Dry July-Day Three- Epigenetics and Sleep

What does full throttle exhaustion feel like?  I don’t know for sure but I assume it feels a lot like I have felt for the last three years.  I’ve been constantly tired, that is until I would have a double shot of Jameson on the rocks.

My senses would perk up as I would hold the cold astringent liquid in my mouth for a whole minute before choosing to swallow; letting the taste of liquor bathe my tongue, the chemicals seeping into the porous flesh of my mouth.  Those sweet chemicals breaking blood brain barriers, causing synaptic sensations in my gray matter.

By the end of the glass, I would have an artificial second wind.

Maybe that second wind would lead to starting a new experimental project; maybe it would lead me to dancing in my dark back yard under moon light until I was breathless and sweaty, maybe it would lead me down some conspiratorial rabbit hole, maybe it would lead me to do some mundane domestic task that I had been putting off (like my own laundry.)

Either way I would chemically prop myself up, until I was tired again; falling into a sedated sleep, where I would lay still for hours.  To be exact, by “hours” I mean,  four hours.  Four hours for my body to metabolize the poison, and send signals to my brain and bladder to get up and get moving, urgent to purge the remnants of spent cells from my internal ecosystem.

I would wake up, quite easily,  but my brain and body both felt the neglect of real rest, so I would go to the bathroom, and crawl back into bed, where I would quickly fall asleep again, only it was a fraction of the quality restorative rest I needed and was chronically neglecting.  Maybe I could grab a nice three to four hour stretch, but when I got up the second time, my body and mind would both be dragging.

Every day I would have the same conversation with myself, ” If you just get up the first time, and get your day started, you could take a little nap later.”  

 ” Maybe if you didn’t go back to bed, you wouldn’t be tired all day.”

“But, I have a natural tendency to be tired at 6:30 am, I think it has something to do with the time of day I was born and my circadian rhythms.”

Interestingly enough, I might not have been wrong about my natural sleep cycles.

  February 6, 2016  livescience.com reported on this topic discussing genetics and it’s effect on our circadian rhythms.

“According to a new study by the genetics company 23andMe, the preference for being a “morning person” — someone who enjoys waking up early and going to bed early — rather than being an “evening person,” who tends to stay up late at night and desperately reaches for the snooze button when the alarm goes off in the morning, is at least partially written in your genes. Researchers at the company found 15 regions of the human genome that are linked to being a morning person, including seven regions associated with genes regulating circadian rhythm — the body’s internal clock. ”

Full article here.

When I was younger, in school, and very sober; I was on a schedule.  I had to be up early to catch the bus or be at school extra early for an event, or be at the pool by 5:00 am to open.  It was ingrained in me to never be late, in fact, ALWAYS BE EARLY!  And let me tell you, I was a pro.

When I was in High School, on Speech and Debate trips, sharing a room with three other girls; I would make sure I was up the earliest, in and out of the bathroom first and situated on the bus well before it was time to depart.  Mainly, I didn’t want anyone to get in my way, and I didn’t want to have to wait on people who were sluggish.  This is just one example of how I would adapt just enough to get by without conflict.

What no one knows though, is that I probably had the worst quality of sleep due to excitement for the next day, the fact I am a light sleeper and some random sleepy team mate is snoring next to me and stealing all the blankets.

When I went to Christian College for a semester, I didn’t have to be up early every day… so my schedule adapted to that.  I would stay up all night sometimes, trying to study; finally I would give up, go for a run around three or four in the morning and return just in time for the doughnut shop to open with fresh doughnuts.  Then, I would take that box of doughnuts back to the dorm and leave them for my suite mates.   (When everyone else was gaining weight, I was losing pounds like I never had before.)

Genetics testing companies are now capitalizing on areas of health, wellness, and fitness of individuals interested in making the most of their genes.  Companies like FitnessGenes®  and DNAFit are using genetic data to help people maximize the physical benefits of their unique genetic make up.  FitnessGenes® blog  assert that “Your Genes Are Not Your Destiny”    through a process called  “epigenetics”.

So though the DNA code is fixed, the epigenetics can be changed by outside influence.   For instance, a person with an active genetic marker to be a night owl, living in that schedule, will reap more benefit exercising later in the day than they will exercising right when they first get up.

These epigenetic markers can be influenced by what we eat; what our sleep cycles look like, the quality of our social interactions and frequency of exercise.  All of those activities send signals to our cells which effect the bodies rise and fall of hormones in the blood of the individual; so what may be good for the goose, might not be good for the gander.

I think it’s safe to say that alcohol consumption has an effect on our epigenetics.

 The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism   says  “Alcohol can influence gene expression, and specifically epigenetic regulatory processes that modify the activity of genes, through a variety of mechanisms. Some of these are related to the metabolism of alcohol in the cells, explains Dr. Samir Zakhari. In general, several metabolites, such as nicotinamide-adenine dinucleotide (NAD) in its oxidized and reduced forms, acetyl-coenzyme A (acetyl-CoA), and S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) serve as cofactors for numerous reactions in the cell, including reactions related to epigenetic DNA and histone modifications. Dr. Zakhari reviews some of the pathways through which alcohol metabolism alters the levels of these metabolites in the cells and how the changes in metabolite levels may impact epigenetic processes such as DNA methylation and histone acetylation. (pp. 6–16) ”

Well, shit.  What have I been doing to myself?  I have always considered myself smart, if not a bit rebellious.  I am starting to see very clearly that I have thrown my common sense to the wind in regard to this issue for far too long.

It’s is Independence Day, here is America… perhaps today is the day to gross myself out to the point of quitting cigarettes because I am sure it is negatively effecting my epigenetic expression, I think I might be ready to be the best I can be… I’ve gotten a taste of my own personal rock bottom and quite frankly I am over it.


Feel  free to leave your stories of how you notice outside influences effect your body and mind in the comments.  Give this post a like and feel free to share with your friends.

To read the other posts in this saga, click the links below. Cheers!

Dry July

Dry July- Day One

Dry July- Day 2- Eleven Facts






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