Epigenetics, Podcast, Sleep

Investing in Sleep with Dr. Benjamin Smarr

January 6, 2018, Author: Boomer Anderson

Your body is a network, when that network is disturbed it might not be able to tell exactly which node in the network is gonna go first. But I can definitely tell you that you’re at risk of breaking your network much more than somebody who is letting it line up nicely.


Right before presenting on sleep genetics at the 2017 Quantified Self Conference in Amsterdam, I met Dr. Benjamin Smarr. We exchanged words and Dr. Smarr mentioned he studied sleep at the University of California at Berkeley. Needless to say, it was a bit nerve-wracking to have a circadian biologist in the front row.


Dr. Benjamin Smarr studies the temporal structures that biological systems make as they move through time. An NIH research fellow at UC Berkeley, his work focuses on understanding how physiological dynamics like sleep, circadian rhythms, and ovulatory cycles are shaped by the brain, and how disturbances to those cycles give rise to disease. Dr. Smarr is also an advocate for scientific outreach, and routinely gives public lectures and visits K-12 classrooms to help promote the idea that by understanding the biology that guides us, we can live more empowered lives.



Key Highlights:

  • What is sleep? It’s a more difficult question than you would expect.
  • Rethinking sleep as an investment, rather than a waste of time
  • Why are circadian rhythms important?
  • The danger of letting your body fall out of rhythm
  • How sleep deprivation ties into our circadian rhythms
  • The reasons why jet lag is so painful
  • How genetics plays a role in your chronotype
  • Dr. Smarr’s top recommendations for improving your sleep (hint: stop reading/watching the news so late)

If you enjoyed this podcast, can you do us a favor? Please leave a nice comment and a 5-star rating in iTunes. It helps spread the word and our individualized health message. You can do it by clicking here.


This podcast is brought to you by the ring on my finger. No, I’m not married yet and I’ve avoided wearables for a very long time. I’ve tried a few – actually a few is an understatement – and most of them end up in the trash can. Why? Well, number one reason is accuracy. Number two is really usefulness.


But when I heard about this next technology, I must admit, I was initially a skeptic. I’m not exactly a ring guy and wearables, I mentioned that earlier. But the Oura Ring is so much different. For one, it’s a ring, it sits on any finger you choose – or for some of my friends, their toes. It’s a super lightweight device that doesn’t get in the way of anything I do. The beauty of it is all of this data gets output into an easy to read mobile application, where I can make choices on what I am to do that day.


Now for me, how is this valuable in my own life? Well, I’m able to make and see directly the lifestyle and food decisions I make and how they impact items like deep sleep.  Now, how accurate is this? Stanford Research Institute went in to buy a couple of Oura Rings during Oura’s initial Kickstarter campaign – I wish I would’ve followed them. They compared the Oura Ring to a standard polysomnography test, which is the gold standard for sleep measurement. They found that Oura was able to determine sleep duration to an accuracy of 96% of the time, and REM sleep to an accuracy of 61% of the time.


Now, where do you get yours? You can go to ouraring.com and order one of three different colors. You can get the oh-so-loud white, the mirror black which is what I have on my finger, and the rugged and manly matte black. If you plug in the code ‘BOOMER’, as in my name, you get 10% off – which is pretty cool given the price of the device. They’ll send you a ring kit, you’ll try on the ring and you’ll have your new device on your finger, shortly.



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