Androsthenes, whom we shall call Andro, was a ship captain serving under Alexander the Great. Andro commanded a boat called a triaconter with thirty banks of rowers providing power. Alexander sent forth Andro and crew to navigate the full length of the Euphrates river, through the whole of what is now Iraq, over seventeen-hundred miles all the way to its mouth, whence they were to explore every inch of Arabian coast using the same vessel. It was a reconnaissance mission for a planned future invasion which never happened.
During the journey, there must have been some down-time to repair the boat and barter for supplies, as Andro took note of a little something he observed while resting under a tamarind tree, which grow wild in Dhofar on tropical mountain slopes facing the Arabian Sea. Andro was chillin’ under that tree for a good while, enjoying a little reprieve from the churning sea and the stinking galley, letting his mind wander whilst burnin’ the frankincense and suckin’ on a coconut. In the duration of his reclined but studious observation of the tamarind, Andro perceived the leaves changing their angle throughout the day and the night, following the same pattern during each twenty-four hour period. The fact that this tidbit of information survived the ravages of time to reach us here, some twenty-three-hundred years later, attests to its importance. This was one of the first recorded examinations of the unique way that plants react to our adagio tempo of yin and yang here on Earth.
Circadian: pertaining to rhythmic biological cycles recurring naturally in twenty-four-hour cycles…
It wasn’t until 1729 that a bright French scientist named Jacques d’Ortous recorded the same thing, but in the absolute darkness of his laboratory, finding that the leaves of the Mimosa Pudica moved in twenty-four hour patterns even without any light. This is now called an endogenous circadian oscillation. How he observed those leaves slow-dancing in the pitch-black is beyond me…a peephole, maybe? Regardless, that’s why they had to add “even in total absence of light” to the above definition when referring to certain endogenous (built-in or self-sustained) circadian patterns.
Our bodies are so in harmony with the swinging, spinning globe that we must dance to its rhythm, as do all living things…even the Mediterranean Mole. (I just had a good laugh imagining a mole dancing, and I suggest you do the same.) Somehow, every critter must have that Earth Beat, and the aforementioned mole, a rodent so accustomed to living underground that its eyes are covered over with skin, has been studied and found to be affected by circadian rhythms just the same as all the others; the “Gentleman in Velvet” ingests particular roots at particular intervals, sleeps in shifts, and has regular digging hours, even though it spends all of its life without a tick-tock-clock or the Sun to tell time.
I’ve long considered myself to be part-nocturnal. My creative work is best done in those silent hours when everyone is asleep except for the bats, rats, cats, owls, moths, spiders, coyotes, vampires, centipedes, and night-blooming cereus. The world is mostly dreaming and I am too, except my eyes are open. On a cool night years ago, I remember stepping outside my studio in Terlingua after hours of drawing to find myself in the darkest, most peaceful star-filled town in the world. My mind had been focused on a pinpoint, the pen serving as an antenna for energy from all directions and when I finally let go and looked out into the Universe, my brain exploded…in a good way.
Lately, though, I’ve been pushing for a regression to my childhood custom of going to bed at Midnight, although I am still inclined to stay up beyond the wee hours. My current goal is to try to be asleep by one in the morning. I have adjusted my behavior incrementally and just last night, my lights went out at 2am, three hours earlier than was my habit. It helps to have some fascinating reading material waiting on the night-stand. Currently it’s a novel titled “The Professor and the Madman: a Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary.” This book has equipped my conscious self with a perfect baton to pass along to my dream body; the language inside is necessarily eloquent, plus the story is quite fascinating. One of the two protagonists truly is a madman…or shall we say lunatic, for his madness comes mostly in the obscure hours. The very word lunatic is derived from the Latin lunaticus, a word referring to diseases caused by the moon. Not to worry, I haven’t succumbed to the night terrors myself, it’s just that I had a revelation of late, one related to our heavenly circuit. This will explain my beddy-bye time-adjustment.
First, let me paint a background. Whilst performing a helter-skelter dance (yet to be named), I broke the fourth and fifth metatarsals of my left foot. After a couple months wearing the Frankenboot, my bones had not shown great progress in reconstructing. I was put in a cast for another month, yet something is still the matter with my osseous matter. So, I’m back in the Frankenboot again, and it’s all I can do to hope that my foot’s on the mend. My diet couldn’t be much better. I’ve managed to keep a diligent program of exercise. I’ll admit I haven’t had the most hopeful attitude at all times, but generally, I’m in good spirits. At forty-one years of age, my body is still in great shape (except for the foot) and I feel as young as I did at thirty, sometimes younger. Friends and relatives have mentioned that “Things change when you turn forty,” but come on, it’s not like you suddenly fall off a cliff. The body’s degradation is mostly gradual and I have noticed some joints creaking more over the years, but nothing serious. Bones not healing, however, is quite serious, especially when those bones allow you to walk properly. Walking, I now fully comprehend, is a most useful ability. Thusly, I’ve been racked with confusion, frustration, and anger over my dilemma. Why aren’t my bones healing? Is there something very very wrong with me? Do I have some kind of degenerative bone disease? Or, is my body betraying me as a form of revenge?! (see ROGUE FOOT for more on this paranoid theory)
Deep within the woods of doubt, a path became suddenly clear when I laid my eyeballs on a short article in the local paper. Though just a couple paragraphs long, it was a revelation for me. The author was discussing digestive issues and mentioned that our circadian rhythms have much to do with such problems, as the stomach and intestinal tract are more lively during particular hours. The word circadian sailed like a comet across my hypothalamus. I set about digging into the piles of available information on the subject, much of it in a language that would give you reader’s indigestion if devoured late at night. Following is a refined fraction of what I’ve unearthed.
The regular cycle of light and dark, provided by our cosmic revolutions, regulates our production of hormones, brain activity, body temperature, cell-regeneration, and other biological activities. One hormone clearly stands out from the rest in relation to my particular situation.
Melatonin, known as the “Hormone of Darkness”, is secreted by the pineal gland (across the street from the pituitary) deep in the core of the brain. This stealthy biochemical agent has many important pursuits (some of them yet unknown) in both the watery and fatty zones of our bodies. Melatonin is an antioxidant that freely crosses cell membranes and the blood-brain barrier to scavenge for cancer-causing free-radicals, making it a heroic special force that protects our bodies from those nefarious cell-infiltrators. Melatonin production is just one of those magical, secret things which occur only under the cloak of obscurity.
In specific relation to bone health, melatonin is one of the agents working with other hormones and cytokines in the constant remodeling, maintenance, and repair of our skeletal system. The pineal gland immediately ceases melatonin production when light, natural or artificial, enters the retina. Blue light, like that of televisions, computer screens, fluorescent bulbs, and LEDs has been found to suppress melatonin production far more than the old incandescent lightbulbs. Late-night exposure to these sources stifles melatonin, leading to weakened bones, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression, and several types of cancer (breast and prostate to name a couple).
Here is an abstract I found in the Library of Medicine, published May of 2013, which explains (in a more scientific manner) how melatonin relates to bones >>> MELATONIN and the SKELETON
Now, don’t throw a fit, all of this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep using efficient lighting and you don’t have to quit using your laptop or watching movies at night. Simple solutions to this melatonin predicament are as follows.
1) Ease off the use of the above types of light a couple hours before going to sleep. Having one small incandescent bulb by the bed to read for a while before going off to dreamland is the way to go…and it won’t blow your energy budget. Campfires are, in my opinion, the ideal way to light up the end of an evening.
2) Get as much light as you can during the day. This strengthens the circadian rhythm and prepares your body for a good night’s sleep. If it’s cloudy out, don’t worry, artificial light counts here.
3) When you get up at night to use the bathroom or whatever, use minimal lighting (night-lights) as bright light will interrupt your flow…of melatonin, that is!
Staying up late is throwing my circadian rhythm all out of whack, putting the snafu on my melatonin, giving free-rads free-reign, and essentially preventing me from healing. It’s not easy for me to come to this conclusion, for I simply love late-night jam sessions held in the right side of my grey matter; however, adjusting to new hours of sleeping and waking is better than compromising my life-force. I am, therefore, beginning to view things in a new light…morning light, that is.
“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Benjamin Franklin