Monday, June 09, 2008

Time Warped

The other night I was looking up something on a health website. As health websites tend to do, it featured links to other articles the reader might be interested in.

"Ten Reasons Why You're Always Tired." Or something like that. Worth clicking on, since these days I get at least eight hours of sleep, sometimes nine or ten, but still feel drowsy by late afternoon.

(As for feeling bright and cheerful to pop right out of bed in the morning, let's not even bring that up.)

This article suggested that if it takes you a long time to get to sleep (as it does me), maybe you should rethink spending time in front of the computer or the TV just before going to bed. Sitting in front of the bright screen inhibits the body's natural output of melatonin, the chemical that tells you a) it's getting dark, b) you're getting sleepy, and c) it's time to get some shut-eye. Turn off the computer or the tube at least an hour before bedtime, and you should get to sleep faster and have better sleep.

Hmm, think I. There may be something in that. Night is my computer time, mostly, and I've noticed that I can sit in front of the screen for hours on end, feeling tired and tired and more tired, but not exactly sleepy. Could melatonin inhibition be keeping me awake? That, on top of the stimulus that's pushed into my brain by whatever I'm working on and whatever I'm picking up surfing the Web?

Very possibly.

So for the past few nights I've tried not going on the computer after 10:00. Which, given my habit these long evenings of working in my garden till the light is gone and then coming in to make and eat dinner, means I haven't come up to work on my computer at all. And so, no new posts on my blogs.

But tonight I thought I should post something. At least as an explanation. Even if it wasn't exactly worth waiting for.

There is one other thing, about this, however:

Two years ago I was having trouble with falling asleep in the middle of the day, sometimes when I was behind the wheel. My GP sent me to a pulmonary/sleep specialist. I'm sitting in the Great Man's examination room, he walks in, and without preamble says, "All right, who made you come see me? Was it your husband? Your boyfriend? Your roommate?"

I was surprised at the question, but I gave a straight answer: "I came of myself."

"No, you didn't," he said. "Nobody ever comes of their own volition. Somebody always makes them."

A bit (no, a lot) more of this from him revealed that he was convinced that every problem with daytime sleepiness is caused by sleep apnea, one symptom of which, of course, is snoring. He was sure sleep apnea was my problem, and once it was confirmed by the sleep study he was prescribing for me, he'd get me set up with the CPAP machinery.

I was permitted to get a few words in edgewise, and I mentioned that when I'd been working intensively on something (like a sermon), I found it hard to get to sleep afterwards, even when it was very, very late.

"Your work has nothing to do with it. Your subconscious mind is keeping you awake because it knows you're stopping breathing in your sleep and it's afraid of that."

At which point I began to wonder if he were getting kickbacks from the CPAP machine sellers.

Well, I did the sleep study and no, I did not have sleep apnea. The Great Man thankfully left the explanation of the results to a medical assistant, who basically told me, "Hey, if you're only getting four or five hours a sleep a night, you have to expect to fall asleep in the middle of the day."

But after seeing that website article about the melatonin-inhibiting tendencies of staring at a computer screen just before bedtime, I have to wonder why the Great Pulmonary Specialist was so tunnel-visioned as not to think of it.

I think it's worth considering, myself.


Anonymous said...

Because that's how Great Specialists are! Heaven forbid anything defy their diagnostic skills! Nothing is as accurate as their intuition! Etc. Etc. Etc.

I would have had a difficult time not walking out when he assured me I was there because somebody told me I should. What a jerk.


St. Blogwen said...

Yes, and the jerkiest part of it was his insistance that I was lying.

I well might've walked out, if I'd known at the time what torture those sleep tests are. And useless torture in my case, as anyone would have discovered if they'd conversed with me frankly about my crummy bedtime habits.

Sandy said...

He was a total jerk!