If you follow fads in nutrition, you’ll probably have heard of the Paleo Diet.
It’s based on foods that could be obtained by hunter-gathering before people settled down and started farming. The theory is that we weren’t designed to eat foods such as dairy, grains and legumes and their consumption compromises our health.
You’d think, wouldn’t you, that by now the human body would have adjusted to these “new” foods? After all, hunter-gatherers were around several hundred thousand years ago. Not so! While mankind may adjust emotionally and psychologically to modern life, scientists debate whether human biology is capable of further evolution.
Sleep is a perfect example of a mismatch between modern ways and biological needs. Here’s 5 reasons why, as a Caveman, you would have had no problems getting a great night’s sleep! At the end of a hard day hunter-gathering, you settle down around the communal fire to cook and eat. You exchange stories about your day: the best place to find wildbeest, whether you’d managed to get any honey from the bees nest and how many sightings of the tiger you’d had.
As the sun sets, the temperature drops and you reach for your animal hide to cover yourself and the child next to you. Before long, conversation slows and you and your tribe stretch out and sleep in the glowing embers of the fire. It’s completely dark until dawn. There’s no electric lights to turn night into day. There’s no refrigerator stocked with tempting snacks so you can’t feed when you are biologically programmed to fast until dawn. There are no cold beers or TV, YouTube or social media to provide distraction and entertainment. It’s cold. There’s nothing to do but sleep. You live your life largely outside and this abundance of natural daylight keeps your Circadian Rhythms well regulated. You feel sleepy at the appropriate times. All the hard physical work you do, gathering berries, hunting wild beasts and sharpening your tools means that you are naturally tired at night.
You face real dangers: the main one being the threat of predators. You do not however have to worry about losing half a day’s work when your PC crashes, or why no one “liked” your latest Facebook post or the latest demand from a tricky customer. Your stresses are short-lived and physical rather than ongoing emotional/psychological. As such, you recover quickly after each and don’t suffer the wear and tear of chronic stress. You actually don’t have a lot to think about. Life is simple.
You don’t have holidays to plan, DIY projects to accomplish, businesses to build, financial worries, online shopping, childcare to juggle, elderly relatives to care for, social arrangements to arrange…
It’s simply hunt, eat, sleep. Maybe there’s something we can learn from Paleo Sleep?