Of Circadian Rhythms and Kings

Baby sleeping2
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Sleep Is What You Do When There’s Nothing Else to Do

I’m not inflexible — I can multitask as well as the next Person Who Has Attention Deficit Disorder — but I much prefer to focus on a single project until my butt gets numb or I have to pee. It’s been easier to work this way since I moved my computer into the bedroom and got a cordless keyboard. It blurs the line between working and nonworking, but I don’t mind, because my work is play and my play is work.

woman_with_laptop_on_floorOften I work ’round the clock — with maybe one or two brief naps a day — for three days or so, and then I sleep for two days. Thus I am interfering with my circadian rhythms and, according to everything I’ve read on the subject, habitually getting seven to eight hours of sleep every night — ideally, going to bed before 10 p.m. and getting up before 6 a.m. — isn’t just a Good Idea, it’s critical for my health and well-being.

Circadian rhythms, by the way, are “biological or behavioral functions that vary over the course of a 24-hour day and are synchronized to light/dark daytime cycles and/or sleep” (North Texas Lung & Sleep Clinic).

I don’t like to sleep. There’s always something more interesting to do — books to be read, blogs to be written, web pages to be updated, e-mail to be deleted unread, trees to be hugged, and so forth.


Sleepwalker; image by practicalowl via Flickr

When I’m really sleepy but not ready to stop doing whatever I’m doing, I take a mini-nap. This consists of leaning back on my propped pillows, consciously relaxing from my toes to my scalp, crossing my left arm across my waist, resting my right elbow on the wrist (or thereabouts) of the other arm, and holding my head in my right hand.

I’m not sure that I actually fall asleep, but I make a quick stop in La-La Land, having a coherent, close-to-the-surface dream in which I’m conversing with someone, and I always wake myself up answering that person out loud. I think it’s pretty funny when that happens, but there’s no one to share the humor with — which was not the case, many years ago, when I sat straight up in bed and said, with admirable pluck, “I will not EVER go into real estate!”

The Perfect Work/Sleep Cycle

I am most productive if I work according to a schedule something like this:

  • 60 min., work on Project X
  • 15 min., pee, start laundry
  • 60 min., work on Project X
  • 15 min., deal with e-mail unless butt is numb, in which case, vacuum
  • 60 min., work on Project X
  • 15 min., pee, wash dishes
  • 60 min., work on Project X
  • 15 min., make phone call have been avoiding
  • etc.
Big Moon

Image by R. Motti via Flickr

I use a kitchen timer to stay on schedule. It works better if I use the fifteen minutes to do something physical, such as laundry, because it doesn’t interfere with my concentration as much as, say, dealing with e-mail or updating my church-caretaker-chore calendar and e-mailing it to Sara. This last is such a mundane little task, but very important to both Sara and me, and for reasons I don’t understand, I am three months behind.

I love being awake when most of the world is asleep. One reason is that I don’t need to worry about being distracted by phone calls or visitors, but I think the more important reason is that it’s very slightly naughty to be up past midnight. (I am such a rebel.)

Sleep is sometimes identified as the Fountain of Youth. According to one writer,

sleep deprivation increases circulating levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which promotes fat storage in the midsection. At the same time, sleep deprivation reduces the availability of leptin, a hormone that controls hunger. As a result, sleep deprivation increases appetite and eating, further promoting weight gain. Bukisa

And this, my friends, is why I keep my bottle of CortiBan Ultra at my bedside. CortiBan Ultra might or might not counteract the stress-hormone-elevation problem, but it makes me feel as if I am Doing Something about it.

English Monarchs: Historical Fiction

Henry VIII AutiographyMy 60 minutes are up, and I am going to use my 15-minute break to read a few pages of the novel in which I  have become engrossed, The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers, by Margaret George, who also wrote The Memoirs of Cleopatra: A Novel and Mary Queen of Scotland & The Isles: A Novel. Having just read several other novels about royalty in medieval England and about the Tudor dynasty (by authors Philippa Gregory and Sharon Kay Penman), I have learned that English kings, whatever their benevolent intentions might have been at their coronations, spent most of their reigns levying taxes and raising money in other ways in order to wage bloody wars in defense of their crowns against would-be usurpers. As often as not, their rivals for the throne were close relatives: uncles, cousins, even brothers.

"The Other Boleyn Girl," Mary Boleyn

"The Other Boleyn Girl," Mary Boleyn

It is a mystery to me why anyone wanted to be the king, or the queen, or even to live at court, where there was no privacy, where you had to be exceedingly careful about what you said, and where you lived in drafty castles and ate bad food. In Philippa Gregory’s novel The Other Boleyn Girl, Anne Boleyn’s sister Mary Boleyn — after being manipulated by her family into cuckolding her husband, William Carey, to become the mistress of King Henry VIII (bearing two children by him) — fell in love with a “nobody” after her husband’s death and married him secretly, incurring Anne’s wrath. She and her husband and children were finally allowed to live quietly in the country after Anne’s execution. The “nobody” was William Stafford, and the couple reportedly were devoted to each other and lived quietly and harmoniously until Mary died nine years after their marriage.

NOW… May whoever is on duty bless you and your endeavors —Mary

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