only four of the seven dwarves

My foray into competitive sleeping began shortly after I was laid off in February of 2011.

It started slowly. I’d wake up early (as I was accustomed to doing during my office job), take the dogs out, eat breakfast, apply for a bunch of jobs, then bum around on the internet for awhile. After lunch I’d spend a few hours doing various craft projects–knitting, sewing, building whatever. Then I would get tired. So, so very tired. I’d lie down to read, fall asleep almost immediately, and wake up at least two hours later. After my nap I’d check for new job postings, bum around on the internet some more, maybe post to my craft blog, eat dinner, watch some TV while knitting, then go to bed at about 11 or 12.

The 2011 naps didn’t happen every day at first, but then summer came along. Summer in Texas in 2011 was brutally hot and dry. It was the worst drought in recorded history. Here in Austin it rained just a handful of times, and then only for brief periods. A girl from Houston who loves weather like I do expects rain on a regular basis, and to be without it for so long did something bad to my psyche. I’d take the dogs out at around noon, and while they sniffed around I’d stand there, aimless in the punishing sun, unable to remember what it felt like when it was nice outside (was it ever nice outside? what was that like?), unable to remember what it felt like in my freezing office. Would it ever rain again? Would I ever have a job?

I began sleeping off those burning afternoons like they were hangovers. It was too bright outside, too hot, too much, and the only thing I wanted was to lie down in my darkened bedroom with the fan on and a book propped on the cool pillow next to me.

I love reading in bed. I love the comfort, the silence, the lack of outside stimulus. I remember one winter afternoon in college when I got under the covers with my copy of The Hours, listened to the wind make the tree branches scratch against my window, and thought, it doesn’t get much better than this. Such a deliciously blank feeling, to shut everything out and just read.

It cooled down a lot when fall came, but I still didn’t have a job, so I continued to sleep through the afternoons. I was fairly good at being unemployed as those things go–I kept busy, I did lots of job hunting, I was never bored, despite not being able to afford to go out much–but every day around one or two in the afternoon I’d start to feel listless. Overstimulated. Drowsy. So off to bed I’d go.

In October I landed a brief onsite contract job at a marketing agency just outside of Austin. It took about a half hour to get there in the morning and an hour to get back, so every evening I’d arrive home from work exhausted. On four of the eight workdays I had that job, I came home, ate dinner, got in bed at about 7pm, and stayed there until it was time to get up the next morning. When I told my sister and her Brazilian husband L about this, L laughed and said, “Next time I go to Brazil, I bring you back cocaine.”*

I began to think that maybe something was wrong with me. I took a few online sleep-disorder tests, and they all seemed to indicate that I was normal. No, I don’t get sleepy while driving. No, I don’t get sleepy when sitting at my desk at work. No, I don’t gasp for breath in the middle of the night. I checked with my psychiatrist, and she said that I might just be a person who needs 10 hours of sleep a night. “I spend most of my time trying to get my patients to go to sleep, so maybe you shouldn’t knock it,” she said. I asked my mother about her sleep patterns, since I get most of my medical history from her, and she said, “I sleep a lot, too.”

I stopped worrying about all my sleeping, and started to think of myself as “just a person who needs a lot of sleep.” As in, sure, I took two naps this weekend, but I’m just a person who needs a lot of sleep. Sure, sometimes I go to bed at 8pm, but I’m just a person who needs a lot of sleep.

I got a job in January of 2012, and oh, how I rejoiced! Our long national nightmare was finally over! After my first day of work I came home and took a nap, and that’s been my weekday schedule for the last fifteen months. Up at 6:30, to work and then home at 4:30, asleep until 7, awake until 10, for a total of 11 hours of sleep a day. On the weekends I take at least one nap per day, sometimes two.

This past Sunday I slept for 16 hours. Not at one stretch, but still. 16 hours! That’s only eight hours of awake time, and that’s not going to work. When I sleep that much it feels like a prison to me. I want to do laundry and clean the house and do some sewing or knitting, but I can’t, because I’m trapped in unconsciousness. When I talk about my oversleeping to friends or people on Facebook, lots of them say that they’re envious of all the sleep I get, but they shouldn’t be. A stolen nap feels amazing, but 16 hours of nap feels like having your head held underwater.

I’d heard from a few friends that oversleeping can be caused by a vitamin D deficiency. I’m not out in the sun much, don’t drink a lot of milk, and don’t take a multivitamin, so I thought that might be my problem. On Monday morning I went out and bought some vitamin D pills, and I haven’t taken a nap since. I know it’s only been three days, but I’m optimistic. I don’t get that drowsy feeling in the afternoons like I used to.

What I do still feel, however, is a desire for lack of stimulus. I get home from work and I’m so overwhelmed with everything that’s happened during the day, all the working and talking to people and listening to the radio and driving, that I need to do absolutely nothing for awhile. So I lie down in my darkened bedroom with the fan on and a book propped on the cool pillow next to me, and I just read.

*Note to any immigration or customs-enforcement agents who are reading this: MY BROTHER-IN-LAW IS A LEGAL U.S. RESIDENT AND HE WAS TOTALLY KIDDING ABOUT THE COKE, OKAY?

(If you’d like to give me some medical advice, please do! Just type your advice into the comment box below, then close the browser window without clicking Post Comment. Thanks!)

6 thoughts on “only four of the seven dwarves

  1. If lack of stimulus is what you are craving, have you tried meditation? (You probably have, but just in case) Clearing your head of everything except your breath is super gratifying sometimes. I try to do it for ten minutes a day, not that my mind is totally clear for ten minutes but I try for ten minutes.

  2. I ALSO have zero medical advice, but hope the vit d continues to help.

    The stage of life I am in right now doesn’t allow for long stretches of sleep (small child/baby), but 16 hours of sleep does sound a bit much…I’d settle for just another 15 min before the baby cries again!!

  3. First, glad you’re back!
    Second, I was a serial napper for years. I even worked in 15 minute naps on my lunch break. I started taking Vitamin D, B12 and a B complex last fall and haven’t napped since. I didn’t make the connection until reading your post. Now I’m going to go do some “research.”

  4. I’m so glad you’re back, Alison. You were the first blog I ever read, eleven whole years ago. It seems like a lot has changed in blogging since then and your blog will always feel … hmm… what… I guess just less frantic and update-heavy as the more recent blogs to come along. And as a result, I think, your writing is more considered.

    Anyway, hurray that you are back. :)

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