I think shore duty is weakening me. This is most evident in my sleep patterns. The pattern that I’m talking about is the fact that I actually sleep now.
As a SWO, sleep is a bit of a luxury when you’re underway. There is always more than 24 hours worth of work to get done every day, so you have to sacrifice a few hours of rest every once in a while. We routinely have watches in the middle of the night, and as much as we try to sneak in naps, they aren’t always possible. As a result, we usually spend a good percentage of our time in zombie mode. I know that I have gone at least 48 hours straight without sleep (probable longer). While that’s on the extreme side, it’s by no means uncommon, and I know there are others who have went far longer than that.
During my last deployment, I had an evening meeting that I had to put together that ended around 9:00. I had other work that usually kept me up until 11:30 or so. If I actually had the energy to e-mail my wife, I was in my office until at least midnight. Throw in a shower and a little bit of wind down time, and I usually crawled into bed around 12:30 or 1:00. Then, I had another presentation that had to be put together for a 7:00 a.m. meeting. In order to get it assembled correctly, I had to be back in the office around 5:00, which meant I set my alarm for about 4:30. That was my schedule for the majority of the deployment. Throw in a night watch every 3rd night or so, and it really took its toll. I’d try to take naps during lunch if possible, but there were responsibilities and watches throughout the day as well.
It’s tough, but it’s just something that we learn to deal with. While I hated the situation, I realized that it wasn’t going to change, so there was no point getting too upset. I would just roll out of bed in the morning, install my coffee IV drip, and get to work. When I came home from deployment, the schedule mostly stayed the same for me. I would feel incredibly groggy if I got more than 6 hours of sleep, and I woke up from naps like seriously p*ssed off bear. As a result, I would usually go to bed around 11:00, and I never slept past 5:00.
Now, fast forward through 3 and a half years of shore duty. Last night at 8:30 (after watching 2 episodes of The Big Bang Theory), I had the choice between going to bed and playing a brand new video game that I just bought. After looking back and forth between the TV and my bedroom, I chose sleep. It was 8:30!!! Sure, I might have read for a little bit, but I was completely asleep by 9:00. I used to lie down with my wife until she fell asleep. Then I would get up and watch TV or surf the internet until I got tired. Then, I would wake up before the rest of the house to play video games and enjoy some time to myself. Now, my wife has to wake me up if I forget to turn my light off.
Last weekend, I slept in until 8:00. 8:00!!! I realize that’s not super late for the rest of the world, but trust me when I say that I never sleep in that late. I think I got 10 hours of sleep that night. It used to take me 3 days to get that much sleep. Part of me wants to celebrate this fact and fully experience the glory. The other part of me looks at the quickly approaching end to my shore duty and cringes. It’s going to hurt to go from this back to the ship. The good part is that I’m going to be a department head, so everybody expects me to be crabby anyway.