need more sleep (than the average person)
I have been worked up for fatigue/sleepiness by physicians three times in my 20s, by two different doctors. My thyroid levels were tested, they looked for mononucleosis, electrolyte and blood cell abnormalities, etc. I was given different sleep aids to try to help me fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply, so I wouldn’t be drowsy during the day. They were even willing to send me to a sleep lab to monitor me for apnea, even though I don’t snore and I’m not overweight.
Finally, my primary physician told me, “look, you might just need more hours of sleep in a 24 hour period than most people”. Word.
Since then, I have made my sleeping problem even worse by becoming a mom. I love being a mom, but I function pretty terribly and I feel very shitty, most of the time. There are days like yesterday, when after two nights of terrible sleep, and working, I had a day off and pretty much felt like a zombie, a zombie with the flu. My bowels were upset, my head was fuzzy, and my eyelids felt like they each weighed two tons. This is after about 7 hours of sleep. We were invited to a water park and I had sort of a miserable time, even though it was a fun place. All I could think about, all I wanted, the only thing that could make me happy, was to sleep. It felt, really, somewhat tortuous to stay awake.
This is not new, or a consequence of toddler night-waking sleep deprivation. I have no good reason to feel so miserably tired. Even with a toddler waking in the night, it’s still only like once or maybe twice. I easily get 7 hours of sleep per night, plus naps when she naps. Before being a mother, I could sleep 10-12 hours and still take an afternoon nap. I was worried that I was some sort of sleep addict, thus the doctor visits and labs. This not only happens during my every day, boring life. I get exhausted and sleep addicted even while doing very exciting, new, and foreign things. In Southeast Turkey, for example, in the home of a very hospitable Kurdish family, I could barely be roused for my tour of an 11,000-year-old mound, nor was I motivated to wake up a bit early to help the lady milk her goats and make the bread. Seriously, only the threat of being fired from my job, or my child shouting “potty!” in my ear can get me up.
There is something called Excessive Daytime Sleepiness that I researched quite a bit. I score a 16 on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. (A score of 1-9 is normal, 10-20 is abnormal according to the author. And yes, I will occasionally doze off at a red light! Eeek!) I have all the signs and symptoms, except that people with EDS get adequate amounts of sleep and still feel this way. If adequate is defined as 8 hours per night of sleep per adult, then I check off all the boxes. But if adequate is based on the person, and the average is 8, with say a range of 4-12, then perhaps I simply fall on the high(est) side of the spectrum. I therefore could not be diagnosed with EDS because adequate for me is 12 hours of sleep. And I never get that. Ever. And when I do? I feel fucking fantastic. I feel like I could take on the world. I don’t feel sick. My eyelids feel fine with being open. I feel like I can cope with my problems, have patience with my toddler, and deal with whatever happens at work or home.
But it’s not possible to sleep for 12 hours a night, plus naps. Even my toddler averages about 12 hours total of sleep per 24 hour time period. But seriously, if I could sleep from 10pm to 10am, and take a nap from 3-5pm, I’d be in tip-top shape. But where on earth does that fantasy life exist??? As a mom, it’s not possible. As a nurse, it’s super impossible. An 8 hour shift from about 12-8pm would work fine, except that it doesn’t exist and I’d never see my kid or anyone else in the evenings. Once I’m an NP perhaps I’ll have a more generous schedule, sleep until 7, put my child on the bus, work til 3, be home with child, go to bed at… 7??? Who does that?
The answer, obviously, is drugs. I need speed, ritalin, adderall, whatever. Obviously, I’m not trying to become a drug addict, or do illegal shit, so that hasn’t happened. And the real problem with going to the doctor is that they will tell me to do crazy shit, like… stop drinking caffeine (the thing that keeps me going, the only thing that gets me out of bed), and go to bed at 7:30pm every night (who the hell can fall asleep when it’s light out and there’s still hours til official “night” time?).
Maybe when I’m retired I’ll finally be able to get enough sleep to truly enjoy my awake time???