Blazing flash of the obvious… and now I need a nap


I used have this running joke I’d use in blurbs on the web site. The idea was centered around a concept I called a blazing flash of the obvious. In an old “A Momentary Lapse…” column, I introduced it this way:

I have a new phrase I’m going to be using, B-FOTO. Stands for Blazing Flash Of The Obvious. These are moments where people make comments or write things that in no way, shape or form need to be said. The idea is just so incredibly obvious that to say it makes people question your intelligence. And yet, some individuals, straight-faced and serious, still say them. Here are two examples…

My wife and I were looking to re-finance our home recently. I happened to be on-line, and found some information on consolidation, and since it was free, I ordered it. When it arrived, one of the booklets was on credit cards. Guess how you help yourself get out of credit card debt? Apparently you stop using the credit cards, pay cash for stuff, and if you don’t have the cash available you don’t buy it. Your credit card bills should go down.

Thats it. To get yourself out of credit card debt, dont use credit cards.

I wish I was making this up.

Here’s another…

Earlier this week Jean-David Levitte, France's ambassador to the United States, was quoted as saying that “If Saddam Hussein were to use chemical and biological weapons, this would change the situation completely and immediately for the French government.” Let’s see… Iraq said they don’t have any weapons of mass destruction. The position of France was that the United Nations’ inspections were working and should have been given more time. But now that the U.S.-led attack has begun, if Iraq uses these weapons that they don’t have, France would rethink its position.


They would?

B-FOTO is gone. I haven’t used it in a while. But the concept is alive and well. Stupid people doing stupid things earning a collective reaction of nothing. Come on… do any of you really need to be told that the way to get rid of credit card debt is to not use them and pay them off? Do we really need to hear that France would change its mind if what they contended was inaccurate was proven differently?

We deserve better than that… we deserve a bit more respect. And yet…

Alright… well… here we go again with another brilliant and current example. The BBC is reporting that lack of sleep can be harmful to your health and alter your brain activity. (That’s why the idea is in this column folks… it’s hardly a stunner. But wait… it goes on.) In fact, not only do lab rats deprived of sleep have a different make up of chemicals produced in their body, but it took a week to restore normal sleep patterns and another week on top of that to return the body to its normal production.

Think about that for a second.

Got it?

Ok… let’s review… it is possible that if you were deprived of sleep for 72-hours, your body would, physically, act differently. (Yes? So far, so good.) And, if you were allowed to return to a normal sleep pattern after being awake for 72-hours, it might take you a week to get back into a routine. (Fair? Good. Moving on…) And, even after returning to a normal sleeping routine, your body might need some more time to get back into doing the things it does.

For a very reasonable price, and Princeton University making the effort of calling me, I could have told them roughly the exact same information and saved them a ton of money and time.

Princeton: “Hi Bob. Thanks for helping out. Question number one: If we kept you awake for 72 straight hours, would you behave differently in hours 60, 65 and 70 than you do in hours 4 and 5?”

Me: “Absolutely.”

Princeton: “And do you think your body would be producing different chemicals and such?”

Me: “Yeah. No question. My appetites change when I stay up for 18 to 22 straight hours. I get that cola-burn in the pit of my stomach. I’m sure after 36 or 48 hours, I’d be eating differently, and my body would be breaking it down differently from lack of rest. So yeah, I bet my blood work would be out of whack and there would be some strange stuff going on after three days.”

Princeton: “How long would it be until you got back to a regular sleeping routine?”

Me: “At least five days. See, on days one and two, I would try to regain the 24 hours of sleep I lost over three days of being awake. But that never works, because as we all know you really can’t go chasing after sleep. So for two to four days I’d be kind of lethargic and out of it. By the way, what days are you keeping me awake? I wouldn’t want to miss My Name is Earl or The Office, so depending on what I have to do while getting back into my routine, like catching up on television or the news that I missed while sleeping, it might take an extra day or two while I try to get some important stuff done that I can’t reschedule. Let’s say a week.”

Princeton: “Wow. A week. Do you think everything would be back to normal after that week?”

Me: “Actually, no, probably not. It’s been a week since the Super Bowl and I still can’t look at the leftovers in the freezer without shuddering. And those are all of my favorite snack foods. I can’t believe that everything would be right with me after trying to get back into the rhythm of regular sleep for seven days. Hey, did you guys ever hear about a study on habits? I think they said it takes like 21 days of repetition to turn something into a habit. I would think that if creating a habit involved adjusting your body, this might be along a similar line of thought since you disrupted everything and then have to get it started again. I don’t know, maybe you could take some of their research.”

Princeton: “Hmm… ok. Maybe we’ll check into that.”

I figure the conversation would have moved along on those lines. How long did that take? Three or four minutes?

Hey, forget calling me. Just ask someone that has flown a great distance… say like when I flew from Rhode Island to Australia. Change the hours of the day and also force me to try and sleep on a sold-out plane… you’ll have me messed up. So this research could have been wrapped up just by interviewing people with jet lag.

The funny thing is… when you read the article itself they say something I found interesting (well, sort of)… evidently they were trying to figure out why people are stressed, cranky and seem to have decreased abilities when functioning with lack of sleep.

Here’s what Dr. Neil Stanley had to say: “It is an interesting finding. It would be interesting to see if partial sleep deprivation - getting a little bit less sleep every night that you need - had the same effect.”

(I don’t think he’s kidding. Ok, they didn’t ask, but I’ll offer…)

The answer is yes.

Ask anyone that has brought a baby into their home whether or not they feel that even a slight amount of sleep deprivation changed the way their body felt.

Heck… I’m still going crazy with Molly, our St. Bernard puppy. She’s cute and adorable and all… but also a royal pain in the tush when Justin wakes up in the morning, turns on the light in the hall and lets her know someone else is awake that she could be playing with instead of sleeping in her kennel at the end of my bed.

So I’d be more than happy to tell these folks that while possibly not to the same extreme, absolutely it has an effect.

Could someone have Dr. Stanley give me a call?

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