Yesterday’s blog was late because I had another turn spending overnight at a sleep clinic. Monitoring my circadian rhythms threw me off the rhythm of my everyday life. My daily biological clock and my writing performance went out of synch.
The most frequent response to my blog has not been about the content. I have not received a note that goes along the following line: "That`s terribly boring deep shit; shouldn`t you get treated for logorrhoea?" I have received a number of encouraging positive responses. But the most frequent one has been about the frequency itself, and the quantity of words. "Don’t you ever sleep? How do you get so much done?"
Today, I offer a brief answer. I have a type of sleep phase disorder.
The condition presents itself as follows:
a) I sleep a shorter numbers of hours during the night (currently an average of 4.5 hours);
b) I get sleepy during the day, particularly around noon and 4:00 p.m. A brief 10 minute nap at those times solves the problem of sleepiness;
c) I can fall asleep at odd times. I was elected Chair of the Senate at York University years ago, and one of the reasons given for nominating me was that if I was chair, I could no longer fall asleep in the back row — as I was wont to do;
d) Sometimes it is embarrassing when I am introduced to someone new at a bad time for my sleep rhythm and the person introducing me does not know I have the disorder. I fall asleep in front of the person to whom I am being introduced. My host is far more embarrassed than I am since I am accustomed to my condition; the person to whom I am being introduced becomes either angry or bemused;
e) If someone gets angry at me to my face, a chemical reaction is set off and I go to sleep. If they were angry before, can you imagine the reaction when I go to sleep?
f) When I wake up, I am instantly wide awake and am usually working at my desk within a few minutes;
g) I very rarely dream before I wake up since my sleep rhythm shows I go from a very deep sleep to a wide awake state in a very short time;
h) When I lie down, I am usually asleep in a minute or two and quite often in 10-15 seconds.
i) I absolutely hate being woken up; if that happens, my normal easy going nature disappears;
j) I have apnea; this means I stop breathing 1-3 times per minute for a second or two, though at some exceptional times it can occur more frequently in one minute. This occurs both when I am awake and when asleep, but it occurs more frequently when I am asleep;
i) My apnea, which can be bothersome at first to others, is not even noticed when people get used to me;
j) Though the condition has been with me for as long as I can remember, I never became conscious of it until I was in my mid-thirties;
k) I have always considered that I have been blessed by this disorder, but in the last few years I have been informed that there are negative consequences;
l) For one, as you get older, you develop high blood pressure as a result of the shortage of oxygen as a result of the apnea;
m) As a consequence, I now sleep with a breathing machine and mask, a treatment which I resisted for the longest time. My doctors persuaded me to try it and, by golly, after six weeks of use, I am willing to go on one of those late night television ads, jump up and down and affirm that it works. I do get a better sleep;
n) There are sleep phase disorders, more formally circadian rhythm sleep disorders (CRSDs)