Lupus and Sleep: Could I be phasing out my daily nap?
My afternoon nap. It has been a staple in my daily routine ever since I finished my week-long hospital stay due to lupus-induced pancreatitis almost 20 years. That bout of illness was quite the wake up call - the blood transfusions and the near 20lb weight loss alone were enough for me to declare that some things in my life had to give. The first was my job - the stress, long hours, and demanding workload weren't compatible with lupus. You can read more about that here and here. The second was my fatigue. I was barely making it until 5pm before running out of steam. I'd drive home from work, collapse into bed, not to awaken until my alarm went off the next morning. I. Was. Spent. So in an effort to the manage my daily fatigue, I inserted an afternoon nap. And it stuck.
For almost 20 years, I've been scheduling my life around my daily afternoon nap. Work calls, social engagements, errands, school pickup, vacations, flights for vacations, holiday get-togethers - literally every single day involved scheduling my day's events around my nap. Taking a nap mid-day comes naturally at this point: I typically feel the fatigue come on anywhere between 12p-2pm (depending on how much sleep I've had and what time I wake up), and then I fall right asleep for an hour or two. I wake up rested and refreshed. If I go much past 2pm to begin my nap, I am a mess. Bleary eyed, cranky, withdrawn - my family knows the signs, and often ushers me off to sleep.
But over this past Christmas break, something crazy happened. There were two days when I simply didn't get tired. No fatigue at all. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. It was so bizarre, and completely unexpected. The first day it happened, I'd been running errands in the morning, but headed home at 12pm, as usual, to prepare to take my nap. I got home, touched base with my family, and noticed that the wave of overwhelming fatigue hadn't hit yet. One o'clock came and went, two o'clock came, and I still felt fresh and awake as ever. I kept tabs on my condition, and the hours just passed by, and I continued to feel fantastic. My eyes weren't glazed over, I wasn't struggling with my speech, and I was in a good mood - not the fatigued, crumpled mess I usually find myself in when I push back my nap. Before long, I found myself with plenty of energy to make dinner, stay up for a family movie night, and by 10pm, was still feeling great. I really don't know what came over me.
It. Was. Fantastic.
Since then, I've experienced that same level of energy one other afternoon. Again, felt zero fatigue, had energy to spare, and was able to make the most of my nap-free day. I stayed up until after 10pm, suffering no effects from a napless day.
There was a third day when I thought, "Oh my gosh. This is it. It's happening again. I'm actually phasing out my daily nap", only to find that a little after 4:30p, the fatigue finally hit. I slept from 5-6:30pm, and just tried to focus on the fact that I'd gotten that far without the nap.
Since those three days, it's been back to normal. I wake up each morning completed rested, do my thing, get to about 12-1pm, and need a nap. I do find that I can manage with just an hour most days. But just last week, I took a two hour nap from 11-1pm, and the week before that, I ended up sleeping for two and a half hours. Go figure!
I have yet to pinpoint the factors that might be contributing to those days where I feel fully rested all day long. I'm keeping an eye out for the total amount of sleep I get, day and night combined, the time I wake up in the morning, the food I'm eating, my level of daily exercise, my stress levels, and anything else that might make a difference. I'm not going crazy trying to figure it out. I'm just super duper excited that the possibility is out there. I've heard that as one approaches menopause, some women with lupus have experienced a significant decrease in symptom activity. I'm not quite there yet (neither menopause nor symptom reprieve!), but I am definitely hopeful. This article from New Life Outlook Lupus was a good resource, and I look forward to following along her journey, too!
Have experience aging gracefully (and successfully) with lupus? All comments are appreciated!