Self Caring

I Was So Sleep Deprived, That I...

Last updated: Jun 16, 2010

Contre-Jour: Yellow flower 3

Quick: How many hours of sleep did you get last night? Most of us wouldn't think about going without coffee, or chocolate, or gas in the car, but we scrimp on sleep all the time.

For some caregivers, sleep is disrupted by a relative with Alzheimer's or another dementia who has sundown syndrome, wanders, or has other disturbed sleep patterns. For other caregivers, sleep is sacrificed because there simply aren't enough hours to attend to everything. When something's gotta give, "something" winds up being bedtime.

Enter sleep deprivation. For the last two high-stress weeks straight, I've averaged five or six hours a night, every night. (And believe me, I'm a devoted eight-hour sleeper.) So I can attest to work of the fine members of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS), who last week at their annual meeting presented a slew of research on the perils of sleep deprivation.

Picture me last Thursday, pushing my cart around Costco, attempting to squeeze in one last errand (buying a new iron) during the 45 minutes my son will be at a music lesson nearby. While I shop, I'm conducting a business call. Did I mention the dozen other errands I'd already run earlier that day? Did I mention the sleep deprivation?

Imagine my surprise when, at the checkout counter, I notice I have bought Bounty paper towels instead of the cheaper store brand I usually reach for. Hmmm. I'm sure I'd picked the Kirkland's, but oh well.... What's this? Blueberries? I don't remember buying those, must've been that phone call...Wait! Diapers? Animal crackers? Where are my steel-wool scouring pads? Where's the nice new iron?

Oh jeepers. It finally dawns on me that somewhere in the vast warehouse aisles (maybe around the paper towels) I made off with another shopper's cart. And blithely proceeded to fill it. Meanwhile, a disappointed Bounty buyer with a baby is perhaps chewing out an older child for tossing in steel-wool pads, an iron, wheat bread, et. al. By now running late, I came home without the one thing I went in for!

Lack of sleep makes us do dumb things. I know I'm a worse driver without sleep. My bookkeeping gets slipshod. I forget garbage day. (Big mistake!)

Just last week, sleep researchers at the APSS conference also reported that sleep deprivation raises your risk of dying. Swell. On the other hand, maybe sleep is overrated: Sleeping eight or more hours a night is associated with incidence of greater metabolic syndrome, they also said.

At any rate, we have plenty of sleep-deprived company. Almost one in five adults in the US suffers moderate to excessive daytime sleepiness, a Stanford researcher reported at the meeting. (Check out the 10 biggest sleep problems and how to fix them.)

How nutty does sleep deprivation make you? Lose any Costco carts lately -- or worse?