"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.