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Podcast: The Science of Recharging Your Energy with Sara Mednick

Podcast: The Science of Recharging Your Energy with Sara Mednick

For today's podcast episode, Leaps.org talks with Sara Mednick, author of The Power of the Downstate, a book about the science of relaxation - why it's so important, the best ways to get more of it, and the time of day when our bodies are biologically suited to enjoy it the most.

Aleksey

If you’re like me, you may have a case of email apnea, where you stop taking restful breaths when you open a work email. Or maybe you’re in the habit of shining blue light into your eyes long after sunset through your phone. Many of us are doing all kinds of things throughout the day that put us in a constant state of fight or flight arousal, with long-term impacts on health, productivity and happiness.

My guest for today’s episode is Sara Mednick, author of The Power of the Downstate, a book about the science of relaxation – why it’s so important, the best ways to go about getting more of it, and the time of day when our bodies are biologically suited to enjoy it the most. As a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine, Mednick has a great scientific background on this topic. After getting her PhD at Harvard, she filled her sleep lab with 7 bedrooms, and this is where she is federally funded to study people sleeping around the clock, with her research published in top journals such as Nature Neuroscience. She received the Office Naval Research Young Investigator Award in 2015, and her previous book, Take a Nap! Change Your Life was based on her groundbreaking research on the benefits of napping.

In our conversation, we talk about how work and society make it tough to get stimulation like food and exercise in ways that support our circadian rhythms, and there just as many obstacles to getting sleep and restoration like our ancestors enjoyed for 99 percent of human history. Sara shares some fascinating ways to get around these challenges, as well as her insights about the importance of exposure to daylight and nature vs nurture when it comes to whether you’re a night owl or an early bird. And we talk about how things could change with work and lifestyles to make it easier to live in accordance with our biological rhythms.

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Matt Fuchs

Matt Fuchs is the editor-in-chief of Leaps.org and Making Sense of Science. He is also a contributing reporter to the Washington Post and has written for the New York Times, Time Magazine, WIRED and the Washington Post Magazine, among other outlets. Follow him @fuchswriter.

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Research shows that, for most patients, online therapy offers the same benefits as in-person therapy, yet many people still resist it. A behavioral scientist explains how you can use it to improve mental health.

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After graduating from her studies as an engineer, Nora Stroetzel ticked off the top item on her bucket list and traveled the world for a year. She loved remote places like the Indonesian rain forest she reached only by hiking for several days on foot, mountain villages in the Himalayas, and diving at reefs that were only accessible by local fishing boats.

“But no matter how far from civilization I ventured, one thing was already there: plastic,” Stroetzel says. “Plastic that would stay there for centuries, on 12,000 foot peaks and on beaches several hundred miles from the nearest city.” She saw “wild orangutans that could be lured by rustling plastic and hermit crabs that used plastic lids as dwellings instead of shells.”

While traveling she started volunteering for beach cleanups and helped build a recycling station in Indonesia. But the pivotal moment for her came after she returned to her hometown Kiel in Germany. “At the dentist, they gave me a plastic cup to rinse my mouth. I used it for maybe ten seconds before it was tossed out,” Stroetzel says. “That made me really angry.”

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Michaela Haas
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