As We Turn Back Our Clocks, Bears Prepare to Turn Theirs Off
Daylight Savings time was first enacted in World War I as a way to conserve coal, which powered electricity needed in homes and businesses. It’s been challenged of late with the argument that permanent, year-round time is the best choice for human beings because it more closely matches our circadian sleep-wake cycle. Either way, on Sunday we turned our clocks back and now have to adjust to sunset happening an hour earlier.
While we humans mess with our outer and inner clocks, animals in their natural habitats have no concept of “marking time”. They’re much more akin to seasonal changes, and for some mammals, that means they’re getting ready to head to their dens for the Winter.
WSU in Pullman is home to the country’s only dedicated bear research center, opened in 1986, it now houses 11 grizzlies on-site. They’re studying the bears and unlocking some of nature’s hibernation mysteries. Who knew the home of the Cougs was so bear advanced, too?
Quite a sweet piece that aired on CBS Sunday Morning, November 1st.
One misconception is that bears sleep the whole time they are in hibernation.
They actually have a fairly regular sleep/wake cycle while hibernating and, in fact, move around quite a bit throughout the months inside. They wake, stretch and reposition, and pregnant females will give birth while in hibernation.
One facet of the WSU study centers on how the bears get so fat leading up to hibernation, yet stay so healthy. In the lab they’re studying how the bears avoid diabetes, even with their massive weight, and they believe the answers could inform the health of diabetic humans.
A treatment for Type II Diabetes could be hiding in hibernation!
So as you settle in for the “dark days of Winter”, go ahead a sleep a little longer. It might be the best thing you could do for your health.