Thursday, July 21, 2005

Hard Day's Night

I have newfound compassion for insomniacs and Arctic inhabitants.

Insomniacs: For the last week, my world has shrunk to the size of the Yale-New Haven hospital Labor & Delivery floor, where I have spent over 14 hours every night scurrying about the sacred and mundane activities of obstetric "night float". Floating is hardly the word I would use to describe the way I walk out of the hospital after each shift; they should call it "night bleary-eye" or "night falling-over-and-walking-into-stationary-objects", if you ask me. I suppose I asked for it by choosing to do the whole follow my calling into medicine thing; but after these first few weeks of my clinical training, a part of me wishes I were the kind of person who felt called to become a chocolate taste-tester or massage school demo subject, or maybe a millionaire if push came to shove.

It's been quite a while since I've had this long a stretch of SSS (Sub-Six hours of Sleep). Not only can I feel my cognitive function slowly draining through my sturdy Dansko clogs as I stand on them hour after hour--my motor coordination has gotten so bad that on Wednesday afternoon, biking to a haircut appointment, I literally ran into a garbage can. Obviously, it was not moving at the time. Luckily, neither I nor my laptop were badly hurt, and the garbage can only suffered minor bruises.

Arctic inhabitants: When I do reemerge from the depths (er, 4th floor) of the hospital wards, at the end of my hard day's night, the sun is inexplicably still shining even more brightly than when I left it, and the air has the energizing feel of anticipated productivity, not to mention the rising heat of these July steambaths we've been having. But I, newly knighted denizon of the dark, am supposed to...go to bed?! Sure, I'm tired as all heck. Sure, I barely have enough coordination left to floss. But, but--it's so bright and happy and summery, and I technically don't have to go back to work until five! Thus far, I've only managed to endure about four hours a day of sweaty late morning sleep, clad in just undies and a face mask under a single sheet and the hum of my window fan. I used to think it would be really neat to live in one of those latitudes where the sun doesn't set for months on end. Now, I can't wait to get to next week, when I'll be lucky enough to return to my previous schedule of waking up with the sun at 5am. I have to hand it to those who devised this clever bit of reverse psychology for my thalamus.


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