Sunday, December 5, 2010

Regularly Irregular

Looking back, jobs with some regularity are quite nice. In a short matter of time your body gets used to the internal and nightstand clocks. The schedule can be set and forgotten as there is little variation. Medical school is not regular in terms of scheduling, not at all.

Getting Shut-Eye

Being a medical student seems to be one occupation that has regularly irregular sleeping habits. Whether there is an exam coming or a night on call at the hospital, it seems that the sleep schedule is the first thing to go. Sacrificing sleep to get an extra hour or more of study is the norm. It's no wonder caffeine is such a hot commodity among students. Now on clinical rotations I find myself sacrificing sleep so I can see patients at the hospital before rounding with the doctors. As it turns out, this is usually for my practice and there is little effect on the patient's care from my efforts. That is a nice thought to accompany the five o'clock wake up call.

Soon enough I will be sleeping at the hospital to fulfill "call" assignments. Of course it is all in the name of medicine. Certainly the culmination of stress, lack of sleep and lack of exercise is costing me to lose years from my life expectancy. How is it that a career so focused on health can be so detrimental to my own? Oddball hours here I come. I'm just crossing my fingers that when my head hits the pillow at night I can put all my thoughts behind me and actually sleep soundly until the beeper or alarm sounds the reveille.

Question of the Week
Among physiological changes in the elderly, alterations in sleep patterns are common. Which of the following best describes changes in the sleep cycle that accompany aging in the elderly?

A. Decreased REM sleep and decreased slow wave sleep
B. Decreased REM sleep and increased slow wave sleep
C. Increased REM sleep and decreased slow wave sleep
D. Increased REM sleep and increased slow wave sleep
E. Increased REM sleep and no change in slow wave sleep

Answer & Explanation


  1. Since an important purpose of Slow Wave Sleep is to Download temporary memory traces from the Hippocampus to permanent storage in the Neocortex I would assume SWS decreases in the elderly as this function would seem not to occur as often. An important purpose of REM is to degragment the brain to make it more efficient. My assumption that this would also probably need to increase. Therefore, my answer would be C: Increased REM sleep and decreased SWS.

  2. I like your thinking Joseph. Be sure to follow the link posted under the question to find the given explanation and answer.


Share a suggestion, question or just leave your mark.

Subscribe to Life as a Medical Student