It’s a new year and while we’re all about a fresh start, let’s be honest—we are always trying to be healthier, better versions of ourselves, so what’s really new now? A handful of easy-to-adopt ways to improve your skin, your sleep, your mood, and more.
You’ve heard it a thousand times: Shut off screens at least an hour before hitting the hay if you want to sleep soundly. And yet American adults spend on average three and a half hours scrolling through social media before bed every night, according to a 2023 SleepFoundation.org survey. Many people who aren’t on their smartphones are binge watching TV into the wee hours and half of them are getting fewer than seven hours of rest. And while your fave series is probably great, being sleep deprived isn’t—and it’s hazardous to your health.
The three key components of good sleep are length, quality, and timing, says Dr. Chelsie Rohrscheib, a neuroscientist and head sleep expert at Wesper, an at-home sleep technology company. Adults should aim for 7–9 hours of shuteye with 20–25 percent of the night in deep and REM sleep, respectively. Ideally, you should be sleeping soundly through the night.
Not sure if your sleep is ideal? Consider using a sleep tracker. The devices provide “a snapshot of your sleep to show you things like how long it takes you to fall asleep or whether you’re waking up frequently,” says Dr. Rohrscheib. “Sleep trackers allow us to objectively record improvement instead of relying on how we feel.” They can also capture data like your blood oxygen saturation levels which provides clues about your breathing (important for those at risk for medical issues, such as sleep apnea). More and more people are embracing sleep tech like the Oura Ring, Fitbit Versa, Google Nest Hub, Eight Sleep Pod mattress, and Hatch Restore and Rest for meditating. The sleep tech industry is gaining popularity: it had an estimated $19 billion in revenue in 2023 (a 16 percent increase over 2022) and is expected to hit $95.2 billion by 2032, according to multiple market reports.
Red Light Therapy
This trend takes face masks to a whole new level. Say hello to red light therapy, an increasingly in-demand treatment that’s showing promise in reducing wrinkles, redness, acne, and other signs of aging. Red light therapy (RLT) was originally used in the 1990s by NASA scientists experimenting on plant growth in space and was also utilized to help heal astronauts’ wounds. In this therapy, exposure to low-power red laser light allows your skin’s mitochondria to soak up the light and produce more energy.
“RLT offers tremendous anti-aging skin benefits by stimulating collagen production, increasing fibroblast production (which makes collagen) and blood circulation to the tissue, and reducing inflammation,” says Alexandria Gilleo, founder of My Zen Den in Beacon, where RLT treatments are the most requested among clients. A recent study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology found that light emitting diode (LED) phototherapy (RLT uses red LEDs) may be effective when it comes to improving aging skin; another showed that treating acne with RLT reduced mild and moderate breakouts by 36 percent.
Red light therapy is also thought to boost the way people feel and behave. “The light tends to offer a healing alternative to our need for natural outdoor light and increases our levels of mental wellness, which can potentially offset seasonal affective disorder, depression, and anxiety,” explains Gilleo.
Red-light therapy is painless and non-invasive—and can be done at home. Look for a device with 600 to 900 nanometers of light. Here are some highly accredited devices that are research tested and dermatologist approved:
- Mask: HigherDOSE Red Light Face Mask, $349 at higherdose.com
- Mask: Omnilux Contour Face, $395 at omiluxled.com
- Spot treatment: Dr. Dennis Gross SpotLite Acne Treatment Device, $52 at dermstore.com
- Handheld: Solawave 4-in-1 Radiant Renewal Skincare Wand, $169 at ulta.com
For most of us, being digitally connected is an important part of everyday life. Whether it’s answering work emails, listening to music, or staying on top of the latest, well, everything—we have to be plugged in or we’re missing out. “It’s nearly impossible to truly go tech-free,” says Dr. Francyne Zeltser, a psychologist and director of mental health and testing services at Manhattan Psychology Group. “So much of the information we need to process and function is readily available and persistent. If we pause any of those things for too long, we not only feel like we will fall behind, but often we will actually fall behind.”
However, there are cognitive costs of digital distraction and anxiety is at an all-time high. New data from the Centers for Disease Control found that some states have experienced higher anxiety over the past year than others. In fact, New Yorkers are the biggest worry warts, with a score of 28.7 for reported symptoms, almost 30 percent higher than the national average. Experts believe that tech and device overuse represents a real behavioral addiction that can lead to physical, psychological, and social problems.
There are cognitive costs of digital distraction and anxiety is at an all-time high. Some states have experienced higher anxiety over the past year than others. In fact, New Yorkers are the biggest worry worts. Experts believe that tech and device overuse represents a real behavioral addiction that can lead to physical, psychological, and social problems.
Setting a time and place for when you should peel back is the best step to slowing down. First, try using your phone’s screen time app to check when you’re most active during the day—is it in the mid-afternoon slump or before bed? What apps are you using too frequently? These are areas where you can seek improvements to your day, suggests Zeltser. Then, look for moments when your device is truly not needed. At dinnertime, keep devices out of sight and muted. If you have an iPhone, use the Focus mode when you’re doing something like an at-home workout. And for the best sleep, keep your phone out of your bedroom.
The newest status symbol in the wellness industry, full-body MRI scans are trending among celebrities who want head-to-toe internal analysis. The machine works by using a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed 3D images of organs and tissues. The scan accesses your anatomy by using image sequencing to detect signs of inflammation (a possible early sign of cancer and other major illnesses), and produces images of your nervous, respiratory, reproductive, and digestive systems. The company behind the wave of Instagram endorsements, Prenuvo (whose tagline is “Catch conditions before they become crises”), has built a reputation on the philosophy that they can offer an alternative to our reactive healthcare system, where you only see doctors when something is wrong.
“While the scan is enlightening, there is no assurance that a ‘clear’ MRI is actually clear for any specific length of time. For this approach to even be considered, we would have to screen at regular intervals,” says Dr. Sheryl Leventhal of Hudson Valley Longevity Medicine, an internal medicine specialist in Valley Cottage. “Just like mammograms and colonoscopies, these MRI scans are only helpful to the patient if they’re done consistently to build a baseline that shows changes in the body year after year.”
Dr. Leventhal adds that about 60–75 percent of cancers can be prevented through lifestyle optimization. “By evaluating family history, genomic work, labs, and proper application of current screening protocols we are capturing many cancers early,” she explains. Instead of booking a pricey MRI, she says to focus on things that matter: exercise, diet, sleep, stress resilience, and avoiding environmental toxins. “High body fat (particularly high visceral fat) is associated with an increased incidence of at least nine different cancers, so we want to focus on root causes, not repetitive, imperfect, expensive imaging.”
Whether you’re a serious athlete or a weekend warrior, chances are you’ve dealt with pulled muscles or stiff joints. While many people have braved cold plunges to shock their bodies into recovery, the latest form of therapy is thermal cycling—where you hit the sauna and then immediately submerge in a cold tub—just like the Finnish have been doing for centuries. “This kind of cycling between hot and cold temperatures actually reduces soreness and soft tissue inflammation and can also provide a mood boost such as decreasing anxiety and lowering stress,” says Michele Olson, a senior clinical professor of sports science and physical education at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama. Exposure to heat followed by icy water induces a natural reaction within the body—heat increases blood flow by dilating blood vessels; conversely cold exposure reduces inflammation by constricting blood vessels. This back and forth speeds up the body’s healing processes and leads to less inflammation over time.
Olson suggests spending 12–15 minutes in a sauna, then dipping into a cold plunge (the temp should be between 53 and 59 degrees) for 2–5 minutes. She adds that while there’s hype around thermal cycling, it may not be for everyone. “If a cold plunge after a sauna makes you feel better, then there’s a benefit. But don’t let cold therapies replace your body’s natural recovery needs, like taking a rest day between workouts or doing less intense exercise the day after a hard routine.”
Give cold plunging and sauna cycling a try at one of these cool spots:
- Catskill Cryo, Catskill
- Dynamic Cryo Spa, Yorktown Heights
- Hasbrouck House, Stone Ridge
- INNESS, Accord (their spa is opening this spring)
- Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz