Wednesday, 5 November 2014

...the mid-night hamster wheel

Scientists have known for a long time that daily rhythms are driven by some kind of clock in our bodies. But they didn’t work out exactly where it was until the middle of the 20th century. They found this out when they did surgery on hamsters. They took out a tiny part of the brain of hamsters called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). After this, the hamsters totally lost their rhythm – and not just on the hamster wheel. It used to be easy to predict when the hamsters would run on a wheel. But after they lost the SCN, they ran at any and all times of the day and night. That was the first big step in understanding.  
How’s your suprachiasmatic clock? Mine is way out of synch. I firmly believe its regular settings were totally lost at about the same time that my short-term memory disappeared into the post-menopausal-black-hole. If scientists were to remove any tiny part of my brain, any tiny part at all — left or right, frontal or back — I’m convinced they’d find it riddled with even tinier holes through which my hamster rhythm has been gradually leaking away.

After all my late night farnarkling routines have been thoroughly exhausted, you know how it goes —tidy/ablute /brush/check Facebook/put dogs out/ check emails/let dogs back in/charge phone/check blog/ turn off computer/find book— and I finally squeeze into the piece of the bed left for me by the dogs (which is always always the bit where there is plenty of doona cover but not one square inch of warm fluffy doona) it isn’t long before I fall asleep. Often with the light still on and a book on my face.

At some stage during the night, every night, no matter how many cups of coffee, glasses of pinot gris or life–sustaining minutes of exercise in the fresh air preceded it, I will wake. But here’s the thing, I wake at 2:22, 3:33 or 4:44. What’s with that? Comedic cosmic compensation? Or is my body clock trying to tell me something?

I don’t understand.


  1. I always seem to wake up 5-10 minutes before the alarm is due to go off (no matter what time it has been set for), which I think is a some cosmic conspiracy to deprive me of sleep in 5-10 minute chunks.

  2. ...get your hamster checked, Mate!

  3. Oh I love the research.... Clever. Love the writing. I can so relate. I too can be a night time farnarkler. Often. Alfie is very patient with me but he can easily catch up on his sleep. Me...not possible. The sleeping tablets filled the hamster hole for a while but I weaned myself off them now. Holes are unplugged! I find pinterest at 2.00am can be very soothing. x

    1. I wrote this one with you and the Schmalf in mind. XX