2009.02.25 Friendly help in a.m.

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I remember when I used to have trouble getting to sleep. That was sometime back in my 20s I think and then again for a while later in my adult life.

Now, it seems, I need about two minutes and I’m gone. There is an exception to that. If I doze off a little before going to bed and then get up to go back to sleep, I’m probably going to be awake for a long time. It’s that initial fatigue that sends me off.

It also happens if I’ve just gotten to sleep and the phone rings. It often puts me back into an alert stage. It’s the same thing if I’m about to doze off and then She Who Stays Up For Hours decides to come up and talk. She can be a sleep-wrecker.

We have such vastly different styles of sleep. For Colleen, going to bed at midnight is turning in early. For me, midnight means I’m going to suffer the next day.

For me, I get up in the morning. I wake up and I get up. I couldn’t sleep in if I tried. For her, just change those sentences around. In the morning she can’t get up. She wakes up and she...well, she doesn’t wake up. She sleeps in with no effort.

Apparently she suffers from sleep inertia. Her condition results in the inability to move and a drowsy request to know what time it is. She isn’t able to open her eyes and look at the clock. The radio/alarm is playing but she isn’t yet able to listen and comprehend the words.

There’s a quick solution for my wife’s sleep inertia, but I’m not confident that I’m fast enough to pull it off. You simply have to rip the covers off her and run downstairs before she grabs you and begins clawing out your eyes. I learned the hard way how expensive it is to get an eye transplant.

I read this morning about some sleep studies that question the typical model of dozing off. In the past, scientists thought there was a control center that told the brain when it was time to shut down and rest. A newer study suggests that various parts of the brain fall asleep independently and real sleep occurs when enough areas have powered down.

That might explain sleep walking, which is something I don’t think I’ve ever participated in. I think it was John Bryner who said that one of his parents witnessed him riding his tricycle back up to the house after a night-time sleep ride. Someone else told the story about mistakenly confusing the refrigerator for the toilet while sleepwalking. Weird stuff.

The researchers also think that sleep inertia fits into their new model of sleep. Parts of the brain are awake while other parts are still shut down. For some, the simple act of removing a quilt awakens many portions at once and triggers an aggression response.

Maybe this relates to other recent studies of poor sleep and mental illness. The old model is that people with mental problems typically have poor sleep patterns. The new model suggests that poor sleep may lead to psychiatric disorders. Or, in the least, poor sleep might lead to behavior that’s mistakenly diagnosed as a mental problem.

Poor sleep can lead to depression in adults. Children diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder are much more likely to be poor sleepers than other children. They’re treated with Ritalin instead of addressing a sleep apnea problem.

The studies are all very interesting, with discussions of brain chemicals and rapid eye movement (REM) and the processing of daily memories to remove the emotional edges.

Maybe I’ll do a little research of my own. All I need is a willing—or at least sleeping—subject, and I do have access to that.

One of my sleep research colleagues reports that a good sleep with REM refreshes our civilizing emotional reactions, that it resets the magnetic north of our emotional compass.

Civilizing? My first step is make sure all the doors I need to pass through are wide open, make sure the floors are clear of anything that might trip me up, and to make sure my swim goggles are tightly fitting over my eyes.

I should probably have the front door of the house open, too, and maybe the car engine running.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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