Sleep(less) in Boston

It is my third time to visit Boston. This time I came to Boston to catch up on sleep.

No, I’m not saying that Boston is a sleeper city, for it is an exciting place to visit. Nor am I’m saying that it is a place most conducive for sleeping. In fact since we stayed in a hotel in the heart of the city, it was quite noisy, with all the cars honking and with loud police and ambulance sirens wailing. Added to that, we landed past midnight in Boston, contributing to my sleepy predicament.

Why I came to Boston is to attend a conference to catch up with the current studies, trends and technology in the practice of Sleep Medicine. Honestly I nap a little in some of the lectures, so I literally catch up on my sleep too!

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theme poster of the convention

The science behind sleep has fascinated me since I was in high school, so it’s not a surprise that one of the subspecialty I pursued was on this field.

One of the fascinating sleep phenomenon that I wanted to learn more of are the Parasomias, which includes nightmares, night terrors, sleep walking, and more that goes bump in the night.

One Parasomnia is REM Behavior Disorder (RBD), in which people with this disorder reenact their dreams. Normally when we are in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage, a sleep stage when dreams usually occur, our muscles are disengaged and we are temporarily paralyzed, so we don’t move and act out our dreams. In people with RBD, for some reasons the muscles are not paralyzed, so they can kick, swing a punch, crawl out of bed, or even perform a complex activity while sleeping. Not only this put the patient in danger, but also the sleep partner.

One interesting fact I heard from one lecturer is that soursop which is a tropical fruit, or also known as guyabano in my home country, the Philippines, can potentially increase the incidence of RBD. I can almost read a headline news: sleeping wife punch husband, after drinking guyabano punch.

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opening session

Besides the medical implications, there’s also societal implications of people having poor sleep. These are also topics discussed during the convention.

Research have shown that birds can sleep, as half of their brain can go to sleep, while on long flights. But not humans. We need all our faculties when we are doing complex task like flying a plane. Though aviator Charles Lindbergh, the first man to cross the Atlantic on solo flight was awake for more than 34 hours when he accomplished that feat, nowadays we have instituted regulations for pilots limiting their hours of flying and assuring they have a sufficient amount of sleep in between flight.

Same principle applies with operating any machinery or driving any motorized vehicle. Studies have shown that a significant number of vehicular accidents are due to driver fatigue and sleepiness. For instance a sleepy driver can have a slower reaction time. A decrease of even 50 milliseconds in reaction time in hitting the brakes means 5 feet more before coming to a stop, and that can mean safely stopping or crashing, or escaping an accident or dying.

For the medical community, especially the ones who are undergoing residency training, there’s now an imposed 16 hour limit for a first year resident for continuous work. Beyond that they should be relieved, for they need to go to sleep. During my residency training in the mid 90’s, the limit for continuous hospital duty was 30 hours. This regulations though are not enforced to doctors after they are done with their training.

We as a community really need to change our opinions. Staying awake all night to study or pulling an all-nighter to finish the job has become a badge of honor. We view sleep as only for slackers. When we should view that those people who get adequate sleep, that is 7-8 hours a night, should be the ones commended. So no more sleepless in Seattle, or Boston, or New York, or Tokyo, or any part of the world for that matter.

Just like when you’re hungry, the solution is to eat. For people who are sleepy the solution is not more coffee or energy drink, but getting adequate amount of sleep. Of course if you have a sleep disorder and not getting a restful sleep then you need to see your doctor.

Sleep is important in so many levels. Not only for health but also for safety and being more productive. In addition, dreams come when we sleep, and life without dreams would be uninspiring.

From Boston,

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Boston Common (central public park in downtown Boston)

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(*photos taken with an iPhone)

For the Love of Marathon

I love marathons. It epitomizes the human grit and endurance. 26-mile long of pavement-pounding and grueling run. Though I have not run a marathon yet, I hope that someday I will be in one. I have run in three half-marathon in the past three years, so maybe I’m due for the full one next time.

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photo taken during my visit to Boston last year

The Boston Marathon is one of the more famous and elite races. You need to run a qualifying race just to even participate on it. For my age group (45-49), in order for me to be eligible, I need to have a previous time of 3 hours and 25 minutes or less. Really? I will be happy to finish it in less than 24 hours. Or maybe just to finish it, period!

But now this. The bombings in the recent Boston Marathon had saturated our news in the past couple of days. A day of celebration turned into a dreadful one. What a tragic event. What a senseless act of violence. My thoughts and prayers goes to all the victims and their families.

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Boston bombing (photo from CNN news)

Will this horrific acts of terror forever change our love for marathon? Certainly not! We will not be deterred. We will not slow down. We will not back down. And like the fallen runner in the photo, we will rise up on our feet, and we will finish the race.

I will continue to run. I will continue to train. I will continue to participate in the races. We will continue to have marathon events. We will continue to live our lives and pursue the things that we love. Running the marathon will not only symbolize our perseverance. It will also signify our defiance.

Run. For the love of marathon. For the love of freedom. For the love of life.

Pinoy Transplant visits Boston

Last week, I went to Boston to attend a conference to learn a new technology (which will be on a separate post). But as I learn the way of the future there, I also learned the way of the past, as we explored Boston.

Boston is one of the oldest cities in the US, and is very rich in history. It is the biggest city in the New England region. It was founded by Puritan colonists from England in 1630. During the 18th century, it was the location of several major events of the American Revolution.

Mix of old and new buildings. The building with a clock is the historic Old South Meeting House.

Built in 1729, it was the largest building in Boston at that time and provided a stage for the American Revolution. This is where the Boston Tea Party was organized that led to the revolution.

We hopped on a trolley and explored the city.

sightseeing trolley tour

We can hop in and hop off in different stations.

We also did a lot of walking, following what is known as the “Freedom Trail.”

Freedom Trail marker

The Freedom Trail is a red (mostly brick) path through downtown Boston that leads to 16 significant historic sites.

Following the Freedom Trail through Boston.

Boston has old neighborhoods whose houses and buildings dates back to the 16th to 18th century. These structures are preserved by the city, as owners cannot change their outside appearance, even though they can update and renovate the inside of these buildings.

Old tavern (est. 1795) and bar (est. 1826).

Trinity Church. One of the oldest and most beautiful churches in the country

Beacon Hill neighborhood. It has traditionally been the home of Boston's upper class.

street in bloom

One of the interesting area in the heart of Boston is Charles Street. It was studded with quaint shops and business stores. The street was lined with lamp posts dating back to the era where gas lamps were used. It was said that the city kept the lamps burning through the night and through the day, as it will be more expensive to hire people to light them at night and extinguish them during the day. These lamps are kept burning 24 hours to this day.

old Post Office

typical streetscape in Charles Street

These street lamps have been turned on for more than a century, even through the day, as part of the tradition of the city.

One of the revered names of the American Revolution is Paul Revere. He was made famous for his “midnight ride” (as in the poem of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow), alerting Colonial militia of approaching British forces. During the battles of Concord and Lexington, two lanterns were hung in the steeple of Old North Church, as a signal from Paul Revere to the Patriots keeping watch in Charleston that the British troops were coming by sea and not by land.

Paul Revere statue. In the background is the steeple of Old North Church where two lanterns were hung as a sign to the Patriots.

inside of Old North Church

This is Paul Revere's house. He already had eight children when his first wife died. He remarried and had eight more children with his second wife. This house must have been so crowded.

Here are the Massachusetts State houses. The one with the golden dome is the “New” State House. How new? It was completed in 1798. That’s hardly new at all! Before the current State House was completed, Massachusetts’ government was seated at the “Old” State House. Within the walls of that old building, where Samuel Adams, James Otis, John Hancock and John Adams debated the future of the British colonies.

New State House

Old State House. This is now a museum.

One of the oldest meeting place in Boston is the Faneuil Hall. It has served as a market-place and meeting hall since it was built in 1742. This building had been the scene of many meetings where Bostonians voiced their dissent against the oppressive policies of the British Parliament. Thus this building has been known as the Cradle of Liberty.

Inside the Faneuil Hall. It is still hosts graduations ceremonies, concerts, and oath-taking ceremonies for Naturalized citizens.

clock in the second floor of Faneuil Hall

In the middle of city, are a number of old graveyards. Many of the fathers of this nation were buried in this cemeteries.

me and my kids walking among America's forefathers

Granary Burial Ground, resting place of Boston's most famous sons, including Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere.

At the center of the city of Boston is the oldest park in the country, known as Boston Common. The park was created in 1634. It is almost 50 acres in size. Nearby is the Public Garden, which was created in 1837.

Boston Common

one of the monuments in Boston Common

ducks statue in Boston Public Garden

A different type of garden. TD Garden is the house of Boston Celtics, the winningest franchise in NBA.

Since Boston is near the sea, it has been known for its ports and harbor.

Old sea port in Salem. This harbor was the site of sea merchants from other countries trade their goods.

Site of the old shipyard in Boston.

Boston skyscrapers as seen from its harbor.

Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial bridge. It opened in 2003. So not all structures in Boston are old.

Harvard University. The cradle of the most brilliant minds of America. It was established in 1636, and is the oldest institution of higher learning in America. We visited Harvard when my daughter was less than a year old. Now, my daughter is 14 and my son is 8 years old. Who knows, maybe the next time we come here, we will be visiting the registrar’s office.

walking in the Harvard yard

They just celebrated their 375th anniversary. My alma mater, University of Sto. Tomas, celebrated its 400th year last year.

Harvard Memorial Hall. Erected in honor of Harvard graduates who fought for the Union in the American Civil War

Goodbye Boston. Until next time…….