Never As Tired As When I’m Waking Up

This weekend, Longsufferinggirlfriendoftheblogbeth and I staged a wee karaoke party to celebrate, among other things, the first anniversary of my fortieth birthday.

“Carry the one, simplify for x…. Carrot! Is it carrot?!”

Hat tip to @Pab_Roberts for drawing my attention to the lovely fact that the word karaoke is a  bimoraic clipped compound of the Japanese kara 空 “empty” and ōkesutora オーケストラ “orchestra”. We had great fun, and were glad that, that night, the clocks went back in Edinburgh (and the rest of Scotland and the other countries that comprise the islands known as Britain, and Ireland, too – Ed.).

This brought my attention to the issue of sleep and fatigue, which I’m surprised to find has rarely been discussed on the blog….

I need to up my reps…

Y’see, fatigue is one of the classic results of a stroke. The fragrant Kate, who acted of one of my home therapists when we moved to Edinburgh, even gave me a pre-prepared list of actions to take to ameliorate the issue. Unfortunately, I was too tired at the time to remember where I put it. But it’ll be on the interwebz somewhere – hat tip also to @nerdbaitband‘s Prof Paul for introducing me to this useful tool.

It’s not just stroke survivors who seem to be tired at the moment. I’ve been noticing a spate of comment and articles about the issue. Most recently, blog-favourite Pat Kane has been discussing sleep in his National column.

I bet they’re not really asleep. It’s probably not even their real bedroom.

His interest was piqued by a recent sleep-study which seems to contradict a lot of our recent assumptions about the sleep patterns of ancient humans. Like many people, I’ve been re-examining my relationship with sleep – particularly since we moved to Edinburgh. Life changes are a great opportunity for establishing good new habits.

Beth and I utilised one of those fancy sunrise clocks for a while after the move. As we move into Minsk-latitudinal winter, no doubt I’ll dig it out again. I’ve discovered the joy of the fifteen-minute nap – just long enough to feel recharged, but not long enough to be difficult to climb out of. Really, I can’t recommend it enough. We’ve even spoken about me experimenting with bimodal sleep patterns.

Harriet Tubman – a famous person with narcolepsy

But as I say, I’m not the only person struggling with sleep. Young people in particular are working hours that don’t allow for them to fit in eating healthily, the type of socialising and play that is natural and important, and sleep. Putting in serious hours to further their careers, people aged 16-to-24 are working longer hours than any other. Yet this Stanford University Study backs the experience of pre-stroke Ricky – productivity typically drops after 50 hours of work and someone who works 70 hours achieves no more than someone who works 55.

And that certainly applied to Moritz Erhardt, the 21-year-old Bank of America Merrill Lynch intern who died after working three straight nights on the “magic roundabout”.

“Three-nights? That’s nothing,” said Stroke Bloke (second from right)

Two years after his death, that tragedy still haunts me.

And it’s not just the individual sleep-deprived who are at risk. Consider the lot of over-worked junior doctors and residents, and whether you’d want your trephination performed by one at the end of her shift. Consider also the London Tube strike earlier this year, and whether it really was just the pay-dispute it was dressed up as, or an action taken against an attack on the health and well-being of train drivers and the safety of their passengers.

None of these are happy issues, but thinking about the importance of sleep and diet – this report on a WHO study indicating processed meat raises cancer risk is a good one to chew on – is at least a good first step to a happier, healthier life. So before you start adjusting your sleep patterns, why not brew up a big pot of a chemistry teacher’s perfect cup of coffee and have a look through the articles linked in this post. Maybe you’ll find some of the received wisdom about sleep is wrong.

And if you’re so inclined, maybe you’ll come to some worrying conclusions about why our sleep in under such sustained attack. Kinda like a drill attack….

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