Pardon the unexplained absence and the slow response to comments. I spent the last 10 days or so becoming reacquainted with what it feels like to be sick and tired.
Tired came first. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m prone to occasional bouts of insomnia. The good news is that I hadn’t experienced a serious case of it in a long time. Back in the summer, I finally went to see a sleep specialist. Among other things, he recommended I take a dose of melatonin about an hour before I intend to sleep. That seems to help. I’ve had a sleepness night here and there, but no consecutive nights of staring at the ceiling.
Until last week, that is. Since I’ve been dealing with this stuff my entire adult life, I know when it’s pointless to try to fall back to sleep after popping awake at 2:00 AM or so. I get a feeling like there’s an engine spinning somewhere in my body. Doesn’t matter how tired I am, if that engine is spinning, I’m not sleeping.
So on those nights, I accept reality, get out of bed, drink some coffee, and put in my programming hours for the day. I usually fall asleep after the sun comes up. Most of the time I’m able to sleep normally the next night, and I’m back on track.
But then there are those bouts of insomnia like last week’s … ugh. I go to bed exhausted after being awake most of the previous night. I fall asleep … then pop awake two hours later, with that damned engine spinning again. Oh-no … it’s going to be one of those multi-night versions …
I’ve had occasions when the engine started spinning because an idea got ahold of me and refused to let go. I’m okay with that. It usually means a multi-day burst of creativity and productivity. One of the best programming ideas I ever had came to me while I was asleep. I woke up thinking, Wait a minute … could that actually work?!
I went on a multi-day programming jag, sleeping an hour or two here and there. I’d snap awake thinking about the next bit of code and start programming again. The idea worked. It solved a problem that had been nagging my company for months. It was worth being physically tired.
But sometimes (like last week), the engine seems to start spinning for no reason. No Big Idea. No Big Worries keeping me awake. If I lie awake in bed, I’m treated to what feels like a non-stop conveyor belt of unrelated and unimportant thoughts. I find myself wondering, Why the @#$% am I thinking about that at 3:00 AM? It’s like my brain has decided to empty the trash after months of hoarding, and I’m forced to witness the process.
So I get up and work. Or get up and watch TV. Anything beats lying there and watching the mental trash go by. That’s what it was last week: a long stretch of being awake for no apparent reason, then a few hours of sleep. Another long stretch of being awake, then a little more sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat.
After five days of this nonsense, I decided I’d had enough and went for the less-than-ideal cure: I waited until 9:00 PM – at which point I’d been awake for 33 hours – and drank a bottle of red wine. That nearly always shuts down the random-thought conveyor belt. Then I’m able to sleep through the night. It’s not quality sleep, of course, but it gets me back on the normal-person schedule of sleeping at night and being awake during the day.
Unfortunately, I landed back in Normal Person Land just in time to get hit with a nasty chest and sinus infection for the first time in years. Dang, I almost forgot what that feels like.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I rarely get sick since adopting a good diet. Mentioned? Aw, let’s be honest: I like to brag about it. Some bug goes around, co-workers and acquaintances start dropping like flies, and the most I usually get is a sniffle for a day or two.
“Where’s Joe? He’s been out sick all week? What about Deborah? She’s out sick too?”
Well, that probably wouldn’t happen if they’d stop eating that nasty sugar and flour, he thought to himself, turning up his nose a bit.
Perhaps my immune system was weakened by several days of too little sleep. Or perhaps the universe decided to provide a lesson in humility by reminding me I’m not invincible. Whatever the reason, I ended up spending the next several days hacking and coughing and sneezing and dripping and generally feeling as if someone had stuffed a gallon of gooey stuff into my skull. I managed to put in my programming time working from home, but as soon as the workday was over, all I wanted to do was vegetate in front of the TV before bed.
I still don’t feel normal, but at least I had the energy to drive to the office today. I can tell I’m on the mend.
So that was my week. How was yours?