Category: Sleep

Are you a lark or an owl?

Woman stretching happily on the left, man yawning on the right
How you feel early in the morning is affected by your genetic makeup

Are you a lark or an owl?

Whether you prefer being up at dawn or burning the midnight oil depends on your genes, experts have found.

Some of us leap out of bed each morning, raring to start the day. Others need at least one alarm clock – preferably one with a snooze button – to ensure they get to work on time.

And some of us happily stay up chatting until the wee small hours, while others prefer to be tucked up listening to ‘Book at Bedtime’ with the lights turned out.

We really are divided into larks and owls. And this is set by our genes, says neurogeneticist Dr Louis Ptacek of University of California.

He says: “Whether we like it or not our parents are telling us when to go to bed – based on the genes that they gave us.”

Scientists have come to realise the importance of understanding a person’s chronotype, the time of the day when they function the best.

If you have a fast clock you like to do things early, and if you have a slow clock you like to do things late”

Professor Derk-Jan Dijk,University of Surrey’s Sleep Research Centre.

Knowing how much of a lark or an owl we are should help us live more healthily in the modern 24/7 world.

Rick Neubig, a professor of pharmacology in Michigan, is an extreme lark.

“People I communicated with in Europe will always notice that they get emails from me very early in the morning.

“The other thing I like a lot which fits in with the early mornings is that I’m a fairly serious bird watcher. It’s much easier for me than other people to get up and see the birds at dawn.”

And it runs in his family.

“My mother would always drag us out of bed at 4 in the morning to go on vacation, and my daughter works out early in the morning.”

‘Strong genetic trait’

Dr Louis Ptacek is studying the families of larks like Rick’s that have Familial Advanced Sleep Phase syndrome. He got into this area of research when his colleague Dr Chris Jones met a 69 year old who was worried about waking up very early and whose concern had been ignored by other medics.

Drs Ptacek and Jones looked at her family.

“We recognised this was a strong genetic trait. We found the mutated gene resided near the end of chromosome 2”, says Louis Ptacek.

They knew that if similar genes were mutated in fruit flies and mice the circadian clocks speed up. The mutated gene made a different protein that affects the rhythm of the clock.

Prof Til RoennenbergLudwig-Maximilians University

They also study families of extreme owls, with Familial Delayed Sleep Phase syndrome. And they think this was due to a different mutation in the same genes.

Mutations in other genes have been found in other families with advanced or delayed sleep patterns.

We all have internal circadian clocks – the master clock is made up of thousands of nerve cells in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, a wing – shaped structure located in the hypothalamus, at the base of the brain.

The hypothalamus controls all kinds of bodily functions, from releasing hormones to regulating temperature and water intake.

This internal clock is reset every day by light. You might expect that since the earth’s day lasts 24 hours, everyone’s clocks would run to a similar schedule.

But they don’t. That’s why there are larks and owls.

“If you have a fast clock you like to do things early, and if you have a slow clock you like to do things late,” says Prof Derk-Jan Dijk, Head of the University of Surrey’s Sleep Research Centre.

‘A sleep map of the world’

Our clocks are not fixed throughout life. Anyone who has small children will know they’re prone to waking early, as do the elderly.

But whatever the speed of your clock we have to fit in with the way that society is set up with its 9-5 working times.

This can be particularly hard for teenagers, who generally find it hard to get up in the morning.

Prof Till Roenneberg of Ludwig-Maximilians University has looked at the sleeping patterns of this age group with the help of his Munich Chronotype Questionnaire.

“We can show that the famous lateness of teenagers is a real thing. They get later through childhood and puberty and reach a point of lateness at 19 and a half for women and 21 for men. It was so clear it was astonishing.

“Our database has over 200,000 participants. We are hoping for a sleep map of the world.”

Mary Carskadon, a professor of psychiatry at Brown University in the US, is campaigning for schools to start later.

“School grades don’t get always higher but for me one of the most important aspects of sleep loss is the issue of depression and sadness and lack of motivation of kids.

“The moods improve when schools start later.”

But not many schools around the world have chosen a later start time.

After all, most people do fit in with the working day, although they may be suffering from exhaustion.

Social jet lag

Prof Roenneberg has a catchy way of describing and measuring the sleep deprivation many suffer during the working or studying week, when we rely on alarm clocks to get us out of bed.

He calls it social jet lag.

He finds that the middle of people’s sleep on work days is usually earlier than that on free days. The difference is their social jet lag.

“On average people accumulate one to two hours of social jet lag, though some can get up to five hours, particularly in the young, who still have to get to work at the same time as older people,” says Prof Roenneberg.

Having social jetlag is like flying from New York to London every weekend. And it’s harder to get over social jet lag than time zone jet lag.

But Prof Roenneberg says there are things we can do to overcome social jetlag.

“We should be changing work times and making them more individual to fit in with our chronotypes. If that’s not possible we should be more strategic about light exposure.

“You should try to go to work not in a covered vehicle but on a bike. The minute the sun sets we should use things that have no blue light, like computer screens and other electronic devices.”

Skin Basic Regimen

bath shower

Skin Basic Regimen

From the age of 30, we start to see visible changes to the skin.  At this time a good skin regimen should now be in place.  Gone are the days that you leave your make up on to go to bed, when too tired to do the basic cleansing.

Dryness of the skin begins to appear which means wrinkles are hard on its heels.  Pores are more enlarged.  Skin colours are less vibrant nor supple.  Capilliaries break out.

But having said that with proper care, we can delay the signs of aging.

Here are some of the basic skin care:

Hydration – ensure to drink lots of water; at least two litres a day.  Water flushes out the toxins.

Exercises – it has been found that regular exercises has some therapeutic effects on the body.  The more you exercise, the faster the skin heals itself.

Stop the Stress – Relax; stress makes the skin sag.  It gives you eye bags for starter.

No to Smoking – Next to the punishing effect of too much sun, smoking is aging to the skin.  Smoking can take away your healthy colour, leaving you rather gray.  It also gives premature aging along the mouth and lips; constant pursing of the lips to inhale and exhale a smoke can effect wrinkles.

Sleep – It is when one is asleep that the cells repair themselves.

And the most basic regimen is to CLEANSE, TONE AND MOISTURISE.

DID you know?

The ideal time to moisturise is after having a bath or taking a shower.  Moisturising damp skin ensure that the moistures are locked in.

More skin regimen:

Before you shower, dry brush your body, everywhere you can reach, which a coarse loofah to buff of dead cells and at the same time stimulate your circulation and aid lymphatic drainage.

Secret to Good Night’s Sleep Revealed

Early to bed

Early to bed, and early to rise,
Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.


Below is such a beautiful, soul and spirit enriching article.

The life led by the Medical Mission Sisters is something which I find absolutely idyllic.  I like that they are in tune with Mother Earth and show respect for the environment.  I think, this should be the way that we should adhere to live.

Respect the Earth and its resources and they would look after you in turn as they have always done.

As to the Mother-in-law’s Tongue, I think I’ve heard something about this before but not pay much heed to it.  But now, I shall try to get the plant for the house.  I have had several tubs of the Mother-in-laws over the years but I just can’t seem to nurture and keep them alive.  They are supposed to be hardy and almost indestructable and needing minimal attention.  Well mine did not flourish.

They would get forgotten for long periods, sadly, and then when I do remember to water them, I tend to over compensate by drowning them. 🙁  And then they have the radiators during the winter and hot double glazing  windows  during the summer.  No wonder they do not thrive with me.

I have learnt my lesson and from now on I am willing to live with them side by side in a symbiotic existence.  They can have my CO2 emmissions and I shall glorified in their pure O2 offerings. LOL


Nuns’ formula for good night’s sleep: ‘Mother-in-law’s tongue’



Will your mother-in-law’s tongue lull you to sleep?

Well, it did for me. The secret of this “quaint” sleeping arrangement was revealed to me by a Catholic nun, my cousin Sister Mary Anne of the Medical Mission Sisters, during a recent visit at their farm called Haven for Ecological Alternative Living (Heal) in Villasis town, Pangasinan province.

Driving to Heal at dawn from Metro Manila were kindred spirits—Fr. Rene Javellana, SJ, Angie Salazar and daughter Jae Salazar Abaya and myself.

We entered the place’s main building through a thick curtain of lush vine with white purplish flowers cascading down the ground. We were introduced to the five elderly nun residents— an intergenerational community with the most senior at 90, three in their mid-70s and the youngest, 70.



“Welcome, relatives! But you look sleepy? I have a reliable sleep recipe for you, an old wives’ tale, really,” Sister Anne (Nelia Bellosillo) told us, now in a rather soporific state that very hot afternoon.

Alfred Hitchcock bomb

Like anxious fans of Alfred Hitchcock movies, we eagerly waited for that sleep formula to unravel. But Sister Anne was in no hurry as she invited us to freshen up a bit for a Holy Mass to be celebrated by Father Rene before lunch.

Sister Anne, in her mid-70s but still with a spirit of a tireless youth, is a sibling of Angie. While her feet are rooted in our home province of Capiz, the wings of her religious life have taken her to many countries: India for her residency for seven years; London, nine years; and shorter stints in Pakistan, Indonesia, Africa, Kenya, Malawi, Venezuela, Peru, Germany, United States and the Netherlands. Her religious life is essentially fired with a passion for Mother Earth.

Heal is where Sister Anne and four other nuns of Medical Mission Sisters (with mother house in the United States) live their simple everyday life. They nurture the soil, protect creation and prevent the further destruction of Mother Earth through eco-friendly living and sharing their vision for environmental preservation. Their vision is shared by others who attend their seminars, retreats or stay-in immersions at the 2-hectare model farm.

“We are senior nuns graciously growing older here, where we have a Creation-Centered Spirituality,” the nuns chorused as they served us delicious lunch of fresh salad from their garden—a  stew of organic baboy damo (wild forest pig), grilled fish and vegetables with their famous cold tea, which is a mixture of pandan (screw pine), avocado and calamansi. We also savored succulent fruits.

After a tour of flowering shrubs at their orchard, we picked macopas (wax apple) of the red and green varieties. Kasoy (cashew nut) trees had a profusion of fruits. The herb garden was invitingly fragrant, with herbs aplenty for culinary uses as well as herbal health remedies. The salad bowl area displayed several kinds of lettuce leaves and other greens … There were turkeys, negroid chicken (considered medicinal by the traditional Chinese) and pretty white-feathered fat hens you want to cuddle.

A most interesting area is where some worms that wiggled found themselves on young Jae Abaya’s brave palms. The nuns’ vermiculture farm applies the blue and red worms variety of composting—a rich fertilizer for their organic plants.

Finally, the cliff-hanger

As Sister Anne led us to Heal’s dormitory building, which houses seminars, meetings or retreats for groups of 40, she said she would finally share with us the sleep recipe. One plant conspicuously fenced the whole two-story building. She said: “This plant holds the secret of good, sound sleep. The plant’s name is commonly called in the vernacular as ahas or snake plant and is also called ‘mother-in-law’s tongue.’”

We all shared a chuckle at the imagery and metaphor. We examined the plant—also called Saint George’s sword in Brazil—closely, row after row. We actually felt rested lingering there for awhile.

Sister Anne instructed us to pot a mother-in-law’s tongue to place in our bedroom. “While you sleep, the plant inhales the carbon dioxide vigorously and exhales even more vigorously precious oxygen a person needs to sleep most soundly,” she said.

“Ah, love this,” we agreed. Terrific mother-in-law’s tongue!

Late afternoon, contemplating on the adventure and gustatory journey to our Heal destination, we thought of driving home. The sisters bade us farewell, with Sister Anne smiling broadly, sending us off with ripe macopa and kasoy, turmeric and ginger, brown rice and organic soaps. She reminded us: “Do take care of Mother Earth and Mother Earth will take care of you. Amen, amen!”

(Heal invites the public to join their programs—Earth Walk, Earth Camp, Eco Spirituality, Sustainable Agriculture, Waste Management, Introduction to Permaculture and Individual or Group Retreats. Sister Anne can be reached through her cell phone 0999-9976647.)

Sleep Stats

zombie-silhouetteSome lucky ones can nod off anywhere as soon as they close they eyes.  Some need help to go to sleep, resorting to pills, listening to soothing music, having a warm bath, spritzing lavander scent on their bedsheets, bedroom, some resort to hynotherapy, some need drink of warm milk, alcohol….

Sleep or lack of it, tells on our body and our health.  A study has found that lack of sleep or poor sleeping pattern can eventually lead to a greater risk of heart disease and diabetes.  Not too mention, poor concentration as well.

We are therefore rather fascinated with everything to do with sleep.  Here are some statistics to dream about 😉

Sleep Stats

According to a recent survey: –

86% of Brits said that they feel more relax when their bedroom has a fresh, pleasant scent.

64% of Brits agree that lavender scent is very calming.

42% of those surveyed agree that they get a good night sleep at night.

7hours and 20 minutes, an average amount of sleep needed to function best.

43% want a hot drink before bedtime.

30% of Brits sleep naked.

15 days worth of sleep is lost every year because of fretting and worrying according to a study conducted by Leeds University.


Did you know?

On average, we sleep off 30 per cent of our entire life.

Get a good zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Sleep Position Will Tell On YOU

If you want an insight into somebody’s true personality, then try to catch a glimpse of the way they sleep.

Scientists believe the position in which a person goes to sleep provides an important clue about the kind of person they are.

Professor Chris Idzikowski, director of the Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service, has analysed six common sleeping positions – and found that each is linked to a particular personality type.

“We are all aware of our body language when we are awake but this is the first time we have been able to see what our subconscious posture says about us.

“What’s interesting is that the profile behind the posture is often very different from what we would expect.”


To see the six positions studied by Professor Idzikowski


  • The Foetus: Those who curl up in the foetus position are described as tough on the outside but sensitive at heart. They may be shy when they first meet somebody, but soon relax.This is the most common sleeping position, adopted by 41% of the 1,000 people who took part in the survey. More than twice as many women as men tend to adopt this position.
  • Log (15%): Lying on your side with both arms down by your side. These sleepers are easy going, social people who like being part of the in-crowd, and who are trusting of strangers. However, they may be gullible.
  • The yearner (13%): People who sleep on their side with both arms out in front are said to have an open nature, but can be suspicious, cynical. They are slow to make up their minds, but once they have taken a decision, they are unlikely ever to change it.
  • Soldier (8%): Lying on your back with both arms pinned to your sides. People who sleep in this position are generally quiet and reserved. They don’t like a fuss, but set themselves and others high standards.
  • Freefall (7%): Lying on your front with your hands around the pillow, and your head turned to one side. Often gregarious and brash people, but can be nervy and thin-skinned underneath, and don’t like criticism, or extreme situations.
  • Starfish (5%): Lying on your back with both arms up around the pillow. These sleepers make good friends because they are always ready to listen to others, and offer help when needed. They generally don’t like to be the centre of attention.The remainder of those in the poll said the position they fell asleep varied or did not know.Health effectProfessor Idzikowski also examined the effect of various sleeping positions on health.He concluded that the freefall position was good for digestion, while the starfish and soldier positions were more likely to lead to snoring and a bad night’s sleep.Professor Idzikowski said: “Lying down flat means that stomach contents can more readily be worked back up into the mouth, while those who lie on their back may end up snoring and breathing less well during the night.”Both these postures may not necessarily awaken the sleeper but could cause a less refreshing night’s sleep.”The research also found that most people are unlikely to change their sleeping position. Just 5% said they sleep in a different position every night.Duvet position

    Professor Idzikowski also found that one arm or leg sticking out of the duvet is Britain’s most common position, followed by both feet poking out the end.

    One in ten people like to cover themselves entirely with the duvet.


Pretty Bed Socks

Photo by JW Morton

Photo by JW Morton

Pretty Bed Socks

My honey hubby bought me these pretty bed socks today. I love them, they are so soft and dainty. Just the thing for bedtime.

My daughter in law, Stacey told me something that she read somewhere.

She said that to prevent incessant coughing in bed at night, dab the soles of your feet with Vicks vapour rub and then wear socks.

I tried it and it helped me. Funny that.

I like wearing socks in bed when the temperature is really cold like right now.

Warm feet make for a cosy night sleep. 😉