Sleep Vignette

Transcript

Chris
I knew when I cross trained into space, it would be hard for me to adjust to shift work. I've kind of always had problems getting to sleep at night, so it was especially hard trying to start sleeping during the day.

Jackie
It was just hard not seeing each other ever. When he would be on nights, there was almost no overlap in when I would leave and when he got home. We knew it was gonna be tough, so we tried making these plans.

Chris
We made sure we would have these regular date nights... like, every time I would switch shifts and we were lined up again, we would do movie nights, dinners, things like that.

Jackie
We would even sometimes email each other, even though we lived in the same apartment!

Chris
It worked fine... for a while, but I guess my main problem was still there, which was not getting enough sleep. And it led to a lot of other problems.

Jackie
After a couple months, I could tell it was getting to him. And we didn't talk about it, but he was just different. More stressed, more snippy.

Chris
I know I was starting to become difficult, and Jackie was so sweet about it. She would, like, make sure the house was clean and calm, and she was doing all this research about what things I could do to get the sleep I needed.

Jackie
I was just doing whatever I could to try and get the old Chris back, but it's like he wouldn't listen. It felt like we were drifting apart and there was nothing I could do to get through to him.

Chris
A lot of times I couldn't sleep during the day, so I'd play video games. But then I'd play all day and all of a sudden I'd have to go back to work.

Jackie
He was basically stuck in this cycle of work, gaming, energy drinks, and then back to work. I was like, "how are you gonna get to sleep if you're drinking energy drinks all the time?"

Chris
I was drinking a lot of caffeine. But I was tired! And I still couldn't sleep even when I was totally exhausted! I felt like I was living in this thick fog, all the time. Like, my life was just passing me by.

Jackie
It was a mess. I was really starting to get worried, but I was afraid of turning into this nagging wife. But, he could have crashed his car on the way to work! And then what?

Chris
It was really bad. Like, I was not being a good partner and I wasn't paying attention to my health, I started to just zone out at work. I guess because I thought it was out of my control.

Jackie
I remember the day things started to change. I came home and I saw that he was playing video games all day. There were just all these crushed cans next to him. It was a couple hours until he had to go to work. It was pretty much the last straw. I walked up and unplugged the system from the wall and told him he was going to the doctor.

Chris
She unplugged everything! And she said, "This has been going on for six months, and it can't go on like this anymore." I knew she was right, but, what was a doctor going to tell me that I didn't already know? Like, get more sleep?

Jackie
He resisted a little bit, but I think he could tell I wasn't messing around. So, he agreed to make an appointment.

Chris
I kind of talked to my supervisor about it and went to my doctor appointment. They both said it's common with shift work to have difficulty with sleep. It's common, but it can get dangerous really quick.

Jackie
He came back, and I think he was relieved, because he seemed really excited about all these things the doctor told him he could try, like no screens before sleep, and not trying to force sleep if he's not tired.

Chris
One of the things he told me was how important it is to basically not do anything in bed other than sleep or... you know. He meant not watch movies, things like that. And when I'm not tired, it's better to read than to do something like play video games or go on my phone.

I guess what made it real to me is when my PCM told me all the different ways sleep deprivation can affect your life, and how serious it can be. And when I realized most of those things already applied to me.

Jackie
It could have been a lot worse.

Chris
It would have been a lot worse if I hadn't done something.

It's still hard sometimes, to get the sleep I need. But I know Jackie and my supervisor, they're looking out for me.

And it's getting easier every day.