Sleep Guilt

I can’t sleep.

I can sleep.  I can fall asleep as soon as I get in to bed. I can lie down, roll on to my side, and cross the threshold into Dream Land in a way that many people would envy. I can fall asleep within a surprisingly short duration after having drunk an espresso. Like many parents, I can fall asleep faster than my kids– at their bedtime. Which is dinnertime for most adults.   But I don’t.

But I do. I fall asleep before the bedtime story is over. I can sleep-read. I want to sleep. I am so tired. I tell myself that I need to stay awake because there are so many things to get done that I didn’t get around to during the day.  I’ll just take a ten minute nap.

But I don’t. I wrench myself out of the twin bed and untangle myself from pudgy little arms because there is laundry to catch up on, exercise to catch up on, blogging to catch up on… are we seeing a pattern here? OK, I admit, sometimes it’s just Netflix I want to catch up on, though Netflix is often combined with laundry folding or exercise for me.

The kids like us to lie down with them, and I comply.  If I am really really tired at 7pm , I’ll have an espresso first, because I know how very hard it can be to get up again.  Despite this, I will still fall asleep with them sometimes.  My day can’t end at 9 pm  (which is when they actually fall asleep, not when they’re meant to fall asleep).  There is always too much to catch up on.

You don’t need to tell me that I would be more productive after a good night’s sleep. I know that I should have a steady bedtime, and that it would lead to an earlier morning and a better start to our days.  I know, from those days when I fall asleep at a normal hour, without forcing myself to stay up until some or all of my intended tasks are done, that I can rise without having to battle the sandman for the right.

Certainly, I am more functional in the morning. The quality of my work, when I can get right to it, is fueled by fresh ideas and the potential of a fulfilling day before me.  So why don’t I just shut everything down at 11 and turn the lights off at 11:30? I’d be able to get up at 6 or 6:30 with no problem and, at the very least, I’d

It’s something of a vicious cycle, this staying-awake business, and I am certain that it has to do with ADD.  I did some reading on ADD and sleep, and, on the surface, it seems like it’s not ADD that is preventing me from getting into bed. Rather, it’s this self-diagnosed disease called Sleep Guilt,  discovered by none other than the author of this blog.   Sleep Guilt is a condition which causes an otherwise sane person to remain awake out of a sense of obligation to complete a task, and remain awake either until the task is completed or until moments before the otherwise sane person can no longer physically sustain a state of consciousness and must drag her (or him)self up to bed.  When suffering from sleep guilt, the otherwise sane party might never even get around to starting said task, often because she (or he) is just too tired to really sustain any meaningful momentum, or sometimes because they get distracted by other, less obligatory but more entertaining things.

The type of sleep disturbances associated with ADD aren’t really in line with the sleep guilt diagnoses.   People with ADD often have a hard time falling asleep because their minds are racing, and they have trouble staying asleep because even though their bodies have fallen asleep, their minds are still churning.  Their restful period of sleep starts late, making it extremely difficult for them to wake up in the morning, because when their alarms go off, they are still going through the deepest part of their sleep cycle.  Interestingly, people with ADD are known to actually fall asleep when forced to engage in an activity they are not interested in. I remember feeling very sleepy in class throughout my childhood, and needing to put my head down on my desk.  Now I understand why.

The thing is, I have rarely, in my life, had any trouble falling asleep. As I mentioned above, if I’m tired, I’m sleepy. When I’m sleepy, I sleep. However, I wonder if what I call Sleep Guilt is really just a derivation– a unique manifestation, if you will, of the first two kinds of sleep disturbances I mention above. Perhaps I go through the mind-racing and the sleep-falling stages before I even get in to bed.  By the time I lie down, poof! I’m done. It’s an efficient system, if you ask me.  Also, when I look at it that way, I feel less guilty.

Now I wonder if I can train myself to stick to an 11:30 bedtime.  Challenging? Yes. Impossible? No. Beneficial? Very likely so. I might have to unsubscribe from my Netflix account.