Constructing a Yearly Strength Plan

Written by: Kevin Cann

We live in a world of instant gratification, which can make seeing the bigger picture more difficult. Anyone taking up a strength sport wants to hit PRs and bigger numbers more quickly. However, if we want to be at the top of this sport, just like any other sport, we need to put in our time and peak at the correct times.

This is no different as it is for field sports. All teams want to be peaking just in time for a playoff push. This means that in the NFL, games in December are far more important than games in September. I have a talk with all of my strength athletes to determine their long term goals in the sport.

Some just want to compete a couple times a year and improve upon their total, some want to chase an elite total, and others want to compete on the national stage. Once we know the goals, we need to look at the competition schedule.

I have a couple athletes that qualified for the national championships before the start of this calendar year. Their goals are to put their best efforts forward at those national championships in October of this year. That is the meet that we want to peak for.

Both of these athletes compete frequently. One of these athletes competed in January and the other competed in February. These were the least important meets of their training year. Both of these athletes are very strong, but have some technique issues that they need to improve upon.

The way that we improve upon our technique is with appropriate variations and accessory work to strengthen weak positions and weak muscle groups. This is done during the off season of training. If we compete frequently, we can miss out on a long enough off-season to fix these weaknesses.

The period of time we work on these weaknesses is called a prep cycle. In this period of our training cycle we program roughly 60% of the lifts as competition lift variations, 20% competition lifts, and GPP work makes up the remaining 20%.

As a meet gets closer, these numbers change. 2 to 3 months out from competition, the competition lift variations decrease and the competition lifts themselves become the primary focus of the training block. GPP work will decrease some, but enough needs to be left in to maintain the newly developed muscle mass since the volume of the lifts will decrease as intensity increases.

If we took the 2 to 3 months before every meet and performed a peaking cycle, we would not get enough time to work on our weaknesses. We also could run the risk of failing to have enough variability in our program, which can lead to a staleness in improving technique as well as overuse injuries.

Before the meets in January and February, we performed a very short peaking cycle. Within these peaking cycles we still performed variations of the lifts. We tested 3 weeks out and tapered just like we would before any meet, but we truly did not peak.

This means that they will not have their best performance here. The goal of these meets was just to gain experience competing. This can be difficult within the current world of Instagram and Facebook when we want to tell everyone how much better we did. This can be difficult to see at the time. This is why communication between the coach and athlete is very important.

The next competition is in June. We will have a longer peaking cycle before this meet. This will let us see where we are currently at in both strength and weaknesses. This meet will hopefully allow us to establish new training maxes as well.

After this meet we will have 19 weeks to truly peak. This gives us enough time to work on some weaknesses and to have a full peaking cycle before we test and taper. This will allow us to hit our biggest numbers possible in October.

If we had performed a full peaking cycle before each meet, that literally would be almost the entire training year. 2-3 months peaking plus 4 weeks of competition cycle before each of the 3 meets. This would not be enough time to fix weaknesses and allow us to lift the most weight at the end of the year.

After completion of the national championships we will have a longer prep cycle to continue working on weaknesses and to continue getting stronger while taking a break from the continuous stretch we just had of performing competition lifts. From here, the cycle will continue. This lays the groundwork for continued success, as well as keeping the athlete healthy.

As a coach and an athlete, we need to look at the bigger picture. When determining our program for the year, we want to make sure that we are peaking at the correct times. Some competitions are going to be more important than others. We want to make sure that we prepare ourselves to compete at the highest level at those important competitions.

This may be difficult at times as we always want to do better and hit bigger numbers sooner than later. However, understanding that in order to hit the biggest numbers possible at the biggest competitions, there are sacrifices that must happen along the way. Enjoy the journey and embrace the process.

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Marshmallows, Pizza, Chocolate, and Eggnog?

Hey folks!

I’ve been sharing several videos over on Instagram these past couple of weeks. I’ll aim to do a weekly recap here on the blog, but to get in on the discussion as these roll out be sure to follow me on Instagram at @dasrobbwolf.

Marshmallows!

As important as the #7daycarbtest is this is a technique that is used AFTER making a decision about what to eat. How and why we choose certain things to eat is remarkably important and simple tweaks in seasoning and preparation can and will dramatically change the palatability (flavor and experience) of a given meal or food. Today I’m looking at the marshmallow for a bit of insight into palatability and how easy it is to dial the appeal of a food up or down. Before we get into that: For the folks who are purists and would not be caught dead eating a marshmallow, that’s all well and good but don’t let your predilections prevent you from getting a valuable lesson. I’m not saying marshmallows are highly nutritious nor am I advocating ANY schedule of consumption. Have them or not, I don’t care, but I do want you to get how easy it is to alter the palatability of something like a marshmallow and how much impact that can have on spontaneous portion control. Ok, legal disclaimer out of the way, let me ask you this: How many room temperature marshmallows can you eat before you say “i’m good.”?? I doubt it’s very many, they are sweet and gummy, but otherwise pretty unappealing. Now, what if you toast the outside to a golden brown? I think it’s safe to say you can eat much more. Let’s look at that golden brown marshmallow: a crispy, crunchy exterior that has a TON of different flavor. Once you get through the outer layer you have a creamy, hot core that is damn tasty, and typically a little glob of marshmallow on the stick that remains relatively cool. With a bit of heat and patience you have taken this uniform piece of spongy sugar and turned it into at least 3 different palate experiences. Now, what if you added in the crunch and slight saltiness of a graham cracker? How about melt some chocolate into that?! I don’t think anyone would argue they can eat more total volume in a smore than any of the individual items. My suggested take-away from this is not a specific prescription, it’s awareness. Be aware of how simple flavor tweaks can alter consumption and you are on the road to understanding how you are #wiredtoeat

Navigating Pizza Night for the carb tolerant and carb not-so-tolerant!

It’s Pizza night at the Lazy Lobo Ranch! We do gluten free crusts for the girls and a phenomenal breakfast sausage based crust for yours truly, the carb intolerant XY member of the ranch. We tend to use pretty traditional toppings for the pizza with the exception of goat cheese. Everyone in the family seems to have problems with cow cheese (and yes, I’ve tried them all, grass fed, raw and milked by the Dalai Lama himself…it’s not a good fit for us, trust me). This meal is not only Delish it’s a good illustration of how we try to manage both the immunogenic potential of food but also the blood sugar response. I don’t handle the carbs from the gluten free crust, none of us do well with cow dairy. Easy fixes, no “deprivation”. By using the #30dayreset and #7daycarbtest you can figure out what works best for you too. #wiredtoeat

Chocolate and palatability

Today we are looking at a little experiment in palatability using…#chocolate Before I get into that I want to make a quick point: Although I’ve looked at things recently like marshmallows and gluten free pizza (and now chocolate) I’m not becoming a junk-food advocate. What I AM trying to do is reach those people for whom “good eating” is not generally a thought. I’m trying to build bridges from the less than ideal to the “much better.” We don’t need perfection, we need incremental improvement. If I catered everything to only the “paleo purists” I’d not really be doing much to help the millions of people facing serious health problems as a consequence of our industrialized food system. Ok, that legal disclaimer aside, let’s talk chocolate! I have four examples here that amount to 50g of effective carbs. The 90% chocolate requires THREE BARS to get that amount of carbs, but along the way provides nearly 45g of prebiotic fiber and a bunch of polyphenolics. It’s pretty nutrient dense stuff, particularly for a candy bar. It takes just a bit over 1 bar of the other options (one cereal based, the other salted toffee…YUM) and only 8 of the Cadbury mini-eggs. Now, the story is not solely about carbs, calories do matter, and there is certainly more cals in the three 90% bars than in the other options, but can YOU eat three of those? I can’t. I could easily eat about 5 of the salted toffee bars, which would be 200g of sugar. What I hope you take away from this is we do not need to live a life of privation to reach health and body comp goals. We can make choices like the 90% chocolate which provides a remarkable amount of nutrition, tastes great, but does not seem to have the same hyper-palatable characteristics as the other options. Can you think of someone that could benefit from making a simple shift like this?

Dairy: all or nothing? 

Let’s talk a moment about dairy. Some people scream “it’s not paleo!!” Others shake their heads and tell us that so long as the dairy is raw, grass fed and hand milked by the Dalai Lama it’s all good. In my experience, reality exists somewhere between these extremes and not surprisingly, is fairly individual. Most people assume the only potential issue with dairy stems from lactose intolerance. Unfortunately, this is but a tiny consideration of dairy. Many experience either direct immunogenic (dairy is a common cross reactor in celiacs for example) problems with dairy, or as Nicki describes in the video an indirect effect. Dairy is really good at making little mammals into BIG mammals. Part of this effect stems from the natural growth factors found in milk. Another wrinkle is that dairy tends to stimulate the release of IGF (insulin like growth factor) and EGF (epithelial growth factor…which is the cause of the acne Nicki describes). Fermentation can alter this story to some degree, butter and ghee do not tend to have the same effects due to the low protein content, but again, this varies. I’ve noticed serious acne from cow dairy, yet I can eat, with reckless abandon, goat and sheep dairy. Some folks love to make topics like this a black or white affair. Dairy is good/bad. End of story. Just a bit of digging and experimentation calls into question either of these extremes. It depends. There are tradeoffs. For Nicki she has figured out she’d prefer to have clear skin when she might be in a bathing suit or tank top. In the winter, who cares? I see a lot of folks with autoimmune and or gut issues benefit from dairy avoidance. It’s not a big deal to experiment and discover what the story is for you and it’s worth the time as the benefits may be profound.

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Episode 363 – Nora Gedgaudas – Primal Fat Burner

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Our guest this episode is my friend Nora Gedgaudas. She is the international bestselling author of Primal Body – Primal Mind and the newly released Primal Fat Burner.

Download Episode Here (MP3)

 

Websites:
Primal Fat Burner
Primal Restoration courses
Primal Body – Primal Mind

Book:
Primal Fat Burner

 

30 Day Guide to the Paleo Diet

Want some extra help? Have you been trying Paleo for a while but have questions or aren’t sure what the right exercise program is for you? Or maybe you just want a 30-day meal plan and shopping list to make things easier? We’ve created a getting started guide to help you through your first 30 days.

Buy the book

 

Wired-to-Eat-RenderDon’t forget, Wired to Eat is now available!

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, iBooks

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Episode 362 – Mind Pump interviews Robb

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Sleepcocktails_banner_728x90_LeftHey folks! The guys at Mind Pump Media came to Reno and interviewed me for a podcast. “MindPump is an online radio show/podcast that has been described as Howard Stern meets fitness. It is sometimes raw, sometimes shocking and is always entertaining and informative. Your hosts, Sal Di Stefano, Adam Schafer and Justin Andrews have over 40 years of combined fitness experience as personal trainers, club managers, IFBB fitness competitors and fitness thought leaders.” Learn more about the guys at Mind Pump here.

This was a great episode with tons of good info. Check out the show notes below for topics discussed during the episode.

 

Download Episode Here (MP3)

 

Website: https://www.mindpumpmedia.com/p/robb-wolf

Show Notes

  • Robb talks about his background (Paleo) /Auto immune explosion (14:05)
  • Why does Robb feel the Paleo diet seems to work with auto immune disorders? (24:05)
  •  Robb talks about gluten and the communities behind it (32:05)
  •  What is protein fasting and why is it a good idea? (40:35)
  •  Do we need to hyper hydrate? (44:05)
  •   How does Robb get someone going in the right direction (health wise)? (48:04)
  •   Obesity/diabetes epidemic – Addiction to food discussion (1:10:05)
  •   High endurance athletes and their inability to tone it down / Beat themselves up (1:12:05)
  •  What are Robb’s thoughts on artificial sweeteners? (1:19:05)
  •  Robb talks about how he lives his life / What we can do to make small changes in our lives (1:26:05)
  •  Why is Robb so motivated in the field of Paleo? (1:34:05)
  •  Mind Pump goes to PaleoF(x) – Robb gives them his rundown of the event and what to expect (1:37:05)
  • Mind Pump asks, what has Robb done? / Final thoughts (1:41:05)

 

 

30 Day Guide to the Paleo Diet

Want some extra help? Have you been trying Paleo for a while but have questions or aren’t sure what the right exercise program is for you? Or maybe you just want a 30-day meal plan and shopping list to make things easier? We’ve created a getting started guide to help you through your first 30 days.

Buy the book

 

Wired-to-Eat-RenderDon’t forget, Wired to Eat is now available!

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, iBooks

Read more

Southwest Chicken Chili

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Loaded with southwest spices, this recipe is perfect for a warm supper, or allow the smoky spices to marinate and enjoy for leftovers tomorrow! Top with avocado and cilantro to complete this southwest chili bowl.

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Ingredients

  • 1 TBSP coconut oil
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1/2 medium white onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp oregano, dried
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Sea salt & black pepper, to taste
  • Diced avocado & chopped cilantro, for garnish

Directions

  1. Melt the coconut oil in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Add the ground chicken and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until almost cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5–7 minutes or until meat is fully cooked and onion has softened.
  3. Turn heat to high and add the tomatoes, sweet potatoes, chicken broth and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, 45–60 minutes, or until potatoes are soft. Serve bowls of chili topped with avocado and cilantro.

The post Southwest Chicken Chili appeared first on Paleo Magazine.

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Episode #158: Is Camel milk Paleo? Talking with Desert Farms

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Is Milk Paleo? Does it matter? Is milk good for you? For those of us willing to eat the flesh and guts of many animals, is it really that much of a stretch to consume dairy products too? These are questions that may be a source of a lot of debate. However, considering a pretty big theme in nutrition these days, even in our ancestral health and nutrition, is about personalizing your diet with foods that make you feel and perform your best, some of you may still be into milk or at least willing to explore your options.

On the podcast today we are talking with Walid from Desert Farms, a company that sells pasture raised grass fed camel products in the US such as milk, meat, and even skin care. He gives us the low down on why camel milk is different and in his opinion, superior to cow’s milk. He talks about how his camels are raised and we also get into the different ways that camel products can be used like in chocolate and beauty products. We also talk about hump fat, so definitely tune to learn all about it.

CLICK HERE for the full transcript.

On today’s show we discuss:

  • How Walid first had the idea to introduce Camel products to the US.
  • What makes camel milk different from cow’s milk and how they are inter-linked.
  • The difference between pasteurized and raw milk, and the fears that consumers face.
  • How hump fat will be their first meat line product.
  • The properties in camel milk that are helping people heal themselves.
  • What is to come for Desert Farms in the near future.

“For everyone that basically has missed their dairy, their real milk, this is a perfect alternative for them.” — @WalidAbdulWahb [0:14:43.1]

“Supplementing camel’s milk on a Paleo or elimination diet helps significantly with people with autoimmunity..” — @WalidAbdulWahb [0:18:02.1]

Listen Now!

SHARE YOUR LOVE FOR PMR AND YOU CAN ENTER TO WIN SOME GREAT PALEO SWAG!

Its easy, simply post a review of PMR on iTunes and fill out our quick Registration Form and you’ll be entered to win your choice of 4 great books and a Paleo Magazine vinyl decal!
One winner will be randomly chosen each week.

The post Episode #158: Is Camel milk Paleo? Talking with Desert Farms appeared first on Paleo Magazine.

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Why Your Technique Should Be the Priority

Written by: Kevin Cann

Ever since day 1 of working with Boris Sheiko, technique in the squat, bench press, and deadlift have been drilled into me. According to Boris, technique is the most important aspect to consider when lifting. We saw this in person when he trained a group of 5 of us.

Out of the group of 5 there were a couple elite powerlifters. We were taking a couple doubles at 80% and a couple singles at 85%. Boris did not let them go over 95lbs for the entire squat session because their technique was flawed. 95lbs was far less than even 50% of their 1RM, not to mention 80%.

There was also a block of training in which we dropped my squat max because my technique needed work. We dropped it around 30lbs. In this cycle, on the heaviest days I barely cracked 70% of my 1RM. However, I got stronger. Improving your technique can yield many immediate benefits.

The human body was not designed to be a mechanical masterpiece when it comes to lifting things. In fact, the human body is setup at a disadvantage. We are designed to have muscles pull bones around an axis to create movement. Our bones are levers.

In physics there are three kinds of levers. There are first-class, second-class, and third-class levers. A first-class lever is when the axis (also known as a fulcrum) is located between the resistance (weight we are lifting) and the force (our muscles). An example of a first-class lever is a seesaw. The axis or fulcrum is located between each end of the seesaw.

There are very few examples of first-class levers in the human body. One example is how we hold our head up. The weight is the head, the axis is the atlantoccipital joint, and the force comes from the muscles that hold up our head that are located on the back of our necks.

A second-class lever has the resistance located between the fulcrum and the muscle force. A commonly used example of a second-class lever is a wheelbarrow. In the human body one of the only second-class levers can be found when performing a calf raise. The fulcrum in this instance is our metatarsophalangeal joints (toes), the weight is our bodyweight, and the force is coming from our gastrocnemius and soleus muscle through the Achilles tendon which inserts at our heel.

The most common type of lever found in the human body is a third-class lever. This is when the muscle force is applied between the resistance and the fulcrum. A common example of a third-class lever is the bicep curl. The muscle force is applied by our biceps muscle through the distal tendon attachment. This attachment is located closer to our hand than our elbow, which is the fulcrum. The weight would be the dumbbell in our hands. There are not too many examples of third-class levers outside of the body because they just are not that effective at moving weight.

One more definition that we need to look at when discussing technique while lifting is that of a moment arm. A moment arm is the length between the joint axis and the line of force. In the example above of the bicep curl, the length of the moment arm is the length of the forearm (technically the length from the distal tendon attachment to the dumbbell). The longer our forearm is, the harder that weight will be to lift.

Basically what this all means is that if we are curling a 25lb dumbbell, it requires more than 25lbs of muscular force to bend our elbow and perform the exercise. Compound lifts have multiple moment arms. For the sake of this example we will look at the moment arm of the hips.

The moment arm for the hips is the distance from the hip joint to the midfoot (as long as the bar is over our midfoot like it should be). A common technique flaw we see in the squat is the good morning squat. This is when the hips shoot back and the chest falls forward out of the bottom position.

In this position the bar is pushed out over the toes and the hips are pushed further away. This is about as big of a moment arm for the hips as you can get. The moment arm goes now from the hip joint, past the midfoot, to where the bar is positioned.

Remember that we are designed at a mechanical disadvantage. In a good position, we already need to use more force than there is weight on the bar to actually lift it. If our technique fails, we are placed at an even greater disadvantage. This means that we need to produce even more force than before to lift the weight.

This not only puts more pressure on our muscles to attempt to lift the weight, but it also puts more pressure on them to stabilize our joints. Once we lose that stability, we are greater risk of injury. So not only will we lift less weight, but we run the risk of getting hurt and lifting no weights.

When selecting your programs repetitions, sets, and intensity, this all needs to be taken into account. We want to train good positions and not poor ones. Leave the ego at the door and only lift what you are capable lifting in good positions. Come meet day, it also requires far less energy to lift in good positions than it does in poor ones. This can be the difference between winning and losing, or setting new personal bests.

I will leave you with what I tell my lifters all of the time, you can only beat physics for so long.

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130: Just One Thing…

On this week’s show, life in 10,000 B.C., new dietary guidelines for cholesterol, a stool transplant gone wrong, a new study on obesity vs. inactivity. In the Listener Questions segment: is tallow and lard a ‘whole food?’ In the Moment of Paleo segment: You Can’t Do a Single Thing! After the Bell, it’s Mark Plotkin on uncontacted tribes of the Amazon.

Links for this episode:

Purakai.com – Shop for Organic Clothing from PuraKai – Use coupon code “latest in paleo” for free shipping!

TX Bar Organics – Grass fed & Grass finished Beef – Use Coupon Code “latestinpaleo” to save 10% on all orders!

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Hunter-Gatherers Don’t Get 8 Hours of Sleep a Night. Should You?

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How many hours of sleep do you need every night? If you ask a hundred random people this question, chances are a lot of them will say that about 8 hours is the optimal amount—a number that has been imprinted in the public’s mind through health campaigns, books, and articles on the topic.

Indeed, few people with some knowledge about health and disease would dispute that getting adequate sleep is important—but is eight hours really the magic number?

Until recently, the general belief about the ancestral community was that hunter-gatherers enjoyed far more sleep than we do today. Most articles on the topic tell you that our primal forebears often napped during the day and probably enjoyed at least seven to eight hours of high-quality sleep, every night, which is quite a bit more than the average of about six hours in today’s United States.5

Then, something happened. A study published in Cell found that non-Westernized people in Africa and South America—including Hadza and San hunter-gatherers from Tanzania and Namibia, respectively, and Tsimane hunter-farmers from Bolivia—only sleep on average about 6.5 hours a night (with sleep durations ranging between 5.7 to 7.1 hours).9 These surprising results suggest that hunter-gatherers don’t get any more sleep than we, people in industrialized societies, do. Moreover, they rarely take naps during the day, and researchers concurred that their biphasic sleep—a sleep pattern characterized by two distinct cycles of sleep every 24-hour period—was much less common than “Paleo wisdom” suggests.

Has the familiar idea, that hunter-gatherer ancestors delighted in more sleep than we do, been shattered? Not so fast.

Firstly, it’s hasty to assume that the sleep patterns of the traditional people undergoing the study are in fact identical with those of our ancient forebears. Plus, the approach the researchers in the study above used to measure sleep duration may have had some flaws, as other sleep experts have suggested. That said, the study makes the reasonable case that, on average, contemporary non-Western people engage in less than eight hours of nocturnal sleep.

We can’t automatically assume that the sleep habits of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers were identical to those of the study’s non-modernized people—but it’s likely, as the authors themselves note, that the observed sleep patterns are indeed characteristic of pre-modern-era Homo sapiens’ sleep patterns, and hence, may represent the types of sleep standards we are genetically suited for.

That said, unlike what many of the news articles covering this study claimed (as its findings quickly went viral), the fact that the preindustrial people under examination only get about 6.5 hours of sleep does not necessarily mean that this is the optimal amount for people in industrialized nations.

Healthy People Need Less Sleep?

Yes, healthy people may need less sleep than those suffering from chronic diseases or those with chronically elevated levels of circulating inflammatory biomarkers (systemic, chronic, low-grade inflammation). Keep in mind, I’m not just talking about severely sick individuals here.

Truth is—few, if any, people in contemporary industrialized societies are in perfect health. Not only are we exposed to environmental pollutants (pretty much everywhere we go), but most people also eat processed food, regularly, drink chlorinated water, exercise too little, and so forth. Our modern lifestyles stand in stark contrast to those of the hunter-gatherers in the aforementioned study; who live in environments that resemble the ancestral natural milieu in which the human genome evolved in, for millions of years.

There is strong evidence suggesting an association between both short and long durations of habitual sleep with adverse health outcomes.1,7,8 Furthermore, several studies have found that increases in habitual sleep times are associated with elevations in markers of systemic inflammation.2,4,6

Now, this does not verify the above hypothesis, that healthy people require fewer hours of sleep every night than unhealthy folks. Such a theory is difficult to test in clinical trials, since there are a wide range of factors that may confound the relationship between sleep duration and health status. Also, since we don’t know whether long sleep durations are a cause or consequence of poor health, a cause-effect relationship can be difficult to establish. And it could even be that there is no true relationship, but rather that other factors are inadvertently confounding the picture. For example, people who get a lot of sleep may also eat more junk food than short sleepers—clearly, this could increase levels of circulating inflammatory compounds. Researchers try to control for these types of covariates, but residual confounding often remains ineradicable.

Perhaps more relevant in the context of the above hypothesis is the connection between the immune system and sleep duration. The immune system contributes to the regulation of normal sleep, and REM sleep—a phase of sleep characterized by rapid eye movements—has been shown to be disrupted in many people with disorders involving altered cytokine concentrations.3 For example, studies in both animals and humans have shown that viral and bacterial infections may lead to increased sleep3—an increase that could be viewed as being adaptive, in the sense that it promotes recovery.

I strongly suspect, based on the literature on the topic, and my experience and observations, that healthy people in general do require less sleep than unhealthy folks. This may in part be explained by inter-individual variation in microbiota composition and the levels of circulating inflammatory mediators in the bloodstream. However, to make any strong conclusions, more research is needed.

Quality Over Quantity

Hunter-gatherers live in an untouched natural environment, get plenty of sun exposure, eat exclusively whole, unprocessed food, are never exposed to artificial lighting, and fall asleep listening to the playlists of nature. Moreover, unlike industrialized people, foragers don’t live in buildings that maintain a steady temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit (or 20 degrees Celsius). All these factors are important, because as the authors of the hunter-gatherer sleep study point out, the daily cycle of temperature change may be a potent natural regulator of sleep.

Our modern lives are filled with sleep disruptors—iPhones, heating systems, computers, sugar-filled junk food, hectic work-schedules, artificial lighting, pharmaceuticals, to name a few. By raising our cortisol levels, our stress hormone, and disrupting the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, these factors wreak havoc on our body’s hormonal milieu—effectively, among other things, seriously impairing sleep quality.

It’s no surprise that a lot of people in the industrialized world have problems falling asleep, waking up several times during the night and feeling sluggish and fatigued the next morning. Today’s average Joe may never experience the deep, high-quality sleep that hunter-gatherers readily access—and hence, he may require more sleep than they do.

Key Points:

  • The sleep patterns of our Paleolithic forebears may have differed from those of contemporary hunter-gatherers.
  • The fact that non-Westernized people in Africa and South America—specifically the Hadza of Tanzania, the San of Namibia, and the Tsimane of Bolivia—only get about 6.5 hours of sleep every night doesn’t mean that this is necessarily the optimal amount for everyone. Due to the fact that hunter-gatherers’ gene expression and health conditions are closer to the evolutionary norm, these people may indeed require less sleep than most people in industrialized societies. Moreover, primal people are not exposed to artificial lighting, junk food, and all of the other sleep-disrupting factors (all of which are part and parcel of modernized life), and therefore experience better-quality sleep than the average modern Joe.
  • Your sleep needs may in large part be determined by your health condition and physical activity levels, and your pre-bed routine and sleep environment. If you are in great health and pay a lot of attention to optimizing the quality of your sleep (like by avoiding artificial lighting at night and stressing down before bed), you too may require less than eight hours of sleep every night.

References:

  1. F. P. Cappuccio, et al. “Sleep Duration and All-Cause Mortality: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies.” Sleep 33 (2010): 585-92.
  2. J. B. Dowd, et al. “Sleep Duration, Sleep Quality, and Biomarkers of Inflammation in a Taiwanese Population.” Annals of Epidemiology 21 (2011): 799-806.
  3. L. Imeri, and M. R. Opp. “How (and Why) the Immune System Makes Us Sleep.” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 10 (2009): 199-210.
  4. M. R. Irwin, R. Olmstead, and J. E. Carroll. “Sleep Disturbance, Sleep Duration, and Inflammation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies and Experimental Sleep Deprivation.” Biological Psychiatry (2015).
  5. D. Lieberman, The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease (Vintage, 2014).
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