Healthy Obsessions The Adventures of a Mild Obsessive Compulsive

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Sleep That Knits Up the Ravelled Sleeve of Care (with charts!)

I promised you a sleep chart, and here I deliver unto you a sleep chart.

I made several decisions with this sleep chart that might not, at first, make obvious sense. Like, for example, starting the week on a Wednesday.

Sleep Chart 11/14/07 - 11/21/07

(Here it is in PDF: Sleep Chart 11-14-07 — 11-21-07-1. Clean templates are at the bottom of the post)

To tell you the truth, I don’t remember why I did that. I know I had a reason at the time, and it seemed to be a good one. Possibly because I wanted to show how far my sleep wandered between Thursday and Tuesday (seeing as I normally taught Thursdays and Tuesdays).

The other potentially less than obvious choice was the way I arranged the hours. The top of each column starts with 12 pm, so we have the day change (aka night time)  in the middle of the chart. I wanted to show my sleep patterns, and the best way to look at those seemed to me to have the time in which I ought to be asleep showcased as a solid block.

I made the night time hours a darker blue and the daytime hours pale blue, so I could tell at a glance if I was sleeping at the appropriate time of day. Green was for when I actually slept.

My ideal sleep pattern.

In a “normal” pattern, like the one to the left here, the green would have been closer to the center of the chart. That’s pretty much my ideal pattern.

In my actual pattern, well, the green kinda slops all over the place, filling up morning hours and dripping over into the afternoons some days. Except, of course, for the days when I had to be up in time to teach or hold office hours. In which case, those green sections are looking sadly anemic. (Four hours! Can you imagine being coherent enough to rein in a classroom of resentful 18 year olds on four hours of sleep? Gah.)

The one yellow block in my actual chart  is to indicate restlessness. The white block in the middle of the green indicates me being stuck awake for an hour. When I used an alarm to wake up, I wrote that down. When I took a medication, I wrote that down. When I got up to go to the bathroom, I wrote that down, too (bw = bathroom waking).

And here’s the addendum to that chart, which I kept on the same page.

Sleep Chart Addendum

I kept track of my hours of sleep debt at the bottom there. That week adds up to 10.5 hours of sleep debt, assuming 8 hours of sleep a night is the norm. It’s no wonder my charts made an impression on my doctor – they made it pretty clear that my sleep was crap.

If you’d like to try charting your own sleep, feel free to appropriate my templates. Or improve on them. Just, if you improve on them, please give me a copy, too!

As a side note, I realized while working on this entry that the date I’m referring to on Sat-Sun was my second date with my boyfriend. Kind of cool.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Data

When I say I love data, I don't meant this Data. Although I do love him, too.

You know that line about cleanliness being next to godliness? For me, it’s the collection and organization of data that is next to godliness. Except my version isn’t quite as catchy. I have this underlying belief that by collecting information, and organizing it, and presenting it correctly, we can figure out almost anything. (In my universe, God is a statistician). I can’t tell you how much I wish I’d taken statistics in school.

So, when faced with seemingly endless exhaustion and no solution for it several years ago, I started tracking my sleep.

I’d already gone to a doctor and asked for help figuring out why I was always so tired. She ran a blood test to check if I was anemic and then told me, “You’re just depressed.” Which was pretty, well, depressing. Looking back now, I wonder why she didn’t at least run a thyroid test (not that it would actually have helped, but at least it would have been more thorough). The thing is, I knew I was way more tired than I ought to be. I was 25 and needed more naps than my 85 year old grandmother.

I knew that I had a wonky sleep schedule, staying up until somewhere between 2 and 6 am and then sleeping as late as I possibly could whenever I had the chance. Which, considering that I taught two days a week and then graded or lesson planned the rest, meant that I did that the majority of the time. But then those two days when I actually had to get up and go somewhere and be vaguely alert and coherent were excruciating.

This is what exhaustion looks like, only far cuter.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to get to sleep earlier, it was that I couldn’t. I would lie in bed, unable to fall asleep, and then give up and read a book. Or grade papers. Or write. Or IM with friends on the other side of the planet.

I began keeping a sleep chart, to actually track when I fell asleep, when I got up, and how I felt during the day. (I’ll see if I can find a copy and post it here, later.)

I also began reading The Promise of Sleep by William Dement, which had been a gift from an ex-boyfriend of mine.  (That ex had been more worried than I was about my ongoing exhaustion. He was certain I had a sleeping disorder long before I was even willing to consider it.)

Reading that book, and looking at my own sleep patterns, it seemed pretty clear that I had what’s known as Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. Which simply means that my body wanted to go to sleep at the wrong times. My circadian rhythms were off. The book also talked about several potential treatments, most of which would require prescriptions.

Unsurprisingly, I was pretty wary of going in to a doctor and and asking for help with my exhaustion again. So, I prepared. I actually called up a friend who worked in a military think tank to go over my approach. I wasn’t going to ask for any specific medications (hello, Ambien!). I wasn’t going to tell him what I thought I had. I was simply going to present facts. Then, if necessary, I would present my argument. I gathered together several weeks worth of sleep charts, with the times I’d been asleep highlighted in green.

I went in to my new doctor (you didn’t think I was going to stick around with the lady who told me I was just depressed, did you?). I presented the evidence. He looked at my charts in silence. He looked up at me. “All right,” he said, “I have to confess. I need you to show me how to read this.”

I showed him. He looked at my charts again, and began exclaiming. “What? You don’t get to sleep until after 2 am? You never get to sleep until after 2 am! No, no, no. This is too late. We need to do something about this!”

He ran off, grabbed me some samples of Rozerem (which, I’m sad to say, turned out not to work for me), and told me to call him in two weeks and let him know how it was going. If it wasn’t going well, I was to come back in and we’d try something else.

And that was how I discovered that I could use my OCD need to track data to get myself decent medical care.