Circadian Sleep Disorders Network - Advocating for people with misaligned body clocks
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Learning to Live on My Time

by Rachel A. Spellman

Life becomes shockingly bearable once you stop fighting your own body. I was diagnosed with delayed sleep phase syndrome at 18, but didn't pay the label much mind at the time. Nobody on my medical team really knew how to handle me, and I was just as lost as them; I'd been through a whole range of sleeping medications since age 8, with the occasional stimulant or two to prop me up.

It wasn't until last year that I saw how forcing myself to live in a lark's world was destroying me. As it was, I was barely getting any REM rest, with a body lagging behind during the day. I couldn't eat, couldn't concentrate, couldn't function before 4pm - it was like navigating life in a daze. Matters only got worse once Rachel's artwork I started reacting to the medications artificially dictating my sleep schedules, experiencing everything from headaches to full body nerve pain that Advil could never fix.

People complain about early rise times, but two decades of overwhelming exhaustion will grind away at an individual like nothing else. My attempts to try and correct my sleep would be the equivalent of most people trying to tranquillise themselves into oblivion by 3pm and pumping themselves full of caffeine at 11pm. It's ludicrous ask, saddling them with an unseen burden that would leave them dysfunctional. Defying a person's needs does the body harm, after all, and fighting my own body so aggressively nearly destroyed me.

After a point, I didn't have a choice but to finally let my body sleep when it needed to. While others might question why I'd choose to work at 3am and sleep at 8am, I've never felt more alive - more of myself - in my life. It feels like being able to breathe for the first time, finally restoring pieces of me that were missing. Letting myself rest on my own terms was transformative to my physical health, to be sure. Yet more than that, finally forgiving myself for my needs was a balm for my soul.

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Last modified Oct 24, 2019
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