10 Hours of Sleep Keeps Me Healthy
Most people set an alarm to wake up. I’m fortunate — and grateful — that I’m not one of them.
For several years, I’ve been self-employed in music and writing. This means I rarely need to be anywhere early in the morning. My music students don’t trickle in until after school, and writing hours are flexible (usually first thing in the morning, but not before a healthy breakfast and tea).
So, typically, my day is structured in the way I live and work best. But Lord help us all if I don’t get enough sleep.
Without at least nine hours of solid rest, I transform from a well-adjusted human to a terrifying ogre. I don’t recognize myself, the words I speak, or my dark outlook. It’s extremely unlike me to snap at my family or friends, but if I’m sleep-deprived, that’s exactly what I’ll do.
“OK,” you might be thinking, “this is true for most people. No one is pleasant when they’re tired.” The difference is that I’ve been managing vasculitis for 17 years — exactly half my lifetime. Given this extreme intolerance to lack of rest and my immune system’s inability to function properly, I must take better care of myself than the average busy person. If I don’t recharge my physical batteries, my body stages a mutiny until I do.
And wow, do I feel it.
It’s practically down to a science these days. Miss one hour of sleep, and that’s two I’ll have to nap in the afternoon. Two to four hours of sleep loss means I’ll be fatigued for the next 48 hours. An all-nighter? No chance. The last time I did that was in college, to polish a final paper due for an 8 a.m. class, and I’ll never put myself through that again.
Lack of sleep not only affects my mood but also my physical strength. If I try to weight train without adequate sleep, I’ll need to lift lighter weights than I normally do. My appetite is inconsistent, too — usually I feel the urge to consume more calories, but sometimes I’m not hungry at all. It’s as if my body goes into survival mode, trying to conserve energy any way it can.
Some people might be inclined to down an espresso. But aside from the trace amounts found in tea, I gave up all caffeine years ago. No soda, coffee, or energy drinks. Only tea — black tea if I really need a mild jolt. By regulating my body and brain this way, I’m more in touch with what I need on a daily and even hourly basis, rather than covering the wound of sleeplessness with sugary Band-Aids.
I don’t take quality rest for granted anymore. In the early stages of my illness, I spent weeks in the hospital, where nurses woke me every two hours to take a blood sample. Not only did I suffer sleep loss, I also was rudely awakened with a jab to the inner arm. After those incidents, I’m grateful my waking periods don’t involve needles.
Over the years, I’ve managed to get good sleep by adhering to a rigid routine. This is easy with a husband who works at the same time every morning, and dogs who enforce our household schedule with feeding, walking, and bathroom times. (Animals’ internal clocks are incredibly reliable!) If I go to bed at 11 p.m., I can wake up naturally at 8 a.m.
Knowing my propensity for bad days when sleep-deprived, I must carve out time to close my eyes. It’s a great reason for self-discipline, which I might not have cultivated otherwise.
Every day, I juggle numerous aspects of my healthcare. But sleep is probably the biggest factor in feeling well and treating others right. If that foundation is intact, I can build on it with a fresh attitude and strong body, which help me address my disease — and life — with confidence.
Note: ANCA Vasculitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ANCA Vasculitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ANCA vasculitis.