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Did you know continuous irregular sleep can actually cause brain damage?

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When I chose to become a dispatcher in 2009, I willingly agreed to go on overnight shifts (3rd shift or “midnights”) because it was the only way I could make a living AND raise my soon-to-be-born daughter. I didn’t realize what an absolute horrible decision it was from the perspective of my mental and physical health……until now…..10 years later.

People are generally aware that if you don’t sleep, you can feel a bit groggy and lethargic—however—not many know of an unfortunate disorder caused by CONTINUOUSLY not getting enough sleep, or sleeping during times that we are not anatomically built for….(daytime sleeping)—You can get what’s called, circadian rhythm disorder, which is a lot worse than some people realize

Real quick if you’re unaware of what circadian rhythm is— It’s the magical internal 24-hour biological clock (similar to the clocks found in computers) that is responsible for regulating our NATURAL sleep/wake cycles and also plays a part in our digestive processes, motor skills, coordination and general cognition; therefore, when that rhythm is thrown off by abnormal sleeping (either by choice or pathology) the result can lead to immediate effects towards physical and mental impairments in school, work and social interactions, as well as:

  1. Difficulty initiating sleep

  2. Difficulty maintaining sleep

  3. Lack of Nonrestorative sleep

  4. Daytime sleepiness

  5. Poor concentration

  6. Impaired performance, including a decrease in cognitive skills

  7. Poor psychomotor coordination

  8. Headaches

  9. Gastrointestinal distress

  10. Inhibits mood regulation

  11. Can cause brain damage by over activating the amygdala where fight-flight or freeze response and aggression lives.

So yea, lots can go wrong when sleep is disrupted or skipped all together, and after an entire decade of having to sacrifice my sleep in order to maintain my employment as a dispatcher, I unfortunately experience all of the above mentioned symptoms either all of the time or the majority of the time. And the worst part is that I am not 100% certain how much neurobiological damage can be reversed through my efforts to promote neurogenesis (formation of new brain cells). I will unfortunately have to wait to know that for sure with my case specifically—luckily according to resent sleep studies, there’s hope for reversing/repairing the damage caused by constant sleep deprivation, but again, to what degree the success, is very much still unknown from person to person cases.

As much as I love and live to help others, I’ve come to realize that there are better ways  other than sacrificing my health in order to do it, technically being a martyr if I don’t test my own faith against my fear…..physically and mentally! I know in my heart AND head that I can’t keep going on like this and expect to be wildly successful in my own health-related goals, and not only do I physically feel it, but I had my doctor officially confirm my suspicions through the documentation of my medication regimen over the last 4 years. I had been hospitalized for a week and had to increase the dosage on my anti-depressant medication…TWICE—medically showing that these constant overnight shifts, are in fact, setting me up for utter disaster (high risk of depression relapse) in the future. If I stay, it’ll be a matter of “when” not “if”.

Time to have my faith take the wheel and tell fear to fuck off.

Days remaining: 135!

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