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How Do You Make Up Sleep Debt From Fifteen Years?

by Gwen

I remember back when I was probably 14 I had insomnia. I could not fall asleep until after midnight and then would wake up multiple times per night and lie there for an hour or so maybe more. The alarm would go off at 7:15 AM. That went on through high school.

Then I started working and still continued with insomnia, but also had to work two days a week of a graveyard shift for about a year. I could not sleep during the day more than five hours. Even after that job ended I would sleep at my boyfriend's house and we would stay up until 2 AM or so every night. I couldn't fall asleep for awhile and I would lie there for an hour at least.

I would wake up when the sun came up and just lay there holding back tears because I was so tired but could not fall back asleep. In my twenties I was in school and had to be up by 5:30 AM to work out. I never fell asleep before midnight and always woke up at least once a night.

While dating my now husband we would stay up super late and then I would try to sleep a little, but still had insomnia. I would drink multiple coffee drinks each day just to function.

I had three kids within five years and after the third kid my brain felt like it was broken. I thought I was going crazy. Now I see it was likely sleep debt. I was put on anti-depressants and did not leave the house for a year or so.

I still struggle with "crazy" symptoms and still do not sleep well most of the time. I was on a sleeping pill which helped some, but the side effects were too bothersome, so I got off of that. I sleep better in the winter but this summer has been so hot that I am miserable.

I cannot sleep in. EVER. Or nap. Never can I make up fifteen years of slept debt. I hear it needs to be hour for hour, but I just cannot imagine sleeping that much. Will I ever feel sane again? I am only 36 years old, but I just don't know how I can survive much longer at this rate.

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Welcome! This site is continuously being created by students of Dr. William C. Dement's Sleep And Dreams course at Stanford University.

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