An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Friday, July 12, 2013

The 25-hour day, circadian rhythms, and burning the midnight oil

I'm convinced that my physical, internal clock isn't set for a 24 hour day. It seems that about every other month I find myself not able to sleep, waking up at odd hours feeling fully rested and getting up to do things around the house. Two a.m.? Sure. But then I'm ready to go back to bed around 6 or 7 a.m. But by that time I'm already at work, so taking a nap isn't an option.

This past week has been a prime example. On Wednesday morning, I woke up at 12:30, and just couldn't get back to sleep. I gave up after a while and just got up. Read for a while, futzed around the house a bit, cut my hair (clippers and a #8 guard made it easy), got ready for work, and left the house at about 3:30 for an early start to my day job. Cycling to work was VERY quiet at that hour.

But I was ready to knock off for the day at 6:30 p.m. Falling asleep while watching a DVD of Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, we turned the lights off and just called it a day. I was up again at 2:30, after laying awake for a half hour fully awake. Hit the road again for work at 3:45 for another quiet commute.

This morning was slightly more normal -- 3:30 wake up, only 45 minutes before my usual weekday alarm. I still made it to work a half-hour early, on my eight-hour work day, which will make for an earlier afternoon as well. Silver linings and all that.

I remember back in college (yeah, the dark ages) in my Psychology 101 class, a study was mentioned where they put subjects into quarters that were completely cut off from the world -- no clues about time of day, day of the week, allowed to set their own daily rhythms. The results of that study were that, on average, the subjects settled into what equaled a 25 hour day, with no change in the amount of time they slept. Within 13 days, their sleep cycles had gone completely opposite of the norm, and at 24 days they were back on a similar bed time to when they'd started.

What could be further surmised from this study is that, if the natural circadian rhythm is 25 hours, then those people would find themselves completely off-kilter twice a month when forced by the outside world to conform to the standard 24-hours-a-day clock.

Sound a little like you? It does me.

What's the solution? Well, if you have the luxury to be your own calendar and clock setter (meaning you have complete control of your schedule), then you can live your life according to your unique body clock. The trick is to figure out exactly what that is -- 25 hours? 26 hours? It'll vary individually.

And if you don't have that luxury? I don't have any quick (or even not quick) answers to that situation. When I find one, I'll let you know. But for now, I just get up when I have the energy and get some things done. Soon, that will likely be feeding a baby... Good times, that!

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