29 October 2011

R.E.M. Sleep Vs. E.M.S. Sleep

Here at our base, pilots make shift change at 0700 and 1900. My days of riding to work are coming to an end. Tonight I had to leave almost an hour early in order to arrive before darkness fell. Even at that, there were two instances tonight where I motored by deer grazing in fields only a football field or so from the roadway. We will change our clocks... "Fall back" soon, and when we do my ability to ride to work will be gone until March or April next year. Riding to work has been great this year... I think I've only had three or four days when rain precluded my coming to work on two wheels.

I've had a surprise. If you told me right now that I could only keep one of the four bikes parked in my garage, I'd want to keep the 800cc BMW airhead. It's a comfortable machine to ride, gets good gas mileage, is "flickable", and even though it only has two cylinders it doesn't vibrate. This morning on my way home at 60 mph I decided the proper word to describe the sensation in the handgrips and footpegs isn't "vibrate" or "buzz"... it's more of a "hum".
It makes me smile.

This is my first shift back since our trip to California and I'm finally back in stride with the routine of work. Weather set in on us my first night back and I was reasonably sure I wouldn't fly because of low ceilings and poor visibility due to rain. The phone didn't ring.
The second night was clear blue and twenty-two... and again the phone didn't ring. We all watched that marathon of a World Series game between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Tonight it is once again flyable. Game seven of the World Series is in the history books and we got to watch it in its entirety because the phone has once again remained silent.
So we have been able to "Earn Money Sleeping". And although it's nice to earn a nice wage while watching TV, reading, or resting, it ain't quite what a lot of folks imagine.

A long time ago in another life the second best wife I ever had, while working on her Master's degree in Education, did some research on kid's sleeping habits and the effect those habits have on learning. I helped her with the research and learned some interesting stuff:
We need to dream when we sleep. It's while we are dreaming that our bodies rebuild and recharge. When we dream our eyes move behind our eyelids. This phenomenon is called "Rapid Eye Movement", or R.E.M. sleep. R.E.M. sleep happens late in our sleep cycle... So if your sleep is limited to just a few hours, you may experience little or no dreaming and R.E.M. sleep. That's why you feel like a dog if you have a "toss and turn" night, and why you may actually begin to be a danger to yourself and those around you if you have bouts of insomnia several nights in a row.

Here at work we all know our sleep may be interrupted at any time, so we always sleep seemingly with one eye open... never allowing ourselves to fall deeply asleep. And then we go home in the day and try to recharge our batteries, only to sleep fitfully there too. After a week of a little sleep here, a little sleep there, we need a couple nights to recover.

This is a great job and I'll miss it like crazy when I finally hang up my wings...
But I won't miss having my sleep messed up all the time.


Rita said...

Back "in the day", that kind of messed up sleep pattern was a guaranteed migraine for me. Makes me shudder to think about now.

cj said...

Rotating shifts every four weeks has done the same thing to me, GB. I sleep fitfully, never well enough to awaken fully rested. It sucks.


Brady said...


I wonder,

Even after my dad quit working, his sleep stayed the same. The maniac was up at dawn every day. It gets into you, I think. I hope, for your sake, your life feels a bit better rested, but your sleep style may have seeped into your bones.

Feel free to prove me wrong by enjoying yourself on a beach somewhere dozing in the sun.

Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

Old NFO said...

Yep, aviators have it worse than most, with the AFU schedules, long hours and time zone changes... Worst I ever saw was the co-pilot going to sleep on final approach one morning.

Timothy Frazier said...

Eight years of night shift work as a Texas cop screwed me up royally...took about two years to get to where I could sleep through a night. Wife said it was like living with an infant.

No nursing jokes, please.