Thursday, January 23, 2014

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie. ALONE. GO to BED!

My son, as of late, has taken to sleeping on the couch. 

With our dog. 

Who smells.  Like a dog.  And now, so does the couch, the blankets, and my son.

(Okay, this isn't a couch, but they're all the time)

WHY?  You ask,  is he sleeping there?  And more importantly, why is this a problem?

He claims his mattress is old and uncomfortable.  He wants a new one.

I think he just wants to sleep with the dog.

The problem is, now my DAUGHTER has started to sleep downstairs.  With the dog.  Not in her bed. 

I want my privacy back.

You see, the kid's rooms are upstairs, and ours is downstairs.  Lots of privacy.  NOT.  Because they aren't sleeping up there.  AND they're crabby because they're not sleeping well. 

Let sleeping dogs lie.  ALONE!

 Yes, I am a light sleeper. By light, I mean I need a completely dark room and absolute silence. I can hear a mouse fart in the wall. 
When I was an intern and resident, it was a badge of honor to be up all night long taking care of emergencies and putting out fires(Literally. Once. Another story).

I was not very good at staying up all night. Once, I  fell asleep holding a retractor when I was a student during a gallbladder surgery. I was on my feet pulling as hard as I could on the retractor and I fell asleep. I had been up the whole night doing EKGs and taking care of post-operative patients. That's what third-year medical students did then. We were scut monkeys.

We used a book like this.  It weighed 400 lbs in our short white coats. 

I had never heard the word "scut monkey" until I became a medical student. "Scut" is all of the work that  interns and residents feel is "below" them.

Scut included drawing all of the morning bloods, changing all of the wound dressings, doing the EKGs and blood gases, drawing the blood cultures, and starting IV lines. Scut was delegated to the students and the interns. The second and third year residents  slept and studied. We were to call them only in the event of an emergency or with a question that we couldn't figure out on our own by going to the library and looking it up.

(Oh SO many things have changed...for one, Library?  What library?  Go look it up on line, scut monkey!)

The head of surgery told me that surgeons should only need to sleep for two hours a night and should feel rested. "Don't go into surgery..."  was loudly implied.

I self-selected myself out of Obstetrics and gynecology. Those residents were sleep deprived miserable human beings and were mean to the medical students. They made the medical students stay up all night long watching the women in labor. I mean really Watching.  Sitting in the room with a woman screaming while she had contractions.  To punish us. 

That's when I discovered that I needed sleep. Lots of it. I needed eight hours of sleep a night every night, all the time. 

 I craved it and coveted sleep. I would sneak off to sleep in the afternoons, following my surgical residents advice, "EAT when you can.  SLEEP when you can.  And don't F*^k around with the PANCREAS." 

 I learned all of the following:

 drinking caffeine after noon disrupts sleep.

 One glass of alcohol  wakes me up four hours after falling asleep.

 Exercising within two hours of sleep is a bad idea.
Reading in bed or having a TV in the bedroom disrupts sleep, makes it hard to fall asleep, and trains the mind to think of bed as an entertainment unit

Having the room too hot or sleeping with pets disrupts sleep.

Keeping odd hours messes with me.

Odd hours are the bread-and-butter of being a physician. We are awakened at all hours by the phone ringing.
A phone ringing at three in the morning to me is just routine. The phone ringing at three in the morning for my sister means someone is dying.

(This is a gratuitous photo of David Tennant because he IS the best Doctor Who.  You're welcome. )

As a result of having all of these interruptions to my sleep, I got really good at relaxation and visualization  techniques. 

 I learned how to partition off that part of my brain that was going 900 miles an hour with racing thoughts and worries. It was survival. As a physician you have to learn how to shut off in order to function.

Doctors learn how to shut off the part of the brain that makes you PANIC when you see something totally GROSS.  You HAVE to in order to function.  SO, I used that to help me sleep.  I learned how to SHUT OFF THE RACING THOUGHTS.

Next blog, I'll teach YOU how to do it too.

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