Your weekly brain-changing news. Let's do this.
Dawn's Big Three This Week:
1) 🥑 Food For Thought 💭
The reason I drink a litre of olive oil a week. Yes, really.
2) 🥇 Motivation Station 🏃♀️
How your inbox changes the way you breathe (and what to do about it).
3) ☔ Make It Brain
Can you “make up” your sleep deficit on the weekends?
Want More of This? Get Some Brain Food Every Week.
🥑 Food For Thought 💭
LONG LIVE OLIVE OIL
Time to get “free” and “radical” (#sciencepuns) with your olive oil and walnuts, as supplementing your Mediterranean Diet with these possibly enhances brain power and improves cognitive function.
The Mediterranean Diet: is that still a thing?
In a nutshell (sorry): yes. To recap: the Mediterranean Diet means all the nuts, whole foods, fish, olive oil and fresh produce that you can handle. With a splash of red wine, of course.
No offense, but what’s new here?
None taken. We know you already know about the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, but what makes this Journal of American Medical Association study different is the conclusion it draws between this way of eating and its positive effect on brain power as we age.
Three groups of adults were studied. Two of them supercharged their Mediterranean diets, and one ate a low-fat diet. For the superchargers, one group drank an extra litre of olive oil a week (yes, that is not a typo. A LITRE), and the other supplemented with 30g more nuts per day (walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds were all nuts du jour.)
What they learned
After four years, the groups who next-leveled their Mediterranean diets scored higher in reasoning, attention, memory, and language, than the group that ate the low-fat diet. Studies did not include info on how the first group’s extra weekly litre of oil was consumed. Did they make olive oil smoothies? Do EVOO shots in the morning? We may never know.
Free radicals, oxidative stress, and nuts
If you’re familiar with life hacks about aging, you likely know about oxidative stress. It occurs when free radicals and antioxidants in your body get imbalanced, causing cellular breakdown. Cellular breakdown in the brain = age-related cognitive decline, which is a factor in the development of dementia.
A majority of the food in the Mediterranean Diet contains anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and the supplemental foods that were used in the two control groups are extra-full of things that might counter oxidative stress.
So, high qual EVOO and nuts have positive benefits on cognition.
How to give your free radicals a run for their money:
Time to add a few gallons of EVOO to your Prime cart. Read this from a previous newsletter before hitting buy.
Here’s Mediterranean Diet 101 so you can jump right in.
FOR THE NERDY: All the oily details here.
🥇Motivation Station 🏃♀️
DEATH TO EMAIL
If you have an inbox (since you’re reading this, we’re going to assume that’s 100% of you), you likely have experienced email apnea — a physiological response to digital communication that affects your breathing. Here’s how to increase the inbox peace. (Whispered, in a spoiler alert voice: it’s mindfulness).
What is mindfulness, again?
Quick refresher on mindfulness. It’s the practice of paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment. You can practice it while sitting on a pillow in a white room, or you can put down your phone and be truly 100% present for season 5 of Arrested Development.
How your inbox affects your body
So, the term email apnea was coined by Linda Stone in 2008 to describe the temporary cessation of breath that occurs in 80% of people while working or playing in front of screens.
What it looks like:
You open your inbox or check your phone
You experience a physiological response like shallow breathing
This affects the sympathetic nervous system
Ultimately, this constant state of fight or flight leads to an increase in stress-related diseases
What about the 20%?
The group of people Stone observed who were super chill regardless of whether they were jumping into their inbox or not included high performance athletes, dancers, musicians, and a test pilot. They already had coping mechanisms to manage energy and emotions.
How to stay calm & carry on
Cultivate awareness. The next time you’re scrolling, notice what your breathing is doing. Are you aware of your whole body? Are you breathing fully and completely?
Move. Take a break, move your body, and make sure you do this at least once an hour if you’re sitting or standing for long periods.
Dance or sing. Channel your inner Freddie, turn up the volume, and go for it.
One more mindful tip: Start a daily mindfulness habit with Calm. (P.S. -- stay tuned to your inbox next week to learn how to win a year of free Calm by sharing Dawn with a friend).
FOR THE NERDY: Email apnea, from the phrase originator.
☔ Make It Brain
MAKE ASLEEP GREAT AGAIN (MSGA didn't have the same ring to it)
Sleep deficits during the week can’t really be recovered with weekend lie-ins.
Weekly sleep habits
Ahh, sleep. Glorious, glorious sleep. We need it. We love it. And most of us don’t prioritise it. We all know that 6-8 hours of sleep is the recommended length of time for recharging at night, but most of us don’t achieve that, or we power through the week on a deficit knowing we can make up for it on the weekend. This was my sleep modus operandi until recently.
“Yo yo sleeping,” defined loosely as not getting enough sleep during the week and sleeping longer on the weekends, much like the same behaviour when dieting, is harmful to your brain and body and doesn’t actually work.
While you were (not) sleeping
In a recent Current Biology study, researchers compared several groups of sleepers: 9 hours per night, 5 hours per night, and a third group that had 5 hours per night and unlimited sleep on the weekends. The last group, who binge-slept on the weekends to make up the deficit, had the same negative impacts as the 5-hour group who ran a constant sleep deficit, including:
27% reduction in insulin sensitivity
This behaviour also effed up circadian rhythms, similar to the effects of jet lag, making it more difficult to fall asleep on Sunday nights.
How to regulate
Warren G probably didn't have a sleep tracker back in 1994 but he was obviously a bit of a visionary as he rapped about sleep regulation before all of today's research.
So, to regulate your sleep: aim for a consistent schedule every night. Instead of trying to sleep for 9 hours a night like the people in the study (let's be honest, for most people that's never going to happen), the next best thing is to sleep the same 6-8 hours every night, regardless of the day of the week.
And speaking of sleep tracking, I've been using an Oura ring for the past 6 months and they've very kindly given me a €50 discount for anyone that wants to join the sleep party. Use Dan50 at checkout on their site.
Grab a cup of Sleepy Time tea and limit the blue screen activity an hour or two before bedtime. You’ve got this.
FOR THE NERDY: Zzzz research.
What We Love This Week
📽 WATCH: This Japanese company is paying its staff to sleep more.
📖 READ: Instant Motivation. In what is probably one of the worst and offputting titles for a book on potential and performance you’ll find - I had to be convinced by a trusted friend it was worth my time. Do you trust me by now? It’s worth yours. An excellent read on how the mind works.
🎧 LISTEN: Not quite convinced a litre of olive oil a week is worth it but interested to learn more? We got you covered - learn about the wonders of theoil on this podcast
"My inbox is sacred, as is my phone. I carry no social media apps and only read paid for news... so Dawn was quite the revelation. Free content that's actually good, and useful, and funny. Great Sunday night introspective reading that sets me up perfectly for the week ahead."
Alexandra Depledge MBE
"I'm loving my Dawn emails. Every time I open it it has something super relevant and interesting. I'm travelling so much at the moment but one thing I read religiously is Dawn, it's become a ritual!"
Alice Bentinck MBE
Time to pop some bottles (of olive oil) and get my weekly dance party started.
Wishing you a week of uninterrupted 6-8 hours of sleep every day,