A study published last week by the Journal of Neuroscience reveals that staying awake for too long kills brain cells in mice and could do the same in humans. While this isn’t necessarily a shocking realization, it’s the first study to definitively tie irreversible brain damage to the lack of sleep. This hit home particularly hard for me, as how was anyone expected to get any sleep this past week?
The saga surrounding the search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 dominated the airwaves around the world, and government officials held their press conferences at very Connecticut-unfriendly times, keeping me up at all hours. Was it pilot error? Piracy? Terrorism? The mystery surrounding the reasons for its disappearance was soon upstaged by rumors of its reappearance in the ocean. Constant sightings of “new potential objects in the southern corridor” has had CNN in “Breaking News” mode for almost three weeks now (despite offering little actual “breaking news”).
Still, I couldn’t turn away, not when CNN anchor Don Lemon was actually asking a panel of experts whether the plane might have been sucked into a small black hole. (Former Inspector General for the Department of Transportation Mary Schiavo put him out of his misery by explaining, “A small black hole would suck in our entire universe, so we know it’s not that.”) How could I lull myself to sleep when over two million people are participating in crowdsourcing attempts to parse through the satellite images for wreckage? Even legendary heroin enthusiast Courtney Love lent her vast talents to the search, posting the following to her Facebook page: “… its like a mile away Pulau Perak, where they ‘last’ tracked it 5°39’08.5″N 98°50’38.0”E.” She included a helpful satellite image where she drew a large arrow pointing toward what appeared to be the blue-ish part of the ocean.
As if this wasn’t enough, we actually saw a Stalin-esque Russian land grab occur right before our bleary eyes. In the space of a week, Crimea declared independence from the Ukraine and voted for Russian rule. Russian forces in unmarked uniforms stormed Crimean naval and air force bases as President Vladimir Putin signed a bill to absorb the contested peninsula into Russia. Then, in a nod to Cold War era bizarro logic, he bemoaned how Soviet Russia had been robbed of Crimea by … Soviet Russia. In 1954.
So, in reality, this is just Russia taking back what it had robbed itself of 60 years ago. I mean, who gets tired when watching such mental calisthenics?
The weekend belonged to the NCAA Basketball Tournament, however. As if March Madness was not exciting enough, Warren Buffet offered $1 billion to anyone who could pick a perfect bracket. Millions scoured the Internet for the inside scoop as visions of Tahitian retirements danced in their heads, but the dream didn’t even last through the second full day of games. Instead, we were treated to a series of amazing upsets as Cinderella stories kept us riveted to the TV. Even though many of those carriages turned into pumpkins by Sunday night, it was enough to keep most of us from getting any REM sleep.
The local sports scene was exploding at the same time as the state playoffs for hockey and basketball turned into epic struggles for supremacy. No sooner had Fairfield Prep bested Greenwich High School in the LL semifinal basketball game than I was racing to the car to check the progress of another instant-classic hockey semifinal between Prep and Notre Dame of West Haven. Hersam Acorn Radio’s own John Kovach and Rob Adams shouted themselves hoarse during the overtime thriller that sent Prep to the final. The rest of my weekend was spent following their calls on Twitter and radio as Bridgeport Central and Prep captured the state basketball and hockey crowns.
I’m hoping for a quieter news cycle this week because neither Courtney Love nor I can afford to kill any more brain cells from lack of sleep.
You can read more at RobertFWalsh.net and contact him at rob@RobertFWalsh.net or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.