Day 11 - "Modern Life Suppresses an Ancient Body Rhythm"

Today is the USA v. Germany game. This means I will be doing a lot of yelling, and very little working. I decided to skip the next chapter in Ekirch's book - the chapter is on rhythms - and I chose instead to read a much shorter article, also about rhythms. The article is called "Modern Life Suppresses an Ancient Body Rhythm" and it reports on findings of segmented sleep way back in 1995. These findings, however, are not the focus of the article. 

Several rather interesting issues arise in "Modern Life." The scientists conducting the study are mental health care specialists looking at the difference in circadian rhythms between men and women. Going in, they had previously observed that women tend to naturally adhere to changes in seasons, and thus are a little more susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD - so appropriately named). What they found, in trying to find out more about male production of melatonin, is that if you stick a man in a dark room for 12 hours and tell him to sleep whenever he feels the need, he will very quickly adhere to a segmented sleep pattern. 

The authors equate segmented sleep to being pre-historic, but we know better 20 years later. They also found that these men, during wakefulness between sleeps exhibited, "distinctly nonanxious wakefulness in the middle of the night." Conversely, the authors label our normal 16-hour waking schedule, assisted by electric lights and coffee, "endless summer." For me, this term is wrapped up in a whole bundle of popular culture connotations that involve more "distinctly nonanxious wakefulness" than does being awake for 16 hours every day. 

A surprise I'm finding about participating in segmented sleep is that I feel much much more relaxed in general than I do when I adhere to normal, 'public' time schedules. 

Before I leave you, I MUST also mention something in the article that I will probably end up chasing down during the next half of this experiment (the 30 hour day half): The Clock Gene. Apparently there are people on this planet who have a gene that causes their circadian rhythms to operate on a 25 hour clock. At least, that's what they thought in 1995. Here is the wikipedia article on it - in case you feel like chasing that down before I do. 

I love that people with the clock gene are referred to as "clock mutants."