Weight-Loss Diary Challenge #1: “I’m not sleeping enough!”

Melissa Juliano, Weight Loss Diarist ValerieLatona.com

This is a picture of me from my daughter's birthday party; it's painful for me to look at it, but it motivates me to lose the weight.

It’s no wonder that I struggle to lose the weight. I’ve been working nights for 2 ½ years, which means I’m perpetually exhausted. Every study, every article talks about how important sleep is for weight loss. The facts: when you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces too much of the hormone ghrelin, which tells you to eat. But it doesn’t produce enough of the hormone leptin. This is the hormone that tells you to stop eating.

But what can I do? I’m a physician assistant or PA. I work as a hospitalist, which means I care for the hospitalized patients at our 30ish bed hospital in rural Pennsylvania. I also have a practice, where I work days. I love what I do.  (Last night I am pretty sure I diagnosed the mumps!)

On paper I have a kick-ass schedule.  I work 7 nights in a row on from 6 pm to 6 am. Then I am off for 7 nights in a row. During my workweek, I also spend about 10 hours in the office tending to my practice patients.  That would be during the day. Sometimes I work in the hospital’s walk-in clinic in the evening while seeing my own patients and covering the hospital.

But the sound of my pager going off is like a knife into my stomach every single time. I have been summoned by a pager for 15 years and each time it goes off, my response is worse.  Like Pavlov’s dog.  I am habituated to be immediately stressed. So sleeping at night while I am “on” with a pager that might beep at any second is pretty much not possible. It’s not that I fear what the pager is summoning me to.  It’s the sound.  Doesn’t matter which alert I set it to, same thing.  Plus, there is always the thought and anxiety of what I am being summoned to.

Here’s what hasn’t helped with my sleeping: Ambien, Sonata, Elavil, Benadryl, Valium, Rozerom, Melatonin, Nyquil, Ativan.  I’m a prescriber after all.  I’ve tried it all in desperation.  Nothing puts me to sleep for more than a couple hours and when I wake up I feel like I haven’t slept at all.  Pure exhaustion hasn’t put me to sleep. Exercise, yoga, chamomile tea, classical music, meditation, and any other folk remedy offered up don’t work either. Here’s what does help: acupuncture. It helps me sleep for 4 hours soundly and maybe even a couple more fitful hours. But I have to go every week (about a 2-hour drive round trip and $40 a session) or it doesn’t help enough.

So I am perpetually exhausted.  Any advice? Do you work nights? What works for you? Please share your tips with me at Melissa@valerielatona.com.

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Melissa JulianoAbout Melissa Juliano
Melissa describes herself as "a work in progress". She's a 42-year-old mother of "2 smart and beautiful girls and married to [her] perfect partner". She practices medicine as a physician assistant in internal medicine/hospitalist medicine. She lives in a rural area of Pennsylvania. You can write to Melissa to help cheer her on and/or offer her advice and tips that worked for you at melissa@valerielatona.com.