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Sex, digestion and sleep: The sacred triumvirate.
(No. 57) Are dolls a good substitute for old men? By Stephen P. Williams
A survey about you
Who will be the 100th person to answer these six questions about how you “do” age?
Sleep on it
Photo by Ashley Byrd on Unsplash
Ok, theres one good reason I should believe this study about the ravages of not getting a good night’s sleep: it’s from the University of South Florida, in Tampa, a part of the world known for all night mojitos in beachside discotheques, not lullabies. If anyone knows about not sleeping, it would be them.
I’m ravaged today myself. Sleep, for me, is still a goal rather than a reality. I have no trouble falling asleep. At least the first time. But I often wake up at 4 am, unable to go back to sleep. If I go to bed at 11, that’s only five hours. Not nearly enough. People tell me they regularly go to sleep at 9:30 pm in order to accommodate early rising. Not me or the 1/3 of Americans who regularly get 6 or fewer hours of sleep a night.
I better figure this out soon. The Florida study, published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, says that having less than 6 hours of sleep a night for three nights in a row had devastating emotional and physical effects on the 2,000 people studied. They felt angry, nervous, lonely, irritable and frustrated as their poor nights of sleep piled up. They had respiratory problems, body aches, digestive irritations and more. The symptoms only went away with a good night’s sleep.
Of course, poor sleep also contributes to cognitive decline, metabolic syndrome and a host of other issues. There’s good reason to work on it. Right now, I don’t have the answers, other than to reduce caffeine intake, have a comfortable and cool bed, and read a book rather than a screen as you fall asleep. But you can be certain I’ll be looking into this further in upcoming newsletters.
The brain chain
A stylized brain. Photo by Fakurian Design on Unsplash
Imagine if you had to scroll through your memories one by one like photographs on your phone in order to retrieve the memories and images you were looking for. Instead, it seems, we have a thought and our brain finds the source, instantly. It’s as if all our memories were time-stamped in our hippocampus. Located deep in the interior of the brain’s temporal lobe, at about ear level, the hippocampus regulates emotion, memory and other systems. Scientists have been learning that it also functions as a sort of neurological blockchain, time-stamping, ordering and preserving the sequence of events that form our memories.
A group of French researchers at the Brain and Cognition Research Center of the French National Center for Scientific Research, has for the first time recorded neural pathways in the hippocampus that record the sequence of time. For the studies, the researchers had to implant electrodes in live human brains, which is an elaborate surgery, and isn’t normally done for studies. So they asked people who were already having implants installed to control their epileptic seizures if they’d volunteer to let the memory researches piggyback on their surgery for the study. The results suggest that the brain has an internal clock of some sort that keeps track of time without reference to what is happening in the outside world. The researchers say that understanding how this hippocampus timepiece works will be very helpful in devising treatments and strategies for people who are experiencing memory loss, including as they age.
They call this action of remembering “mental time travel.” That’s a pretty enticing thought, especially in these days of mask wars, crowded airports and high prices.
Person 1: Honey, we’ve been cooped up so long — why don’t we take a trip to Costa Rica?
Person 2: No thanks. I think I’ll time travel to France two years ago instead.
Though we may take this ability to “time travel mentally” for granted, our conception of the flow of time is a fundamental part of the shared human experience of reality, which is reason enough to try to unravel its secrets.
When was the last time you had the chance to call a man “a real doll?”
Real Doll, a company that makes plastic dolls that people can have bad sex with, is toying with the idea of producing an old man doll, as seen above. I’m not sure there’s a great demand in our society for the erotic services of fake old men, but someone must be interested. And even if it doesn’t go into mass production, you can always have Real Doll build a custom toy. To me, the guy above looks sad and depleted, perhaps due to low T. But as the saying goes — whatever cranks your tractor.
What’s your meow mix?
A lot of people these days, myself included, are thinking about microbes in the gut. What’s good about them. What’s bad about them. Which ones to have. How to get them. It’s a complex topic that I haven’t come close to figuring out, other than to discover that gut microbes affect weight, memory, mood, skin, and all kinds of diseases. And now, this: owning cats changes the microbes in your gut. I can’t say whether the cat effect is good or bad, and neither can the scientists. At least not yet.
Lots of aging going on in this selfie, by Self.
It is a weekend in July and I must go have some fun. Thank you for taking the time to read my newsletter, and talk to you soon.