sleep Tagged ‘sleep’

Alan Watts on Brain vs Body

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

Brain against Body: Confusing Needs with Desires

We have been taught to neglect, despise, and violate our bodies, and to put all faith in our brains. Indeed, the special disease of civilized man might be described as a block or schism between his brain [specifically, the cortex] and the rest of his body. This corresponds to the split between “I” and “me,” man and nature, and to the confusion of Ouroborus, the mixed-up snake, who does not know that his tail belongs with his head. Scientists Lancelot Whyte and Trigant Burrow calls this disease the “European dissociation,” not because it is peculiar to European-American civilization, but because it is specially characteristic of it.

It is simply saying in “medical” language that we have allowed brain thinking to develop and dominate our lives out of all proportion to “instinctual wisdom,” which we are allowing to slump into atrophy. As a consequence, we are at war within ourselves – the brain desiring things which the body does not want, and the body desiring things which the brain does not allow; the brain giving directions which the body will not follow, and the body giving impulses which the brain cannot understand.

When we compare human with animal desire we find many extraordinary differences. The animal tends to eat with his stomach, and the man with his brain. When the animal’s stomach is full, he stops eating, but the man is never sure when to stop. When he has eaten as much as his belly can take, he still feels empty, he still feels an urge for further gratification. This is largely due to anxiety, to the knowledge that a constant supply of food is uncertain. Therefore eat as much as you can while you can. It is due, also, to the knowledge that, in an insecure world, pleasure is uncertain. Therefore the immediate pleasure of eating must be exploited to the full, even though it does violence to the digestion.

Despite the immense hubbub and nervous strain, we are convinced that sleep [which is also a form of meditation] is a waste of valuable time and continue to chase our fantasies far into the night, whether in sleep or in forced insomnia. Animals spend much of their time dozing and idling pleasantly, but, because life is short, human beings must cram into the years the highest possible amount of egoic-intellectual consciousness, alertness, and chronic insomnia so as to be sure not to miss the last fragment of startling pleasure.

The vague, nebulous and insatiable character of brainy desire makes it particularly hard to come down to earth – to be material and real. Generally speaking, the civilized man does not know what he wants. He works for success, fame, a happy marriage, fun, to help others, or to be a “real person”. But these are not real wants because thy are not actually things. They are the by-products, the flavors and atmospheres of real things – shadows which have no existence apart from some substance. Money is the perfect symbol for all such desires, being a mere symbol of real wealth, and to make it one’s goal is the most blatant example of confusing measurements with reality.

It is therefore far from correct to say that modern civilization is materialistic, that is if a materialist is a person who loves matter. The brainy modern loves not matter but measures, not solids but surfaces. He drinks for the percentage of alcohol (“spirit”) and not for the “body” and taste of the liquid. He builds to put up an impressive “front” rather than provide a space for living. Therefore he tends to put up structures which appear from the outside to be a baronial mansions but are inwardly warrens. The individual living-units in these warrens are designed less for living as for creating an impression. The main space is devoted to a “living room” of proportions suitable to a large house, while such essential spaces for living (rather than mere “entertaining”) as the kitchen are reduced to small closets where one can hardly move–much less cook. Consequently these wretched little galleys provide fare which is chiefly gaseous–cocktails and “appetizers” rather than honest meals. Because we all want to be “ladies and gentlemen” and look as if we had servants, we do not soil our hands with growing and cooking real food. Instead we buy our products designed for “front” and appearance rather than content–immense and tasteless fruit, bread which is little more than a light froth, wine faked with chemicals, and vegetables flavored with the arid concoctions of test tubes which render them so much impressive pulp.

One might suppose that the most outright example of civilized man’s beastliness and animality is his passion for sex, but in fact there is almost nothing beastly or animal about it. Animals have sexual intercourse when they feel like it, which is usually in some sort of rhythmic pattern. Between whiles it does not interest them. But of all pleasures sex is the one which civilized man pursues with the greatest anxiety. That the craving is brainy rather than bodily is shown by the common impotence of the male when he comes to act, his brain pursuing what his genes do not want at the moment desire. This confuses him hopelessly, because he simply cannot understand not wanting the great delicacy of sex when it is available. He has been hankering after it for hours and days on end, but when the reality appears his body will not co-operate.

A particularly significant example of brain against body, or measures against matter, is urban man’s total slavery to clocks. A clock is a convenient device for arranging to meet a friend, or for helping people to do things together, although things of this kind happened long before they were invented. Clocks should not be smashed; they should simply be kept in their place. And they are very much out of their place when we try to adapt our biological rythyms of eating, sleeping, evacuation, working, and relaxing to their uniform circular rotation. Our slavery to these mechanical drill masters has gone so far and our whole culture is so involved with it that reform is a forlorn hope; without them civilization would collapse entirely. A less brainy culture would learn to synchronize its body rhythms rather than its clocks.

For the brain, including its reasoning and calculating centers, is a part and product of the body. It is as natural as the heart and stomach, and rightly used, is anything but an enemy of man. But to be used rightly it must be put in its place, for the brain is made for man, not man for his brain. In other words, the function of the brain is to serve the present and the real, not to send man chasing wildly after the phantoms of future or escaping such from the past or vice versa.

Furthermore, in our habitual state of mental tension the brain does not work properly, and this is one reason why its abstractions seem to have so great a reality. When the heart is out of order, we are clearly conscious of its beating; it becomes a distraction, pounding within the breast. It seems most probable that our preoccupation with thinking and planning, together with the sense of mental fatigue, is a sign of some disorder of the brain. The brain should, and in some cases does, calculate and reason with the unconscious ease of the other bodily organs. After all, the brain is not a muscle, and thus is not designed for effort and strain.

But when most people try to think or concentrate, they behave as if they were trying to push their brains around. They screw up their faces, knit their brows, and approach mental problems as if they were something like heaving bricks. Yet you do not have to grind and strain to digest food, and still less to see, hear, and receive other neural impressions.

By Alan Watts

from:    http://theunboundedspirit.com/brain-against-body-confusing-needs-with-desires/

Sleep, Metabolism, Weight Gain

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Is Your Alarm Clock Making You Fat?

Wynne Parry, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 10 May 2012
Alarm Clock
CREDIT: Alarm clock image via Shutterstock

In the industrialized world, a conflict between two opposing forces — biology and the alarm clock — is helping to make people fat, new research suggests.

A discrepancy between the natural timing of sleep and work or school schedules leads to sleep deprivation, since people forced into schedules unnatural to them don’t get enough sleep. And survey data indicates people with larger discrepancies are more likely to carry extra weight, according to the researchers.

“We are biological beings, and we have a biological clock, and what society — and I don’t mean the bad guys, I mean all of us — is ignoring is the biological clock,” said study researcher Till Roenneberg of the University of Munich. “We think we can do whatever we want with the social clock.”

There is a well-established link between sleep and metabolism. Previous studies have linked shorter sleep to obesity, and some have even linked longer sleep to obesity, although this link is less well established, said Jamie Zeitzer, an assistant professor at Stanford University who studies circadian rhythms and sleep. Zeitzer was not involved with the current study.

Different people need different amounts of sleep; this is a separate phenomenon from discrepancy in sleep timing, or as Roenneberg calls it, social jetlag. He and colleagues measured the timing discrepancy by looking at changes in the timing of the midpoint of a person’s night sleep between work and free days.

Other research has pointed to health hazards, from accidents to diabetes and obesity, associated with shift-work schedules, which move work into the nighttime hours.

“If you are awake at night, there is a good reason from an evolutionary perspective, something has to be going on,” Zeitzer said.

As a result, the body behaves as if it is going to need more energy, and people who are awake at night crave higher-fat and sugary foods, and have a greater appetite, he said.

Roenneberg points out that a gene linked to the amount of sleep people need, ABCC9, also plays a role in energy metabolism, or how fast our body uses energy from the food eaten and, in turn, a person’s appetite.

Alarming results

Roenneberg and his colleagues drew on survey data from more than 65,000 people, primarily in central Europe, on their waking and sleep behavior during work and free days. The results were published online May 10 in the journal Current Biology.

Their analysis indicated that for each hour of sleep discrepancy someone experienced, they were 33 percent more likely to have a high body mass index (BMI, or an indicator of body fatness), Roenneberg said. (Someone with a BMI of 25 is considered overweight,greater than 30 is considered obese.)

However, the effect wasn’t uniform. Sleep discrepancy did not explain variations in body mass among those with a normal BMI; however, it was positively associated with increasing weight among those with a higher-than-normal body mass, in the overweight and above range.

This split doesn’t interfere with the overall conclusion that more discrepancy is associated with more weight, Zeitzer said.

An owl’s world

The survey showed that the weekly loss of sleep is worse for some people, namely, the “night owls” who wake up and go to sleep later. But while work times have stayed relatively constant, the modern world is shifting our natural body clocks later, Roenneberg said.

Our body clocks use light to set themselves; however, the indoor light under which many of us spend most of our days is much dimmer than natural light. As a result our body clocks are pushed later, causing us to wake up and go to sleep later in the day, he said.

To address the problem, Roenneberg, who is also the author of “Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired” (Harvard University Press, 2012), recommends making work times more flexible, a move he said could make employees happier and more productive, while reducing health-care costs.

Roenneberg said he coined the term “social jetlag” to compare the discrepancy between social and biological time. However, unlike travel jetlag, social jetlag doesn’t go away with time, he points out. Zeitzer takes issue with the term, because it implies a biological change not addressed in the research.

from:    http://www.livescience.com/20229-social-jetlag-sleep-obesity.html

Two Sleep Cycles a Day May Cure Insomnia

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

insomniaWhile residents of the Southwest, Mexico and Spain are no strangers to the midday ‘siesta’ prompted by high daytime temperatures, today’s industrial societies suffer by not having enough time in the day to do everything they feel is necessary and instead bank all their sleeping time at night, often cutting that time shorter than the recommend 8 hours.

However, the ‘First Sleep, Second Sleep’ practice was apparently well known to humans prior to the 17th century. The onset of industrialization and expansion to the New World caused a curb in in favor of a single 8-hour sleep period through the night supposedly to boost productivity during the day.

Hugh Pickens offers his summary of the phenomenon and recent studies showing how two sleep cycles a day can cure insomnia and improve your day-to-day life.

BBC Article

Wikipedia: Segmented Sleep