The internet has seen a few key renditions of the ultra-healthy, rich guy who swears by “biohacking.” There was the David Goggins-inspired “morning routine guy” who insisted that waking up at 4 a.m. each morning was key to financial success. Then there were the new-age yogis who decided wearing shoes to the office was optional.
Now, there are Huberman Husbands, a.k.a men whose diehard fandom of the Huberman Lab podcast and its host Stanford associate professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology Andrew Huberman, has translated into an entire lifestyle.
The term “Huberman Husband” was coined by the spouses of these men who document intense experiences of being co-opted into health routines on TikTok, including cold plunging, regular stretching, wearing blue light glasses, and staring at the sun first thing in the morning. The phenomenon was also discussed in Jessica Grose’s New York Times opinion column about how the tide in men’s health is shifting towards more ownership and self-investment. Along with this, according to Grose also comes the potential for toxicity within “Bro Diet Culture” and a similar set of expectations heaped onto men that have been targeting women for decades.
Some of the data-driven advice spouted on the podcast aligns with standard medical guidance: stay hydrated, avoid using your phone before bed, journal. Other methods are more experimental, like using mouth tape to encourage nasal breathing at night and cold plunging first thing in the morning.
Regardless, there’s now such a substantial and growing list of regimens made popular (again) by the lips of Huberman and his disciples. However, critics have questioned whether the data he references are as substantial as he makes them out to be, and whether his motivations for peddling certain supplements are pure.
Many of his recommended rituals focus on how to get the highest quality sleep possible, so we fact checked his most popular tips with Dr. Philip Gehrman, an associate professor of clinical psychology in psychiatry at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the director of the Sleep, Neurobiology, and Psychopathology Lab at Penn. Turns out, Huberman’s advice is a bag of flawless gemstones mixed with chunks that require further inspection.
Huberman places a lot of emphasis on the use of light and exposure to light as a means of regulating one’s circadian rhythm and touts that viewing sunlight (even through clouds) within the first few hours of waking increases early cortisol release and helps the body fall asleep later that night.
This advice got a thumbs up from Gehrman (over the phone, of course).
“Biologically, one of the pillars of our sleep-wake regulation is indeed our circadian rhythm and our circadian system seems to be maximally responsive to light early in the morning,” said Dr. Gehrman.
“It’s a dose-response: the brighter the light the better. Sitting by a window is going to be better than a windowless room. Being outside is going to be even better than that. The more the better, but it’s not all or none.”
Huberman recommends avoiding overhead light and blue light after sunset to help the body wind down at the end of the day, advice Dr. Gehrman said is “also pretty legitimate.”
“Obviously we don’t tell people to sit in a dark room for two hours before they go to bed. But it is a good idea to avoid a lot of bright light and in particular the blue light. The cells in our eyes that communicate with our circadian system, not the rods and cones that we see with, a different subset of cells in the eye, have the largest response to blue light.”
Dr. Gehrman also corroborated Huberman’s advice around caffeine and avoiding it for the first 90 minutes of the day. He said this doesn’t have to do with caffeine affecting sleep quality, but that it may be more potent if one waits for the morning grogginess to wear off.
“There’s what we call ‘sleep inertia.’ That’s the feeling of grogginess we have when we first wake up from sleep. That sleep inertia can last one hour or longer before people feel fully awake. The idea is to avoid unnecessary caffeine and let the sleep inertia go away on its own,” said Dr. Gehrman. “You may feel just as good letting the time pass as you do drinking caffeine, and the caffeine may even be more effective if you wait for the inertia to wear off. It’s about optimal timing.”
“I’m not aware of any good randomized, placebo-controlled trials for magnesium. I hear about it all the time, but I’m not aware of any well-done clinical trials establishing its efficacy for sleep,” said Dr. Gehrman.
He echoed the same sentiment about mouth tape. “I’m not aware of any data saying that it’s harmful but I don’t think there’s much data out there saying that it does anything for sleep and breathing during sleep.”
Overall, Dr. Gehrman steered away from thinking of health advice and guidance as a “quick fix” or the notion that one habit or ritual can change everything. Even methods that have some evidence to back them up should be taken with a grain of salt, since the zeitgeist can easily inflate the results of, oftentimes, limited studies.
“Studies will typically focus on one specific factor — the light exposure at night or caffeine and things like that. Sometimes you get significant effects, sometimes they don’t, because I think the individual impact of any one of these things tends to be quite small,” said Dr. Gehrman.
“There are exceptions to that. I had a patient who I asked about his caffeine use and he said he was drinking three to four pots of coffee a day. I asked if he meant cups and he said no, pots. So in his case, the caffeine was a major factor.”
“But if folks have chronic sleep problems, one thing here and there is not what it takes. It takes a holistic approach and addressing a range of factors to improve sleep.”