Nocturnal Squirrel

When I saw this article, I immediately thought of Mago.

According to the article,  a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania looked at lab mice that were kept awake to replicate the kind of sleep loss common in modern life, through night shifts or long hours in the office.   After several days of sleep patterns similar to night workers pulling three days of night shifts with only four to five hours sleep in 24 hours – the mice lost 25% of the brain cells in part of the brain stem.

Dear brother Mago, I remember when you did some night shift work some time ago.  So this is bad news for you …………and for me too.

This new research may finally provide a rational explanation why I have failed to win the Nobel Prize so far.  Several times in my life, I have kept those anti-social hours.  But if I do say so myself, I haven’t done too badly with the 25% loss of those brain cells or maybe I just don’t know any different.

My first bout of pulling all-nighters was when I was studying for my finals at University and I am sure many students over the years can tell the same sorry tale.   As the exams got closer, I found that I could concentrate better at night.  First of all, there were far less distractions at night than during the day.  While the sun was up, I might be tempted to leave the books and go enjoy the great outdoors.  But at night, it felt good to stay in with the books by the warmth of the table lamp.  Secondly, I told myself that I just enjoyed sitting at my table and looking out the window to see the darkening twilight and the lightening dawn.

However, I did take it to the extreme.   I took to studying after dinner at 7 pm and carrying on through the night until about 10 am the next day.  Then I would go out to do errands like grocery shopping, have my lunch and then sleep from about 1 pm to about 6pm.  Repeat cycle.  I did this for about two months.

I made it through my exams but there was a toll.  It  made me vulnerable to depression and for a long time after, I suffered from insomnia.

At the time, flushed with the confidence of youth, I thought I was being smart but I guess the sleepless mice experiment shows that I was probably getting dumber by the day.

So my advice is don’t skimp on the good night sleep.


9 thoughts on “Nocturnal Squirrel”

  1. I think the only dangers involved in night shift work are if one is working revolving shifts (ugh!), or if circumstances keep one from getting a good day’s sleep. I’ve been a nocturnal night shift squirrel for 16 years now… but I can almost always get a full day’s sleep to recover, so I think what brain cells I had to begin with should be fine….

  2. evilsquirrel,
    You are probably right. The study did indicate that the adverse effects is when you got less than 5 hours sleep in that 24 hours for several days in a row. I think it was more relevant to the concept whereby people build up a “sleep debt” during the week and try to catch up by crashing out on the weekend. Unfortunately, I used to do that too.

  3. I can honestly say that I hated these nightshifts. Especially the twelve-hour-shifts on weekends, from 19:00 to 07:00.
    At the beginning I was able to read, write, translate or correct texts, or do some research on the web (using the prohibited net access via the office pc) in the wee hours when noting was to happen,
    An older colleague saied to me: Hey, you will wonder. In seven or eight months you’ll be happy to solve the crosswords in the BILD” – a simply written tabloid. I confess that I laughed – but he was right. After seven months I was not able to read something more daring or intellectually challenging than the local newspaper in those nights.
    Another point was that my behaviour changed. I became more and more “gereizt”, edgy, irritated – no good for those around me.
    I quit after 15 months. Three months later I had a (mild) heart attack. Other colleagues (two while I was there, two in fifteen months) suffered the same. Two were attacked, one seriously hurt.
    All I can say is that doing nightshifts (in security), alone and for twelve hours at least twice a week (regular the other nights eight hours on different stations, with additional patrols, so ten hours in total, every f*king night) is the best replacement for assisted suicide.
    And before one asks, no I did not smoke in those days, and I did not drink (at least not as much as I’d liked), and took care for a healthy lifestyle, simply because I had to find a balance to this – excuse me please LGS – shit.
    And of course: For the daytime hour one gets paied less than the minimal wage. You can only live from this job when you do nightshifts, best on weekends or on holidays – then you will earn as much in an hour as any handyman receives in his normal daytime job.

    They wouldn’t have to had those mice harrassed – simply ask the security night shift people all over the world – it’s all the same.
    The colleagues who guard the German parliament (yes, it’s outsourced, hail the private entrepreneurship!) earned hardly six (6 !) Euro an hour. That’s really an incentive to throw yerself in the way of a gun throwing terrorist …

  4. Mago,
    Sorry if I brought up bad memories. I know that was a tough time for you. I remember that the job was a mix of long night hours, stress (when you patrolled those long dark corridors) and boredom in between. I had a similar stint doing 24 hour shifts at a water treatment plant and I too thought I could use the long, hours alone (I meet no one during the 24 hrs) to read or write reports but in the end I spent most time playing solitaire. I think the boredom makes your brain shut off too. Glad you no longer do that job but you do have some stories to tell.

  5. Secret Agent,
    Don’t panic! The damage is only if we fail to get more than 5 hours sleep within that 24 hours. Just don’t constantly do all nighters and try to catch up on the sleep at the weekend. Anyway, I am sure you are fine cause I am a squirrel and I know nuts.

  6. No worries, no bad memories, LGS ! Nothing compared to 24 hours isolation shift – dear me, that can turn one either into a monk or a madman …

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