Strange sleeping pattern


Strange sleeping pattern


your avatar   "Sleepy," 29-year-old woman


I'm a 29-year-old female. At the age of 8, I started wetting the bed (after being "normal" since completing potty training at age 3 or 4). I've been diagnosed with three sleeping disorders:

1. My body is not relaxed when asleep (unlike normal people). It's as if my body is stuck in "fight or flight" mode.

2. My sleeping cycles are abnormal and my sleep is deep. I guess this is why I don't wake up when my bladder is full and miss alarms and wake up calls ALL THE TIME.

3. Sleep apnea. I tried the sleeping machine but I take off the machine in my sleep and don't remember doing so.

My sleep specialist said that he thinks that the first two disorders might have been caused by a childhood trauma and that there is no cure for them. He suggested Valium (to help relax my muscles at night, which I refused. I don't want to add addiction to my other chronic conditions). He also suggested psychotherapy, which I did for 5 years but found no benefit (plus, I can't continue my psychotherapy because it costs $160/hour and I'm completely broke and unemployed at this time). I'm unemployed because of my sleeping problem; my excessive sleepiness. My doctors (family physician, psychiatrist, and sleep specialist) found no cause or a diagnosis for my excessive sleepiness. They changed my antidepressants around and gave me a few pills to help me stay awake, but the excessive sleepiness problem remains.

At work, it came to the point where I felt so compelled to sleep that I would go to the bathroom so that I could take a nap on the toilet. During breaks and lunch I'd sleep in my car. When I didn't fight the sleepiness, I'd sleep for 18-22 hours a day. I started falling asleep at my desk and in meetings. My co-workers looked at me like I was a lazy bum and my supervisor harassed me for it (rightfully so), so I quit. I quit my job to save them the burden of having me and to save myself the embarrassment. I also haven't been in a relationship for years and at this point, I intentionally stay single because who wants to date the sleeping princess who wears diapers and snores like an old man?

I've been trying to figure out what's wrong with me and to find help but problems just keep piling on. I have a $40,000 student loan, the cost of completing my Psychology degree. I've maxed-out my credit cards to pay for rent, food, medication and diapers - but I'm just lost. I don't know what to do. Who's willing to hire me to sleep? I don't have any source of income because, well, I'm supposed to be perfectly employable. I honestly feel like I'm a waste of oxygen and space. I mean why am I here? To sleep (uncomfortably) throughout my life? The combination of stress, depression, and $80,000+ debt has me at my wits end. I'm not suicidal but I have suicidal ideation. I'm not contemplating killing myself, but the idea of just dying (never waking up) seems so beautiful at this point. I hate whining and complaining, but I'm suffering and I don't know what to do.

Here are my questions: Do I have a disability? If yes, where does it fall under? What do you think is wrong with me? What do you suggest I try next?


Loudly snoring, diaper-wearing, sleeping princess


    Bob Rich, Ph.D.

"Sleepy" my dear,

I have never come across this reaction to childhood trauma before, but that explanation is plausible. However, your specialist is wrong. Childhood trauma can be resolved. If you lived near me, I'd use "exposure therapy through age-regression hypnosis." You go into a trance (without falling asleep!) and in imagination travel back to 8 years of age, to find what might have happened. Then you can do an evidence-based activity that "resolves" the trauma, so rather than something that needs to be kept hidden in a box at great cost of energy, it becomes just a memory.

Hypnosis can also be used to influence you during sleep, because the part of us that has dreams is always there (called the hidden observer). A first aid for sleeping in flight/fight mode is to learn meditation, and to practice it when going to bed. Putting peace into your heart, then doing self-hypnosis (repeating what the hypnotist did with you) has a good chance of giving you a restful night, and that would solve many of your other practical problems. You didn't write if you have any remembered dreams. If you do, they could indicate past trauma, and its nature.

Your major practical problem is being in debt and unable to earn money. Currently, I suspect you are in despair mode: focusing on the problems. Choose instead to switch to solution mode: "This is a problem. What can I do to improve things?" Brainstorm on sources of income that use your skills, experience and abilities. For example, I do freelance editing. An ex-client has very severe physical handicaps. He makes picture frames for several galleries, although he can only stand at his workbench for 10 minutes at a time. An old lady I know knits things to order, sold via the internet. Another has an eBay shop. When people need to get rid of Granny's possessions because she went into a nursing home or has died, she values the material and sells it for them for a commission. A local shelter for intellectually handicapped adults has them making jam, wooden toys, all sorts of little items, which are sold.

So, what can you do? If you come up with something successful, it will help you in several ways:

1. Earn you some money.

2. Give you fun.

3. Give you hope that you have started to take charge of your life.

4. Give you a reason to stay awake.

Finally, let's look at your current need to sleep so much. The specialists have eliminated organic causes. I suspect the problem is habit. Because night sleep is not restful, you are tired. So, for years you have slept in the daytime, and your body got used to this. Anything like that is a slippery slope, and keeps getting worse.

The solution is gradual, monitored change. Set up a spreadsheet on which you have number of hours of sleep, intended and actual. Suppose currently you can get by with 15/24. Then you aim for 14.5/24 for a few days, then 14, then 13.5 and so on. Make the rate of progress slow.

Design activities that force you to stay awake the rest of the time. Exercise is very good. Winter is coming. Maybe you can get a job shoveling snow? Doing something with your hands is good, as is anything that's a moderate challenge. You could get a simple musical instrument like a recorder or mouth organ, and teach yourself to play.

I hope these suggestions are of use to you. Let me know.


This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit:


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