Let There Be Light, Lots of Light

The picture was taken at 10 p.m. a few nights ago. It may not be light enough for a vigorous game of football (that occurred earlier in the field beside the flat) but certainly light enough to walk outside without bumping into anything.

And if you happen to be up at 4:30 a.m. or so, you’ll see a similar scene, the light coming up over the nearby hills to infiltrate the valleys below. In short, there’s too much darkness here during the winter months and way too much light during the summer ones.

As latitude lines go, Ireland is significantly north of everywhere in the US except Alaska. During previous two-week visits to Ireland during the summer, late-breaking sunsets meant we could enjoy more of each day. If I was having adjustment difficulties, it was easy to chalk them up to jet lag.

Throwing off one’s rhythm

But it’s much different living here. Our circadian rhythms are influenced by sunlight, both positively and negatively. According to the National Institute of Health, circadian rhythms “can influence sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, body temperature and other important bodily functions. They have been linked to various sleep disorders, such as insomnia. Abnormal circadian rhythms have also been associated with obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder.”

For most of my life, I’ve had one foot in the insomnia trench. The reason may never be known, but it doesn’t help that I’m a light sleeper who worked weird newspaper shifts (5 p.m.-1 a.m., or some such) for half his career. If you’ve never worked the night shift, you may not realize that people don’t go home and go to bed. After working the day shift, do you go home and go immediately to bed? Of course not. Same rules apply here.

You sit and have a drink. Watch a little TV. Read. I’ve been to great dinner parties that didn’t start until 2 a.m. (or later). I’ve seen the sun rise more times than I can count, simply because I couldn’t get to sleep.

Anything that works

I’ve tried a light box over the winter, burning my retinas out with UV light in a (mostly) vain attempt to reset my internal sleep clock. I’ve tried melatonin and tryptophan, the ingredient (wrongly) linked to sleepiness after you’ve eaten more turkey than you should have on Thanksgiving Day.

Nothing worked, until my doctor started exploring off-label uses of anti-depressants. One of them knocked me out cold. Another worked great, lulling me to sleep, then gently waking me eight to nine hours later with soft whispers—for 30 days. On the 31st day, the pill stopped working.

Finally, third time being the charm and all, we hit upon something that has worked for several years. I take an infinitesimally small dose (smallest pill made, cutting it into quarters with an X-acto knife). I sometimes wonder whether a sliver of a pill should work at all—until I forget to take it and wake up at some ungodly hour.

However, even that isn’t helping at present. Marilynn is trying melatonin, and we both have sleep masks. But still the dawn breaks ever earlier—for at least the next month until the summer solstice.

2 thoughts on “Let There Be Light, Lots of Light”

  1. Uh, . . I think the insomnia may be contributing to the idea of getting a good shot of the gantries and the idea of the elbow knives. However, I have been in several lines in both in Germany and in Atlanta that made me fantasize about just such a tool.

    Like

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