Let me clarify: I am constantly sleepy and exhausted. It’s been like this for at least ten years, and it’s only gotten worse over time.
I don’t think it started out of the blue, but I started noticing that I was more tired than usual starting in my early 20s. I attributed it to typical life changes (work, personal life, etc.) and didn’t think much about it. I just napped when I needed to. It wasn’t until about 2005 or so that I mentioned my exhaustion and fatigue to my doctor. Since “fatigue” is a common symptom amongst many conditions, she decided to take blood samples and have tests run for different conditions and to see what my vitamin levels were. I tested negative for diabetes and Mononucleosis, and my thyroid was normal. My iron levels were low, so my doctor figured that was the cause of the fatigue and prescribed iron supplements. I took those for quite a while, and my iron levels increased to a normal range, but I still felt just as fatigued as before. I was back to square one.
The fatigue and exhaustion continued and worsened over the next couple of years, and so I brought it up again during my annual physical. This time, it was with a different doctor. Again, blood tests were run and everything they tested for was factored out. My Vitamin D levels were low (not surprising at all) so I was prescribed 50,000 IUs a day for about three months. My Vitamin D levels improved, but I didn’t feel any less fatigued. Back to square one again.
I decided to try other things to see if it would help me feel more rested. I bought a new mattress. I bought a new memory foam pillow. I made sure to keep my bedroom at a comfortable temperature at night. I tried exercising after work several times a week. I tried eliminating caffeine several hours before bedtime. I tried not eating a couple of hours before bedtime. I tried wearing ear plugs. I tried keeping the cats out of my bedroom so I wouldn’t be awakened by them. I tried not napping. I tried napping. Nothing seemed to help.
The difficult thing is that it’s hard to explain exactly what I feel like. It’s not just feeling tired, like the way most people feel when they don’t get enough rest. It’s a paralyzing kind of exhaustion, like the way an average person would feel if they hadn’t slept for 24 hours or more. I always feel like there’s a cloud over my brain. If I’m doing a mundane task or doing something relaxing, my body feels like it’s “shutting down” the way it does when it’s preparing to fall asleep. My heart rate slows and it’s incredibly difficult to stay focused and awake. When I “snap out of it” it feels like I was awoken abruptly from my sleep and I tend to fumble over my words when I speak and get physically clumsy (dropping things, knocking things over, sometimes even stumbling or running into walls). I just always feel like I could lay my head down and take a nap.
The part that affects my life the most is sleeping. I sleep for seven or eight hours a night, but then I nap at least two to three hours later on. That means that on work days, I get home, nap, and then have about three hours before I go to bed again. That doesn’t leave much time for a social life, hobbies, or anything else. On weekends, it’s not unusual for me to sleep 14 or more hours on Saturday and again on Sunday. If I don’t have any plans, I’ll sleep that much and then nap again later on. No matter how much sleep I get, I feel the same way.
I can’t say what my quality of sleep is like. I do know I fall asleep quickly and don’t have any problems with insomnia. I dream vividly, and I know I have several dreams a night and dream at least once when I nap. I’m 99% positive I don’t have sleep apnea. I don’t snore. I do grind my teeth when I’m stressed, but I don’t grind my teeth every night.
I reached a point where I need to figure out what’s causing this. I can’t live like this any more. I’m sick of feeling like a junkie addicted to sleep. I’m consumed with the thought, “When can I take my next nap?” Sleep should be a part of my life — it should not be the center of my life. I want to have my evenings free after work instead of napping when I get home. I want to wake up on Saturday mornings and spend the day doing things instead of spending the majority of the day sleeping. I just want to feel normal.
I made an appointment with a sleep specialist physician in May, and I’ll be able to tell her everything I’ve been dealing with. Hopefully she will have some suggestions, and maybe she will have me do a sleep test to see what’s happening when I’m sleeping. Is it narcolepsy? Is it hypersomnia? Is it something else? I just hope she can help me figure this out.