I recently read an article about the biohackers of Silicon Valley -- execs and disruptors who go to extremes of fasting for three to even five days, in order to optimize their bodies for maximum productivity and mental clarity. While I am by no means interested in a week-long fast, I do believe that the biohacking trend is symptomatic of a cultural shift. We are realizing that in order to live our best creative lives, we have to start with the very basics -- understanding our bodies.
Also, it’s just much more grown-up to take my body into account in the overall scheme of life. After all, I used to scoff at my father when he would warn me of the imminent sugar crash after a bag of peanut M&Ms and look longingly at friends’ lunchables at school. Now, I’m the one holding up the aisles at Whole Foods mulling over ingredients and talking to my friends about “brain fog.”
This week I embarked on the second Sleep Harder challenge, Sleep Diet, where I interviewed culinary and holistic nutritionist and herbalist Leona West-Fox. We talked about the relationship between sleep and diet, what foods to eat when, and the benefits of eating within a 10 to 12 hour time frame, finishing dinner at least four hours before bed. Then, I embarked on five days of implementing her advice into my life.
The toughest aspect of the Sleep Diet challenge was completely stopping food intake four hours before bed. Leona emphasized that at least 7 and a half hours of sleep are crucial to weight-loss and disease prevention, which meant that I aimed to finish dinner around 6:30 p.m. and get to bed at 10:30 p.m., so that I could be up by 6:30 a.m.. (Needless to say, this didn’t happen every night.)
An extra-special hack I learned from Leona is her sleep tonic. It’s all-natural and works like magic. I mixed pure tart cherry juice with a little sparkling water 15 to 20 minutes before bed, and could barely keep my eyes open. While other sleep aids put you to sleep, the artificial melatonin may not help your body stay asleep which could result in nightmares or vivid dreams and moodiness. Tart cherry juice, on the other hand, triggers your body’s own production of melatonin, helping you stay asleep the entire night through.
What I put into my body can fuel me or fog me over. And while I am not invincible, I can become wise. Eating B-vitamins during the day, especially because I am mostly plant-based, has been something I’ve dipped my toes into thinking about but never took too seriously. Truth be told, talking with Leona and doing a little bit of research into sources of B-vitamins like spirulina and dark leafy greens made the whole endeavor much more approachable. I even sautéed my own five-minute greens (a real “adulting” moment). And while it wasn’t necessarily fun at first, giving my body 12 to 14 hours to fast overnight did drastically improve my energy levels. Yes, I was more productive.
So while biohacking in the Silicon Valley sense isn’t for me, there is merit to hacking sleep, and becoming mindful of our diet is one of the biggest things we can do. Now, don’t count on me to tell you to skip the ice cream. But try throwing a little B into your morning, mix a little tart cherry juice with sparkling water, and see how you feel.