on the topic of our societal disinterest in sleep quality and stress as health factors:
did you know the world health organization has declared shift work a carcinogen?
I had to leave the talk early, but it was rly dang cool, so here’s some more information:
As we know, sleep is strongly based on circadian rhythms (genetic/physiological responses to light/dark cycles.) *But* sleep patterns have to be trained (via regular sleep, activity, and light patterns).
They also vary among people— in particular people of European descent tend to have longer cycles and people of African descent tend to have shorter cycles, probably due to differences in light patterns at those latitudes. This has actually been linked to increased sleep delay (which we’ll talk about in a minute) and resulting negative health consequences/ increased depression in African Americans.
Ok, sleep delay:
Loosely, exposure to sunlight (and blue light, like from electronic screens) suppresses melatonin production during the day. After the sun goes down, melatonin spikes, causing drowsiness.
People with certain genetics, people with Seasonal Affective Disorder, etc, often experience “sleep delay” where their melatonin levels spike later and not as much. (Basically, they genetically respond to light differently). This leads to later bedtimes, lower quality sleep, and greater incidence of insomnia.
Another thing that can contribute to this is environment, for example not enough sunlight during the day, which leads to less suppression of melatonin during the day and later and lower spiking at night. (Basically imagine you move the line in the left sunlight part of the graph up and look how the height and starting point of the night time peak would change).
Why do we care?
Well, sleep delay is correlated with depression, mood regulation disorders, central body weight gain (the kind that correlates with heart problems), increased cancer, and decreased lifespan.
So. That’s a thing.
Also, “night owls” (people that don’t feel sleepy in the evening) are 3 times less likely to experience remission of depression.
(Frankly, I feel personally attacked by this talk.)
A few other unrelated notes:
ADHD is often correlated with lower quality sleep, both because of sleep delay and because of trouble with sleep maintenance (you are more likely to wake up at night.). Ditto caffeine and stimulants— they don’t necessarily interfere with you *falling* asleep, but they decrease sleep quality by interfering with sleep maintenance. ADHD symptoms are also *worsened* by low quality sleep, so that’s a fun cycle.
Adults, and/or people who have spent years on shortened sleep schedules often have problems with “early morning arousal” (not the fun kind) where sleep is terminated early. So for example “no matter when I go to sleep, I only sleep for 4 hours.” This is also a problem with sleep maintenance, and apparently can sometimes be retrained with cognitive behavioral therapy, although don’t ask me how.
But, happy thought: a lot of this stuff CAN actually be addressed, with some effort, and assuming your society values sleep enough to not lock you in a job where you can’t get off of a life-shortening irregular sleep schedule.
And me again… nine hours later:
Every time I get back from a trip there are a few beautiful mornings where I tell myself that This Is Me Now before my inevitable return to being an angry day-gremlin.
Roommate: Argh, the dollar store will be closed before I can get there. I object.
Roommate: I signed up for the city that never sleeps!
Roommate: Not the city that takes frequent naps!
my mom: it’s really not good to eat past sunset
me, whose circadian rhythms have aligned with a nearby raccoon’s: your rules don’t apply here
me as your neighbor: *in my garden at 10 pm using a flashlight to pick basil*
Day vs Night
This is a slightly tricky question to answer. Anyone with any thoughts, please feel free to share them!
A few things spring to mind…
- There are a number of flowers which only bloom at night. Some are quite fragrant!
- On that note, there’s a type of flowering cactus often known as Queen of the Night, which only flowers at night, very briefly. In some parts of East Asia, families make an event of it, inviting guests over to see their cactus bloom – it’s considered very good luck.
- Hundreds of night flowers are also pollinated by bats. Also, bats are adorable. Lots of people hang birdhouses up in trees. Consider also hanging a bat box!
- I’m generally rather fond of the whole concept of storing sunlight with solar cells and using it later after sunset. Whether it’s with simple lamps like sunjars, or things that can be worn, or perhaps something more spectacular.
…I hope this is the kind of thing you were after?
I’m a night owl and I approve of this post. When I have a yard again I am definitely going to have a night-blooming garden, and now I’ll add a bat box to it – thanks for the tip!
I’m giving my father some solar lights for his garden for Christmas.
Also, do a search on lunarpunk!
the sun is not shining
but that’s okay,
you’ve always preferred the night.
but what do you do
when even the moon has left you?
-illūnis // z.m.