My brain and body are not on a 24 hour clock. Since I work from home, I can make my own schedule to successfully earn income. My unorthodox schedule, however, definitely impacts my professional obligations and social relationships. I Googled to see what info there was online and learned about Non-24, which is a circadian rhythm disorder. The circadian clock modulates many physiological rhythms, including sleeping/waking. Those with non-24 experience sleep disturbance when their circadian rhythms drift out of sync with the social/solar 24-hour day and they attempt to conform to a conventional schedule. Eventually, their rhythms drift back into normal alignment, and symptoms resolve, only to recur as the clock drifts out of alignment again. That sounded like it. I first learned about circadian rhythms when I had a friend who was totally blind. Without sensory input of light, his body could not produce particular chemicals so his sleep was chronically disturbed. So when my own patterns of sleeping and waking began to change, I kind of knew what was happening.
I have a busy practice and I enjoy my work. I get a lot of work done in a 24 hour period. What works best for me is to let myself sleep and wake whenever it hits me. My biggest stretches of work time are between 9am – 2pm and 11pm – 3am. That puts me doing the majority of my sleep between 4:00pm and 10:00pm. Being on a different clock can cause a little anxiety. I find when I have appointments ahead of time, I tend to spend time wondering if I can be awake for it and I can let that little doubt/fear start stressing me out. When I feel stressed, an inner mechanism kicks in and I feel as sleepy as if I’d been drugged. It can turn into a real Catch 22: setting alarms to be awake for an event and feeling increasingly sleepily drugged as the time approaches. You gotta laugh!
I’ve found what works for me is to have as few carved-in-stone advance appointments as possible. I schedule only what’s crucial: business meetings, car repair, medical, dental. That’s worked for years. Now I’m finding I want more social time. I want to make time to hang with friends. My dilemma is friends rightfully want to know in advance when we’ll get together. In the past I’ve made commitments and too often called at the last minute to cancel as I couldn’t stay awake.
I always let sleep and work take precedence. I consider it a blessing that my work is fun and fulfilling for me. I enjoy helping friends navigate their way through what initially seems like an unfriendly world, to finding their place in a world that cooperates with their every thought, expectation and belief. My work is not just a job, it’s a mission. When I’ve got a vision, when I have a mission or a goal I am working toward, then it doesn’t feel like work. I’m able to do most of my work on the phone and through email.
What does this have to do with a non-24 hour circadian rhythm? The point is that I have a body rhythm that affects me daily, and for too many years I used it as an excuse to be un-involved with life. When I saw it was not going to pass, I knew if anything was going to change, I’d have to change something. I made way for more meditation and soul searching in my life, then followed guidance when it came. Despite an unorthodox and somewhat anti-social sleeping pattern, I’ve still been able to carve out my own niche and find my way for professional and personal fulfillment. And if I have to stop and take a nap between emails, I’m not cramping anyone else’s style.