Circadian Rhythm Change

Despite the isolation and continued stay-at-home orders for seniors, there doesn’t seem to be much change in my life because I often go long periods of time without seeing people and I often struggle with meals — juggling what I should eat with what I want to eat with what’s available to eat. I have, however, noticed one rather puzzling difference: a change in my circadian rhythms.

I’d read of tests where people who have to rely on their own rhythms to set a sleep/wake cycle often deal with a longer day — going to sleep later each night and waking up later every morning. That was always true for me. When I had long stretches where I don’t have to get up at certain time every day, I found that I’d go to bed later and later. The only thing that would reset my internal clock was if I set my external clock and got up at the same time every morning. It wasn’t comfortable, and I was tired all the time — sort of like being on a constant self-imposed daylight savings time change — but it would keep my circadian rhythms on more of an even keel. (I’ve always felt best going to bed around midnight and getting up at nine in the morning, which played havoc with my system all those years when I had to get up to go to work.)

Now, however, my rhythms are going haywire. I tend to fall asleep during the day, and even with the naps, I often fall asleep early — as early as 8:00pm instead of my usual midnight. And I wake up early, sometimes as early as 4:00am. I didn’t even know there was such a time! Yesterday, I managed to fall asleep again and slept in until 7:00am, but this morning I was up at 5:30.

I don’t know what to do with those early hours. I don’t want to read that early in the morning because . . . actually, I don’t know why. It just seems wrong. When I’d get up at my usual time, I often would check in with my online friends via Facebook, but now that FB has boycotted my blog, I am (mostly) boycotting the site. I could play solitaire, but 5:30 is too early to strain my eyes with a computer screen.

Luckily, my knee felt well enough today that I decided to attempt a short walk outside.

It actually felt good being out that early. Until I got back home. Oh, the knee was fine, that wasn’t the problem. I’d forgotten that people around here who don’t like taking their dogs for a walk let them out early in the morning to roam around. (The code enforcer isn’t working then and even when he is, he seems to ignore loose dogs.) There were two huge dogs on the sidewalk outside my house, and they seemed to have no inclination to let me get near my gate, so I turned around and took another walk. (I don’t know who they belonged to since I’d never seen them before, but that doesn’t say much. Considering all the new and frequent sounds of barking in the neighborhood, it seems as if some of my neighbors have acquired new dogs.)

When I returned, the animals were gone. I might have overdone it knee-wise with the extra walking, but I’m grateful I didn’t have to fight with those monsters. I did still have to water my transplanted bushes, though, as well as the few flowers that are struggling to come up. (It’s so dry here that it doesn’t take much to turn the yard into a desert). By the time I got back inside, I could feel my knee complaining.

At least I don’t have to worry about what to do today. Resting my knee seems a good plan. Maybe I’ll even take a nap.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

 

2 Responses to “Circadian Rhythm Change”

  1. Estragon Says:

    The circadian rhythm thing gets me too. It seems especially around this time of year, adjusting to a sunrise before 5am and sunset after 9pm messes me up. Walking around the same time of day (late afternoon for me) seems to help a bit. It happens as the days get really short in the fall as well.

    If I had an ongoing dog problem (more of an ignorant neighbour problem really) I’d probably carry some form of protection (eg. pepper spray). In a way you’d be doing the dogs a favour. Around here, if they bit someone it would likely be curtains for the dogs. Having been sprayed once, they’d likely give you a wide berth. Spraying the owner would work too, but may not be legal in your state 🙂

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I hadn’t made the connection between walking and the circadian rhythm thing, but now that you mention it, I can see that it went out of whack when I had to stop walking and start babying my knee. Until then, I walked almost every day. I hadn’t thought I had a problem with the long days, but apparently, I do. I do know I have a problem with the short days, especially around here when it gets dark at 4:30. (The price of being on the eastern edge of a time zone.)

      And yeah, I have pepper spray and I thought of it once it was too late. They seemed wary of my hiking poles, though. Not enough to leave, but enough to not come closer. I don’t think they do anything to dogs that bite people around here, though they should.


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