Wednesday, November 2, 2011


"Hello, my name is Jen, and I'm a sleep addict."

Okay, that's a bit of hyperbole, but those who know me well will testify to my lifelong love of sleep.

When I was a kid on Christmas morning, my siblings would try to wake me to go look at presents.  I always grunted at them to "go away;" after all, the presents would still be there after the sun made its appearance.

The thought of staying up all night studying or working on a paper remains incredibly distasteful to me, so in high school, college, and grad school I was one of those annoying students who plotted out study and work plans far in advance to avoid such a scenario.

The first "all-nighter" I ever pulled was in medical school on a third-year rotation call.  I knew that interrupted sleep was a given in a medical career, but I didn't realize until I had to do it how hard it was (for me, anyway).

I learned along the way that my devotion to sleep is a bit of an aberration, at least among docs; while my residency classmates were guzzling coffee on post-call Saturday mornings to attack the weekend with their freedom, I was crawling into bed with a sleep mask to block the sunlight escaping through my bedroom blinds. Their gentle teasing about my need to rest would echo in my mind as I drifted off into that deep, dreamless sleep of the over-tired.

As an attending, I still dread that awful beep-beep-beep-beep of the pager in the middle of the night.   I don't wake easily (my alarm clock's snooze button is rickety with overuse), and I hate being jerked awake.  To be of any use to the residents who page me, I have to crawl out of my bed, lumber into another room, and snap on a bright light before picking up the phone.

I accept this sacrifice as a career necessity; after all, patients don't only get sick between 6 am and 10 pm, and the residents I work with depend on me to guide them through their nocturnal adventures.  I am not trying to escape the responsibilities of being an academic family doc.  To be honest, part of me wishes that I was tougher, that the sleep interruptions didn't bother me so much.

The other part of me, though, wishes that sleep had a little more respect.


  1. Sleep is an issue for me as well. I do like my sleep but I have issues not sleeping well or getting enough. I think my sleep was permanently changed by my medical training. I wake up easier and more. I can survive on less sleep, for a while anyway. But, it doesn't mean I don't miss it. Parenthood took a chunk out of my sleep as well. Sigh.....The quest for rest......

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