“As the Boots Turn” #2, Sleep, Stress, and Number Two
At the end of yesterday’s episode, the hero of our tale had just paid a visit to the local watering hole. Feeling refreshed and generously buying a beer for the fella at the end of the bar, he left and headed off to deal with Number Two.
[cut the dramatic music with a screeching crashing sound effect; zoom in close on the face of our hero as he rides his trusty steed... ...Uhmmm... drives his Toyota Tacoma about the streets of Dallas Texas]
“It is “Number two on the LIST! you idiot! Cut! Can someone get the voice over guy a script!?!? Maybe he can learn his lines before the next take?!?! Sheesh. Ok, everybody back to their start positions! Quickly, quickly, we’re losing the light and we’re over budget!”
Doth quoth our hero and director and screen writer!
Those who missed yesterday’s episode of “As the Boots Turn“ and who want to catch up on the action so far, can find it here: A Disaster or an Opportunity? Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Resting, Sleeping, and Repairing the damage…
When my life changed so dramatically and I was no longer going into work five days a week, the thing that hit me like a smack in the face, was just how tired I was. We’re not talking “oh, I’m feeling a little peaked.” We’re talking a… …deep down, bone weary, crushing, I-don’t-want-to-move-a-single-finger kind of tired. Exhaustion in other words. Physical and mental exhaustion. The kind of thing where just getting out of bed seemed a formidable goal to achieve.
Over the past month, I have slept a minimum of 8-9 hours a night. The first couple weeks I was sleeping 10-12 hours each and every night. Finally, just this past week, the number of hours I sleep has leveled out to an average of 8 hours out of every 24, but occasionally I’ll sleep nine. Even with an average of 8 hours each night, I find myself taking afternoon naps and my sleep pattern isn’t regular yet. I feel very cat-like. Sleeping in shorter 4-6 hour chunks that can fall anywhere in a 24 hour period. Very strange, but not unheard of …
…It is called “Irregular sleep-wake rhythm“, which means sleeping at very irregular times, and usually more than twice per day (waking frequently during the night and taking naps during the day) but with total time asleep typical for the person’s age.
Nonetheless, despite this irregular pattern, I can literally feel my body getting healthier as I become more rested. The contrast in how I feel now and how I felt five weeks ago is stark, striking, amazing, and revelatory.
The Pain is Gone…
I’ve known for a while, really the past two years or so that I was tired all the time. Indeed, “I’m tired.” was my usual answer when someone would ask “Hey Tony, how are you?” I also knew I was stressed, but it was not until that stress vanished did I truly realize just how stressed I was!
Nor did I realize just how many horrible things were happening to my body because of the stress, including being tired all the time. The stress vanishing and the corresponding release in tension feels like pushing hard against a door only to find it unlatched and it swings open easily. Or like preparing to lift a heavy box only to find it weighs a couple of ounces.
Also, for the past couple years I’ve been having regular, almost daily, blinding tension headaches. My neck and shoulder muscles were in constant knots; people who touched them would literally express shock and surprise at how rock solid they were. I was having headaches so regularly which normal over the counter drugs couldn’t affect, that I actually have prescription medication for them.
And just before I lost my job, I had begun suffering from back spasms on a regular basis–two or three times a month. Now both the headaches and the back spasms are gone. Vanished. Puff! Since becoming unemployed, like magic, the knots in my neck and shoulders are gone and I have not had a single tension headache or back spasm in the past month.
The stress had me so mentally beat down that the slightest task seemed a herculean effort. Every task required intense concentration. Now, I’m literally bubbling over with ideas and plans.
Is that much sleep good for you?
Truthfully, I’ve been worried about how much I’ve been sleeping so I’ve been doing a lot of reading and here is the summary of how all that applies to me. I’ll put links to the original articles down at the bottom of this post, but the short answer is “yes, it is good for me.” My body knows what it is doing and I should let it run its course.
What’s going on is a combination of three things which can all be summed up by saying “I’m returning to a normal sleep pattern.” In other words, my body is demanding extra sleep in order to (1) repair the damage caused by chronic sleep deprivation, (2) deal with the accumulated stress effects on my body caused by my old job, and perhaps most importantly, (3) my body clock is resetting and establishing a regular routine. At my old job, I had a very a very strange schedule which made following a “regular sleep routine” extremely difficult:
Mon– 12:15 pm – 9:15 pm
Tue– 9:15 am – 6:15 pm
Wed– 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Thu– 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Fri– 8:15 am – 5:15 pm
Sat & Sun – off
…unless it was the weeks on either side of the third weekend of the month…
…then I’d take the Friday preceding the 3rd weekend off because I worked Saturday on the 3rd weekend. I’d work the Sunday on the 3rd weekend but the library was only open half a day (5 hour scheduled shift). Since Sunday was only five hours, I’d have three hours I’d have to “make up” so that I could take the entire day off on the following Wednesday. To do this, I’d add an hour to Sunday, Monday, and Thursday to make up the 3 hours to get a total of 8 hours “flex plus” that I could take off on Wednesday “flex minus” in order to avoid having to work Sat-Fri, a seven-day stretch. Or I’d have to take three hours of vacation.
Got all that? I thought not. Read it again if you really want to, but the point is that my work schedule was WHACKED and not anything like a normal 8-5 or 9-6 M-F schedule. Which meant that my sleep schedule was also WHACKED!
What I’m recovering from and what was happening to me at my old job even has a name. It is called “Shift Work Sleep Disorder.”
What time zone are we in?
Now, to this whacked up schedule, factor in periodic self-inflicted schedule changes and weekend swaps with other supervisors to accommodate my wanting to attend dance events which unfortunately happened to be on the 3rd weekend of the month and you’ve got a recipe for a body clock that doesn’t know if it is in Dallas, Geneva or Australia! Six years of working this schedule has fried my Circadian Rhythms. And my natural body rhythm was already out of sync from the “regular business world” to begin with! There is even a name for what I’m talking about: “Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders“
If I follow my “natural body rhythm” which is slowly being re-established, I go to bed between 1 and 2 am in the morning and sleep to 9 or 10 am. This is of course offset by a couple of hours from the “normal” business world. This too has a name: “Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (DSPD).”
The best job I ever had in terms of how well it meshed with my natural body rhythm was when I worked the 2nd shift at the University of Texas Arlington Library. I would come into work at 3 pm, work to midnight, get off work, go home (a 5 minute commute), piddle around the house, go to bed around 1 or 2 am, sleep to 9 or 10, get up, exercise, ride my bike, do the “stuff of living” and then repeat. That time period, coincidentally, was when I was at my fittest and healthiest. Check out the photo if you don’t believe me!
My ultimate goal is to adjust my “natural rhythm” so that I go to bed around midnight and get up around 8 am. That’s a shift of about two hours, which would bring me more in sync with most of the business world. Unless a miracle occurs, I still won’t be a morning person, but at least I’ll be up at the same time as everyone else. Making this two-hour adjustment, according to the articles I’ve read is achievable with planning, dedication, and patience.
It just takes time. Time which I now have as I take the reins of my new “job” which is “taking care of Tony and getting Tony fit and healthy”.
We’re still working on a shorter job title but hey the CEO of the company who hired me is a really nice guy named Tony and there is this cool Diva of a secretary who only shows up every once in a while to do battle with the dust bunnies. She has this awesome tiara and she always gives me some of her bon-bons.
Step by Step… Adjusting to my new *ahem* “job”
The number one task of my new-found self-appointed “job” is to get my sleep habits stabilized. Once once they stabilize and return to what I know to be my personal “normal pattern”, I’ll work to shift them by about two hours so that they sync up with the regular “business world.”
As we close out this episode of “As the Boots Turn…” we ask again that puzzling question which the hero of our show struggles to answer on his quest for knowledge: “Is the glass half full or half empty?” It seems, dearest viewers, uhmmm… readers pretending to be viewers, that the answer is likely to be “half full” but only time and more commercial breaks will tell.
Stay tuned and join us next time on “As the Boots Turn…” when our hero will find him faced with an episode of road rage…
See ya on the dance floor!
Related Links and Articles:
- I lost my job…and turned into a bear…kinda, sorta (txcowboydancer.com)
- A Disaster or an Opportunity? Glass Half Full or Half Empty? (txcowboydancer.com)
- Stress symptoms: Effects on your body, feelings and behavior (mayoclinic.com)
- Effects of Stress (www.stress.org)
- Job Stress (www.stress.org)
- Circadian Sleep Disorders Network (circadiansleepdisorders.org)
- Sleep and Circadian Rhythm Disorders (webmd.com)
- Sleep and Stress (www.fi.edu)
- Ways To Manage Stress and Sleep (www.manageyourlifenow.com)
- Relaxation, Stress & Sleep (www.dartmouth.edu)
- Less Stress, Better Sleep May Help You Lose Weight (healthfinder.gov)
- Shift Work Sleep Disorder – Topic Overview (webmd.com)
- Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep, National Institutes of Health (www.ninds.nih.gov)
- Sleep Disorders, National Library of Medicine [contains an extensive bibliography with links to tons of useful online information and articles on a wide range of sleep related topics] (www.nlm.nih.gov)
- What Are Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency?, National Institutes of Health (www.nhlbi.nih.gov)
- Understanding and Dealing with Stress (www.mtstcil.org)
- Getting Healthy is Complicated and It Takes Sleep If You Can Get It (txcowboydancer.com)
- Loosing weight is complicated and it takes time… …lots of time! (txcowboydancer.com))
- www.sleepapnea.org — American Sleep Apnea Association
- www.aasmnet.org — American Academy of Sleep Medicine
- www.sleepfoundation.org — National Sleep Foundation
- www.nhlbi.nih.gov/sleep — National Center on Sleep Disorders Research
- www.sleepeducation.com — Sleep Education from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine
- “Sleep on It” — a Podcast from the CDC (www2c.cdc.gov/podcasts/player.asp?f=5937977)