This blog post continues my review of the Primal Blueprint – my first blog post focused on the Nutrition Laws and the second blog post focused on the Exercise Laws. We now talk about those tricky laws that seem less important and impactful. However, not dialing in these Primal Laws 6-10…known as the Lifestyle Laws…can completely derail all of our hard work in the other areas.
My off-the-cuff suggestion is to focus on Nutrition Laws first, Lifestyle Laws second, and Exercise Laws last! But what exactly are these Lifestyle Laws? Glad you asked…
Primal Law #6: Get Plenty of Sleep
I love a good night’s rest and I’ve probably averaged 7-8 hours sleep per night for most of my adult life. I did tend to have a pretty big bedtime variance between weekday and weekend nights, so those Monday mornings were never fun. Nowadays, I’ve embraced my circadian rhythm by getting to bed between 9:30-10pm…and waking up naturally a little before 7am. No alarm necessary and close to 9 hours sleep each night!
How did I make the transition? Well, it all starts with good “sleep hygiene”:
- We installed black out shades to block all ambient light from outside (from streetlights to that early sunrise…hey, I don’t want to get up THAT early every time).
- I went around and put electrician’s tape over some of the more annoyingly persistent “power/charging” lights on devices (like electric toothbrushes, essential oil diffuser, TV).
- We sleep in a cool room – OK, cold by some standards (around 60 degrees). Most experts recommend a bedroom temperature between 60 and 67 degrees – with Why We Sleep author Matthew Walker suggesting between 63 and 66 degrees Fahrenheit in a recent Rhonda Patrick podcast. That podcast is also a great primer for explaining the importance of sleep as it relates to glucose control, testosterone production, and reduction of Alzheimer’s disease risk.
- I embraced two technologies – and spurned two technologies – to help with sleep:
- Embraced: An Oura ring to measure sleep quality. It breaks down Light/REM/Deep sleep as well as measuring respirations, body temperature, and HRV (a strong indicator of recovery).
- Embraced: An Oooler Chilipad. As I aged, it became a nightly ritual to “wake up hot”. Now I set my Ooler at 65 degrees – my wife sets her side at around 80 degrees – and sleep peacefully through the night.
- Spurned: I avoid both the cell phone and the TV at least 90 minutes before lights out (longer, if possible). Instead, I read a book under incandescent light (not LED).
Primal Law #7: Play
We live in stressful times – and much of it is self-created. Noted talk show host and financial advisor Dave Ramsey says, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” Many people are living that life while doing jobs that bring no satisfaction…just stress and unhappiness that carries over into our relationships, our finances, and our health and wellness!
The Primal Blueprint harkens back to an ancestral time where Play was an integral part of society. Many of us may play competitive sports, but this kind of play is better defined as “when your happiness is not tied to the outcome”. Chasing your kids/grandkids, throwing a frisbee or football in the back yard, playing card and board games, or simply curling up by the fire with a good book or guitar can all be classified as play. These are stress reducers that allow us to “check out” from that cortisol roller-coaster called life. Sometimes it may involve movement, but sometimes it may only require a mind free to wander and daydream in what author Stuart Brown refers to as “cognitive fluidity”.
Personally, I go for the good book (nightly) with occasional chasing of grandkids.
Primal Law #8: Get Plenty of Sunlight
Several years ago, my bloodwork showed that I was Vitamin D deficient (value of 25). My physician suggested a 10,000 IU daily Vitamin D3 supplement…and that moved the needle from 25 to 48. Then I came across this Primal Law #8 to get plenty of sunlight – along with interviews like Dr. Mercola with Dr. Marc Sorenson and articles like Is Sunscreen the New Margarine – that convinced me to get out there and catch some unprotected rays! In fact, the body can produce 20,000 international units (IU) of Vitamin D in 20 minutes of ideal unobstructed sun exposure on both sides of the body. By the way, that Vitamin D is produced by the sun rays hitting the cholesterol in our exposed skin…and converting that cholesterol to Vitamin D (which is actually a hormone rather than a vitamin)!
Now remember – I am not a physician or healthcare professional. I’m just a health coach and personal trainer that follows the research of people a lot smarter than me and still does not want to die by foolish choices leading to skin cancer. But here are some points to ponder in regard to unprotected sun exposure (several of these points reside in the articles listed above):
- For every death caused by diseases related to excessive sun exposure — such as melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer — there are 328 deaths caused by diseases of sunlight deprivation.
- Melanoma only accounts for 1 to 3 percent of new skin cancers. Outdoor workers have half the melanoma rate of indoor workers. Tanned people have lower rates in general.
- Melanoma? True, the sun worshippers had a higher incidence of it—but they were eight times less likely to die from it.
- A new study on Parkinson’s disease showed people who are out in the bright sun daily/regularly have 1/50th the risk of ever getting Parkinson’s.
One important caveat: All proponents of unprotected sun exposure say to avoid sunburns at all costs. If you are going to be in the sun for extended periods of time, then choose protective clothing vs sunscreen.
Oh, and my personal Vitamin D levels jumped up to 85…so I’ve dropped the Vitamin D supplement during the non-winter months because I want to be in the 50-60 range.
And I didn’t get a sunburn all year…
Primal Law #9: Avoid Stupid Mistakes
Way back in 2012, I wrote a post titled 12 Most Texas Tall Tales Growing Up Down by the River. It was full of “stupid mistake opportunities” that didn’t become mistakes simply because I lived through them!
If you want to live a long and healthy life…start by not dying young! That means no texting and driving, no smoking or excessive alcohol consumption, and…just to throw this out there…no more industrial seed oils (like Canola, corn, sunflower, safflower, vegetable). “Bonus life points” if you can also greatly reduce or eliminate refined sugars, processed foods, and most grains.
Primal Law #10: Use Your Brain
I once asked a co-worker, also in his 50s, what he wanted to learn next. He replied “why would I want to learn anything”? I was baffled! Sure, we were talking about work – and he wants to retire early – but he didn’t have any ready answers when I tried to extend the scope of the question to include new skills, languages, or hobbies.
Quoting a post from the Alzheimer’s Association: With each heartbeat, arteries carry about 20 to 25 percent of your blood to your brain, where billions of cells use about 20 percent of the oxygen and fuel your blood carries. When you are thinking hard, your brain may use up to 50 percent of the fuel and oxygen.
All of that blood flowing through the brain (and good sleep and nutrition) is going to reduce the natural brain atrophy from normal aging…as well as the more severe cognitive decline associated with dementia.
Personally, I will continue to read both fiction and non-fiction daily. I do love constantly learning about nutrition/exercise/lifestyle choices that affect healthspan and longevity. I will also continue to play tennis and exercise, and enjoy the social connections that will keep the brain sharp and “greedy for more input”.
This concludes my 3-part review of the Primal Blueprint – a book that changed the course of my “2nd career” with the hopes of beneficially impacting many clients’ health, wellness, and overall longevity. Remember: “sharing is caring” – please share these posts with your friends and family. Perhaps that sharing will set someone on a healthier course…and maybe it will even prompt a few to start their own journeys to impacting the health and wellness of the people THEY hold the most dear.