Girl Talk: I Can’t Stop Sleeping

by The Frisky

SleepingThis story begins in a basement waiting room in Brooklyn. My boyfriend and I stare at our phones on a dirty looking love seat across from the reception desk. There’s no service, and cellphone games give me headaches, so I pick up an issue of Parenting magazine, even though I am not a parent and — thank god — this isn’t that kind of doctor’s visit. I’m not thirsty, but I drink a lot of water from the water cooler to occupy myself. It takes almost an hour before my name is called. The nurse is friendly, but she mumbles and I keep having to ask her to repeat herself. I am relieved when she asks me how much I weigh rather than making me step on the scale, but the anxiety rises again when she measures my blood pressure. The machine squeezes my arm and then releases it in slow puffs — panic, panic, panic.

Actually, this story begins on Christmas night. And the night before. And the night after. And all of the nights that I went to bed too early. This story begins with me apologizing. This story begins with my mother’s worried face. It begins with an unquenchable, inexplicable desire for sleep, which actually begins nine years ago when I was in 12th grade and became addicted to going to bed. Because that’s what this is really about. That’s the reason I am waiting in a cold doctor’s office, picking nervously at my nail polish, listening to the paper crinkle each time I move, and wanting very badly to pee.

I’m tired. I’m tired all the time.

I booked my appointment online on a website not unlike Yelp. Physicians, brunch spots, it’s all the same. Brooklyn twentysomethings make sense of things by scrolling through star reviews written by their peers. When making the appointment three days prior, I chose a small, middle-aged woman, described by reviewers as competent and kind, but the doctor who finally arrives is a man who looks like a less bloated Matthew Broderick and says “hokay” instead of “okay.”

When he asks me why I’m here, I don’t know where to start. Scenes of Christmas vacation flash through my mind. I slept more than I saw my family. On New Year’s Eve, I chugged Redbull and black tea during the day and still fell asleep on my boyfriend’s shoulder on the subway ride home from dinner. I was in bed by 9:30 and woke to the sound of fireworks and cheers from the bar across the street. Happy New Year. I felt like crying. I recall a particular weekend in high school when I visited a friend’s lake house and spent half the time sleeping on the living room couch while my friends swam and took the boat out. I think of cancelled plans, of wasted weekends, of naps that last all afternoon. I remember the letter I wrote to my ballet instructor when I quit dancing after 15 years because I didn’t have the energy to get out of bed.

But to the doctor, I simply say, “I’m tired.”

The worst part about being tired all the time is disappointing everyone. It’s not an excuse. It’s not even an explanation. It’s not good enough to just be tired in this busy city where the world revolves around one’s ability to hustle, network, show your stuff and look good on everyone’s Instagram feed while you do it. In the city that never sleeps, I am the exhausted exception. Sleeping too much is equated with laziness — a common stereotype of my slacker generation of unindustrious, entitled twentysomethings who can’t seem to get off our laptops and out of our parents’ basements. The truth is, while I spent 10 mostly wretched post-college months in my mom’s house making barely over minimum wage at a hotel in upstate New York, I now have a good job in Manhattan and a one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn where I pay all the bills and buy all the groceries and even vacuum occasionally. On paper, I’m doing just fine. Better than fine, actually, because hard work alone won’t get you where I am in a poor economy with a degree in film and English. That takes connections or luck or both, and I have to admit it: I’m very, very lucky. But here, in this doctor’s office, with my shirt hiked up around my ribs while the doctor prods at my pale stomach, I feel ashamed and embarrassed and very much like a stereotype. How much of this is self-inflicted? Have I done this to myself with alcohol and take out and unopened bottles of vitamins? Maybe I really am just a product of the laptop generation, quietly Googling “can introversion make you physically ill” while people with real problems exist. Maybe the problem is me.

We talk about my diet and my mood, my medical history. I fill out a survey about depression. It depresses me. He shines that beady little light into my eyes and ears and even makes me stick out my tongue and say “AH” like they do in the movies. Sometimes he interrupts me. He asks if I have a regular non-OB GYN, and I tell him he’s it. I haven’t been for a checkup since high school and I have no excuse. Really, he says, there’s nothing to be done until he looks at my blood. That’s the easy part because I don’t have to think anymore. The nurse taking my blood is a man who wears jeans and a sweatshirt and seems a little lost. He might be new. All of this is moderately off-putting and I don’t look when the needle goes in.

Three days later, I get an email from my doctor, telling me my results are back and everything looks normal. I want to tell him that is the problem, has always been the problem. Everything looks normal but nothing feels normal and I cannot reconcile the two. I start to wonder if I would even recognize normalcy if I woke up with it one morning. The older I get, the less sure I am about how other people live and eat and sleep when they are alone in their one bedroom apartments, typing their symptoms into WebMD and hitting the snooze button and staring into the yellow glare of the refrigerator. How much of what I think of as normal is really just an idea based on characters from movies, books, and TV? I am equal parts relieved and troubled to find out that my blood work is healthy. While of course I’m grateful for my health, my sleeping habit is beginning to feel even less legitimate, and more like an addiction, a fault, a choice.

What next, then? As it’s still January, with the whole year stretching out in front of me, I decide to make some resolutions. I resolve to work on my diet and exercise program, which means I will buy vegetables and lie to the guys at my gym about the extended vacation from which I’ve recently returned. I resolve to finally start taking the vitamins collecting dust on my shelves. I resolve to stop feeling guilty or lame for going to bed early when I feel like I need it, even on the weekends. I resolve to forgive myself for this, and I know it will be the hardest resolution to keep, which makes me wonder — am I tired because I exhaust myself? Would I have more energy if I started liking myself a little more? Would I bound out of bed in the mornings if I started to treat myself with kindness instead of listening to the voice in my head that nags, stresses, and criticizes? And how does one even begin to make that kind of change? Am I supposed to start taking yoga and writing mantras on my bathroom mirror in lipstick? For now, I will just resolve to be more patient with myself. I will practice making my mind a place I don’t need to escape. And in the morning, I will get out of bed and do it again.


This post originally appeared on The Frisky. Republished with permission.

  • hiphoppmommie

    I just wen tot the doctor for the same thing. I am already doing the exercise, and eating better, but I am still tired. I live in the mid west and right now the there is no sun… just gloom. I think that for me I need the sun or I just feel exhausted.
    Good luck!!

  • Reality&Truth

    You need to keep going doctors and insisting on them checking you out until they find something. Do your own research. Consider a sleep clinic. Everything. This is not normal and your health is important. Exercise and vitamins are all well and good, but if you are otherwise healthy, a lack of them should not impact you so severely.

  • Reds

    I’ve also had the same complaint recently. I just cant get enough sleep and it’s so hard for me to get out of bed in the morning. It may partly be due to the fact that it takes hours for me to fall asleep, and I often wake up during the night and it takes a while to get back to sleep. I’m not sure why this is happening, perhaps stress. But I had normal blood work including thyroid function tests. I also exercise and eat a diet filled with fruits and veggies, but still to no avail. I’m not depressed. I work in the health care field and I cant explain it.

    But you definitely shouldn’t dismiss your symptoms. You might want to get evaluated for an autoimmune disease. They can commonly cause fatigue. But keep talking to your doctor about it. Seeing someone at a sleep clinic and developing good sleep habits is also a great suggestion. There was also some research that suggests taking iron supplementation, even if your iron levels and blood counts are normal, improved fatigue in younger pre-menopausal women.

  • NicoleJButler

    I had the same problem, and a doctor here in L.A. got to the bottom of it. I was eating TOO MANY CARBS. He went through everything on my blood test item by item, and told me what they meant, and told me that “traditional” MDs would probably just say “everything looks fine.”

    Increase the fat in your diet, decrease the carbs. Any carbs you do ear should come from vegetables and (sparingly) fruit.

    I also take a handful of supplements each morning: B12, D3, a multi, and some others. You will see a difference.

    Let me know if you’d like further info. I don’t sell anything, so this isn’t me trying to drum up business in any way. Just want to help.

  • k

    i have the same problem, i thought it was just me or me just being lazy. unfortunately i am uninsured so i cannot go to a doctor but i feel your pain

  • Reds

    I recently started a low carb diet-trying to limit myself to approx 50grams/day, within the last 2 months, and it did nothing for my fatigue. Did that really help? How long did it take for you to see noticeable results?

  • YNot?

    I went gluten free and the sleepies fell off in 2wks! I figured I’d give it a try, as I had nothing to lose and energy to live my life to gain.

  • Deb

    I think you should go to the original frisky article and post this because I don’t think the author will see it on here.

  • Deb

    This (and what others say they have also) sounds like it could be adrenal fatigue.

  • Kay

    I used to feel tired all the time too, but in my case, my doctor found out that I had an iron deficiency and was anemic. I felt great after a few months of supplements and an iron rich diet. But if your doctor couldn’t find anything after a blood test, the author may have to go to a specialist. Like another poster said, it may be adrenal or have something to do with the thyroid.

  • Jasmine Rochelle

    I’m the same way! I’m always tired and it annoys everyone, even people that don’t know me? I thought about spending the $50 + bucks to see the doctor and be told nothing is wrong.. I mean It is my health we are talking, right.

    But, my grandmother who has a PHD in telling me what to do suggested I sleep more. Then it hit me -How many hours do I actually sleep? I decided to take my grandmothers advice I slept more (And, I didn’t tell her she was right), I started taking vitamins on a regular basis, and exercising more. I have to admit I feel a lot better and I actually don’t sleep as long anymore.

  • Katie Jones

    It’s not normal to feel tiredall the time or in the middle of the day…I’ve read an article that explains this with the food that we are eating – most of the food doen’t contain all the vitamins that the human body need and thus we are always tired and sleepy. But that’s only a theory. The best thing to do is to see a doctor and see what’s ip with the immune system. I think for an adult it’s normal to sleep 6-8 hours.

  • Inquiring minds

    You may want to try light therapy. You can purchase a lamp from Amazon that is to be used in the AM. Studies show it lifts mood and controls sleep patterns.
    Also, check for a vitamin D deficiency, as many people of darker complexion (Latinos, Blacks) have it and don’t realise it.
    Dr’s haven’t started checking for it until recently, and studies are now linking the deficiency to many ailments. HTH!

  • NicoleJButler

    It took about a week and a half. As another poster mentioned, I also had adrenal fatigue as a result of my diet. The multi-vitamin that I am taking is an adrenal support formula.

    My dr actually told me to get more lean meats and fats into my diet, but to eat as close to nature as possible.

    Google Dr. Robert Krochmal – he’s located in Woodland Hills, and has a website and articles on the web. He is an MD who has a holistic approach.

  • Siyanda

    I had this problem all through high-school. Even up to uni.
    I even went to a neurologist and the idiot prescribed ritalin to me.

    Then two years ago I became vegan.

    It stopped. I ended up only needing 5 hours of sleep.


  • Honey

    Thank you so much for this article because I feel the same.
    Try to see another doctor to confirm it is not hormones related (thyroid gland) or any other medical disorder.
    I thought I was always tired having an hectic life in a big city but I know it is related to my weight. I am overweight. I weight much more than I look and should. My doctor referred me to a dietitian.
    Begin with baby steps to do the following:
    Drink more water and less sodas.
    Reduce sugar in your diet.
    Eat more unprocessed food.
    Eat more vegetables and fruits.
    Exercise minimum 3 times per week for 30-45 min. Exercise is like brushing your teeth, you brush your teeth everyday, you should exercise more often.
    Try yoga classes with a person you love.
    Eat more citrus and ginger.
    Eat more fish. Less red meat.
    Drink less alcohol.
    Relax min 30 min per day (listen to music, meditate, read)
    Surround yourself with positive people.
    Live the present moment.
    Get off the bus or metro station earlier so you could walk or after work take a walk for 30 min so you could clear your mind.
    My problem is that I usually do this for few months then I get back to the bad habits when I have a big project assigned at work or an industry exam. What I can tell you is anytime I relapse, I get tired again…
    I wish you to get better soon and on the long term!

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