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The State of the Art in Sleep and Aging (Guest Bryce Mander, Ph.D. – UC Berkeley)

Do we really need less sleep when we get older?

We know that as people age, they tend to get less sleep. But older people also seem to suffer less when subjected to sleep deprivation, compared to younger adults. This has led some to conclude that older people get less sleep simply because they do not need as much.

However, recent brain studies have revealed that the aging brain changes in ways that makes sleep less restorative. This suggests that the real reason why older adults get less sleep than their younger counterparts is because they are less capable of generating the sleep that they really need.

In this episode of humanOS Radio, I talk with Bryce Mander, a postdoctoral fellow in the Matthew Walker Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at UC Berkeley. Bryce and colleagues recently wrote a review that explores how sleep changes as we grow older, and the potential long-term implications of these alterations. Perhaps most alarming, research has shown that a lack of deep sleep is associated with higher levels of amyloid beta, which are the toxic misfolded proteins that accumulate in the brains of those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.

This raises a number of interesting questions. If we could test for sleep disruption, could we determine who is susceptible to developing Alzheimer’s disease soon enough to intervene? And could we find ways to enhance slow wave oscillations as people grow older, so that we can enjoy high-quality restorative sleep our whole lives? Listen here to learn more!


Does Dim Light at Night Make You Fat?

Before electricity, humans got all of their light via exposure to the sun, fire, and the moon and stars. This meant that nights were spent in relative darkness. Today, our environment is quite different. Our homes can now be brightly illuminated all the time, regardless of season or time of day. Also, our cities have bright LED street lamps that create “light pollution” filling outdoor city environments with much more light than is natural.

On the latest episode of humanOS Radio, I talk to Dr. Laura Fonken who is postdoctoral fellow in Steven Maier’s lab in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado. Before joining the Maier lab, she and a group at Ohio State performed a fascinating experiment with rodents, in which they compared body weight gain in animals who only ate at night versus animals who only ate during the day. The results were startling – and had interesting potential implications for our own health.

Check out our interview here to learn more!


The New World of Cognitive Enhancement (with Daniel Schmachtenberger)

“Man is not going to wait passively for millions of years before evolution offers him a better brain.” – Corneliu Giurgea

In this episode of humanOS Radio, I spoke with Daniel Schmachtenberger. Daniel is a social engineer, an evolutionary philosopher, and he works with a group called Neurohacker Collective, who is dedicated to optimizing human performance.

In this interview, we discuss current research investigating human cognitive enhancement and nootropics. We also talk specifically about the cognitive enhancer Qualia, which is a carefully formulated nootropic stack Daniel helped design.



Sauna Bathing for Brain and Heart Health (Guest Jari Laukkanen, MD, PhD)

Taking a hot sauna regularly can feel good and relax you, but can it also prevent heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease?

If you’re from the US, you probably associate saunas with gyms and spas. But saunas have existed in some form for hundreds of years, particularly in Scandinavia, where they are used regularly as part of the culture. Nowhere are they more ubiquitous than in Finland – it is estimated that 99% of Finns use one at least once per week. They have traditionally been used as places to relax with friends and family and to recover from intense physical activity.

And while sauna usage is typically associated with health behaviors, like for example using a sauna after exercise or before sleep as a way to relax, research has now taken a closer look to see if sauna usage itself is health promoting.

In the newest episode of humanOS Radio, I talk with Jari Laukkanen, MD, Ph.D. Jari is a clinical cardiologist who runs a research lab at the University of Eastern Finland. He primarily studies the role of a wide range of cardiometabolic risk factors in relation to cardiovascular disease. In his latest study, he and his colleagues examined thousands of Finnish men over the course of two decades. Participants were divided into groups based on how frequently they sauna. It turns out that men who sauna more frequently appear to have a tremendous benefit to their heart and brain health. Listen here to learn more.


Deeper Sleep and Faster Sleep Onset with Virtual Reality and Neurostimulation?

Modern technology is messing with our sleep. But what if someone could develop a device that actually helped us fall asleep faster?

In the latest episode of humanOS radio, I talk with Kelly Roman. Kelly is a co-owner of Fisher Wallace Laboratories, a progressive medical device company that aspires to treat insomnia and depression in novel ways.

Fisher Wallace is introducing a neurostimulation product called Kortex to the market. This device non-invasively delivers a low dose of electrical stimulation, combined with a virtual reality headset that delivers relaxing VR content to the user.

And unlike reading on your phone, Kortex might actually *help* you to get to sleep faster, and experience deeper and more restorative sleep. Kortex stimulates the brain to produce serotonin and melatonin, while lowering cortisol – thus helping people manage stress and sleep without prescription drugs.

To learn more about this intriguing product, and the research leading up to it, please check out my interview with Kelly here.


Which Parts of a Meal Can Make You Sleepy? (Keith Murphy Interview)

Everyone knows what it’s like to feel sleepy after a big meal. Think of what happens after Thanksgiving dinner, or after getting a huge lunch at an Indian buffet. If you’re like me, you’re ready to crash.

But why does this happen? Is it the tryptophan in the turkey? Is it from too many carbs? What you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat it all play a role. Consequently, there has been some doubt as to whether the “food coma” is even a real thing.

But recently, some clever researchers identified a good model organism for studying this phenomenon – the fruit fly. And through studying the behavior of Drosophila, we now better understand what causes a food coma, and perhaps why it occurs.

In the latest episode of humanOS Radio, I interview Keith Murphy of the Scripps Research Institute. He and his colleagues have been researching the so-called food coma, and have found some substantive evidence for this phenomenon. Listen here to find out more about his study – and some reasons why the food coma might be happening.


Social Norms – Mysterious Forces That Shape Eating

You are fully in control over your food choices, right? Well, we know that a wide range of rules govern how we act, and even our beliefs, when we are with different groups of people. Social psychologists characterize this influence as ‘social norms,’ and guess what? This influence affects eating, too.

In this latest episode of humanOS radio, I interview Emma Templeton from Thalia Wheatley’s lab at Dartmouth and Michael Stanton, Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing & Health Sciences, California State University, East Bay. Recently, they published a study in the journal, PLoS ONE, that elegantly tests the influence of social norms on the perceived healthfulness of food and also eating behavior. Listen here to listen.


Why Are We Fatter Than Our Ancestors? Interview with Dr. Stephan Guyenet

Why do so many of us overeat – even when we know it’s bad for us?

Like many questions in biology, much of the answer to this question lies in evolution. We know that animals have generally evolved to seek and consume convenient, energy-dense foods. All living things require energy to survive and reproduce, and it makes intuitive sense that genes associated with finding and eating lots of easy calories might be favored by natural selection. This instinct is also evident in humans in natural environments. Hunter-gatherers, who live in conditions similar to that of our evolutionary ancestors, gravitate to delicious high-calorie fare, although they don’t find a great deal of it. When they do get something extra tasty and high in energy – like ripe fruit, fresh meat, and honey – they will gorge on it.

Not unlike us. Modern humans are subject to these impulses as well. So what’s different? Our environment has dramatically changed. Rather than getting rare seasonal opportunities to gorge on rich foods, we are now constantly surrounded by such delicacies. We did not evolve with any need to resist these kinds of tasty treats – so perhaps it is unsurprising that we so often fail despite our best intentions.

Guest

In this episode of humanOS Radio, I talk once again with Dr. Stephan Guyenet, this time about his new book, The Hungry Brain, which was just released this week.

In his book, Stephan addresses the fundamental question of why we overeat. It’s not necessarily for a lack of education on nutrition. Rather, it is due to evolutionarily-conserved circuitry in the brain, which drives us to overeat for short-term pleasure – even when we know it’s at the expense of our health and well-being. In the show, he explains how these circuits work to regulate energy intake and body fatness.

Much of this is based on physiology and genetic predispositions – but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. We also discuss things you can do to manage these primal impulses in a fattening world, and make sure that your daily behaviors are in alignment with your health and weight goals.


Can We Reverse Aging With “Young Blood?”

Can we stave off the aging process by transfusing young blood into old people? The idea that youthful blood might have rejuvenating properties has lingered in popular imagination for centuries.

In this episode of humanOS Radio, I speak with Drs. Michael and Irina Conboy of the Department of Bioengineering at UC Berkeley. Their lab investigates the process of tissue repair throughout the body and is trying to determine why damaged tissue is not productively repaired as the body ages. In their most recent study, they discovered that molecules in aged blood may actually be interfering with the regenerative process. They are trying to identify these inhibitors, and perhaps find a way to clear them from the blood. Are we on the cusp of a breakthrough to help us stay at our peak abilities for decades longer?