During our WDS weekend, we learned a bit more about chronotypes and how they affect our energy level. This information changed how we look at our sleep schedules and how we structure our days, especially now that we are in isolation for the foreseeable future.
The first thing we did was take a quiz: http://www.thepowerofwhenquiz.com/.
Before this, I would have said that I’m a night owl and my husband is a lark. It didn’t occur to me that there would be more than two types of sleepers. I always figured that most people don’t get enough sleep for situational reasons, such as long commutes or intervening opportunities like the internet.
It took just a couple of minutes to find out that my hubby and our friend, like the majority of people, are Bears, while I’m a Dolphin.
This basically means that they have consistent energy levels throughout the day and, if they didn’t get enough sleep one night, they’ll just go to sleep earlier the next.
Being a Dolphin - the rare 10% - basically means any little thing will mess with my sleep, and as a result I feel tired most of the time.
This all felt true enough. What was surprising, and what I don’t particularly agree with, is that these sleep animals are supposed to go to bed and wake up at particular times. They gave Bears 11 pm to 7 am, and Dolphins like me midnight to 6 am.
If I only slept six hours a night, I would be a walking disaster. I know because I’ve had to do it. The biggest issue I have always had with sleep is that I can’t necessarily fall asleep just because I’m tired. If I have a set schedule that involves being somewhere early in the morning most days of the week, it can take months to adjust.
I just started a new job, and since we work at home, I can roll out of bed at 7:30 and still be early for 8 am meetings. The first couple of weeks were exhausting. Now, in the third month, I can sometimes wake up naturally before my alarm goes off. There have been days, though, when I could barely make it and crawled off to take a nap immediately after clocking out.
Sleep is always the #1 factor in my mood and energy level. It also seems to have a huge effect on my immune system; when I’ve been sleeping poorly I seem to get every cold and flu that comes through.
Being a Dolphin married to a Bear is lucky for me and doesn’t seem to matter all that much to him. He sleeps so soundly that, over the years, it seems to have entrained me to sleep better too. Sometimes he even sleeps through my night terrors. One night I woke up screaming and he just reached over and patted me a few times and went back to sleep.
We’ve had two issues where my significant sleep problems have required his involvement.
One, the case of the loud upstairs neighbors. I asked him to intervene with the property manager a couple of times when I felt I wasn’t being heard. I asked him to help me figure out something for noise cancellation, an engineering solution perhaps? Finally we just relocated, which we wouldn’t have done for at least a few more years if my sleep problems hadn’t gotten completely out of control.
Sometimes the alarm would go off in the morning and I would burst into tears because I hadn’t slept all night.
The second issue was more personal. Just as we would be winding down for the night, my hubby would read something in the news that got him agitated, and he would want to talk to me about it. It was like tossing a ball. He would throw it and I would catch it. He would then peacefully drop off to sleep and I would like awake until 2 am.
I brought it up. I begged. I pleaded. I set a reminder on our shared list that went off every night at 9 pm. This was the “nothing but puppies, kittens, and rainbows” alarm.
Honestly it took about five years for this pattern to finally sink in.
It’s not that we can’t talk about current events, or have passionate discussions and disagreement about various philosophical points. It’s just that I have to hit pause at 9:00 if I want to be able to drop off to sleep.
I have no problem setting this boundary with other people if we happen to be up that late. Everyone I know is guaranteed to be worn out from hearing about my parasomnia disorder, so it’s better for everyone if they agree to my demands quickly.
I have a contrarian opinion about stress and anxiety. I understand that this opinion is not mainstream, but the more I read and the longer I live, the more I think I’m right and everyone else has things upside down.
The prevailing opinion seems to be that “stress” causes almost all illness, and that factors of mood and attitude drive disease.
Okay, but why would “stress” branch out and cause a hundred thousand completely different types of illness?
Doesn’t it make more sense that illness arises in the physical body, and that the person then starts to feel stress *as a result*? That stress is a natural, universal reaction to maybe even a sub-clinical stage of any of a hundred thousand physical causes?
This is why I think my parasomnia problem is neurochemical. I bet better and more widespread brain scanning would reveal more patterns like this. It makes perfect sense to me that the 10% of “Dolphins” who have trouble sleeping have more in common than some kind of personality trait. Part of why I can say this is that my Bear husband has at least as much stress in his life as I do, and he seems to sleep just fine.
Assessments like these animal chronotypes are a good idea for helping people to be considerate and accommodating of each other’s needs. This is even more important when the people involved share a roof or, especially, a bed. Let’s all be kind to each other and try to help each other get enough rest every night.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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