The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 11.24.08


Sleepless In Montreal

My internal clock is way off kilter and I wake suddenly each night at precisely 3:18 AM. Not 3:19 or 3:17, but at 3:18 exactly and repeatedly three nights (or mornings) in a row. This should be a movie, I think blurrily.

A benefit of a disrupted circadian rhythm is that you find time to complete important unfinished tasks such as performing on-line research about circadian rhythms.

Through this wee hour work I have discovered that it is the zeitgeber that is responsible for my waking. A German word representing an external cue, a zeitgeber is the driver of internal time-keeping systems for organisms. Of course, the strongest scheduling cue would be light.

The problem for humans is that light diminishes daily and through fall and early winter. Unlike other, perhaps more intelligent mammals, we do not hibernate. Perhaps we should, and were it not for coffee, Red Bull, and a pesky mortgage, I most likely would.

Plants go dormant and amphibians tuck into the mud while humans resist nature's dark prompting. We can thank our species' ingenuity for having created fire and candles, the electric light bulb, and daylight savings time.

However, this early morning, I'm not convinced we have done ourselves any real favors. After all, I should be asleep through the night, and not at the boardroom table tomorrow noon.

There are other zeitbegers that can cause insomnia beyond light patterns. Temperature, social interaction, pharmacological manipulation, and eating and drinking patterns will impact your circadian cycle. I have a theory that technology has permanently created three new deadly sins. If I have this right, thou shall not use a light bulb, a personal computer, or Facebook. Society needs to recharge its collective battery and it is now written. These news rules take priority over all others as a method of preventing the commitment of other deadly sins. It is hard to sin while sleeping. I'll consult with the Almighty and get back to you.

As I pause to peer outside through a frosty window, winter moonlight reveals just enough proof that the squirrels are sleeping. No sign of birds at the feeder, nor toads in the garden. Even the nocturnal tomcats have tucked into their hideaways by now.

I am a simple sleepless man, alone at the machine, waiting on the first stirrings of my beloved spouse and pets. Further research reveals I am not alone. At least six friends are online at facebook right now. Do they not know the three primary deadly sins?

I'll be conducting further nocturnal searches tomorrow about ultradian rhythms. This will include truths about nightly urination, bowel activity, nostril dilation, and appetite.

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