Wednesday, September 20, 2006


I'm not sleeping lately. OK OK OK, you're gonna point at my last post about coffee and say something bland and logical like: "duh, stop drinking coffee".

But no. I am an insomniac. Or rather, I have sleep difficulties generally, even when not going thru a major coffee blitz. God I hate reading people's blogs when they start talking about this kind of thing, it's so damn dull. So, let me just furnish you with the stuff that interests me:

1: I'm blind. You need light to help set your internal body clock. I don't get it, hence I have a rampant body clock.
2: I read somewhere once that blind people are more likely to have a 30-hour body clock, not a 24-hour one.
3: Therapies exist involving melatonin

Firstly, I rather like the idea that I don't have a regular boring old standard 24-hour body clock. I run in a different timezone to everyone else. I think it's quite cool to not click in with the rest of society in this way.

Downside is that having a 30-hour body clock, if that's what I've got, means my sleeping is all over the place. Social pressures mean I have to conform to this 24-hour malarky that everyone else is so set on ... which further confuses my innards.

Melatonin is the chemical produced when in light, I think? I think it's what's missing from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) peple too. Does this mean I have constant Seasonal Affective Disorder because it's 'forever autumn' or 'forever mid winter' in my head? Is it this winter effect I'm feeling in my lower moments?

But mum says my body clock was shagged even before I lost my sight. So, whaddya say to that? Either a) my mum hates me and is just trying to piss me off by breaking my new unified theory of the world, or, b) she's right and I'm making up excuses.

Typical effing cripple aren't I.

But if anyone asks, I'll be saying "I have a 30-hour body clock" cos it sounds cooler. Now just have to wait for someone to ask me that most unlikely of questions "Damon, do you run on a regular 24-hour internal body clock, or what?"


Charlesdawson said...

I wonder about this. After all, your entire body is in the light even if you can't see; your skin is absorbing UV light or you wouldn't be able to synthesise Vitamin D; there may be other metabolic processes we don't yet know about sensitive to daylight.

I remember the worst time I had with body clock was when I had a job involving working in a windowless room from 8am to 6pm. All the winter months I only saw daylight at weekends.

BloggingMone said...

We have an ongoing discussion with a blind friend of ours who is falling asleep whenever and where ever he thinks is an opportunity to do so. His prefered place for a nap is inside a car. He says that sighted people are attracted by looking at things through the car window and therefore are kept awake, whereas he is simply bored and falling asleep. He was born blind and told us that his parents had very hard time teaching him that one has to be awake during daylight and one has to sleep when it is getting dark outside. That concept obviously was a bit beyond him. He and his girlfriend sometimes stay overnight and it took us a while to get used to his habbit of spooking around the house at night time, making himself a tea, doing the dishes, reading a book or doing other useful things in pitch darkness, as he does not want to disturb the sighties around.
Blindness obviously seems to have an effect on sleeping habbits, but I can't imagine it is the lack of sunlight in itself. But I will discuss that 30 hrs biological clock with that friend. Really sounds cool...

Timmargh said...

I was reading through you blog the other day and a few questions came into my mind.

After reading a bit more most of them got answered but one kept bugging me. I talked about it with N, my carer, but we couldn't decide on an answer.

So, I guess the best thing to do is to ask you direct: Damon, do you run on a regular 24-hour internal body clock, or what?


Alice said...

Really good question about the 30 hour body clock. I've been at odds for years with mine, conforming to society's need to have me sleep during the dark. I've been lucky in that being self-employed I am able to sleep when I really feel like it, rather than by the clock.

Forcing myself to go to sleep according to the clock only heightens my insomnia problems. I've also found that I sleep in short cycles, generally, from three to four hours long. Time between needing sleep varies from day to day. Wonky, at best.

No big solutions from me, but the melatonin therapy is an interesting concept.

Katie said...

Good blog entry Damon, interesting to, and wondering about what happens with your body clock. Sometimes I feel like I have a mixed up body clock as I keep staying up at nights and sleeping in the day or evenings as I find sleeping hard at nights.

Time between sleep is also slightly apart and keep feeling tired almost after a long day's work.

Thanks for your funny comment to the last blog entry you posted here, I am sort of thinking of becoming a life coach , I'm on a Training for change course and loving it.

I seem to be popular also in involvement at conferences too about disability so going up in the world! Ha! Ha!

Next year, you may see me as a professional looking business woman and highly sought out by people who know my ablities in disability areas! LOL!

Kelly said...

The way it was explained to me is that our melatonin levels are controlled by photoreceptors in the eyes which function in conjunction with the hypothalamus in our brains. This pathway is still intact and can still function in some blind people even with no light perception. For others (often those who have prosthetic eyes, for obvious reasons), this pathway is not functional and the melatonin cycle is therefore free-running and not linked to the light-dark cycle. So those of us in this second category can be exposed to all the light we like, but it won't change anything because the "bridge is out," so to speak.

jfsouthpaw said...

Have a number of friends (not all VI)who are similar - only need about 4 hours sleep at most a night and I really flag trying to keep up. (I think my internal body clock runs to less than 20 hr cycle, or I just need more sleep, or something.) Anyway, everyone I know who needs little sleep is really highly intelligent, apparently. So maybe it's something to do with ones brain. Or something. I'm not suggesting anything about blind people. Am I....Maybe one's brain is predesposed to wanting more or less sleep?

Maxwell said...

Hello, I am a psychologist/neuroscientist and I've read your post. Whilst I'm no expert on sleep mechanisms I'd like to suggest a few things:

Firstly, our "body-clocks", or circadian rhythm, is controlled by a part of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus - you'll be able to google this. You are right in mentioning that light is a factor for regulating sleep, but not for the circadian rhythms in humans.

Evolutionarily speaking, the pineal gland (you can google this too) in lizards (and some birds) is responsible for detecting light and passing that information on into the brain, helping them gauge 'the day'. However, evolution has resulted in our pineal gland retreating deep into our heads.. no light gets to it, and therefore light is not a factor in regulating our body clocks. studies have shown that even in total darkness humans will generally stick to a 24/25 hour cycle of sleep and metabolic activity.

studying people who cannot perceive light is interesting as light still "gets in" to the brain in the form of electrical signals, even if you cannot see it as such. this may be a factor in your difficulty to initiate sleep, although i'm not sure as to your exact circumstances.

metabolic processes are generally not light sensitive, and light has a pretty hard job to do if it's going to get into our heads... light energy is coverted to electrical signals once it hits the retina anyway.

so basically, its unlikely that you have a '30 hour' body clock due to you inability to perceive light. i would suggest there are many other factors including your daily routine or eating habits maybe, perhaps ask your doctor to refer you to a sleep clinic so they can monitor what exactly is going on.. they are good at that.

feel free to disregard anything here, but hopefully this will at least be of interest.


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Ramesh said...

I was diagnosed with insomnia five years ago after a string of very traumatic life events. Even as a small child, I typically tossed and turned for up to three hours before falling asleep. Despite these facts, I believed I was just not meant to sleep normally. My therapist suggested a sleep study and I was quickly referred to a psychiatrist who reviewed my past history as well as my current situation and prescribed 10mg of Ambien. I am finally able to sleep normally! I wake up with energy and actually enjoy early mornings with my daughter because I'm well rested. I don't take this medication on a nightly basis because I do enjoy the occasional glass of wine and I have no desire to experience unpleasant side effects.

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Sherille Jill said...

I feel for you because insomnia is my problem too. I love drinking coffee to boost my energy but people around me keeps telling me that I need to stop drinking that because it adds to my problem. I once tried a strong chamomile tea as one of my natural sleep aids and sometimes it work but sometimes not. I think maybe because of my lifestyle too.

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