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Friday, December 9, 2011

Circadian Rhythms

Dear Nurse Dave,
I hear that you are going to start working night shifts. Do you think that staying up all night will drive you slowly insane? If not do you think that could be a good plot for a Nicholas Cage movie?
Theo, New York, NY

Theo the body has a natural rhythm of sleep and wake cycles known as the circadian rhythm. It is commonly accepted that to disrupt this natural rhythm can have negative outcomes. I, of course, fear this disruption but I've got something else even more disturbing to fear. ICU psychosis. That's right I now work in an ICU and it is known to cause psychosis. Yesterday I went outside for a run and realized that was the first time I'd seen the sun in over 3 days. Causes of ICU psychosis include:

-sensory deprivation (I can't really use the internet at work)
-sleep disturbance (night shift is 7pm to 7am)
-continuous light levels (the light is always the same level of dull light that you might associate with the bathroom of a cheap movie theatre)
-stress (in the ICU nurses titrate medication drips that if improperly or poorly managed could kill somebody)
-lack of orientation (not seeing the sun ever).

The psychosis can manifest itself as extreme excitement, anxiety, restlessness, hearing voices, clouding of consciousness, hallucinations, nightmares, paranoia, disorientation,agitation, delusions, abnormal behavior,fluctuating level of consciousness which include aggressive or passive behavior. If that doesn't sound like an awesome Nicholas Cage movie than I don't know what does.

For further information on the disruption of circadian rhythms and the slow growing melancholy that will eventually destroy you, listen to this.

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