Communion Of Dreams


I coulda told them that.
October 23, 2007, 10:22 am
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Health, Hospice, Science, Sleep, Society

Made a routine trip to the big-box store this morning, to stock up on catfood. I got one of those large boxes of 48 cans of different flavors my cats like. And when I went to put it away, the “easy open” tab didn’t. Instead, I wound up just destroying the whole box, ripping and tearing, so I had access to all the cans included.

It felt wonderful to be so destructive.

There are days like that for all of us. After a trip to the store, dealing with idiots who don’t know how to negotiate a check-out line. Or sitting behind the twit at the stoplight who somehow misses that the light changed and the cars in the other lane are passing him, getting his shit together just in time to slip through a yellow light and leave you sitting there for another cycle. Whatever it is, you just want to take out your frustrations in a safe and relatively sane way.

I have these days a lot. Part of it is just the toll of being a long-term care provider for someone who has a tenuous grip on reality but can be amazingly stubborn and focused in her determination to do something unsafe (or just highly annoying). But part of it is simply the effect of long term sleep disruption/deprivation that goes with providing care around the clock. I’ve known this for ages, and written about it several times. Anyone who has had insomnia, lived with an infant, or just had a bad string of luck sleeping for a few days will understand completely how grumpy and intolerant it can make you.

Well, it’s worse than you thought. At least, it’s worse than the people who study neuroscience thought:

Walker and his colleagues had 26 healthy volunteers either get normal sleep or get sleep deprived, making them stay awake for roughly 35 hours. On the following day, the researchers scanned brain activity in volunteers using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they viewed 100 images. These started off as emotionally neutral, such as photos of spoons or baskets, but they became increasingly negative in tone over time—for instance, pictures of attacking sharks or vipers.

“While we predicted that the emotional centers of the brain would overreact after sleep deprivation, we didn’t predict they’d overreact as much as they did,” Walker said. “They became more than 60 percent more reactive to negative emotional stimuli. That’s a whopping increase—the emotional parts of the brain just seem to run amok.”

The researchers pinpointed this hyperactive response to a shutdown of the prefrontal lobe, a brain region that normally keeps emotions under control. This structure is relatively new in human evolution, “and so it may not yet have adapted ways to cope with certain biological extremes,” Walker speculated. “Human beings are one of the few species that really deprive themselves of sleep. It’s a real oddity in nature.”

In modern life, people often deprive themselves of sleep “almost on a daily basis,” Walker said. “Alarm bells should be ringing about that behavior—no pun intended.”

Gee, ya think?

Sheesh. I need to go find another box to destroy or something.

Jim Downey


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

It felt wonderful to be so destructive.

Haw. Most chow halls I saw in the Marines served cereal up in those mini-boxes. Tear off the top, pour, milk and you’re done. Not very chic but very handy.

A Marine I served with would take his knife and with a flurry of motion slice the box nearly in two in mid-air – in the middle. Then crack the box open along the seam and dump the cereal in his bowl.

This was very interesting when we were in the field and he could carry a bayonet. He was one of those quiet maniacs you see from time to time – he’s probably in jail now, dead, or making a few million a year doing something improbable and loving life.

Comment by Brian

Ah, a good knife artist…have to admire talent! 😉

Jim D.

Comment by Communion of Dreams




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