[This post is part of my Medical Conditions Series.]
I suffer from insomnia. Or more accurately, Shift Work Sleep Disorder. Basically, my body wants to sleep from 5am – sometime in the afternoon (this has gotten progressively later as my other issues have gotten worse since being sick is f**king exhausting) despite all attempts to get me on a normal circadian rhythm.
I’ve always been a night owl. When I could set my own schedule (i.e. when I was in college, and when I worked at a start-up) my body gravitated towards going to sleep at 2am, and waking up around 11am. But when real life intervened, it wasn’t very hard for me to go to bed at 11pm and wake up at a normal time. For a while, anyway.
But when I became a parent, I took over the night shift watching the kids so that C could keep a normal schedule. And around that time, my cluster headache cycles were becoming increasingly frequent until they finally just ended up becoming chronic. My first line of defense for aborting cluster headaches is to drink a lot of caffeine. So in addition to deliberately becoming nocturnal for a while, I was also messing around with my sleep cycle by taking large amounts of caffeine at random times throughout the day.
As my testicular pain increased, I became more and more exhausted. I started sleeping longer hours at more random times. For a while it was completely erratic–I’d sleep for a couple of hours, then wake up randomly, then nap sporadically. There was no pattern throughout the days and I didn’t get any big consolidated blocks of sleep. Part of this was due to the meds I was on at the time, and part of it was a result of the increasing amounts of pain I was in and the chaos that meant for my body.
Now I sleep for about 12 hours a day on average, usually during the day, with interruptions to take meds, eat, and handle responsibilities (like taking the kids to and from school). But on any given day, I might only sleep a couple of hours, and then follow it up with 22 hours of sleep the following day. Some days I end up on a normal diurnal schedule, but most days I’m nocturnal. It’s not totally erratic, but it makes interacting with the rest of the world tricky from a scheduling point of view.