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10 August 2010 / Liz Johns

If Humans Could Adopt Any Animal Trait #2 Hibernation

Okay, so some people love being awake, filling their days with all the enticements the world has to offer. Some people hop out of bed in a spritely fashion, eager to start the day, wondering hopefully what will unfold. Others, well, not quite so chirpy to see the day again and finding it just a little bit of an effort to grind through the daily requirements. The latter group (of which I am a long-standing member) do not bounce out of bed like they’re one of life’s yoyos, they prefer the seductive hug of the arms of Morpheus; they look forward to the bliss of falling asleep at night and are quite loathe to leave their warm, soft beds when morning arrives.

It is with this group of people in mind that I am recommending the human adoption of animal trait #2 – Hibernation.

Hibernation  regenerates and heals the body. Most of the body’s healing occurs at night. People are overall much healthier when they get enough sleep every night. Hectic, busy days combined with short, fitful sleep (a common scenario in today’s world), eventually wears the body down. Hibernation is the ideal solution. The body is given a long period of rest to heal itself – creating proteins to repair damage, removing toxins, cleansing the blood – leaving a fresher, healthier you.

Hibernation can help you lose weight. During hibernation, the body lives off the fat stored in the preceding months. Only the fat is used, muscle remains intact. The fat is used up slowly, because for warm-blooded hibernating animals, body temperature drops almost as low as the ambient temperature, so the body only needs to use a small amount of energy (from fat) every day. Hibernation offers a gradual, controlled weight loss creating a new, svelte you for the spring.

Hibernation lets you avoid the cold weather. The main reason that animals hibernate is due to the difficulty of finding enough food in the colder, winter months. Nobody likes the cold (do they?). It makes much more sense, to me at least, to sleep through the cold times. How lovely, no more freezing cold trips to the loo in the middle of the night. No more hurried dressing on a winter’s morning, trying not to touch your skin with icy fingers.

Hibernation calms your mind. The mind is always in a whirl. Thinking about things that have happened, that may happen, that will probably never happen. It’s tiring and stressful. Some people suffer from the whims of the mind more than others, but all of us to some degree or other are at its mercy. We need an escape route, and yes, hibernation is the way. The mind will slow its chatterings and we can be more calm and relaxed. By the time we wake up from hibernation, all those oh-so-important thoughts will have lost their hold.

True Hibernation v False Hibernation

In True hibernators, sleep is one, long, continuous mode. Body temperature falls to only a few degrees above the external temperature and breathing drops from several hundred times a minute, to one in five minutes. It is almost impossible to arouse a true hibernator. Examples of true hibernators: ground squirrels, snakes, tuatara, hedgehogs, bats.

In False hibernators (torpor), sleep is in a series of naps. Body temperature remains high and breathing remains normal. Some false hibernators wake up every few weeks, wander around, have a snack, before going back to sleep again. Examples of false hibernators: bears, raccoons, badgers, hamsters.

Hibernation for humans. If only.

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