sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Health Tip

monument to Rip Van Winkle
(based on a story by Washington Irving)
In the military, I learned to force sleep, and it's a trait that has been helpful to me ever since. Thus if I were to tell you that I'm going to shut down for an hour or so, you'd see me sound asleep in a minute or less. There is a type of Zen to the process. You can train yourself to do that, but most people don't want to put in the effort.  As I've aged, my friends have aged along with me (so unfair that I'm aging too) and often complain about sleep problems. I ran onto this article in Neuron and thought to share it. 

Just because you're getting longer in the tooth doesn't mean that sleep is less important - as the article points out.

As people grow old, their nights are frequently plagued by bouts of wakefulness, bathroom trips and other nuisances as they lose our ability to generate the deep, restorative slumber we enjoyed in youth.

But does that mean older people just need less sleep?

Not according to UC Berkeley researchers, who argue in an article published April 5 in the journal Neuron that the unmet sleep needs of the elderly elevate their risk of memory loss and a wide range of mental and physical disorders.
"Nearly every disease killing us in later life has a causal link to lack of sleep," said the article's senior author, Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology and neuroscience. "We've done a good job of extending life span, but a poor job of extending our health span. We now see sleep, and improving sleep, as a new pathway for helping remedy that." 
Unlike more cosmetic markers of aging, such as wrinkles and gray hair, sleep deterioration has been linked to such conditions as Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and stroke, he said.
Though older people are less likely than younger cohorts to notice and/or report mental fogginess and other symptoms of sleep deprivation, numerous brain studies reveal how poor sleep leaves them cognitively worse off.

Moreover, the shift from deep, consolidated sleep in youth to fitful, dissatisfying sleep can start as early as one's 30s, paving the way for sleep-related cognitive and physical ailments in middle age.

And, while the pharmaceutical industry is raking in billions by catering to insomniacs, Walker warns that the pills designed to help us doze off are a poor substitute for the natural sleep cycles that the brain needs in order to function well.

"Don't be fooled into thinking sedation is real sleep. It's not," he said.

For their review of sleep research, Walker and fellow researchers Bryce Mander and Joseph Winer cite studies, including some of their own, that show the aging brain has trouble generating the kind of slow brain waves that promote deep curative sleep, as well as the neurochemicals that help us switch stably from sleep to wakefulness.

"The parts of the brain deteriorating earliest are the same regions that give us deep sleep," said article lead author Mander, a postdoctoral researcher in Walker's Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at UC Berkeley.

Aging typically brings on a decline in deep non-rapid eye movement (NREM) or "slow wave sleep," and the characteristic brain waves associated with it, including both slow waves and faster bursts of brain waves known as "sleep spindles."

Youthful, healthy slow waves and spindles help transfer memories and information from the hippocampus, which provides the brain's short-term storage, to the prefrontal cortex, which consolidates the information, acting as the brain's long-term storage.

"Sadly, both these types of sleep brain waves diminish markedly as we grow old, and we are now discovering that this sleep decline is related to memory decline in later life," said Winer, a doctoral student in Walker's lab.

Another deficiency in later life is the inability to regulate neurochemicals that stabilize our sleep and help us transition from sleep to waking states. These neurochemicals include galanin, which promotes sleep, and orexin, which promotes wakefulness. A disruption to the sleep-wake rhythm commonly leaves older adults fatigued during the day but frustratingly restless at night, Mander said.

Of course, not everyone is vulnerable to sleep changes in later life: "Just as some people age more successfully than others, some people sleep better than others as they get older, and that's another line of research we'll be exploring," Mander said.

"The American College of Physicians has acknowledged that sleeping pills should not be the first-line kneejerk response to sleep problems," Walker said. "Sleeping pills sedate the brain, rather than help it sleep naturally. We must find better treatments for restoring healthy sleep in older adults, and that is now one of our dedicated research missions."

Also important to consider in changing the culture of sleep is the question of quantity versus quality.

"Previously, the conversation has focused on how many hours you need to sleep," Mander said. "However, you can sleep for a sufficient number of hours, but not obtain the right quality of sleep. We also need to appreciate the importance of sleep quality.

Refuge - Beyond the Settlements

Fellow blogger, Raven, asked what criteria I used to find a place far from the home of elite progs. This is my effort to explain the variables that I plugged into the formula. 

I need to point out that I am not a "prepper", waiting anxiously for civilization to collapse, or for the sun to go nova. At the same time, there are only two kinds of people - prepared and unprepared. Even in my nice neighborhood in Southern California, I currently have stored potable water in 10 gallon stackable jugs, and a large swimming pool with filtration to make that water potable if needed. I have enough food to get me through a few weeks of privation and enough arms, ammo, and skill to stack up some of the hoard (think 'Grave of the Hundred Head' - Kipling) until I'm overwhelmed. 

Preparation comes from the Boy Scout Motto and it comes from living a life where expecting the unexpected kept me from an unplanned six-foot drop and a mouth full of dirt. For me preparation also means keeping out of debt to the extent possible, and living a prudent life without excesses that might cause me to crash and burn. It's worked so far. And I have toys, but not nearly as many as some of my peers who enjoy a much closer relationship with their banker(s).

Inner city people rarely are seen out in the wild and they never live there. Self sufficiency is required and the inner city types prefer to be cradled by the taxpayers from birth to death (with institutional terms in the prison systems interspersed where they're still cared for at public expense). There are wilderness churches but I have yet to see a wilderness mosque or synagogue. That may have to do with the traditional practice of eating bacon with your waffles (in turn covered with butter and maple syrup) at breakfast.

Most people who live beyond the settlements are private people living on their own land, and they value their privacy. Disturbing people who live on a compound as a matter of choice requires impeccable manners and a reason for showing up. There is the inevitable problem of having savage, feral dogs tear you to pieces before the owner (taking their sweet time) calls their hybrid wolf-dogs off. People have been known to end up as wolf-dog manure, recycled as God intended. Inner city people avoid those situations instinctively.

Criteria

1. Distances
  • 2 hour drive from a major airport. I may not need to consult forever, but for the time being I can fly to work, wherever that may be. Flagstaff (commuter airport) is closer than Sky Harbor (where Loretta Lynch met Bill Clinton) in Phoenix but either will work.
  • 6 - 7 hour drive from children/grandchildren. Two of my four daughters live in Southern California and are unlikely to leave due to their husbands appropriate career choices. That equates to five grandsons. 
  • 40-50 miles from a city of any size. I can drive to the city when I need to and I don't need the city when I don't need it. 
  • Help. I wanted to be near enough to some sort of paramedic assistance that I might be reached in the event of an emergency. I'm not getting any younger and despite what I think in my heart of hearts, I'm not bullet-proof.
  • Bandwidth. There was no cell service when I bought the White Wolf Mine property, but they installed a cell tower a few miles away adjacent to a ranger station last September. Imagine my surprise when the phone rang when I was out on the property - three bars. I was content to use sat phone contact, but I have three-four bars on Verizon. 
  • Weather. I wanted to be no more than a two hour drive from warm weather. Having lived in areas where the winters are cold, and the drive from there to warm is ---- considerable, it needed to be fitted in. I'm not old now, but it will be an issue in the future. It's nice to be able to thaw out if you need to, and maybe swim in an outdoor heated pool for a bit at a hotel if that's called for.
2. Elevation and Location
  • It had to be the mountains or the ocean. I like the desert, I really do, but that wasn't what I wanted for myself.
  • In California, the ocean means unwanted progs living near. Because of the 6 hour drive radius, I couldn't get far enough north or to Oregon without making a visit to the grandkids a two-day drive with an overnight in a hotel on each end of the journey. I had some land picked out in the Applegate Valley in Southern Oregon not all that far from Grant's Pass, but I'd never see the grandsons grow up. (note- my three granddaughters live in Arizona)
  • The California taxation system and the general oppression of the liberal government made a move to either Arizona or Nevada a 20% reduction in cost of living - significant.
3. Other
  • I had to be able to afford the land and a reasonable house. I couldn't find what I wanted with a structure on it that I could live comfortably in, so I went for land in the ponderosas with a view and a meadow that was perfect for a home in the 3,500 square foot range (sufficient to have room enough for guests in addition to space for my own basics). Remote locations mean that if you are going to rely on the skills of others to build/help build a house, it will cost more because they have to drive there and back to wherever. Time and fuel cost.
  • Sweet well water. The water needed to be of sufficient quantity and quality that it wouldn't be problematic. North-Central Arizona gets snow but it also has a summer monsoon that reliably drops 8-9 inches of water every August.
  • Near lakes and streams with abundant wildlife.
  • Live in an area of light regulation. Some government footprint is a good idea, but there are limits. There is a County Sheriff but they don't patrol the area near the WWM. I'm on my own. I can live with that. Walk softly and carry a big stick.
  • I have electricity on the property, and can use that, propane or pine (not as good as hardwood, but it's an inexhaustible supply) for power. Likely I will use a combination of the above with a propane generator to kick in if the electricity goes out.
Armed with the general criteria set forth above, I embarked on an 18 month journey to try and find someplace that fit what I was looking for. 

Those of you who follow this blog, may recall that I expanded the search far and wide, but ended up coming back to the Coconino National Forrest area in Northern Arizona because it met all of them.

I have the luxury of no longer needing a "day job" to make ends meet, having made good decisions in my youth. That gave me much more flexibility.

There have been some surprises. Not many but a few:
  • The price of an alternative septic system and the time that it takes one designed, excavated and installed.
  • The large numbers of bobcats and mountain lions in the area - a good thing from my perspective, but there are a lot of them. Naturally, there is a lot of game for them to eat.
  • The summer monsoon surprised me, but as with most mountain showers, you have a clear morning but afternoon thundershowers. Time to get the fishing in, and back to the place before you get soaked. The EXTENT of monsoon in Northern Arizona was surprising. Two inches of rain per week is significant.
  • The lack of an insect problem that you'd normally find in lower altitudes in summer.
Note: California just passed another 12 cent-per-gallon gasoline tax increase raising it to $1.00 per gallon. No, it won't be used to repair roads and bridges - it will go for 'social justice'. This is the first of a sweeping round of tax increases. It confirms to me that I made the correct decision.