Wednesday, February 22, 2012

sleep and stress

My husband fell asleep during family home evening.  We were sitting around the kitchen table, playing a matching game and talking about prayer.  He rested his head in his hands, closed his eyes, and fell sound asleep.  I continued reading, explaining and asking the kids questions, trying to distract them from noticing that their dad was sleeping.  Every few moments his eyes would slowly struggle open and he would attempt to keep his eyes open with his forehead muscles.  But quickly they would close again.

It was painful to watch.  He was trying so hard to be awake.

He worked four night shifts in a row, has been using the GoLight Blu for his "blues," and is staying up late to study for boards, so his system is completely crazy and he is more exhausted than I have ever seen him before.  He woke up last night in the middle of the night, and has done this for a few days, completely awake, his mind and heart racing.

I think it is stress.

Everything is caused by stress... usually... right?

He slept for over 20 minutes, perched at the head of the table with his head fit snugly in the palms of his hands.  Surrounded with energy, excitement, and lots of talking.  Then, it was time for ice cream and peach cobbler (yes - homemade!  I know - thank you for all of your comments and encouragement to try more recipes!).  He woke up.  The sugar rush helped him keep his eyes open, but only for a bit.  He was snoring soundly in bed within less than ten minutes after finishing his last bite of dessert.

So, when people ask how residency is different than medical school, I would likely (today) talk about how it depends on how your spouse withstands long periods of exhaustion and huge amounts of stress, or maybe there would be no difference if your spouse can survive with less than four hours of sleep per night, on average, and is not easily or negatively affected by stress.

This is a very interesting article regarding recent findings about possible effects of lack of sleep: Fragmented sleep, fragmented personality.


From A Doctors Wife said...

My DrH can go crazy like that for about 4-5 days max and then the first chance he gets to rest, he will sleep as long as it possible. I know when he says he is going to go and study in the bedroom it means that he will really be sleeping next to an open text book. I couldn't do what they do.... I need my sleep and lots of it.

Life of a Doctor's Wife said...

Oh, my heart goes out to you and your husband! That kind of deep-seated, unavoidable exhaustion is so taxing to the system - not to mention to your relationship, to his happiness, etc. I hope his next rotation is much better!

Jamie Lamb said...

Those poor doctors...

When my husband is super tired (always), it's kind of fun because I can do whatever I want to him. I could shave his eyebrows off and he wouldn't notice for two days..which is a big deal, because his eyebrows take up about 3/4 of his face. I'm totally kidding, it's only about 1/4. :)

The constant lack of sleep is the main reason I'm so looking forward to the end of residency this summer. It takes its toll eventually, and I just want him to be healthy. I can't wait to "reclaim" my husband and fill him full of wholesome food (not hospital cafeteria goo), and see him finally get some decent sleep!

(I don't really shave his eyebrows when he sleeps, I just push his lifeless form over to the other side of the bed so I have more elbow room.) :)