Why Do I Need So Much Sleep? I Finally Figured It Out
I sleep a lot. I always have. From a certain point of view, I'm lucky that I can sleep, but it's rarely enough. This was worse when I had young children to look after, plus a house, a spouse, and a full-time job that had me up nights resolving issues. Like so many working people worldwide, my remedy to combat sleepiness and fatigue was to guzzle coffee. But I'm retired now, a young retiree at 57. I had hoped to be full of energy without the burden of full-time work. I thought once I retired and got ample regulated sleep, that the feeling of sleepiness would go away. It hasn't.
I'm Sleepy More Often than Not
I'm not currently depressed. Yes, I've suffered chronic depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the past, many times during which my need for sleep was overwhelming, as is the case for many who suffer from depression. But since retiring, depression has, thankfully, taken a holiday.
Beyond my usual daytime sleepiness, things worsened this past year for two reasons:
- I cut out virtually all my caffeine intake to help manage my anxiety: no caffeinated coffee, tea, or soda. Caffeine throughout my day helped take the edge off the "sleepies," as I called it. Adopting a life with less caffeine helped reduce my anxiety. It's a no-brainer: I'd rather the sleepies than the anxiety, so I'm not going back to caffeine.
- I was prescribed medication to help manage nocturnal panic attacks, a low-dose antipsychotic I take before bed. This medication has a residual effect in the morning. I wake up okay, but I'm drowsy again within about an hour. As with the caffeine, however, I'd rather be drowsy from this medication, which has been a tremendous help, than have to deal with terrifying panic attacks.
Life's a trade-off, I guess.
I genuinely feel for insomniacs, people who desperately want to sleep but can't or suffer from chronic sleep disruption. My sister and my best friend fit into this category, and it's awful for them as it breeds an entirely different kind of exhaustion. On the flip side, I've known people who get four to five hours of sleep a night and thrive. I've envied them.
Having Anxiety Is Literally Exhausting
My eldest daughter, like me, has always needed a lot of sleep. She now has two children to look after, plus a house and spouse, and she runs her own business. Like mine, her chronic need for sleep goes beyond what some might call "normal," which took her on a journey that led her to her diagnosis. She has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
This got me thinking. Those of us with mental illness suffer many physical symptoms along with psychological ones. Speaking for myself, here are just a few physical symptoms I've suffered associated with anxiety and panic:
- Muscle tension
- Racing heart
- Rapid breathing
- Heart palpitations
Add to these some of the psychological symptoms, like:
- Low or no self-esteem
- Mood swings
Mental illnesses are taxing, to say the least. I have suffered many of the listed symptoms since adolescence. It makes sense that my body's way of coping with my anxiety is to sleep.
Understanding How Mental Illness Affects You
Along with my doctor, I've seen many mental health professionals in my life, and not one of them pointed out how living and dealing with mental illness symptoms may be why I need so much sleep. My daughter's research about her chronic need for sleep, which she shared with me, helped connect the dots for me. I still need a lot of sleep. Don't get me wrong. But my daughter gave me an unexpected perspective on why I need so much sleep. With this insight, I can cut myself a break—because I've felt guilt over how much sleep I need. I understand myself a bit more now, and every little bit of understanding helps when navigating life with mental illness.
Scott, L. (2022, October 19). Why Do I Need So Much Sleep? I Finally Figured It Out, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, December 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2022/10/why-do-i-need-so-much-sleep-i-finally-figured-it-out
Author: Liana M. Scott
Hmm 🤔 Interesting.