Antarctica. One of my bucket list trips. There is a fabulous tour with National Geographic on their ship. They provide all the outdoor clothing and any equipment necessary. You actually get to go on the continent for 2-3 days to view the incredible landscape and animals who live in that environment. It’s only $15,000 apiece. I play the lottery every week in hopes to raise the needed cash.

My husband took me to see a new documentary, Antarctica: A Year on Ice, yesterday. He hoped I would either decide I didn’t want to go or he would decide he was really curious and want to go with me.

The documentary shows the life of people for a full year on the continent. These are people who not only stayed and worked during the summer months but also elected to stay and work during the long winter months. The documentary followed about a dozen of the people. The interviews took place during the entire year. People who had elected to stay through the 6 month winter, revealed that they began to have memory problems several months into the darkness (total darkness lasts for 4 months).They said they couldn’t remember things or if they had done something or completed something.  They felt fuzzy-headed. They reported slowed speech and in some instances couldn’t remember what they were talking about or what they were going to say next. During the interview, you could see how they had slowed down and were grasping for words and thoughts.

I did a web search to see if there is any research on memory issues in darkened environments. I couldn’t find anything. However, I found one article that suggests that night shift workers are more prone to memory loss and lack of concentration.  According to Dr.B. Candrasekhar Reddy, neurologist at Mediciti Hospital, “this happens mainly due to disruption of sleep pattern. The circadian rhythm is controlled by the hypothalamus. If that is disturbed, whatever memory issues which are to be consolidated in the brain get affected.” The results are short-term memory loss.

“Memory reinforcement or storage happens during the night time. Sleep has got a lot of important functions, one of which is consolidation of memory. Whatever a human being learns during the day, he needs to have a good sleep at night to retain it for long. People who do not sleep in the night will have memory impairment in the long term. It also causes lack of concentration and other issues,” observes Dr. Sudhir Kumar, senior consultant neurologist at Apollo Hospitals.

So how would this apply to the workers in Antarctica? They sleep at appropriate times. It is just that their normal 24 hour day is all in darkness. Perhaps we need the light to cement what our brains accomplish at night and without this, the memory cycle is incomplete. It would be a good research project for someone who wants to go to Antarctica to study this. I’m sure that they would be happy for someone to do this.

But not me. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I still really want to go there. The movie increased my enthusiasm. But it also made me realize how happy I would be with only a 2-3 day visitation. Sometimes, less is more. And the idea of warmth and sunlight is too big an attraction for me to want to stay much longer.