Fever pitch energizing sleepy fans

Patti Killwey starts her workday at BAE Systems’ Nashua plant at 8 a.m.

On Tuesday, punching the clock on time wasn’t an easy feat, considering the six hours she had spent late Monday at Fenway Park, watching the longest postseason game in Major League Baseball history.

“You didn’t notice it,” she said of the 5-hour, 49-minute game, in which the Red Sox triumphed over the Evil Empire via a Big Papi 14th-inning flare single.

“I didn’t even leave my seat for food or drinks or anything,” she said.

How could she? The American League Championship Series game against the hated New York Yankees was more heart-stopping than scanning TV Guide and praying not to find a new Mike O’Malley sitcom.

“You had to remind each other to keep breathing,” said Killwey, who was awarded BAE corporate tickets through a company incentive competition.

Maybe Killwey had a more legitimate excuse than her co-workers, but certainly she wasn’t alone in sleepwalking through October workdays.

Insomnia is endemic in Red Sox Nation. The empirical evidence is overwhelming.

Patrick Corbin, principal of Nashua High School North, thinks Red Sox fever has been afflicting teenagers the same way it has everyone else.“We’re seeing a lot of fruitless hope and optimism that will only be crushed,” Corbin prophesied Wednesday afternoon, before Game 7.

Corbin said there have been plenty of Red Sox jerseys, and some Yankees jerseys too, showing up on the backs of some tired-looking students and teachers.

“They’re kind of functioning on fumes and trying to get through their classes,” Corbin said.

Despite the sleep deprivation as a result of coming to school at 7:20 a.m., there hasn’t been a spike in absences, Corbin said, mostly because people want to talk about the games with their friends.

Superintendent Marge Chiafery has found pretty much the same to be true in Merrimack. There hasn’t been more absenteeism, she said.

“If anything, I think people are coming to school a tad tired, but also with a lot of enthusiasm for what’s been going on the last few days, and eagerly looking forward to (Wednesday night).”

Workplace and classroom anecdotes aside, is sleep deprivation pervasive in the Nation?

“Absolutely,” said Stephanie Wolf-Rosenblum, a pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist who serves as vice president of medical affairs at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center.

“You walk around the halls of the hospital even, and people have baseball caps on.”

Nor is Wolf-Rosenblum immune. She calls the Sox “my team.”

Her husband, however, is a Yankees fan.

“Oh, gosh. He was born in the Bronx,” she said. “Every marriage has its point of contention.”

The results of the kind of sleep deprivation New England has experienced can have undesirable consequences, besides marital discord, Wolf-Rosenblum noted.

“The truth of the matter is, to function properly you need to have eight hours of sleep, and eight hours of solid sleep,” she said. A person needs both quantity and quality of sleep, and a calm nighttime routine to help settle into sleep, she said.

All of which has been disrupted, if not negated, by Fox and the Sox: To capitalize on prime-time ratings, the television network is airing most games with a first-pitch time after 8 p.m. That means games might end around midnight, if not prolonged by multitudinous pitching changes or extra innings.

Lack of sleep affects judgment and the “physical reflexes needed to avoid car accidents and so forth,” Wolf-Rosenblum said.

For example, studies have suggested that car accidents increase when clocks are turned ahead an hour in spring, she said.

“People are using bad judgment because they’re not thinking straight,” she said.

As manifested by actually expecting the Red Sox to win a World Series?

There is a corollary to having an entire geographic region sleep-deprived because of playoff baseball, Wolf-Rosenblum said.

That would be natural disasters, such as hurricanes, when so many Floridians stumbled through life for days and weeks after having their world turned topsy-turvy.

How fitting an analogy, given the Red Sox’s anemic playoff record.

Besides thwarting sleep, the American League Championship Series has also done a good job disrupting people’s schedules throughout New England. Even Wolf-Rosenblum’s.

The chief of anesthesiology at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center had a meeting scheduled for 6:30 a.m. today. Knowing full well that he wouldn’t get to sleep long past the final out, he moved the meeting up to Wednesday afternoon, throwing off his colleagues’ schedules.

“I’m glad, because I’m planning to stay up late to watch the game,” Wolf-Rosenblum said.

Catching up on lost sleep can take from several days to a week or more, she said.

So how does Killwey, the lucky fan who saw firsthand the Game 5 marathon-masterpiece, plan to catch up on her 40 winks?

At this point, she hasn’t given it much thought. In fact, catching up on sleep wasn’t her top priority Wednesday afternoon, Killwey said.

What was?

“Finding somebody who has World Series tickets,” the eternally optimistic, albeit tired, fan said.