinct to sleep. Temperatures between 60 and 68 degrees have been shown to stimulate the production of melatonin, which is the “sleep hormone.”
You can sleep with a fan, like a Dyson cool air purifier, to cool down your room. However, moving air may actually make it harder to sleep for some people. If you’re not too fond of the idea of a fan it may be worth looking at an air filter from somewhere like air purifier first may be a better option, as there will be less of a direct flow of air compared to a dyson fan.
Instead, I recommend a Nest thermostat. You can program your smart thermostat to make your A.C. cooler at night to help you fall asleep, but then it can get warmer in the morning to help you wake up easier. (No one likes to leave their comfy bed if it’s too cold in the morning.) Plus, you can save money on your energy bill by programming your thermostat to cool and heat your house in accordance with your routines and lifestyle.
You can also try out cooling sheets. These promote air flow and minimize perspiration, so you can stay covered while staying cool. Sheex is a popular option thanks to their Sleep-Fit Technology with advanced thermoregulation. Plus, their sheets are super soft and quick drying.
Natural solution: sleep naked! Doesn’t hurt, right?
Poor air quality in your bedroom may actually play the biggest role in your ability to sleep soundly through the night. Our bodies require high levels of oxygen at night. If your bedroom doesn’t have clean, pure oxygen available, your body can’t fall into that restful state it needs for restoring balance.
See what your air quality looks like with a monitor like Awair. This analyzes and tracks toxins, chemicals, dust, humidity, and carbon dioxide to determine what your bedroom environment is like. It will even learn your routines, habits, and lifestyle to determine how your living impacts your air quality. Awair even interacts with other smart home devices to offer personalized recommendations that can improve your air quality.
To purify your air, I recommend the Pure Cool Link Air Purifier by Dyson. This two-in-one fan purifies 99.97% of allergens and pollutants, even those as small as 0.3 microns. It also keeps you cool while purifying, so you can have a chillier bedroom at night as well (and save on you’re HVAC bill).
You also want to keep the air humid, which helps keep your sinuses lubricated and your skin soft. Plus, humidity helps you sleep better. You can purchase a humidifier, or you can even use an essential oil diffuser. This will add a bit of moisture to the air while also making your room smell incredible. Add lavender, bergamot, and eucalyptus essential oils to induce superior sleep.
Natural air quality solution: succulents! Succulents continue to intake carbon dioxide and release oxygen at night (other plants stop releasing oxygen at night). So putting a few succulent plants in your bedroom can purify the air and add in more oxygen.
Wake up energized
Waking up is part of the sleep process as well. If you wake up in the middle of a dream, you’re waking up from deep REM sleep—the sleep that is used to restore your body back to healthy homeostasis. Interrupting this pattern stops your body in the middle of its work, which will leave you feeling groggy, tired, and unrested the whole day.
You want to wake up naturally, so you feel energetic and vital to take on the day. That’s why I recommend using a sunrise alarm clock. These gadgets will wake you up gently in accordance with your tracked sleep rhythm, using light that mimics the rise of the sun. Your brain will slowly start to acknowledge the rising light, so it will wake up naturally without the shock of an alarm clock.
Popular sun alarm clocks are the Nox Sleep Light and Philips Wake-Up Light.
Nox Sleep Light
This Nox sleep light will monitor your sleep quality, help you fall asleep, and wake you up naturally. I love that it adjusts according to your personal body clock. So, it will send off a red wavelength when you’re falling asleep to raise your production of melatonin. Then, it will wake you up at the lightest part of your sleep so you’ll feel awake and energized. It can also track your bedroom environment like temperature, humidity, light, and noise to optimize your sleep moving forward.
Philips Wake-up Light
Philips lights offers several versions of their sunrise lamp. These offer natural wake up sounds and sunrise simulation, but they also include simulated sunsets and sleep music. This is a great starter option if you already have a sleep tracker.
Can sleep gadgets really help me sleep?
The good news is that in this age of technology, many sleep problems can be resolved through access to these cool gadgets. Instead of being prescribed a pharmaceutical medication, learning to reduce blue light and listening to a meditation at bedtime may be the alternative you need. You’ll have to experiment to find the best sleep aid for your personal challenges. However, these sleeping tips aren’t meant to replace professional sleep therapy.
If you’re having a hard time falling or staying asleep, just buying up all of these bedroom gadgets isn’t necessarily going to help (and if your problems are chronic, you should really seek assistance from a medical professional, not an app or tech product). If you’re doing everything you can for your sleep and still aren’t seeing results, it may be in your genes. Yup, our sleep schedule is actually part of our genetic expression!
But you can hack your genetic expression, so you can sleep better and healthier. It starts with a consultation to see where your health is now… and where it can be in just a few short months or weeks.
Let’s get you sleeping right, waking well, and living awesome.
It’s time for you to get in the driver’s seat of your health. With elite men’s optimization program, we’ll put you at the peak of your human potential.
Click here to learn more about the lifelong benefits of a personalized genetics consultation and epigenetic coaching program.
I look forward to hearing from you to revolutionize and revitalize your life and vitality. Let’s taking your health to the next level.
Epigenetics Series: How does stress affect your genes?
Could your genes and stress be related? Is stress passed down from generation to generation?
Recent research shows that stress may alter our genes in a way that’s linked to mental and physical illnesses. These stress-induced illnesses may even be hereditary, meaning the trauma of our ancestors impacts our contemporary genetic expression.
How is stress related to your genes? Why is stress such a problem for health?
And what can you do about it to take control of your health?
What is stress?
What’s the first thing you think of when you think of “stress?”
Maybe you instantly think of a project you’re working on at your job or a loan you’re trying to pay off. You may even think of public speaking or skydiving.
Interestingly, when we think of “stress,” we automatically think of situations. We think of instances where our bodies are stressed. These are uncomfortable or challenging situations that push our bodies and brains to new places.
These situations cause us “stress.”
In reality, though, stress itself is a response to these situations.
When these situations occur, our bodies release stress hormones called glucocorticoids. The principal glucocorticoid is cortisol, otherwise called “the stress hormone.”
There are two types of stress: acute and chronic.
Acute stress occurs in the short-term. This is when you’re met with a challenging situation that you have to respond to in some way. To overcome this stressor, your body releases a burst of glucocorticoids.
Glucocorticoids prepare your body to tackle the stressor. For example, your heart might start pumping blood faster to give your body more oxygen; your eyes might dilate to see more around you, and your hands and feet might tingle because they’re receiving more blood (in case you need to fight or flee).
These stress responses are often dubbed as symptoms of “anxiety.” But in the short-term, these hormones can actually give us a biological advantage. For example, they would allow us to fight or flee a bear we come in contact with. In more practical terms today, this response could also make us more alert and energized to give a speech or take a test.
In short spurts, glucocorticoids are manageable and healthy. They can help you tackle a situation with confidence and determination.
It’s when glucocorticoids flood our bloodstream for an extended period of time that they become an issue.
Chronic stress is long-term. This is caused generally by ongoing stressful situations, like a career you hate, a debt you can’t pay, or an ongoing divorce. Chronic stress can also be the result of PTSD. Even if you aren’t currently going through the stressor, memories of that trauma can continue releasing glucocorticoids for months or years.
Chronic stress causes high levels of stress hormones for an extended period of time. This damages the endocrine system by unbalancing hormones, tiring the body, and fatiguing organ function.
In fact, chronic stress can even negatively impact your genetic expression.
Moreover, this altered gene expression can be passed down from generation-to-generation.
Before we get into how chronic stress alters epigenetic expression, let’s first take a look at why stress is bad for us.
Why is stress harmful?
Stress kills. Stress has been linked to:
- Chronic inflammation
- Hypertension/high blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
Chronic stress can literally burn out your body. Your adrenal glands, which produce cortisol, get fatigued and don’t function properly. The oxidative stress caused by these stressors creates harmful free radicals that severely damage your cells. This accelerates the aging process, damages the immune system, and impacts cognitive function.
Stress is linked to just about every disease—big or small. You’re even more likely to catch a common cold if you’re stressed.
Cortisol and testosterone
Stress also has a direct impact on your sexual health.
If you’re suffering from low libido and low testosterone, it may be because you’re stressed.
Numerous studies have shown that high levels of cortisol are directly linked to low levels of testosterone. There is especially a link between stress and severe trauma with PTSD. Higher cortisol in stressful situations drastically lowers testosterone.
When your cortisol goes up, your testosterone goes down.
Why does higher cortisol mean lower testosterone?
There are likely a number of hormonal pathways that create this hormonal relationship. To simplify it, we can look at the building blocks of cortisol and testosterone synthesis.
The body uses cholesterol to produce cortisol. Cholesterol is also a necessary part of testosterone synthesis. When stress levels increase, all of your body’s cholesterol goes to produce cortisol. This leaves no cholesterol left to produce testosterone.
Testosterone is a critical hormone in healthy adult males. Low testosterone is associated with decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction, depression, anxiety, weight gain, reduced muscle mass, cognitive impairment, arthritis, increased risk of heart disease, and more.
Low levels of testosterone kill your energy, productivity, enjoyment, and health. And low levels of T are a direct result of high cortisol and high stress.
Chronic stress not only impacts our hormones but also our genes. High levels of cortisol and low levels of testosterone can alter the way our DNA is expressed, putting us at risk for disease and illness.
How does stress alter your epigenetic expression?
Epigenetics involves two key genetic alterations: DNA methylation and histone acetylation. DNA methylation adds a methyl group to the end of a DNA structure, and histone acetylation adds an acetyl to the end of the histone binding. These additions can either activate or deactivate certain genes.
Research has shown that stress causes both methylation and acetylation on a variety of genes, especially neurological genes (those in the brain).
DNA methylation and stress
One study found that certain psychological stressors can cause DNA methylation of certain genes. For example, war trauma and physical abuse caused DNA methylation to occur on genes that activate damaging psychiatric disorders.
A study of Cushing’s Syndrome, which is caused by excess cortisol production, found genome-wide changes with regards to DNA methylation. They discovered that individuals with high cortisol levels had less DNA methylation compared to healthy individuals.
DNA methylation suppresses the expression of genes. In this way, certain harmful genetic expressions need DNA methylation in order to be suppressed. For example, in the study, the gene for psychiatric issues remained active because stress kept those genes “turned on;” this caused a number of CS patients to suffer from mental illness at a higher rate.
Research at Johns Hopkins found that mice given corticosterone appeared more anxious during a maze test. When testing their gene methylation levels, they found altered expressions in three of the five HPA axis genes.
They especially found higher levels of Fkbp5, which is the molecular complex that interacts with the glucocorticoid receptor. Genetic variations in Fkbp5 have previously been associated with PTSD and mood disorders.
Overall stress and genes
Basically, stress boosts cortisol and other glucocorticoids. These hormones impact histone coding and DNA methylation, activating genes of illness while deactivating healthy-suppressive genes.
Stress also plays an important role in those genes that control memory and cognitive function. Too much cortisol and these genes “turn off,” causing serious psychological and behavioral concerns.
Glucocorticoids, like the stress hormone cortisol, alter the genetic expression in the brain. Thus, any cortisol-boosting situation—like anxiety, PTSD, depression, and stress—can impact epigenetic chemical tags.
Thus, prolonged stress causes significant epigenetic changes that can drastically impact mental and physical wellbeing.
Stress doesn’t just alter your own genes. These epigenetic expressions and psychological concerns can be passed on for generations as well…
How does stress impact your children’s genes?
That’s right. You can pass your stress on to your children.
Studies have shown that environmental conditions of previous generations impact the expression of our current genes as well.
For example, one study found that daughters of women who experienced the Dutch famine were twice as likely to develop schizophrenia. The daughters did not go through the famine themselves, but their mother’s trauma was genetically passed down, increasing the offspring’s risk of mental illness.
Other studies have shown that extreme stress during pregnancy, like living through the 9/11 attacks, can pass the experience on to the child. These children report depression, anxiety, and poor coping mechanisms at a much higher rate than parents who did not live through extreme stress.
This is true even when the children are well cared for. A study of rats found that parents who experienced epigenetic-altering stress passed this genetic structure on to their pups and grand pups—even if they’re pups were cared for and loved in early life.
Although these altered genetic expressions are hereditary, they’re not permanent.
In fact, you can reverse stress-related DNA changes with environmental and lifestyle factors.
A study of identical twins looked at how environment and trauma impacted epigenetic flags. Although the siblings were genetically identical, their epigenetics changed over time. One twin had depression, anxiety, and obesity while the other did not. This is likely because the latter twin was able to change his epigenetics in a way that suppressed the genes for those diseases.
We have power over our epigenetics.
You can deactivate the stress-related genetic expression that you may have inherited from your family.
And you can prevent the activation of your own stress-induced DNA methylation.
How can you reverse stress-induced genetic risk factors?
One of the easiest and most effective ways to combat high stress is through meditation. Relaxation practices have been shown to reduce cortisol and increase testosterone. In fact, even just four months of meditation practice can help reset hormone levels and improve stress response.
I recommend taking a yoga class and learning deep breathing exercises. You should also get outside to meditate and relax. Studies show that taking a walk in nature is linked to lower cortisol levels. Fresh air helps calm the mind and body—and gets you to exercise as well.
Working out has a direct impact on mood and cortisol. Working out releases endorphins, which makes you happier and less stressed.
High-intensity interval training boosts testosterone and decreases cortisol. Learn more about using HIIT to lower cortisol and increase T here.
This decrease in cortisol has actually been shown to boost cognitive function and improve behavior and mood.
However, if you have high levels of stress, an intense workout might worsen the problem by boosting cortisol in the short-term. This cortisol increase isn’t harmful to your genes, but it can increase levels of anxiety and tension in individuals already experiencing high levels of stress.
Plus, losing weight and fat can help reduce stress. Moreover, body fat increases estrogen, which decreases T levels. This causes lower testosterone, and low T, in turn, leads to increased body fat and reduced muscle mass—which further impacts stress. It becomes an unhealthy cycle of weight gain, low T, and stress!
Eat more carbs.
People tend to shy away from carbs because they “make you gain weight.” However, a diet that’s too low in carbs can actually make you gain weight by increasing cortisol levels.
Carbohydrates actually help reduce cortisol levels, especially post-workout.
However, don’t go guzzling carbs when you’re stressed, as too many carbs will cause weight gain and this can further increase cortisol and lower testosterone.
It simply means you want to maintain a balance of macronutrients: proteins, fats, and carbs. Studies have shown that higher protein diets lead to high cortisol levels, while a strong ratio of protein to carbs creates the most balanced hormones.
Click to learn more about the dangers of an all-protein diet—and why you need carbs.
Get more vitamin C.
Vitamin C has been linked to reduced cortisol production, especially after an intense workout. Vitamin C is also a great testosterone booster.
One study found that vitamin C actually regenerated 58% of damaged testosterone molecules. It also helps with sperm quality, motility, and volume for improved sexual health. Boost your testosterone and you can help reduce your cortisol and stress.
You can find vitamin C in a number of healthy foods, like citrus, guava, red peppers, strawberries, and papaya.
Sleep helps reset your hormone levels, reducing cortisol and increasing testosterone.
In fact, if you don’t sleep enough, your cortisol levels rise astronomically.
Cortisol levels naturally rise slightly in the morning to help us wake up and prepare for the day. In reverse, cortisol drops at night to help us sleep.
However, if your body doesn’t drop cortisol at night, you’ll deal with insomnia and late-night anxiety. You’ll also have increased levels of cortisol in the morning that can cause severe, chronic stress whenever you’re awake.
Sleep is critical to balance hormones, reduce stress, and restore your body’s natural health.
Learn more about how sleep impacts your epigenetics here.
Stand in power poses.
Studies have shown that you can increase testosterone by 20% and reduce cortisol by 25% simply by standing in a “power pose” for two minutes. The researchers concluded that you can change your brain and hormonal chemistry through body language and behavior.
Simply pretending to be powerful and stress-free will make you powerful and stress-free!
Stress impacts our behavioral epigenetics. Traumatic experiences in our past—and in our ancestors’ past—can scar our DNA. Although we can inherit stress-induced genetic expressions, we can also reverse this process as well. With certain lifestyle and environmental changes, you can reduce your stress and reset your genetics for a healthier expression.
Are you ready to change your genes?
You’ll learn how to change your environment and lifestyle to reduce your risk of major diseases… and finally, have the energy and health you crave!
Upgrade to Male™ 2.0 – Schedule a Consult!
You’ll get access to a genetic-based report and analysis, along with a private consultation that will put you on track to your ultimate health.
With the Male 2.0 Method, I test your DNA, interpret the results, and create a customized strategy just for you. This plan is specific to YOUR individual genes and lifestyle. It will improve every area of your life, from your health and professional productivity to your overall longevity and total wellbeing. Male 2.0 gives you the actionable tools you need right now. It reveals what you need to customize and design your future limitless self.
Click here to learn more about the lifelong benefits of a personalized genetics consultation and epigenetic coaching program.
Want more tips to optimize your health? Listen to the latest podcasts. Click HERE
I look forward to working with you to take your health goals to the next level.
COMING SOON TO AMAZON
In Male 2.0™, Dr. Tracy Gapin has turned everything we once thought we knew about men’s health and performance upside down. The old model of how to be “a man” is broken. A man who works himself to death. A man who tries to NOT get sick but isn’t really healthy either. A man who takes a pill for every ill but is never really cured. That was Male 1.0. Now, imagine being THE MAN ─ owning your performance in the bedroom, the weight room, and the boardroom. Living a fully optimized life. Becoming limitless. This is Male 2.0!
Tracy Gapin, MD, FACS is a board-certified Urologist, Men’s Health Expert, Author, and Professional Speaker. Using state-of-the-art biometric monitoring, nutrition and lifestyle intervention, Dr. Gapin coaches Fortune 500 executives and evolutionary leaders of business, sports medicine, and high performance. He specializes in cutting-edge precision medicine with an emphasis on epigenetics, providing men with a personalized path to optimizing health & performance. www.SmartMensHealth.com
Epigenetics Series: How To Sleep For Better Health
Even one night of sleep deprivation can alter your genes. The epigenetic change of poor sleep can result in reduced immunity, poor memory, lowered cognitive processes, enhanced risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and even higher risk for cancer and early death.
1 in 3 American adults doesn’t get enough sleep on a regular basis. That means nearly 70 to 80 million Americans are being subjected to reduced health and quality of life simply because they aren’t sleeping enough.
But understanding the epigenetics of sleep could help treat sleep disorders and their associated health risks.
How is sleep related to our genes? How do these epigenetic changes impact our health? And what can we do to reverse these genetic changes, sleep more, and stay healthy?
Let’s quickly recap the basics of epigenetics so we’re on the same page to discuss sleep genes.
Epigenetics looks at how changes in lifestyle and environmental factors can influence genetic expression.
We can’t change our genes. But certain environmental and lifestyle factors—like sleep— can activate or deactivate the expression of those genes.
DNA methylation is the most important and common epigenetic change. Methylation occurs when proteins attach to the methyl groups on the DNA bases. This attachment either “turns on” or “turns off” the expression of those genes. Think of methylation like a light switch that can flip the genetic expression one way or the other. We’ll also discuss histone acetylation below, which also plays a role in epigenetic expression.
Learn more about epigenetics here: What is Epigenetics and Why Do You Care?
The Importance Of Sleep
Sleep is critical for almost every aspect of our health. From learning and memory building to maintaining a healthy weight to reducing risk for chronic diseases, a number of studies have linked proper sleep to overall health and wellness.
The reverse is true as well. Studies have proven a correlation between lack of sleep and health problems, like metabolic disorders, heart disease, and even early death.
But the reason we need sleep for health isn’t fully understood. It could be because a lack of sleep increases cortisol (“stress hormone”) levels, which is linked to health problems. Or it could be that your cells need sleep to “reset” and regenerate. It could also be that sleep gives our body the necessary energy to use during the day.
Epigenetics is making some headway in understanding why we truly need sleep. Epigenetics suggests that sleep impacts DNA methylation, which can activate or deactivate certain cells in the body.
A lack of sleep may increase DNA methylation, which can suddenly activate the expression of risky genes, like cancer-causing tumor growth genes.
“It is becoming clear that epigenetic factors are highly integrated into networks [of clock genes and circadian gene expression],” wrote Qureshi and Mehler.
Epigenetics Control Sleep Patterns
Recent studies have proven that maternal and paternal imprinted genes control REM sleep.
One study looked at two syndromes, Prader-Willi syndrome and Angelman syndrome.
Prader-Willi syndrome comes from maternal additions (and paternal deletions) on chromosome 15. It results in inactive and sleepy children who tend towards the psychotic spectrum disorder.
Angelman syndrome has paternal additions and maternal deletions on chromosome 15. This syndrome results in hyperactive children who tend towards the autism spectrum.
This says something interesting about the link between genes and these syndromes’ symptoms. The difference comes from an opposite pattern of imprinting, which is the expression of the gene of one parental copy over another (Prader-Willi favors the maternal and Angelman favors the paternal).
When the maternal is stronger with Prader-Willi, children are inactive and sleeping. When the paternal gene is stronger with Angelman, children are hyperactive and sleepless.
The gene is the same, but the expression on wakefulness and sleepiness is different.
This same study also found that these genes can even control dreams. When paternal genes were predominantly expressed, the dreamer showed more aggressive impulses. When maternal genes were expressed, the dreamer showed more pro-social behaviors.
The expressed maternal or paternal gene has a direct correlation to energy levels, sleep capacity, and even dreaming.
This proves, at the very least, that our genetic expression has a direct link to our sleep patterns.
Sleep Patterns Control Epigenetics
But the opposite is true too. Genes control our sleep, but sleep also controls how our genes are expressed.
Research has proven that sleep controls the REM cycle. In fact, nearly 15% of our total genes oscillate along the sleep-wake cycles. This means that the genetic expression is dependent upon sleep patterns. A loss of sleep that disrupts our natural circadian rhythm can actually affect 20% of the genes in our brain.
These genes are called “clock” genes. These clock genes are key components of our circadian clock. How they interact with one another is entirely dependent upon genetic expression. The clock genes control when we are awake and when we are asleep, aka our nocturnal and diurnal cycles.
Yes, whether you are a “night owl” or “morning lark” is actually a factor of your genetic expression!
Some of the core clock genes include BMAL1, CRY 1,2 and PER 1,2. You can learn more about clock genes here.
Sleep and DNA methylation
One of the most significant studies looked at the DNA methylation after just one night of sleep deprivation. 15 healthy men stayed in the lab for two nights. They slept during one session and were kept awake the entire night for the other.
They found after just one night of sleep deprivation:
- Complete methylation of CRY1
- Methylation changes in two regions of PER 2
- Reduced genetic expression of BMAL1
That means almost all of the clock genes were instantly changed in just one night. Researchers wrote, “Our current results indicate that changes in our clock genes may be linked to such negative effects caused by sleep loss.”
The study also looked at cortisol and blood glucose levels with sleep loss. They found that one night of sleep deprivation changed the genome of fat and muscle tissue. This demonstrates a direct link to increased risk factors of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
The researchers weren’t actually surprised that sleep impacted DNA methylation. They were more surprised how abruptly this change occurred. Cedernaes said, “It was interesting that the methylation of these genes could be altered so quickly, and that it could occur for these metabolically important clock genes.”
But what’s the problem? Why do we care about these clock genes?
These clock genes determine not only our patterns of sleep but also other key impacts of health, including cognitive function, metabolic health, and immunity.
Key Epigenetic Changes Dependent Upon Sleep
Sleep improves immunity
There is a direct link between sleep and the immune system. A loss of sleep reduces the ability of the body to fight infection and diseases.
One study found an increase in DNA methylation in children with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Increased methylation occurred primarily on the FOXP3 (Forkhead Box P3) gene. This gene is known for regulating the body’s immune response.
Methylation of this gene increased levels of two key proteins:
- High sensitivity C reactive protein: linked to cardiovascular disease and inflammation in blood
- Myeloid-related protein 8/14 complex: has a role in the body’s inflammatory process
Overall, researchers concluded that increased methylation levels increased the systematic inflammatory response. This chronic inflammation reduces the immune system while damaging organs and body functioning over time.
Learn more about the serious adverse health effects of chronic inflammation here.
Sleep enhances memory and cognitive functioning
Memories are stored while we sleep. If we aren’t sleeping, our brain doesn’t have time to “record” these memories.
Like methylation, histone acetylation is another epigenetic mechanism. This occurs when acetyl groups are added to histones (histones help order the structure of DNA). An addition of acetyl relaxes the DNA chromatin structure, which increases the expression of that gene.
While DNA methylation “turns off” or “turns on” a specific gene, histone acetylation enhances the “on” of a gene. If DNA methylation is a light switch, acetylation is the dimmer function.
Studies have proven a link between reverse histone acetylation and brain function. Histone deacetylases (HDACs) are especially implicated in learning and memory.
A lack of sleep can actually cause histone acetylation, and thus impact the brain’s ability to form memories and apply new learnings.
One study looked at rats with three days of sleep deprivation. They found that sleep loss decreased histone acetylation levels and increased HDAC2 expression.
They also found a reduction in BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor) promoters. These proteins are critical for the creation of neuron synapses and associated memory formation.
The sleep deprivation reduced BDNF expression, which can interfere with the process of building neurons. Without these neurons, the brain starts to slow down, especially with regards to memory formation.
That’s why a night without sleep can make you so foggy and forgetful.
The researchers then administered an HDAC inhibitor to reverse this process, which was able to restorer spatial memory function.
Sleep minimizes cancer risk
Studies have shown a link between a desynchronized circadian clock and tumor development. Not getting enough sleep can alter genes that are linked to immunity and tumor growth. This leaves your body exposed to cancer progression without the immunity to fight it off.
This likely occurs due to the decrease in melatonin with lack of sleep. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness.
One study found that melatonin can actually reverse tumor growth. In reverse, a lack of melatonin enables tumor growth progression. If we don’t sleep enough, our bodies don’t release the necessary melatonin. Moreover, light at night inhibits the release of melatonin. This melatonin deficiency has been linked to global DNA methylation, which impacts genes that regulate the immune system and inflammation.
In essence, melatonin is necessary to prevent and reduce tumor growth.
Sleep impacts stress (in a cycle)
Sleeping more can actually reduce your stress. Sleep helps lower your cortisol levels and increase your other hormones, like testosterone. A reduction in the stress-hormone cortisol can help your body feel less anxious and stressed.
But the reverse is true too. You need to reduce your stress if you want to get better sleep.
DNA methylation plays an important role in our body’s response to stress. DNA methylation can “turn on” stress genes. Stress causes histone modifications in the hippocampus, which can make the brain too active to get a good night’s sleep.
And many scientists believe that stress causes insomnia.
So DNA methylation might increase stress, which causes insomnia.
Insomnia and disrupted sleep then itself can become a chronic “stressor.” This stressor causes the DNA methylation that then causes insomnia.
It becomes a negative feedback loop of sleeplessness, stress, and unhealthy DNA methylation of genetic expression. This can literally perpetuate and sustain insomnia and associated health concerns indefinitely.
But we can actually break this cycle of epigenetics… by sleeping more.
How To Sleep
Can you “bank” your sleep?
This is always the first question people ask. Is it okay if I don’t sleep during the week and I sleep a lot on the weekend?
Well, no… but maybe.
Scientists are still looking at the impact of sleep accumulation.
However, as we saw with the above study, just one night of sleep deprivation can impact DNA methylation. Chronic sleep loss may have irreversible effects on genetic expression.
But, that doesn’t mean you should start losing sleep over your lost sleep. You want quality sleep every night, but one rough night won’t kill you. It’s generally accepted that it’s better to make up lost time the following day or weekend than to consistently tire yourself out running on no sleep.
So what does a healthy sleep look like?
In all honesty, the jury is still out on the answer to this question. So I’ll give you two key tips to follow that everyone can agree on.
You want to sleep in full REM cycles when possible.
One REM cycle is about 90 minutes long. This means you generally want to wake up in intervals of an hour and a half. For example, you want to set your alarm for 6 hours, 7.5 hours, or 9 hours. Waking up after 8 hours interrupts a REM cycle, which will not only leave you tired and grouchy, but it could also impact DNA methylation and epigenetic expression.
The number of hours you should shoot for each night is still up in the air. I generally recommend 7-9 hours each night depending on your own energy levels. You can sometimes get by with 6 hours depending upon your own body’s needs.
However, with regards to epigenetic expression, the number of hours seems to be less important than when you sleep. You want to follow the natural light-dark cycle of the earth—and of your body. Sleeping during the day may actually impact your chromatin remodeling and cellular metabolism.
Go to sleep when it’s dark. Wake with the sun.
Learn more about sleep and increasing your energy here.
The Bottom Line
Sleep affects our “clock genes.” These genes are linked to key health factors like the immune system, inflammation regulation, cancer progression, stress, and chronic disease.
Even one night of sleep deprivation can impact the epigenetic profile. Sleep alters the expression of our genes. This means that sleep can literally control our behavioral and physiological functions.
Further understanding of the epigenetics of sleep could help treat sleep-wake disorders as well as reduce risks of neuro-degeneration, metabolic disease, cancer, diseases, and aging.
It’s critical to sleep in appropriate circadian rhythms to improve the immune system, boost cognitive function, reduce cancer risk, and more.
Do you love learning about how you can control your genes and health?
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11 Ways To Increase Your Energy After Age 50
Are you ready to feel ultimate vitality? Are you ready to increase energy and become a productive, lively, youthful man once again?
As age starts to rise, everything else seems to decrease (except for maybe the number on the scale). Energy drops, testosterone levels decline, muscle mass is lost, metabolism slows, and even sexual drive lowers. In fact, these health issues are all related in a vicious cycle of sluggish living.
For example, low testosterone is linked to chronic fatigue, weight gain, muscle loss, and diminished libido. The reverse is also true as well’ a low level of energy can create low T levels, a bigger belly, and a decreased interest in living vigorously. When one part of health starts to decline with age, often the others do as well.
Energy is at the core of wellness. If you feel more energetic and vivacious, you’re more likely to make the necessary changes to get the rest of your health back in shape.
But how can you boost your vitality after age 50, when energy levels start to naturally and rapidly decline?
1. Sleep more
It sounds obvious, but inadequate sleep is the number one cause for low energy and low hormone production (like testosterone). With age, insomnia and restless nights become more common. This is especially true as other age-related health issues pop up, like arthritis pain or urinary incontinence from poor prostate health. These pains and symptoms can keep us up all night, forcing us to watch the sunrise despite our baggy eyes.
You should try to sleep six to seven hours per night. If you have trouble falling asleep, try one of the following options:
- Magnesium pills (a natural insomniac)
- Meditation and relaxation
- No electronics 30 minutes prior to bed
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol after 2pm
- Ensure your sleeping environment is dark and cool
Napping has also been shown to boost brainpower and prevent energy burnout. This is especially true if you find your nights aren’t restful.
Furthermore, a study by the University of Chicago found that “obtaining adequate sleep may enhance the beneficial effects of a diet. Not getting enough sleep could defeat the desired effects.” Not sleeping enough can limit fat loss and make you gain weight. Your body needs more energy to stay awake, so you have to eat more to make up for it. Long periods of poor sleep will also put your body into a state of shock, which could cause it to preserve fat cells in order to protect itself.
2. Lose weight, get lean
Excess belly fat can foster the production of estrogen, and more floating estrogen causes a decline in testosterone, libido, and energy levels. Estrogen can also make you gain weight, pushing you into an endless cycle of fat-estrogen-fat.
In addition, muscle mass starts to decline after age 30. Lean muscle keeps testosterone and metabolism high.
Losing weight and instead gaining muscle has been shown to decrease estrogen and increase testosterone. More testosterone means higher libido and more energy.
The best way to quickly lose weight, gain muscle, and boost your T levels is with HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) or PRIME (Peak Repetition Intervals at Maximum Effort). This uses repeated intervals of high-intensity followed by periods of rest to burn more calories and grow your muscles quickly.
3. Reduce alcohol intake
Alcohol can reduce testosterone production by inhibiting your body’s natural metabolic processes. Beer is especially estrogenic, which reduces T levels and can cause weight gain (aka the beer belly). This weight gain in turn reduces testosterone, which causes even more weight gain—the same cycle we saw above.
Reducing your alcohol intake will cut the number of calories contributing to your belly, and it will also help lower the amount of estrogen your body produces. If you’re going out for a social drink with friends, stick to vodka, which has the least effect on testosterone levels.
4. Eat healthy fats
Healthy fats support strong testosterone and energy levels (and they have a lot of other healthy benefits as well). These fats are monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and omega-3 fatty acids, and they can be found primarily in avocados, nuts, olive oil, and coconut oil.
They can also be found in certain types of fish and green leafy vegetables. Healthy fat nuts like almonds are another great healthy-fat snack!
Supplement your diet with at least two servings of healthy fats each day. This can help you maintain a healthy weight while also bringing your energy up.
Healthy fats can be high in calories, though, so it’s important to not overdo it. Instead, balance healthy fats with proteins to best increase muscle and shed pounds—and boost your overall energy levels.
5. Have berries as a snack
Your body produces energy directly from food fuel. Keep your energy up throughout the day with occasional healthy snacks. Berries are an ideal snack because they deliciously quench sweet cravings and they’re high in anthocyanins, which power-up energy and weight loss. A handful of blueberries is packed with energy, antioxidants, and hormone-regulating goodness!
If you don’t like berries, try high-fibrous veggies like broccoli, artichokes, or black beans. Some studies have found that a diet in high-fiber causes less fatigue than low-fiber diets. This is likely because fiber can help regulate the gut and detox the colon, removing pollutants that slow down the body.
6. Try intermittent fasting
Abstain from food for 24 hours a few times per week. An alternative approach to intermittent fasting is to fast for 16 hours and limit yourself to 3 meals over the remaining 8 hours. If a workout is planned, it should be just prior to your first meal of the day. This process helps your body reset, and it will confuse your body into shedding extra pounds and detoxing energy-killing toxins. It can also boost your testosterone levels, regulate hormones, and reduce inflammation. While scientific evidence of intermittent fasting varies, overall it seems to help with regulating the body’s natural processes.
Fasting can initially make you feel tired and irritable, but this generally only lasts in the short-term. After you’ve finished fasting, you’ll likely feel more energized and “clean.” This can help put you on a good track of living a healthy, energy-filled lifestyle.
Please note that fasting (and bingeing) should not be used for extreme weight loss or health goals. It should only be used occasionally as a detox. You should also not fast from all food—your body still needs fuel! Instead, stick to small meals of steamed vegetables, green vegetables, fresh fruits, and brown rice. During the fast, drink only water and avoid sugar, salt, and processed foods.
7. Get in the sun
Sun exposure has been shown to increase mood and energy, and it may even help with anxiety and depression. Sunlight can help increase the production of serotonin, otherwise known as the “happy chemical.” It also regulates the nocturnal melatonin production, so individuals fall asleep and stay asleep easier (see number 1 on this list). Additionally, the vitamin D in sunlight is crucial for immune health, bone density, and hormone regulation.
8. Drink more water
Water is needed to keep your body running at its peak. Dehydration can cause poor physical and cognitive performance, diminished GI and kidney function, poor heart function, headaches, and even delirium.
Water and energy are directly and complexly linked. If you don’t drink enough water, your energy levels will diminish—as will other functions in your body.
Drink at least 8 cups of water per day. This will feed your blood and organs with the necessary oxygen to keep them running properly. If your body is working efficiently, you’ll feel more energetic and healthy overall.
9. Stop using fragranced cosmetics
Shaving creams, soaps, body lotions, deodorants, and even laundry detergents can all have chemicals that rapidly and drastically decline T levels. If “fragrance” is an ingredient on the bottle, this means that the product is filled with chemicals that could be linked to allergic reactions, carcinogens, and hormone disruption (like stopping testosterone production). Even non-fragranced products that have certain chemicals could decline testosterone and unbalance hormones.
Additionally, these toxins can make you even more tired. The chemicals seep into the pores of your skin and get into your bloodstream, making you feel sluggish and fatigued. This is especially true after age 50, when your body is not as capable of fighting off toxins on its own.
Use natural products instead. Look for fragrance-free or naturally scented products to stay fresh and clean while also keeping your energy and testosterone high.
10. Let the guys roam free
Your testicles like to be free. Confining them in tight briefs can cause them to hamper testosterone production. This tight confinement against your body also raises the temperature of testicles. Testicles prefer to be cold; so if they’re warm against your body, it can actually lower testosterone production further.
Because it also likes the freeing feeling of the cold, you should also treat your little man to a cold shower or ice bath once per week. This “treatment” will help reduce inflammation, boost the human growth hormone levels, and support testosterone production.
Cold water has also been shown to increase energy levels; a cold shower in the morning gets you ready to take on the day! Plus, cold water has a ton of other benefits for your health, like pain management and improved immunity.
11. Have sex
This is always my favorite recommendation. Get in bed! Having sex releases endorphins and serotonin, which make you happier, less anxious, and more energized. Sex also helps burn calories and increase oxygenation, which helps to shed those extra pounds and regain your vigor. Plus, if you have sex before bedtime, it can help you have a more restful sleep—and we know sleep is good for energy.
If you’re struggling to get in the mood, you may have low testosterone levels. (See how it’s all linked?) Visit a doctor to check your T levels while you use the above 12 ways to naturally boost T and energy!
Energy and testosterone levels are intricately linked after age 50. Low T means low energy, and low energy often means falling T levels. But there are natural ways to healthily regain the youth and vitality inside you!
Want to regain your vigor now? Check out The Male 90X Consult to revive energy, boost health, and give you the tools to be the best man possible!