xlviii. Guest blogger: Breann (again!)

24 January 2010 at 21:48 | Posted in Circadian rhythm | 4 Comments
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  The  body  clock

 

A new list member wrote that his wife doubts the validity of Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, believes that his diagnosing doctor is a quack and believes that forcing oneself up early – often enough – will solve the problem.   

Breann, with her knowledge of biology, responded:

Hi __, nice to meet you 🙂

It might help if your wife had a basic understanding of genetics. I’m not trying to be flip, many people don’t; they’re lucky if they get some Mendel in high school, and unfortunately, his “one gene, one trait” discovery is not true for everything. (The last time I checked, there were at least ten genes thought to be involved in the sleep-wake cycle. Whew!)

In my experience, it has simply never occurred to most people that they wake up or go to sleep for any reason other than being tired or not being tired; i.e. they believe it is mostly a conscious choice. They are unaware that their body has many complex and delicate systems keeping track of the time of day, how long they’ve been awake, how much or little food they’ve consumed, and so forth. Sometimes just teaching people that these seemingly simply urges aren’t TRULY conscious choices for anybody is a great help in their understanding that some or all of these systems can “go haywire” due to using a different set of instructions (different forms of the genes that regulate the processes).

Something that really worked with my friends and family was for me to simply sit them down and ask them flat-out: “You have known me my whole life. Do I seem like the kind of person who is going to malinger for decades just to get out of doing things that you KNOW I enjoy doing? Think about this logically. Am I that kind of person? Do you think I’m faking when I’m upset about getting fired, or missing an important appointment? Either your judgement of me over the last 20 years is totally wrong, or I am insane and need a lot more help than a sleep doctor.”

That flipped a light switch for them, I think. It was still hard for them to accept, and still is in some cases, but it at least got them to consider the fact that if there isn’t something wrong with me physically, than that leaves me as someone who has deliberately, yet unconsciously, set out to ruin my own life. That makes no sense, if they take a minute to think about it, and not just have a knee-jerk reaction.

Hope this helps!

–Breann

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Next:  xlix. 2009:  sleep logs

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