The Science of Small Change | Andrew Huberman on The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish

Key Takeaways

  • The effects of light are slow and integrated so it’s easy to overlook their benefits
    • Light is one of the most powerful stimuli for our mental and physical health
  • “You want to control your transition into wakefulness by viewing bright light early in the day and throughout the day and control your transition into sleepiness by dimming the lights in the evening.”Dr. Andrew Huberman
  • NSDR “protocols” for reducing stress and anxiety: yoga nidra and hypnosis
    • For yoga nidra, find a free script online and listen with headphones before going to sleep
    • For hypnosis, try Reveri – an app made by David Spiegel, a world expert in clinical hypnosis
  • Supplements and prescription medication are great, but behavioral tools should be the foundation of all your sleep and wakefulness tools
    • Magnesium threonate or magnesium bis-glycinate (100 to 200 milligrams)
    • Apigenin (50 milligrams)
    • Theanine (100 to 400 milligrams)
  • Cold showers or ice baths are a great way to heat up in the morning
    • Anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes; a total of 11 minutes per week
    • You will experience a 2.5 x huge, long-lasting dopamine increase (similar to cocaine)
  • Short naps accelerate neuroplasticity and learning (especially if you nap after an intensive learning bout)
    • “There is something about sleep state that allows the brain to rewire and most of the rewiring and neuroplasticity occurs during deep sleep and also during short sleep bouts.” – Dr. Andrew Huberman
  • Caffeine increases the sensitivity of the dopamine receptors
    • It makes us more motivated to go out and pursue goals, placing us in a mode of “exteroception”
  • To increase your stress threshold, get comfortable staying in a “no-go” response when you have high levels of adrenaline in your system
    • Ice bath & cold shower
    • Cyclic hyperventilation (active stimulation of adrenaline in your body with big active inhales and passive exhales)

Intro

  • Dr. Andrew Huberman (@hubermanlab) is a Professor of Neurobiology and Ophthalmology at Stanford University School of Medicine. Much of his work is focused on neural regeneration, neuroplasticity, and brain states such as stress, focus, fear, and optimal performance
    • “Forget trying to get people to change, it does not work. It works with children, it does not work with adults unless it’s self-directed plasticity. And there is tons of literature to support that statement.”Dr. Andrew Huberman
  • How does light impact how we feel, learn and sleep? Why is blue light wonderful and why practicing delayed gratification can save your life? Dr. Andrew Huberman goes in-depth on the science of sleep, supplements, caffeine & alcohol and gives tips to deal with bad impulses
  • Host – Shane Parrish (@ShaneAParrish)

How Light Exposure Impacts How You Sleep

  • “Light is perhaps the most powerful stimuli for our mental and physical health and our performance in every endeavor.”Dr. Andrew Huberman
    • The effects of light are slow and integrated so it’s easy to overlook their benefits
    • Light controls when we are asleep and alert and has direct effects on how our nervous system functions (the most powerful organ system of our body)
  • The ideal way to get sunlight exposure 
    • Wake up, go outside and get some bright light in your eyes (preferably without sunglasses)
    • Aim for approx. 5-20 minutes of bright light exposure
    • Never look directly at it (or any bright source of light that’s painful to look at)
    • Even when it’s a cloudy day, there still is more photon light energy coming through the clouds than from your average household lighting
    • If you get up before sunlight, use bright artificial lights
  • Sunlight exposure alternatives
    • Sunlight simulators (maybe too expensive) and selfie ring lights are good solutions
    • Selfie ring lights are low-cost and you can leave them on all-day
  • The goal is to get as much bright light as you can in your eyes all day long, and as little as possible between 10 PM and 4 AM
    • Bright light exposure through windows or windshields doesn’t work, they are designed to filter the light that triggers activation of your neurons
  • Blue light is not bad, it’s wonderful; creates a state of alertness and well-being throughout the day
    • It sets a “timer” of about 16 hours for when you are going to get sleepy later that night
  • Use the app called LightMeter to calculate the amount of light energy

The Danger of Late-Shifted Cortisol Peak

  • Every cell in our body is coordinated to a general hormonal signal 
    • Basically, hormones are released in one location in the body and go and act at other locations
  • Cortisol is a key hormone for health
    • Every 24 hours there is going to be a peak in cortisol release (this peak wakes you up in the morning, gives you focus, activates your immune system, etc.)
    • If you get light early, that peak will happen early in the day
    • When it doesn’t arrive early, it starts drifting later and later, and people get mood issues 
  • Late-shifted cortisol peak is also one of the hallmark features of depression
    • It probably won’t fix major clinical depression, but many people feel better all day long and early morning sunlight can help with many mood-related issues
  • “You want to control your transition into wakefulness by viewing bright light early in the day and throughout the day and control your transition into sleepiness by dimming the lights in the evening.”Dr. Andrew Huberman
    • Doing those two things will have enormous benefits on your physical and mental health

Huberman’s Evening Routine and Supplements

  • He usually goes to sleep between 10 and 11 PM
  • His first meal is something low on carbohydrates but it depends on the intensity of his workout
    • Dinner is pasta or something with more starches
    • Typically, his evening meals have more carbohydrates than proteins
    • Carbs reduce cortisol levels in the body (that’s one of the reasons we eat comfort foods)
  • The biggest peak of alertness happens about 90 minutes before your natural sleep time
    • Don’t worry about it, it will pass, but it can be a useful indicator for your optimal bedtime
  • He is not a fan of screen time viewing, serious conversations, or extensive thinking before sleep
  • How to tapper off thinking and anticipating?
    • Non-sleep deep rest (NSDR) – one of the most powerful tools that Huberman discovered in the last decade (helps relax, reduce stress and anxiety)
    • NSDR “protocols”: yoga nidra and hypnosis
  • Yoga nidra – progressive relaxation of your nervous system
    • Find a free script online and listen on headphones before going to sleep
    • Teaches you how to intentionally turn off and relax your body
  • Reveri – an app made by a world expert in clinical hypnosis, David Spiegel
    • Has a lot of scripts with excellent clinical data
  • Get in a habit of doing SDR or Reveri scripts, you can do it any time of day
    • The goal is to learn to incorporate these progressive relaxation techniques when your mind starts racing and you want to fall asleep

Behaviour Is First, Behavior Is First, Behavior Is First…

  • Supplements and prescription medication are great, but behavioral tools should be the foundation of all your sleep and wakefulness tools 
    • Behaviors rewire your nervous system (neuroplasticity)
    • You get better at falling asleep when you learn progressive relaxation techniques, and you get better at feeling alert when you view bright light in the early part of the day
    • Supplements and prescription medication can be great but they don’t rewire your brain
  • Helpful supplements that can help with depth and transition to sleep
    • Magnesium threonate or magnesium bis-glycinate (100 to 200 milligrams)
      • Makes you feel drowsy and increases the depth and the amount of deep sleep
    • Apigenin (50 milligrams)
      • Take it 30 or 60 minutes before sleep
      • A derivative of chamomile
    • Theanine (100 to 400 milligrams)
      • Dreams get very vivid; don’t take it if you have night terrors or sleepwalk
      • Nowadays, theanine is becoming more common in energy drinks
      • Positive effects on jitteriness and anxiety

Temperature- Second Most Important Stimulus for Wakefulness

  • Ideally, you should sleep in a cold room and have warm blankets on top of you
    • If you get too warm, you will naturally extend your feet or hands to dump heat
    • We dump heat mainly through the palms of our hands, the upper half of our face, and the bottoms of our feet
    • Don’t sleep with your socks on, it’s a terrible idea because you will not be able to dump heat while you sleep
  • Cold showers or ice baths are a great way to heat up in the morning
    • You will experience a 2.5 x huge, long-lasting dopamine increase (similar to cocaine)
    • Cold water exposure (anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes; a total of 11 minutes per week) increases your body temperature
    • How cold? Uncomfortable but safe, hard to say exactly since people have different heat and cold tolerance
    • You can end it with a hot shower, but if you want to increase your metabolism, you end with cold
  • Also, with cold water exposure, you build a reservoir of internal heat generation (brown fat)
  • The same goes for cooling off in the evening; sauna or hot bath/shower

Your Best Friend, the Short Nap

  • Huberman is a big napper (20-minute naps or NSDR in the afternoon)
  • Rules for nappers by Andrew Huberman and Matt Walker (@sleepdiplomat)
    • Naps should be shorter than 90 minutes
    • Nap only if it doesn’t disrupt your nighttime sleep
    • Because of the NSDR practice, he can fall asleep anywhere and anytime
  • Benefits of short naps:
    • They accelerate neuroplasticity and learning (especially if you nap after an intensive learning bout)
    • “There is something about sleep state that allows the brain to rewire and most of the rewiring and neuroplasticity occurs during deep sleep and also during short sleep bouts.” – Dr. Andrew Huberman
  • Have problems with the afternoon slump/crash?
    • Delay morning caffeine for 90 to 120 minutes after waking, and you’ll be fine
    • Yerba Mate Latte – Huberman’s preferred choice of caffeine (GLP1 for metabolism)

Why Do People Wake Up in the Middle of the Night?

  • Other than depression, Huberman pinpoints two most common reasons for waking up in the middle of the night
    • Unregulated physical activity (too much or too little exercise throughout the day) 
    • An appropriate amount of exercise will help you get the appropriate amount of sleep
    • Generally about 150 to 180 minutes per week of zone 2 cardio and resistance exercise 3 or 4 times a week
    • You are going to be a much more fuel-efficient, better sleeping, more focused system
  • The second reason is that people who wake up in the middle of the night were supposed to go to bed earlier
    • Even though there is no scientific evidence for going to bed earlier, Huberman finds that every hour of sleep before midnight recharges him more deeply than the hours after midnight
  • He does not think fondly of melatonin supplementation
    • It shouldn’t be taken the way people take it; a prescription dosage of 1 milligram is usually too high (1 milligram is like 100 times what you naturally secrete)
    • It’s a hormone that interacts with other hormone systems of the brain and body
    • He is not a fan of taking an exogenous hormone that suppresses testosterone and estrogen (powerful hormones for all sorts of things)

One Glass Never Hurt Anyone

  • Alcohol lowers our body temperature, but our perception of that temperature is disrupted
    • That’s also part of the reason why you can fall asleep when you drink
  • Try avoiding alcohol too close to sleep
    • About 10% of people have a genetic predisposition to get a big dopamine increase from alcohol; this is often mistaken for high alcohol tolerance
  • For most people, alcohol has a GABA sedative-type response and when they reach their alcohol intake threshold, they are ready to pass out
  • If you are going to drink, remember to hydrate with electrolytes and try not to do it too close to sleep
  • Stay away from sleep medication while drinking; a lot of deaths occurred due to combining prescription sedatives with alcohol
  • Low sugar electrolyte drinks- help with reducing hangovers and improving sleep

Caffeine- A Competitive Agonist of Adenosine

  • Caffeine parks in the adenosine (a molecule that builds up the longer we’ve been awake) receptor and outcompetes adenosine creating an artificial state of alertness
    • It also triggers the release of epinephrine from the brain and body to release adrenaline
    • Basically, it creates wakefulness in the body and the brain via locus coeruleus (“blue spot”) in the brain and the adrenals in the body
  • Another cool thing caffeine does is that it increases the sensitivity of the dopamine receptors
    • It makes us more motivated to go out and pursue goals – placing us in a mode of “exteroception”
    • “Exteroception” – focusing on things that are outside of our immediate experience
  • Dopamine is the most powerful neuromodulator, it controls motivation, craving, and drive
    • It makes us feel good and makes us feel motivated
  • Just make sure you hydrate and get enough salt as you hydrate (salt gets a bad rep but is very beneficial)
  • Try and taper off caffeine toward the afternoon for better sleep
  • Avoid overuse and stagger the use (try skipping caffeine intake for one day to feel full benefits the next day)
  • Caffeine + 100 mg of theanine = adjust your level of jitteriness (alert but calm effect)

Tweet Something Stupid and Lose Your Job

  • “Most of the disorder and dysfunction in the world is caused by lack of impulse control.” – Dr. Andrew Huberman
    • We have a lot of popular literature about motivation and drive and much less about suppressing action
  • How to control your impulses?
    • Basal ganglia – important for controlling and integrating thought and action
    • Two main circuits (both regulated by dopamine but with different receptors)
    • Some of the circuitry in basal ganglia pathways are involved with “go” (action-oriented) and “no-go” functions (suppressing behavior)
    • As kids, we learn a lot of no-go behaviors (don’t interrupt, sit still, etc.)
  • Huberman does 20-30 no-goes daily to keep these circuits “tunned up” (don’t worry, they don’t need to be big)
    • E.g. Resisting the urge to pick up your phone and saying “no”
    • Forcing yourself not to pick up your phone at that moment is reinforcing the neurocircuitry
    • Neurocircuitry is generic, it carries over to multiple other things
  • “I think getting up and doing something without involving rumination, or consideration, or thought, just getting into action sets your whole nervous system into a mode of go.”Dr. Andrew Huberman
    • Then you drink caffeine, another go function, answer your e-mails, etc.
    • Everything is “go, go, go…”, we rarely rehearse the no-go functions
    • It’s about enforcing a regime; you don’t have to be neurotic about the “no go’s”, just try and keep it balanced, go (make your bed in the morning) but also “don’t go” (put the phone away when you work once in a while to train yourself)

How to Use the Body to Control the Mind and Let Go

  • After age 25 the brain doesn’t change unless its self-directed change
    • “Forget trying to get people to change, it does not work. It works with children, it does not work with adults unless it’s self-directed plasticity. And there is tons of literature to support that statement.” – Dr. Andrew Huberman
  • Everyone is talking about being “triggered”; you can eliminate the problems (the people doing the triggering) or reduce your trigger threshold
    • “Trying to reduce the number of problems in the world by forcing or encouraging other people to change is just generally not that good” – Dr. Andrew Huberman
    • However, you can increase your stress threshold so that your trigger threshold is much higher
  • Get comfortable staying in a no-go response when you have high levels of adrenaline in your system
    • Ice bath & cold shower
    • Cyclic hyperventilation (active stimulation of adrenaline in your body with big active inhales and passive exhales)
    • Great effects on mood, countering anxiety, improvements in sleep, makes you a tougher person
    • Doing it 3 or 4 times a week you will notice a big improvement in your ability to not get triggered
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Notes By Dario

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