Friday, January 14, 2011

Seasonal Sleep

I have been sleepy. Very sleepy. Even waking up tired. My children too, normally bounding out of bed at 6 am are still fast asleep at 7:20 this morning, even though they know there is banana bread for breakie.

They must be ill was my first thought. As I began to ponder this drowsiness I realized that each year it peaks just after Christmas and lasts through February. Obviously this is a response to the shortened days. I myself am very sensitive to the changing seasons. In October I become suddenly fatigued, achy, miserable. By February I have wilted like a cut flower; moody, drowsy and restless. By March I am outside gardening in a tank top as soon as the mercury climbs over 60 just to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin.

Okay, so this is natural I think. Its just our circadian rhythm (basically your bodies internal clock) telling us when to be awake and when to go asleep. After all, it is affected by things like light, it is natural that light changes in duration, so perhaps it too is natural that our sleep changes in duration in synchronicity with the available day light. I begin to research this some and discover that, circadian rhythm sleep disorders are, according to Wikipedia:

a family of sleep disorders affecting, among other things, the timing of sleep. People with circadian rhythm sleep disorders are unable to sleep and wake at the times required for normal work, school, and social needs. They are generally able to get enough sleep if allowed to sleep and wake at the times dictated by their body clocks.

What? Doing what your body does naturally is labeled a disorder? Really? Who determines these "normal" times that one must awaken for school, work and social needs? Even more compelling is that Czeisler et al. at Harvard found the range for normal, healthy adults of all ages to be quite narrow: 24 hours and 11 minutes ± 16 minutes. The "clock" resets itself daily to the 24-hour cycle of the Earth's rotation.[1] Yet we have determined it best to trim the time from each day and add an extra day every 4 years. The bigger question is this: what is it that makes us impose rigid schedules on our bodies that are in tuned to the clock of nature? What is it within us that causes us to crave unnatural "cookie cutter days"?

What exactly would happen if I indulged our disorder natural sleep patterns? Would this impact our health? Studies have shown already that a disruption in circadian rhythms impact our cardiovascular and renal health. [2]

What about behavior? Could following one's natural sleep patterns positively impact behavior? Perhaps there is merit to experimenting with this, in the name of homeschool science, of course.

[1] Charles A. Czeisler MD, PhD (1999). "Human Biological Clock Set Back an Hour"

[2] Martino, T.A.; Oudit, G.Y.; Herzenberg, A.M.; et al. (May 2008). "Circadian rhythm disorganization produces profound cardiovascular and renal disease in hamsters". American Journal of Physiology. Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 294 (5): R1675–83.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Minimalist Snow Running

Last week the weather has cooperated with my getting to try running in my vibrams in the snow.

The day of the storm, I ran 2.6 miles. The snow was whipping me in the face both there and back. It was easy on my feet though as I ran through 3+" of fresh powder. When I was off the trial and back on the street I learned that the road salt will burn your feet. The next time you run it will burn your feet a second time if you don't wash out your shoes. My feet weren't cold until I hit that slush puddle in the crosswalk on the way home.

It was the next few days that became challenging. Warmer days and cold nights made the trail a lumpy hardpack of ice and slush. This was difficult to run on and I have sustained a minor injury to my right ankle when I landed wrong on an uneven patch of ice. Yet something interesting happened. My foot, not bound and paralized by tight shoes, was able to self correct. I felt strange and isolated movement within my foot and went on running instead of winding out sprawled out on the trail. Bonus.

The absolute best thing about wearing vibrams in the snow is the sasquatchesque footprints you leave behind you. You just cannot top that.

Strange Dream

I was walking by the the diving board near my mom's pool. I nearly turned my ankle in a hole. I hole I determined was a groundhog hole. My parents are plagued with groundhogs. I do what ever it was I was doing and on the way back I pass the hole again. This time I hear sounds coming from the hole so I am going to fill it with the bricks and rocks I see nearby and trap the nasty little sucker in his hole. As I approach the hole I think there is a cat in there. I peer over the edge ready for a wild cat to come bounding out of the hole and scratch my eyes out and see there is a newborn human baby in there. So I take the baby out of the hole. I am trying to convince Bill that we are to keep this baby because clearly the mom didn't want him and now he's here and see God gave him to us. I nursed the baby and the baby settled down. Bill wanted to call the police and report finding the baby but I would have no such thing. I was coming up with a plan to pass of this baby as my own. So next thing you know I am at the liquor store near the Clinton Rite Aid to pick up a bottle of wine bc we are having someone over for dinner. Only its not the liquor store. It is but it isn't. Its like a liquor store I have never been in before in my life, because they sell locally brewed stuff only and handcrafted items and most things are on round tables of old dark wood throughout the store. No refridgerator cases or anything else that you normally see in a liquor store. I see these bottles of strawberry wine atop a mahogany table. There are two brands. One bottle is 19.99 and the other is 39.99. I am wondering what the difference is that could make a bottle of wine twice as expensive, especially since they are both locally brewed from local strawberries and neither is labeled as organic. My brain starts to hurt and so I look at the handcrafted item in the basket under the table. Knitted gloves. There is another customer looking at them and her and I both reach for the same pair. She gets ugly. I tell her she can have the gloves. She gives me a major whooping. I call 911 from my cell. I have her by the sleeve and won't let her go before the police arrive. When they do the store is completely transformed. All the liquor tables are gone and the shop is mostly empty. The first aid responder that is checking me out says we will have you out of here in no time because I didn't say anything to anyone about the assault rifles in the basement.

Conclusion: this is apparently what happens when I eat boneless buffalo wings at 9:30 at night.