I am so tired. So very tired. I am so tired that I feel it in my bones. I am so tired that I feel it has changed how my face looks. I am so tired it has changed how the skin around my eyes sits. According to my Fitbit I have averaged 3 hours and 43 minutes of broken sleep per night in the two months since I purchased it. My sleep debt is so high that I fear it can never be repaid, no matter how many sneaky sleep-ins I manage to bargain for with my other half. If my sleep debt was a mortgage, the sleep bank would be foreclosing by now for lack of repayments.
The life of a chronically sleep deprived person (CSDP from here on – partially because I’m a scientist and we turn everything into acronyms, and partially because I’m too tired to keep writing it out) is different to that of our well-rested brethren. A CSDP awakens in the morning (the early, early, morning, most days – it is morning in the loosest definition of the word, as the sun is still asleep) there is a feeling that you get, upon standing. It’s the feeling of being right on the edge, the precipice, of either bursting into tears, or vomiting. You feel like an iPhone that’s under 20% battery and has switched to low power mode – you are dimmer, and you no longer do anything without prompting. A CSDP stumbles around like a drunk at the end of a big night, assembling what hopefully becomes food and coffee, anything, anything to give you the extra energy recharge that you were so cruelly denied during the night. The sound of coffee being made is the song of our people. You choke back the bright yellow, strongly artificially flavoured, weirdly fizzy and ever so slightly grainy drink that is a 90% dissolved Berocca that you gave up on waiting for and just mixed with a spoon, willing it to give you the b-b-bounce you crave.
CSDP’s will have at least one conversation per day that begins with ‘You look tired’ and a sympathetic smile. This will be said to you so much that you will have a standard answer you give. Over time, this answer will degenerate to ‘Yep’ because your ability to remember something more extensive has decreased, as has your will to continue a conversation with some random who clearly doesn’t understand your life.
People will tell you to get some sleep. Those people have misunderstood. You are not sleep deprived because you don’t want to sleep. You are sleep deprived because you can not sleep. Either because you have insomnia, or have something stopping your sleep (shift work, kids, anxiety, annoying dog that barks all night, etc). They don’t understand that not being able to sleep is not the same thing as not being tired. They will often cite articles linking lack of sleep to various health concerns. This will only make you feel worse, as I have pointed out earlier, you are not forgoing sleep as some kind of hobby. And now you have been reminded of your impending doom. Whoopee.
Well, my CSDP friends, I have hope for you, and it doesn’t come in the form of a magical awake pill. Below are 4 ‘all natural’ ways I myself have maintained consciousness on the days when the Sandman is chasing me:
- COFFEE. Well, duh. However, I am talking of a novel approach from this long time awakener. I am not talking about regular coffee – that warm hug in your hands, that re-energising elixir, and the calming, comforting ritual of sipping it. I am talking about instant coffee granules. On a spoon. And straight into your mouth. ‘That’s gross!’ I hear you say. Yes. It is. That is, indeed, the point. You need to ingest something truly disgusting, something that will jolt away any kind of comfort and by doing this, lurch you into the land of the living. The following will also have a similar affect: soy or fish sauce, chilli and vinegar. You can even do apple cider vinegar if you’d prefer to look like someone who’s health conscious instead of some marauding zombie who is attempting to pass as human.
- Stand up for yourself. And by that I mean do not sit down. It’s pretty hard to fall asleep while standing, and even more so while in motion. Do not sit, lean or support yourself on anything. Move if you can muster the will. It doesn’t have to be exercise. It doesn’t have to be productive. If you have to sit, sit on something uncomfortable, or teetering, so you are kept awake by either discomfort or adrenaline. However, be wary of the latter, as CSDP’s are using lacking coordination, so you could be in for a fall. Avoid the couch at all cost. Yes I know it looks comfy. DO not go there. It is a trap.
- Be emotional. Read something upsetting, whether it be a news story about an idiot politician, or something really creepy and unsettling. If your mind is racing, you probably won’t fall asleep. Nothing that makes you cry though. That’ll put you straight down.
- Drink water. Lots of water. Partially for health, hydration, blah, blah, blah. Mostly because if you need to go to the bathroom, it’s pretty hard to fall asleep. And once again, you will appear health conscious instead of deranged. Genius.
Hopefully one of these will help you feign wakefulness when you most need it. If you have something better, pleas let me know. We CSPD’s have to stick together.
And, lastly, if you know a CSDP but are lucky enough not to be one, and you find them asleep on the couch, for the love of God, leave them alone. They need this.
(Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. These have only been tested on me, and not in the ‘I’m going to win a Nobel Prize for testing this on myself’ kind of way. This is not medical advice. If this looks like medical advice to you, you really do need some sleep.)