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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

For many years, I was anti-naps.

Not just mildly against. Vehemently opposed.

People who napped were wasting their lives away.

“Why waste normal waking hours being unconscious?” I would wonder.

Then, I had something of an epiphany.

Or, to use the exact scientific terminology, I dozed off a couple of times after dinner. For about twenty minutes.

The next day, I felt great: No grey fog of a morning. No mid-afternoon yawning marathons.

It was a bolt of enlightenment. Like a fully wakeful myoclonic jerk in the brain.

Next, I began to notice that sleep was all the rage. Sleep, it seems, is the new wonder drug.

cat nap 4

For a start, that midday nap appears to reduce heart disease. From this BBC article:

“A six-year Greek study found that those who took a 30-minute siesta at least three times a week had a 37% lower risk of heart-related death.”

Sleeping longer can also make you slim. Sleeping for just five hours a night gives you a 50% greater chance of being obese.

Only six hours of kip still ups your chances of a thickening waistline by 23%.

This is unrelated to exercise levels, gender, alcohol, or depression. However, chances are it also correlates massively with an extra two hours of wakeful sedentary snack fests.

cat nap

As well as keeping your vital signs active within the body beautiful, sleep also makes you smarter. Anecdotally, we are all aware that a long drool into a pillow can seemingly turn us into mental giants, but science is fully on board with this argument.

Research at a German university shows that we do indeed figure stuff out while sleeping.

“The volunteers were shown a number puzzle in which was embedded a ‘hidden code’ revealing the answer, the journal Nature reports. Those kept awake overnight reportedly had far less chance of solving it.”

Presumably, this means that sleeping on the job will now incur generous bonus payments, rather than carry a work-shy stigma.

“Hey, George has nodded off in his soup again. Must be working on that new strategic development. I’m gonna recommend him for another corporate commitment award.”

“Yeah, that guy really puts the mental effort in. Sure puts us alert, wakeful types to shame.”

cat nap 3

Sleep also keeps us from reverting to our more anti-social proclivities. This is noted by Dr. Melissa Clouthier, citing Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who states that sleep deprivation creates a state of mind “as if the brain is reverting to more primitive behavior.”

Naturally, for kids, diverging from normal sleep patterns can have profound effects.

A survey, cited in New York magazine, of 7,000 Minnesota high-school students found the following:

“Teens who received A’s averaged about fifteen more minutes sleep than the B students, who in turn averaged eleven more minutes than the C’s, and the C’s had ten more minutes than the D’s.”

And, surprise surprise, kids who start high school at 07:30 achieve far lower grades than those starting at 08:30. After making such a switch, one high school found massively improved SAT results among their top-achieving students.

cat nap 2

Here, in Canada, political and educational movers and shakers were cackling manically in their slumber.

“Just think,” they dreamed. “If that’s the effect of starting at 08:30, just imagine what political mileage we can gain by keeping them in bed all morning.”

To capitalize on this meaningless grade boosting learning opportunity, one Toronto school plans to start classes as late as 11:30.

Hah, before you know it, they’ll be letting kids show up whenever their smart sleeping schedules deem it optimal for their pedagogical needs.

Hang on a second, what’s this from England? A 24-hour school? And Australia.

Naturally, the blogosphere is fully conscious of the properties of sleep. Blue Soup , Dark Sociologist , and Work at Home Mom Revolution are clearly attuned to the need for productive slumber.

Now, as we trudge up the stairs towards zedtime, many of us will be turning to the Bard for a spot of light soporific reading.

Here’s one Shakespeare quotation on the getting-stuff-sorted-outability of sleep (but put a bit better):

“…the innocent sleep, / Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care,”

Goodnight and sweet dreams.

wap nap

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Sport family

With the long winters in Canada, making sure the family gets enough exercise can be difficult.

For several years, we signed the kids up for indoor sports programs with varied success. All too often, they’d spend half the time in long line-ups waiting for their turn to kick a ball once before another five minutes of action-free tedium.

Also, with our kids six years apart, few programs allowed them to sign up together. Finally, we hit upon a solution.

Through the education board, we now rent a school gym for two hours one night a week. The kids are allowed to bring a friend or two each. There, we play soccer, basketball, dodgeball, floor hockey and generally run around the whole time.

Indoor sports

The administrative demands of the facilities rentals department were a challenging test of arcane bureaucracy. However, by sticking leech-like to a single employee, we were able to negotiate the chicanery.

Even with the mandatory insurance, it’s still a cheap way to incorporate exercise, family-time, and friends into a great evening out. The kids love it and we’re thinking about renting for two evenings a week next winter.

Wish I’d thought of this years ago.

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Back seat

Notes to self on avoiding recurrence of sciatica:

1. Don’t drive the minivan.

2. Do not attempt to compensate for the driver’s seat deficiencies with lumber supports, heat/massage pads and other futile paraphenalia. You still can’t sit up straight in it.

3. Don’t think tripling your journey time by taking the bus will alleviate the problem.

4. Just because your back feels much better doesn’t mean that it is ready to face the same punishment that you inflicted on it previously

5. Don’t guilt yourself into returning to work too soon.

6. Do not drive the minivan.

7. Don’t continue walking when that familiar burning pain returns to your hamstring area.

8. Don’t assume that a straight leg raise of 90 degrees can’t be reduced back to 30 after a couple of days in sedentary meetings.

9. Do not approach the minivan.

10. Sell the minivan before you succomb to the temptation of inflicting it with a sciatic problem it will understand.

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