Something crazy and disconcerting happened. I slept for 16 hours straight.
This has never happened to me before, to my knowledge, even when I’ve been ill. Even when I’ve been recovering from finals week. I didn’t even know it was physically possible.
I woke up and looked at my sleep monitor. That’s what I usually do, and usually it tells me something disappointing, like I haven’t quite made it to six hours. This is where I got the ‘16’ number.
I figured it had to be wrong, that there was either a time zone problem or that I had accidentally turned it on. Then I checked the clock, and that didn’t make sense either.
4 PM? Who sleeps until 4 PM? Like, night shift workers?
I got up and looked out the window. Plausible.
It didn’t make much sense, though, physically. I wasn’t hungry and I didn’t even really need the bathroom. Surely if I’d slept most of a day I would feel dehydrated and weird?
I left the room to look for my husband. There he was, chilling on the couch.
“My Fitbit says I slept for sixteen hours. Is that right?”
“Yep,” he said, shortly before taking a two-hour nap.
It caught up with us.
We took off on vacation and decided it would be a good idea to do all our flights back-to-back. By the time we got to our hotel, we had been awake for 31 hours, and we still needed to get a SIM card, buy groceries, eat a meal, unpack, shower, and get ready for bed. Then I “just had to send a couple of quick emails” and suddenly I had been up for 35 hours.
It wasn’t just that. We had just moved, after all, and apparently I only slept 4.5 hours the night before we left. The previous three weeks had been a bit chaotic.
The entire reason we moved was because we couldn’t sleep under our possibly drug-affected upstairs neighbors. I mean high-test coffee, at least. Although I’ve lived downstairs from a crackhead and I have to admit that he was considerably louder.
It seems that a watershed moment has arrived in my personal history. I slept 16 hours, and everything was perfectly fine, and it looks like I am physiologically capable of sleeping.
In fact I’ve slept 36 hours in three days!
This is more familiar territory. When I first quit my day job, I would take two or three naps a day. I couldn’t stay awake for more than three hours, sometimes an hour and a half. That went on for a week. Then I slept twelve hours a day for the next three weeks.
This is the cure for burnout. Just sleep as much as possible until you feel better.
Okay, maybe that isn’t true for everyone, but it certainly seems to be for me. I’ve had sleep issues since early childhood. More sleep is the answer for just about everything. Catch a cold? Go to sleep. Tummy troubles? Go to sleep. Headache? Go to sleep.
If you can, that is. If your housemates and neighbors are cooperative. If sleep will come to you at all.
The most interesting thing about sleeping 16 hours is that physically it could happen for me. The second most interesting thing was...
I got away with it!
Most people aren’t going to plan to lose a day to sleep in that way, of course. It just happened. It isn’t something I would go out of my way to do again.
In that sense, it can be looked at as an accident of fate.
I didn’t miss any important calls or email. I didn’t hit any deadlines.
Well, okay, I missed an entire day of my blog. First time in five years. I’d be more embarrassed about this if I’d ever earned a cent off all the thousands of pages I have posted.
While I was sleeping...
The world kept turning
Everyone in my family was fine
The fridge had food in it
There were clean clothes in the closet
We had soap and shampoo and toothpaste
We had power and water and internet
None of our stuff got up and ran away
My keys and passport were right where I left them
My little parrot Noelle was entertaining our house sitter by swinging, dancing, and whistling along with Lady Gaga
Nobody missed me while I was out.
I slept for sixteen continuous hours and it was perfectly fine.
This might not be possible for everyone, for instance parents of small children, but then that isn’t my situation. I’m 44 and most people my age don’t have little kids at home. Indeed I probably couldn’t have done this at home because my dog would have signaled that he needed to go out. Other than the needs of our dependents, many of us may find that we could pull a Rip van Winkle on a Friday night without major repercussions.
Or even minor repercussions.
What if all the stress and strain and worry were for nothing?
What if there were things on your to-do list that could sit there, blamelessly waiting for several days without being tended?
What if some of those things never needed to get done at all?
What if we could all ratchet down our background stress levels by several degrees, and nothing bad happened, and everyone just sighed and sat back?
After sleeping for 36 hours in three days, this is my perspective. Sleeping more would, paradoxically, result in more time. Sleeping more and getting decent rest makes everything seem easier. It gives the perspective that is so hard to find while in a state of exhaustion. It saves all the extra work that comes from making mistakes while sleep deprived.
If you knew a 16-hour sleep cloud was about to settle on you, an unavoidable storm of slumber, what would you do to prepare? What would you cross off your endless list?
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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