sleep and defiance

Oh, gosh, CNN is making everyone panic about sleep again: https://www.cnn.com/2022/11/08/health/sleep-deprivation-wellness/index.html

Don’t buy it. It used to be 8 hours. Now they are saying 7 in this article. SLEEP AT LEAST 7 HOURS OR YOUR BRAIN WILL MELT.

Nope. The media likes us to panic because it sells papers and gets shares. Don’t buy the hoopla.

After all, I took call at night for 30 years and my brain has not melted. (Ok, if you disagree, post your own blog, heh, heh.) Starting third year of medical school. Sometimes it was every third night, sometimes every fourth. We were often up and awake and working for much of the night and then through the next day. If we had to be ready for rounds at 8 am, we had to be there earlier to see the patients, check the lab work, check any studies, drink a gallon of coffee and then be coherent on rounds, where the faculty physician might quiz us about the nineteen causes of high potassium. Uh. Taking too much potassium is one. Kidney failure, diabetic ketoacidosis, etc, etc.

I made up the number nineteen.

Anyhow, I was a sleep rather than eat person. If we got a break, I would go to sleep and skip food. The bad rotations were obvious because my weight would drop. We’d meet for “nutrition rounds” in the morning. I would skip lunch, hoping to have it at home post call, but the list might have things added even as I ran around checking things off. At last I would stop for lunch at 2 or 3 or 4 because my brain was no longer functioning.

Doesn’t sound very healthy, does it?

Here is a post on sleep from 2015: https://drkottaway.com/2015/01/08/sleep/. I sent a copy to our sleep specialist and he liked it.

When I got my flu vaccination and covid booster a month ago, it hit me pretty hard. I am sleeping as I normally do at night, for 6.5-7 hours. But I also started napping, once or twice a day. I was sleeping 11 or 12 hours total daily. I canceled pulmonary rehabilitation exercise, because it wiped me out. I was starting to feel better after three weeks, so I restarted pulmonary rehab. I promptly slept 12 hours a day again and my muscles gave me HELL.

So what in the heck IS this? Well, healing. My body is knocking me out to do repair work. It’s sending a pretty clear message that running on a treadmill is not ok right now. My immune system is busy making antibodies and is saying HEY WE DO NOT HAVE ENERGY TO SPARE FOR ANYTHING ELSE. This is sort of annoying except that having had four rounds of really bad pneumonia, the last one requiring oxygen for a year, still on oxygen to sing and for heavy exertion, I am willing to listen to my body. It is annoying, but: my mother, father and sister are dead, so even though I am struggling some, I’m not dead. It’s all relative, right?

When I had pneumonia #3 (2014) and pneumonia #4 (2021), both times part of the healing is sleeping twelve hours a day. I went back to work six months after the 2014 one and promptly slept twelve hours a night. I was seeing 4-5 patients a day and could barely do that. I went into denial about chronic fatigue, but I knew I had it. NO WAY, I AM TOUGH. Well, I am tough, but that means chronic fatigue and not dead.

I do not worry about sleeping 7 hours a night or 8 hours. I sleep when I get sleepy. Naps are fine and one gets to relearn napping after age 50 or 60 and it’s ok. If you need to stay awake after lunch, have a small lunch and no alcohol. Alcohol is not good for sleep in the long term and neither is marijuana. Benzodiazepines are worse than either. Ambien and those drugs are approved for “short term” use, meaning two weeks. Great. We don’t know what it does if you are on it for years, but some of us note that those drugs are closely related to the benzodiazepines. I think the most addictive drug is tobacco, followed by benzodiazepines and then methamphetamines. That is from asking patients and observation over 30 years. There are individual quirks though, and I have had people say, “Alcohol is no problem but the first time I was given oxycodone I wanted more.” Sometimes there is a bit of denial in those statements.

The photograph is me doing my second sleep study last week. I scored. Um, or rather, it was a positive test. Sleep apnea, darn. I am now waiting for my bipap machine. The funny bit is that I had to drive an hour to the lab. I was supposed to be there at 8. I got there an hour early because I get really tired at night. The tech let me in and wired me up. “But,” she said, “you can’t go to sleep until 9, because I have another patient and they are not here yet.” “Ok,” I said. I read for a while in the chair, put my head back and (don’t tell) fell asleep.

She came back in, did the final connections and then left. There is a ceiling camera and a disembodied voice. We tested the connections. “Flex and extend your right foot.” “Now breath through your nose.” I did and immediately fell asleep. She woke me, “Breath through your mouth now.” “Was I asleep?” “Yes.” The wires didn’t bother me much, though I had to surface part way during the night to change position.

I’ve slept sitting up in hospital meetings. I fell asleep standing against the wall in medical school. It is really a blessing to be able to fall asleep.

The year my father died, I had a terrible time falling asleep. His will was very out of date, written 40+ years before. It was a mess. His house had 13 years worth of unopened mail. I used Jon Kabat Zinn’s Mindfulness Meditation tape to fall asleep. But I used it in a rather weird way. He has a section where he says “Do NOT fall asleep.” It was a body scan. I would think, hey, you can’t tell ME what to do, and I would always fall asleep during it. So there, Dr. Kabat Zinn. Thank you.

The pandemic is enormously stressful, not to mention all of the other things. You can still relax though. What relaxes YOU? Stupid animal videos? A walk around a yard or park? Dancing in your kitchen? Knitting? Reading your absolutely most boring textbook? Put the phone and the television and the computer away at least one hour before you want to sleep and preferably two hours.

And here, to relax you, are pictures of sleep: https://drkottaway.com/2018/04/30/zzzzzz/

Blessings.

Covid-19: caring for yourself

audio version, covid-19: Caring for yourself

A friend took his father to the ER in the next bigger town, sent there for admission to the hospital from the clinic. His father is in his 90s, has heart failure, and his legs were puffed up like balloons with weeping blisters.

They were in the ER for 13 hours, never given food though it was promised, the staff couldn’t even find time to bring a urinal and his father was not admitted. He was sent home. No beds. On divert.

Ok, so when should you go to the hospital right now? Only if you really really can’t breathe….

First, the emergencies. An ER nurse friend talks about “happy hypoxia” where people do not feel bad but have an oxygen saturation of 50%. I suspect that this is when their lungs really are swelling shut very fast. They will turn blue quickly. Call an ambulance. In the 1918-1919 influenza, soldiers “turned blue and fell over dead”. In Ralph Netter’s book on pulmonary diseases, he has a drawing of the lungs of a person who died from influenza pneumonia. The lungs are basically one big red purple bruise with no air spaces. So if a friend is goofy and their lips are turning blue: AMBULANCE.

The one in five hospitals that are 95% full or more in the US are now cancelling all of the elective surgeries: knee replacements, hip replacements, non emergent heart surgeries, all of it.

If you are not dying, do not go to the emergency room if you are in one of the totally swamped areas.

So how to care for yourself with covid-19? Like influenza, it is pretty clear that it either causes lung swelling or the lungs fill with fluid or both. With lung swelling you may be able to stay home. First take your pulse. If you have a pulse oximeter, great, but no worries if you don’t. .What is your resting heart rate? Count the number of heart beats in 60 seconds

If it’s 60-100, that is good. It’s normal. If it is 120 at rest, that is getting worrisome. If you are short of breath at rest and your pulse is over 100, call your doctor. If they can get you oxygen, you still may be able to stay home. If not, emergency room.

Now get up and walk. Do you get short of breath? Sit back down and again, count the number of heartbeats when you are sitting. If your resting pulse was 90 and you jump to 130 walking, you have lung swelling. Functionally you have half the normal air space and so your heart is making up the difference. How to cope? Well, walk slowly. Walk during the day, do get up because otherwise you may get a leg blood clot, but really minimize your activity. Now is not the time to rearrange the furniture. Also, you may not go to work until your walking or loaded pulse is under 100.

If your pulse does not jump up when you walk, next try walking loaded. That is, carry something. Two bags of groceries, a toddler, a pile of books. Go up the stairs. Sit down and take your pulse when you are short of breath or it feels like your heart has speeded up. I am in this category. My pulse is 70, oxygen at 99 sitting. Walking my pulse jumps to 99. Walking loaded my pulse goes to 125 and my oxygen level starts dropping, need oxygen once it gets to 87. I tried a beach walk without oxygen 3 weeks ago. I photographed the pulse ox when it was at 125 with O2 sat at 87. I still need oxygen.

The treatment for lung swelling is rest. This is my fourth time, so I am used to it. Some people will have so much swelling they will need oxygen at rest. If the lungs swell shut, they need to be intubated or they die. Suffocation is not fun. The other treatment is not to catch another virus or a bacteria on top of the present lung swelling. Wear mask, get vaccinated, put out the cigarrette, no vaping, pot is terrible for the lungs too and increases the risk of a heart attack.

With my four pneumonias, the first two made me tachycardic and it took two months for the lung swelling to subside. It sucked. Inhalers don’t work, because they work by bronchodilating. You can’t bronchodilate swollen lung tissue. The steroid inhalers might help a little but they didn’t help me. The third pneumonia took 6 months to get back to work and then I was half time for 6 months. This time I am five months out today and I still need oxygen. Darn. Don’t know if my lungs will fully recover. They may not.

So: rest. Good food. Avoid substance abuse. Mask all visitors and don’t go to parties/raves/concerts/anything. Oxygen if needed and if you can get it.

Take care.

The photograph is me wired up for a sleep study a week ago. The technician took it at my request. I won’t have results until next week.

the virtue of the disconnect

the virtue of the disconnect
learnt early
as a child

they say we are broken
wired wrong
enduring horror

he wakes at night
sleeps lightly

what was your childhood like?
how did you sleep?

it was not safe
we had to get up
leave in the night
gunshots

you survived your childhood

yes, I did

sleeping lightly saved you

yes, it did

you could rewire that
it takes a lot of time
to change the childhood wiring

or you could just
be ok

with sleeping lightly