Sleep Deprivation Level: Med Student

Today wasn’t technically rock-bottom – but it was definitely the kind of sharp granite ledge that you hypothetically would hit on your way to the actual rock-bottom.

Today I fell asleep:

  • At least 10 times
  • While sitting straight up in a chair
  • Listening to a powerpoint lecture my preceptor was giving to me and only me
  • While only a couple feet away from him.

I felt guilty, but I couldn’t stop.  I was falling asleep in microbursts every 30 seconds – literally nodding my head, saying “Uh-huh, yes, okay” and then briefly losing consciousness.

I’d vaguely become aware of his voice, and I’d start instinctively nodding while I mustered up the strenuous levels of muscle-power needed to open my eyes and keep them open for at least 10 seconds.

… Unfortunately, all that effort to keep the eyes open left no musculoskeletal power left for focusing my eyes.  So I kept losing focus and doing the half-lidded, eyes-halfway-rolled-back-in-the-head thing before I’d jerk my eyes back to where they were supposed to be (which I’m pretty sure just made me look like I was having a seizure).

I swear to god I fell asleep with my eyes open at one point – because instead of spacing out for 2 seconds with my eyes closed, I just spaced out on what he was saying – and then the outline of his body gradually un-fuzzied itself.

(… The terrible thing was, it wasn’t even like I pulled an all-nighter last night.  I have no excuse.  I had a solid 6 hours of sleep – so I don’t even know, guys.  No clue.)

“Horrifying” would be a good word for my guilt level.  The only thing holding my body and mind together was the fact that I knew I had a 2 hour break between 4pm and 6pm, and it was going to be a nap, goddamnit.  I just needed to make it to 4pm.


But, no such luck.  My hormones had bravely gathered their forces and successfully overcompensated for my sleepiness (Activate: Hyper Overdrive!), so by the time I actually got out of work and was crawling into bed, my mind was actually totally awake.

(In fact, after that powerpoint lecture I somehow managed to navigate my way through a new patient intake H&P.  And my preceptor even gave me a hypothetical “Honors” on it – albeit probably because I managed to avoid collapsing on the patient.)

By the time I got home and crawled into bed, I couldn’t actually fall asleep – but my muscles were literally too tired to move.  Damn near unresponsive.  So I was just lying there on my bed like a lump for at least an hour, totally awake and dead inside.

Two hours later I realized my body was aching all over, I had a headache, my alarm was ringing (possibly causing said headache), and I was – inexplicably – absolutely drenched in sweat, and it was 6pm, so I had to run out the door to attend 3 hours of mandatory Pediatrics lectures.

… I’m half-convinced I didn’t even fall asleep, because it sure didn’t feel like I did.  It felt like I  just passed out.

And hit a rock.

And died.

Med school!  *jazz hands*

11 thoughts on “Sleep Deprivation Level: Med Student

  1. I’m sure a lot of students can relate to this post on multiple occasions! Sometimes the hardest part of my day is trying to stay awake during grand rounds or morning report lectures. I think it’s the whole “sit still and be quiet for an hour” which catches up with me. 😦

  2. Uh… your problem is that for some reason you think thst 6 hours should be enough. It isn’t. Go to bed as soon ss you get homr the next few nights and youll probably start feeling better.

    • Errrrgghh, I guess you’re right. I know 8 hours is optimal, but I’ve always figured 6 hours probably was close enough. I had no idea it was the kind of deprivation that led to “going in and out of a coma”.
      Now that I’ve realized that, OMDG, I have no idea how you’re doing it with your new daughter. You are a superhero.

  3. Aaahh! And haha. And aww. As a soon-to-be med student this post terrifies me. I…I like my sleep! I like it a lot… I hope you can get a night of at least 8 hours of sleep soon!!!

    • Haha, don’t worry! You will get lots of sleep if you play your cards right!

      If med school was as hard as everyone makes it out to be, I would’ve found out 6 hours isn’t enough back in M1 or M2. 🙂

  4. This used to happen to me a lot in 8 AM lectures…now it happens in meetings. Usually at about 9 to 9:30 AM when I have been at work for awhile – running around like an idiot, have had no food and now have to sit and pay attention to something like “building evacuation” or “proposed changes to requisition forms”. Somebody worked long and hard on this presentation and I owe it to them to pay ….stri…ct…..atten..tio..n…so that I…..can….make………………..lea………st……………o…….n………..e…in..telliGENT!!!!! comme…..n………………….t.
    Picture a eyes rolling back in the head with accompanying head bob at each set of “…….”
    I only hope that I don’t snore.

  5. This has happened to me a million times.
    Once while sitting on a stool in the OR while the anesthesiolgist was demonstrating all of his “cool” toys to me in the middle of surgery number 5 of the day.

  6. Hi AP! I am an M1 who recently found your blog, and I am hooked. You describe things so accurately that when my family asks me how med school is going, I just refer them to one of your pages. Much easier that way. A guy in my class showed me this site recently. Seems like you would get a kick out of it.

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