The Year in Personal Science: 2013

Here are some especially notable results (most notable first).

Other People’s

1. Bedtime honey greatly improved sleep. Stuart King found this after many other things had failed to help him. He got the idea from Dave Asprey, who got it from The Honey Revolution (2009) by Ron Kessenden and Mike McInnes, but Stuart made by far the best case that the effect was important and determined some boundary conditions (e.g., don’t eat a lot of sugar during the day). The improvement is so big and easy (honey tastes good) that it’s quite possible this is why evolution shaped us to enjoy sweets after dinner — to improve sleep. In the future, I believe, it will be understood that sugars (at the right times in the right amounts) are a necessary nutrient — exactly the opposite of what all nutrition experts, including paleo ones and Weston Price, say. When this stunning reversal will happen I don’t know — but no one will have foretold it more than Stuart. Continue reading “The Year in Personal Science: 2013”

Sleep and Bedtime Honey: More About Strength Improvement

In my first post about the use of bedtime honey to improve sleep, I included a graph that showed my legs suddenly got much stronger when I started the honey. I measured how long I could stand on one leg (bent). I had been doing this four times per day (left leg twice, right leg twice) for a long time to sleep better.

A reader of this blog named Nile McAdams found bedtime honey caused him to get stronger, too. He measured arm strength.

Soon after my legs got much stronger I reduced my one-leg standing from four/day to two/day to save time. The improvement stopped, but the gains persisted:

 photo 2i013-12-30onelegstandingimprovedbybedtimehoney_zps94da9fcb.jpeg

Note the logarithmic y axis. Each point is a different day, an average of the first left leg stand and the first right leg stand of that day.

The graph shows I am much stronger with half as much effort. As I said, the strength improvement has also been easy to notice in everyday activities, including walking, stair climbing (I live on the top floor of a six-floor walkup) and bike riding.

I have been unable to find research that shows a similar effect. Judging by a 2010 textbook, exercise physiologists don’t know about it.

Frontlines of Personal Science: Confirmation of After Dinner Sweets Effect

During the last week I have looked into the possibility that my sleep can be further improved — in addition to the bedtime honey improvement — by eating a similar amount of sugar (fructose and glucose) a few hours before bedtime. After I accidentally slept better than usual (or even better than usual), I tried to determine why. Several things had been unusual the day before. Two tests (here and here) pointed to the sugar (honey or banana) a few hours before bedtime.

Last night (Christmas Eve) I tried again. I ate a banana (132 g, peeled) about 3 hours (7 pm) before I fell asleep (10 pm). I fell asleep within a minute and woke up, after an apparently dreamless night, feeling perfectly rested. On my 0-100 percentage scale (100% = completely rested, no detectable tiredness), which I have been using for about 8 years, it was the first ever 100%.  I had slept about 6 hours, a good amount of time.

To celebrate, I had a cup of black tea. I didn’t need it to wake up but I like the taste. I reflected that countless people had drunk tea or coffee to wake up. I had found a better way.

Discovery that an hours-before-bedtime sweet improves sleep (in addition to bedtime honey — that’s what’s interesting) is significant not just for the obvious practical reason (better sleep) but also because it is the confirmation of a prediction. After I slept unusually well, I thought of six possible reasons. The notion that sugar improves sleep pointed to one of them. The results of every test I’ve done (three nights) have agreed with that prediction. I believe the only real test of a theory (such as an explanation) is whether it makes correct predictions — especially, whether it leads to the discovery of new cause-effect relationships. Many things people say haven’t passed that test. An example is weight control. That low-carb diets cause weight loss has been known since the 1800s. Many explanations have been proposed; not one has made correct predictions, as far as I know. In contrast, my theory of weight control led me to three new ways to lose weight (sushi, low-glycemic foods, and fructose water).

I doubt it’s a placebo effect because the sleep improvement has happened whether I expect it or not. A commenter named Paolo Paiva, after reading my posts about this, realized something similar had happened to him:

Today I told my wife how deep I had slept and connected it to the 1 tbspoon of honey and 1 tbspoon of apple cider vinegar mixed with half a cup of water before bed (it tastes really good). Then I saw this post and remembered that yesterday I had had banana flour pancakes topped with honey 3 hours before bedtime!

Thanks, Paolo. May you continue to sleep well. May the rest of you sleep equally well.

Merry Christmas!

Bedtime Honey Helps an Autistic Boy Sleep

A reader writes:

My eight-year-old son has autism, on the serious end of the spectrum, with equally serious sleep troubles. A month ago I tried giving honey at bedtime after reading about it on your blog. It has made a tremendous difference.

My son has had trouble sleeping since he was a toddler. Since age four he has seen a pediatric neurologist who is also a sleep disorder specialist. With the doctor’s guidance we have tried different over-the-counter and prescription-drug approaches, but none has given him regular sleep, and the side effects from the drugs make increasing dosages risky.

His basic problem is not insomnia (a general inability to sleep) but rather delayed sleep phase disorder. He could sleep fine from the wee hours of the morning to noon. But whenever we managed to advance sleep onset [= get him to fall asleep earlier], he would wake up early. It was hard when we struggled to get him to sleep by midnight and then struggled to wake him at 7:00 a.m. for school. But it was even harder when he would fall asleep at 9:00 p.m., then wake up at 4:30 a.m., often falling back to sleep at 6:30 a.m, just in time for us to wake him at 7:00 a.m.. It’s not safe for him to be awake on his own for hours, and he was desperate to go back to sleep until about 9:00 a.m.

Since we started giving him a teaspoon of honey at bedtime he has slept through the night. We still have to give him meds to go to sleep between 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., but once he’s asleep he stays asleep all night until we wake him at 7:00 a.m. The one night, early on, when we forgot to give him honey, he woke up just as he used to.

One factor that may make honey particularly effective for my son is that we’ve been eating a low-carbohydrate paleo diet for the past two years (because it helps his autism symptoms). Before that he was an extremely picky eater who preferred baked goods, milk, and cheese. With high-glycemic foods all day long a teaspoon of honey at bedtime might not have had much effect.

This is the best my son has slept in his life, and it has been a huge improvement in his and our family’s lives. Before the past month, the last time my son had gotten three good nights of sleep in a row was because he’d had a concussion.

Front Lines of Personal Science: More Progress on Sleep

To recap: Three days ago I slept extremely well, better than usual. I wondered why. What had made the difference? That day (the day before the night I slept so well) had been different from previous days in at least five ways (e.g., chocolate, new brand of honey). I repeated four of them, and did not sleep better than usual. That suggested the remaining difference — I had eaten yogurt, blueberries (125 g) and honey (8 g?) a few hours before bedtime — was responsible. (Every night I had 1 tablespoon — 20 g — honey at bedtime. It wasn’t that.) Then I repeated all five elements, including yogurt, blueberries (125 g) and honey (14 g) two hours before bedtime. I woke up wired (jittery). Very rested, but wired, which wasn’t pleasant. Too much sugar, perhaps.

The next night I had a banana roughly two hours before bedtime. (In addition, I repeat, to 1 tablespoon honey at bedtime.)  A banana has about 6 g glucose, 6 g fructose, and 3 g sucrose, similar to 1 tablespoon honey. I had a strong craving for something sweet at that time, which was new to me — I almost never eat dessert. In the evening I had more brain power than usual. Yet at bedtime I fell asleep quickly, in about a minute. 

The next morning I woke up and felt great. Almost perfectly rested, neither tired nor wired. Even though I’d only slept 4.7 hours, a bit low for me. It really was the yogurt, blueberries and honey — almost surely their sugar, which is almost all they have in common with a banana — that had made me sleep so well.

Conclusion: For the best sleep, have sugar after dinner and sugar at bedtime. By sugar I mean a glucose/fructose mixture but for all I know sucrose would work, too.

Front Lines of Personal Science: Progress on Why I Slept So Well

A few days ago I noted that I had slept unusually well. I wondered why. The previous day had been unusual in five ways (yogurt blueberries and honey 2 hours before bedtime, only one blackout curtain, chocolate, unusual timing of morning faces, new brand of honey). Was one of them responsible? Or was it random variation?

The next day I repeated four of the five unusual things: only one blackout curtain, chocolate, unusual timing of morning faces, new brand of honey. Result: I did not sleep unusually well. This pointed to either yogurt blueberries and honey or random variation as the explanation. Those happened to be the explanations I had considered most plausible (yogurt blueberries and honey) and least plausible (random variation).

Yesterday I repeated all five of the unusual things. Yesterday evening it took longer than usual to fall asleep. Usually I fall asleep within a minute, but this time it took about 4 minutes. As I was lying there, I attributed the long latency to lack of exercise that day. In the morning, for the first time in my whole life, I woke up what a friend called “full of jitters”. Very rested, yes, but also too much energy. As if I’d had too much caffeine. Usually I have a cup of black tea first thing in the morning. I started to make one and realized it would make things worse, not better. As I said, this has never happened before.

So it was the yogurt blueberries and honey. The first time I had it I had added the honey just for sweetener and hadn’t measured it. The second time I did measure the honey — 14 g, about 2 teaspoons. Probably more than I had used the first time, which may explain the different results (1st time: very rested, 2nd time: very rested and jittery). Both times I ate 125 g blueberries, which has 12 g sugar (half glucose, half fructose). I doubt the yogurt (homemade, no sugar added) matters.

Perhaps the best dose (for me) will turn out to be one teaspoon honey 2 hours before bedtime and one tablespoon of honey at bedtime. I had tried taking more than one tablespoon of honey at bedtime; it seemed to produce the same effect as one tablespoon.

I want to test with and without blueberries, of course, and different amounts of honey 2 hours before bedtime. If honey alone is powerful, then I will test different forms of sugar. I don’t want to be at the mercy of differences between brands of honey, although honey is very convenient.

Let’s say it turns out to be the sugar in honey that produces these big improvements in sleep. Then it will turn out that the nutritionists of the world have been even more wrong about sugar than they were about saturated fat. All the data is not yet in, let me repeat. But the data so far unquestionably point in a surprising direction. It is entirely possible that sugar — in the right amounts at the right times of day — will turn out to be the greatest health food of all.

Which would explain what has never been well-explained: why we like it so much.

Front Lines of Personal Science: Why Did I Sleep So Well?

Last night I slept great. I woke up feeling very rested. I can remember only three situations when I woke up feeling more refreshed. (a) On a certain camping trip. (b) When I was on my feet for ten hours. (c) After eating a lot of pork fat. I cannot simulate camping trips, and standing ten hours/day was very hard. The pork-fat effect was repeatable, in the sense that I slept better after eating pork fat, but I never ate that much pork fat again. It was too much.

Why did I sleep so well? I can think of several possible reasons.

1. Random noise. Let’s say there are 20 factors that affect my sleep and they just happened to all line up in a good direction.

Another set of possible reasons derive from what was unusual about yesterday. I can think of five things:

2. I had yogurt and blueberries and honey about 6:30 pm. (In addition to 1 tablespoon honey at bedtime.)

3. I forgot to hang a blackout curtain that darkens my bedroom. Usually I hang two. Last night, by mistake, only one.

4. I started eating dark chocolate daily two days ago. Maybe the good stuff in it (the flavones) accumulates in the brain so that the good effects get larger day by day.

5. I watched faces in the morning a half-hour later than usual. Usually I start watching them at 6:00 am. Yesterday I started at 6:30 am. I had forgotten about this difference until I looked at my records.

6. I switched to a new brand of honey (from a German brand to a Canadian one).

#1 is unlikely. #2 vaguely corresponds to the idea that honey helps us sleep because it supplies energy. Maybe honey at 6:30 fills up the liver (with glycogen) and honey at bedtime goes into the blood. But I’ve eaten plenty of meals at 6:30 without any obvious effect. Maybe they were too low-carb. I don’t know if making my room very very dark (two curtains) is better than making my room dark (one curtain) but there is no obvious reason making my bedroom less dark would improve sleep (#3).  I have never heard anyone say chocolate (#4) improved their sleep. Morning faces did improve sleep but the mood improvement was much more obvious (#5). I’ve tried several brands of honey; there was no obvious difference between them, arguing against #6.

As the day wore on I found myself in a good mood but not a great mood, arguing against #5.

I’d say #2 is the most plausible, the rest less plausible, with #1 the least plausible. But I will test all of them.

More (a day later) I did #3 (only one curtain), #4 (chocolate), #5 (later faces), and #6 (new honey) again. I did not sleep exceptionally well. That makes #1 and #2 more plausible.

Bedtime Honey and Sleep: More Evidence It Works

In a 2010 forum discussion I found this:

SLEEPY HEAD I read that honey helps you sleep. I’ve tried it the past few night and have slept very well! I have had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep since I was born. I even take Ambien sometimes and still stay awake alllllll night long. I can’t believe how well I slept the past 2 nights. Just take one teaspoon of honey before bedtime and sleep like a puppy!

USER 967048 I took honey again last night and slept awesome. I have found that 2 tablespoons work the best.

USER 968407 I took honey again last night and slept like a baby again! This really works!

USER 602568 I’ve been sipping a cup of milk with a couple teaspoons of honey on nights I can’t sleep. It always works. But I thought it was the warm milk. I didn’t realize the honey was the key ingredient.

More evidence that as little as one teaspoon produces a big improvement. One teaspoon of a common food can greatly improve something as important as sleep!


Bedtime Honey: Other Benefits Besides Sleep and Strength?

After I’d been taking bedtime honey for 3-4 weeks, I began to notice changes in addition to better sleep and more strength. One was a sense of increased well-being throughout the day. Not better mood, not more energy, just somehow better. Another was better motivation. It was easier to do everything — pushups, putting stuff away, and so on. My life was not perfectly constant, however, so I could not be sure these changes were due to the honey.

I asked Jason DeFillippo of Grumpy Old Geeks about this. Bedtime honey really helped him. He replied:

I have noticed that during the day I can concentrate for much longer stretches but I was chalking that up to the sleep. I think the motivation you’re talking about is definitely starting to manifest itself quite a bit more as well. I’m putting more effort into my business than I have since I started it 2 years ago and haven’t really thought about it being a side effect of the honey but it’s possible. Amazing things happen when you haven’t slept properly for 20 years and can now sleep through the entire night.

After he mentioned concentration, I realized I had noticed the same thing: I could do work that required concentration for longer periods of time. In contrast to Jason, I had slept well for many years before starting the honey — or so I’d thought.

Bedtime Honey: Less Honey May Be Better

Some people find that bedtime honey does not work, at least initially. One reader wrote:

I tried it out for several days now [1 tablespoon of honey], and it produces in me a similar effect as when I go to sleep when I have drunk several beers before. I wake up several times during the night, vivid dreams, and feel less rested in the morning rather than more.

I suggested a smaller dose — 1 teaspoon, which may be effective. He tried it:

I have taken a teaspoon of honey now for three days and my experience so far is that it is better than a tablespoon of honey. I vaguely remember that I dreamed but do not remember about what. Today I also noticed that reading in the train was easier than before, despite waking up earlier, I felt I understood and retained more of what I was reading. What I find most surprising over these three days is that I don’t use my glasses as often as before.

So if a tablespoon causes you to wake up in the middle of the night, try a smaller dose. I haven’t yet tried a range of doses.

Sleep Apnea, Wheat Allergy, Nasty Cough and Personal Science

Cliff Styles, a 66-year-old man living in Huntington Beach, commented that his sleep got much better after he stopped eating wheat. I asked him why he gave up wheat. He replied:

I had a morning cough that was very nasty, I didn’t smoke, but had read a fair amount about food allergies and that reading suggested an allergic reaction as the cause.  I tried several things, over a period of years, including eliminating alcohol for several months of the year (modest help to allergies and depression), reducing sugar consumption (big help to mood swings), with some success. I had been reluctant to eliminate wheat because it seemed benign and I loved all the wheat products, but at one point in reading about food allergies I came across the idea that we develop allergic addictions to foods we eat regularly — and I was probably eating wheat more than three times a day, seven days a week. I made no connection to the sleep apnea and snoring in the allergy research, in fact I took the sleep apnea and snoring for granted, and thought the nightmares were the product of psychological problems.

I decided to experiment with eliminating wheat.  Well, it was like I imagine going off of heroin might be like — chills, body aches, flu-like symptoms for four or five days, then all the symptoms cleared up — and the cough went away.  My wife was skeptical, so after a few weeks, I went back to eating wheat, the cough promptly came back, she was convinced, I was more certain, went off wheat permanently. I will once in a while indulge, but the quick return of the cough gets me back to the wheat-free diet. The wheat reaction is so pronounced that many friends have noticed my reaction, since I tend to indulge at social occasions.

The sleep benefit happened quite unexpectedly. After quitting wheat, my snoring eased a bit, and the sleep apnea went away, though now I do not remember how quickly, but I think it was pretty fast. Another side benefit is that I lost about 15 pounds of belly fat, and it stayed off for years. My wife notices that when I indulge in wheat now, my snoring gets worse that night, whereas I won’t necessarily notice this myself.

So what was the impetus and chain of causation?  A symptom (a nasty cough, you’d think I was a pack a day smoker, especially in the morning), reading about food allergies, self-testing and seeing a result on the cough, and only then getting the benefit to sleep.  At no time did I undertake the test of eliminating wheat in order to cure a sleep problem, that was just a very, very fortunate side effect.

How much sleep apnea is due to food allergy? Sleep doctors do not consider this possibility. Here is an example where the food allergy was dairy. Here is another example. Here someone claims “The commonest causes of obstruction sleep apnoea are allergy . . . and being overweight.”

Sleep: Summary of What I’ve Learned

I want to summarize what I’ve learned about how to sleep well. I’ve found about a dozen changes that helped. Taken together they suggest the importance of four dimensions:

1. Healthy brain. My sleep greatly improved when I ate a lot of pork fat. (As far as I can tell, butter produced the same effect.) I wasn’t getting enough animal fat. My sleep also improved when I started eating honey at bedtime. I assume honey raised blood sugar to better levels during sleep, improving brain performance. The great importance of this, I believe, is why we evolved preferences that push us to eat strongly sweet foods, such as fruit, separately and later, i.e., dessert. Bedtime honey also caused my muscles to grow more in response to exercise — a sign of better sleep, since muscles grow during sleep. I have never measured the effect of flaxseed/flaxseed oil on my sleep but the brain benefit was so clear in other ways I’d be surprised if it didn’t improve sleep. Continue reading “Sleep: Summary of What I’ve Learned”

Why Does Bedtime Honey Improve Sleep? More Helpful Data

At Free The Animal, Richard Nikoley blogged about the value of potato starch and other examples of resistant starch (RS) which is slowly-digested starch. As a reader of this blog named Xav points out, three commenters say it has improved their sleep:

1. On week three of 3 TBS of Potato Starch per evening. Any explanation on the exceptional, uninterrupted deep sleep? No complaints mind you. Have never slept so well. Never. [Richard did explain the deep sleep — Seth]

2. After a few days of a few Tbsp RS in the evening, here are my observations . . .

  • sleep has been better the last 2 nights without any particular change of lifestyle.
  • dreams are vivid, I remember them much more

3. I took 4 tbsp of PS last night. . . .I had an incredible sleep (but no vivid dreaming, however). I mean, I did not wake up even once. I was sound asleep from the beginning to the end and it was such the most sweet and tranquil sleep I ever had in a long time!

Emphasis added. Someone else said, “Have been doing this for about a week now. 2T in am and 2 T after dinner. Sleep may be better.” No one reported better sleep after resistant starch at other times. Richard said nothing about the time of day to eat it. Several people say it raised their blood sugar.

Readers of this blog know there is abundant evidence that bedtime honey improves sleep. Honey is not a resistant starch, although fructose (honey is half glucose, half fructose) is digested relatively slowly. Potato starch and honey differ in many ways. That both, eaten near bedtime, produce better sleep, suggests that the better sleep is due to something they share. One thing they share is both increase blood glucose throughout the night. Honey does so because it contains a quickly-digested sugar (glucose) and a slowly-digesting one (fructose). Potato starch does so because its carbohydrate is slowly converted to blood glucose.

The potato starch stories support what I’ve said (here and here) about why bedtime honey improves sleep, namely:  You need a certain amount of blood sugar to sleep well. Many people have too little (e.g., due to a low-carb diet). Honey, a banana, or resistant starch near bedtime are three ways to ensure enough. When this becomes well-known, the improvement in well-being will be great.

Bedtime Honey Doubles a Measure of Strength

A reader of this blog named Nile McAdams, who lives in Minnesota, wrote:

When I read your first blog post about honey I was gobsmacked. Not so much by the improved sleep — the idea of a bedtime snack improving sleep has been around a long time — but by the fact that a tablespoon of honey could double the time you were able to stand on one leg. [One bent leg. After being roughly constant for a year, the time doubled in two weeks. — Seth] Impossible!! Not that I thought you were lying — I didn’t — it is just that a lot can go wrong between collecting the data and interpreting the data. So I had to try it for myself. Continue reading “Bedtime Honey Doubles a Measure of Strength”

Why Does Bedtime Honey Improve Sleep? Helpful Data

I speculated that bedtime honey improves sleep because it consists of an equal mix of glucose and fructose. Glucose is used by the brain during the first half of the night. By the second half, the fructose has been converted to glucose. However, honey has other ingredients, so it is not obvious that fructose and glucose are responsible. I focused on them partly because a need for glucose and fructose during sleep would explain (in evolutionary terms) why we eat dessert after meals, a puzzling separation.

Other carbohydrates also increase blood glucose. Do other carbs also improve sleep? Stuart King (who told me how much bedtime honey improved his sleep) pointed me to a 2010 discussion on a body-building forum. One person wrote:

I save a good portion of my carb intake for my last meal as I’ve found I sleep better afterwards. The worst nights of sleep I’d have during my prep were during my low carb days. Brutal.

Which supports the idea that blood glucose is running down, with bad consequences, during sleep. Even more telling was what someone else said:

Why does this happen to me? Before I was eating 2 cups of milk and a banana right before bed and would sleep fine. In the past few days I’ve tried to switch to 1 cup cottage cheese and 2 tbsp natty peanut butter. I’ve figured out this is why these past few nights I’ve had much more trouble sleeping and have had to resort to taking more OTC sleep aids. Then I’ll still wake up in middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep so I end up having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a cup of milk and 20 min later fall back asleep and sleep fine through the rest of the night.

Bedtime Snack A (2 cups of milk, banana): Good sleep. Bedtime Snack B (1 cup cottage cheese, 2 T peanut butter): bad sleep. There are hundreds of differences between the two snacks but one is that A, because of the banana, has about 6 g glucose and 6 g fructose (plus 3 g sucrose) and B has neither glucose nor fructose (nor sucrose). Stuart and I and several others have found that one tablespoon of honey (20 g) at bedtime greatly improves sleep. That much honey has about 8 g glucose and 8 g fructose. This is excellent evidence that it is the glucose and fructose in bedtime honey that improve sleep. Further evidence is that a snack with lots of sucrose (jelly) also produces good sleep.

More about bedtime honey and sleep.




Darker Bedroom Better Sleep

When I moved back to Berkeley from Beijing last spring, I noticed that my sleep was worse in Berkeley, months after arrival. I woke up less rested than in Beijing. There was no obvious explanation. My life was similar in the two places, especially on dimensions that influence sleep. I had expected my health to be better in Berkeley than Beijing because of Beijing pollution.

Wondering why my sleep was different, I realized my Beijing bedroom was probably darker than my Berkeley bedroom. In Beijing I live in an apartment complex and cover most of my bedroom windows to block outside light and for privacy. In Berkeley, I live in a house. My bedroom window looks out over an enclosed backyard. That my Berkeley bedroom might not be dark enough had never occurred to me. It was fairly dark — no street light, no alley light, no light from neighbors.

Did the (likely) difference in darkness contribute to the difference in sleep? I tested this possibility by making my Berkeley bedroom much darker. Later I made it lighter, then darker again (an ABAB design). I measured sleep quality by rating how rested I felt when I woke up on a 0-100 percentage scale where I estimated how rested I felt compared to completely rested (= 100%). I have used this scale for many years. Here are the results:

 photo 2013-11-25effectofbedroomdarknessonsleep_zps2ddcf518.jpeg

To my surprise, when I made my bedroom darker my sleep improved. It got worse when I returned my bedroom to its original darkness. It improved again when I again made it darker. Until I graphed the data, I hadn’t realized that my baseline ratings probably shifted shortly before I made my bedroom darker. (I kept a paper record of my sleep, which made it hard to graph the data. Failure to notice this baseline shift was the last straw….I have gone paperless.) In spite of the baseline problem, the data are convincing that even at low intensities, light intensity mattered.

Depth of sleep (controlled by the amplitude of a circadian rhythm) is surely controlled by the amplitude of the light/dark rhythm. Below a certain threshold of light intensity, however, reducing light at night won’t make a difference. These observations implied that the threshold was lower than I’d thought. Support for the idea that the threshold is low — lower than other people realize, too — comes from a study published last summer after my experiment. Researchers reanalyzed old data to see if there was a correlation between lunar phase and sleep quality. Their subjects had slept in a windowless laboratory room. Nevertheless, sleep was worse during a full moon. One researcher was baffled. “What I can’t get my head around is, what would that cue be?” he said. In other words, how could the phase of the moon influence sleep? I’m not puzzled. The subjects spent only a few nights in the sleep lab. I believe there was carryover from when subjects slept at home, in rooms open to moonlight. Light from a full moon reduced the amplitude of sleep. This affected sleep later in the lab for the same reason jet lag lasts several days.

Is your bedroom dark enough? The light at night in Person X’s bedroom will differ in many ways from the light at night in someone else’s bedroom so a one-size-fits-all rule (your bedroom should be darker than . . . ) makes little sense. What does make sense is personal science: measure your sleep and test different levels of darkness.

Assorted Links

  • No correlation between omega-3 levels and cognitive function. I found strong effects of flaxseed oil (high in omega-3) in experiments, so this finding doesn’t worry me. Maybe the measures of cognitive function in this study depended on too many things they didn’t measure or control.
  • Does methanol cause multiple sclerosis?  Woodrow Monte makes a good case. “In the 1940s, . . . the National Multiple Sclerosis Society found the incidence of the disease to be virtually equally distributed between the sexes. . . . The real sea change in the incidence of MS in women did not come until after the introduction of a brand new methanol source . . . a can of diet soda sweetened with aspartame has up to four times the amount of methanol as a can of green beans. . . . At the 59th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Boston on April 26, 2007 
  • Honey in human evolution. “Upper Paleolithic (8,000 – 40,000 years ago) rock art from all around the world depicts early humans collecting honey. . . . .The Hadza hunter-gatherers of Tanzania list honey as their number one preferred food item.”
  • What one climate scientist really thinks about Michael Mann. “MBH98 [Mann et al.] was not an example of someone using a technique with flaws and then as he [Mann] learned better techniques he moved on… He fought like a dog to discredit and argue with those on the other side that his method was not flawed. And in the end he never admitted that the entire method was a mistake. Saying “I was wrong but when done right it gives close to the same answer” is no excuse. He never even said that . . . They used a brand new statistical technique that they made up and that there was no rationalization in the literature for using it. They got results which were against the traditional scientific communities view on the matters and instead of re-evaluating and checking whether the traditional statistics were [still] valid [in this unusual case] (which they weren’t), they went on and produced another one a year later. They then let this HS [hockey stick] be used in every way possible . . . despite knowing the stats behind it weren’t rock solid.”  Smart people still fail to grasp the weakness of the evidence. Elon Musk, the engineer, recently blogged, responding to Tesla fires, that Tesla development must happen as fast as possible because if delayed “it will . . . increase the risk of global climate change.”

Thanks to Dave Lull, Stuart King and Joe Nemetz.

Is Diabetes Due to Bad Sleep?

When I started eating honey at bedtime to improve my sleep, my fasting blood sugar values suddenly improved. Alternate-day fasting had pushed them into the mid-80s; now they were often in the high 70s, values I had never seen before. Without long walks and alternate-day fasting, my fasting blood sugar values would have been more than 100, which is pre-diabetic.

This made me wonder: Does bad sleep cause diabetes? Plenty of evidence, I found, supports this idea. Here is one example:

Just three consecutive nights of inadequate sleep can elevate a person’s risk [of diabetes] to a degree roughly equivalent to gaining 20 to 30 pounds, according to a 2007 study at the University of Chicago. . . .This revelation backs up previous research from Yale and the New England Research Institutes, which showed that people who clock six hours or less of sleep a night are twice as likely to develop diabetes in their lifetime as those who snooze seven hours.

Here is another:

In the study, published in the October issue of the Journal SLEEP, short sleepers reported a higher prevalence of coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes, in addition to obesity and frequent mental distress, compared with optimal sleepers who reported sleeping seven to nine hours on average in a 24-hour period. The same was true for long sleepers, and the associations with coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes were even more pronounced with more sleep.

Maybe there is something to it.




Orange Glasses and Sleep: Correction

I recently posted that an Oakland woman found that wearing orange glasses (which block blue light) in the evening greatly improved her sleep, which had been bad for decades. My post underestimated the improvement. Before she started wearing the glasses, it took her 2-4 hours to fall asleep. After she started wearing the glasses, it took 15-30 minutes. She wears the glasses from 8 to 10 pm. After that she goes to bed and tries to fall asleep.

I was very impressed by her story and started wearing orange glasses starting at 8 pm, even under incandescent light. Previously I only used them when looking at a computer screen in the evening. I’m not sure if wearing them more improves my sleep, but if I had to guess I’d say it does.

Bedtime Honey Improves Sleep “1000%. Crazy Good Tip”

On honey at bedtime (starts at 1:04:20):

JASON Tim Ferriss posted this . . . I did the experiment. I’ve been doing it for about six days now. Um, yeah, a thousand percent.

BRIAN Really? It’s really helped?

JASON One. Thousand. Percent. I sleep through the night. . . . I can quantifiably tell you that in the morning I am sharper, I get more work done, I am better rested, and I feel a thousand percent better. I’m going with the formula in the article, which is a cup of hot water, mixed with 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon of honey. It’s tasty, it’s really tasty, you wouldn’t think vinegar and honey would be great but it almost tastes like an apple cider.

BRIAN That doesn’t sound very appetizing to me, but I’ll trust you that it wasn’t bad.

JASON I found it delicious. And, plus, the hot liquid just before I went to bed, just knocked me out. I fell asleep immediately. . . . I’ve always had problems waking up five or six times in the middle of the night. I have slept through the night ever since I started this. I wake up in the morning ready to go.

BRIAN Excellent.

JASON This is one of the best sleep tips I’ve ever found. . . . The last couple nights I didn’t really have the time, ’cause I was getting kinda tired and I’m just like, you know what, I popped the lid on the honey and poured it down my throat and that feels like 1 tablespoon or 3, whatever. Same effect. . . . I have a tablespoon of honey right before I go to bed. Man, it has really improved how I sleep. Not even that, it’s how I greet the day. I greet the day really just ready to go. I’m a horrible morning person. I hate mornings.

BRIAN [laughs]

JASON If you have problems sleeping, definitely give this a try. Even if you don’t have trouble sleeping. I think it will improve how your body solidifies memory and does muscle rebuilding. They [= Seth and Stuart King] talk about strength improvements and it’s true. It’s ridiculously true. That’s when your muscles heal. . . . . It’s a crazy good tip. So hats off to Tim for passing that one along and I highly recommend it.

BRIAN I don’t have sleep issues . . . but I think I’ll give this a shot anyways and see if I get any of the other benefits.

JASON Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. Even if you don’t have sleep problems, it will still help your brain like, hardcode memories. I’ve found that my memory has really improved. Especially with this project that I’m working on. Before I would wake up and it would take me an hour to get back to where I was  . . . [Now] I come back down in the morning and I come back exactly where I was, ready to rock.

BRIAN Awesome. . . . I will definitely try it out.

Lots of research says better sleep = better memory.