Opinion

Thiel: Staving off quasi-hibernation calories

There are two phenomena going on in our province today.

One is that all the parents are doing spontaneous back flips and high-fiving one another in public as a result of the first day of school.

The other is that while we enter into fall, we humans enter into a pseudo-hibernation state.

There is some compelling research that has been published recently that discusses that we humans do indeed enter into a ‘quieting state’ much like that of hibernation during this time of year.

These are the sure signs of such a phenomena.

First, we all seem sleepier than normal.

This could be, in fact, due to the realization that the summer frenzy is over and all the red and white license plates have gone home.

Or it could be because we are, on a subconscious level, becoming aware of the fact that the days are becoming shorter.

The longest day of the year took place on June 20. We’re quickly approaching the shortest day of the year which takes place on Dec. 21.

Sorry, but each day is a little shorter than its predecessor. This has a direct effect on a structure within our brain called the pineal gland.

This tiny gland is about the size of a grain of rice, the very geographic centre of our brain.

It is called the pineal gland because it looks like a pinecone, only smaller. This gland is very sensitive to changes in duration of daylight, whether we are indoor dwellers or not.

In fact, when you study the cells of the pineal gland, it’s noted that they have a strong resemblance to the photoreceptors within our eye. This is the gland that effects and regulates our circadian rhythms.

One of the functions of the pineal gland is to produce a hormone called melatonin.

This hormone has a direct result in sedation and relaxation, if not sleep. Here’s the point. The production of melatonin is stimulated by darkness and inhibited by light.  Ergo, shorter days equals more melatonin being produced.

One other thing that we may notice more now than at any other time of the year is unwanted weight gain. In addition, we tend to crave rich carbohydrate type food.

These foods are loaded with calories and our belts protest. This is part of the hibernation response in preparation for the winter that is coming.

I guess this is our primal self expressing itself.

But I, for one, love autumn. The air smells more alive, the trees begin to change colour. It is a time for slowing down and reflection.

It could also have something to do with those spontaneous back flips.

However, there is good news for those who want to stave off these unwanted sedated effects of this quasi-hibernation state.

First and foremost, eat well. Avoid the excessive carbohydrates and sweet foods as Christmas will be here before you know it.

Avoid alcohol as it will have an effect on your sleep/wake cycles and your overall level of stimulation throughout the day during the state.

Research has demonstrates that a nice way to jumpstart this sleepy central nervous system of ours is to exercise regularly.

It could be something as simple as a walk or a routine that you do three times a week. But hey, this is all common sense that could be applied throughout the year.

This sedated state is normal and fortunately only transitional. It lasts only about six to eight weeks.

There is good reason for it and no, you’re not losing your mind.

Live well and enjoy the changing of the season.

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