The Need for Zs


According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), the average healthy adult needs between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to function at their best. One can assume therefore that those of us dealing with a chronic health condition need more than that.

So of all the options available to help manage my symptoms and progression, you would think getting the proper amount of sleep would be number one on my list: a no-brainer, a slam dunk! You would also be very wrong.

For most of my adult life, I have averaged between 5 to 6 hours during the week, and it isn’t because I have a hard time sleeping or falling asleep. Unless my leg is twitching like a fish out of water, I’m usually out cold ten minutes or less after my head hits the pillow, and won’t wake up unless a full bladder or the alarm beckons. No, my sleep deprivation is entirely self -inflicted.

I know this needs to change. I’m often comatose when I wake up, and it is not uncommon for me to nod off while I am watching television or reading something in one of my comfy living room chairs, especially on weekends. During the work day, although my body and mind feel alert, my eyes often feel like they are sunk into the back of my head. My patience at home is less than stellar, I get annoyed very easily, and according to K, I have become a very cranky husband and father.

This is entirely fixable, and always has been, yet I resist. I’m a logical guy, but this defies logic and boarders on the absurd. I have my reasons, but honestly, they aren’t reasons. They’re excuses.

Decades ago, when I became a department head, I started arriving at work long before anyone else, because it was the only time of the day where I could accomplish something. But I’m no longer a department head, haven’t been for over ten years, and control my work day instead of it controlling me, so that issue no longer applies. What’s the next excuse?

I live thirty-five miles from my place of employment, which is located in one of the busiest sections of Connecticut in terms of rush hour traffic, which I hate. So even though I promised K that I would be a good boy and not wake up as early when I took this job, I somehow convinced myself that it would be a good idea to keep the early-to-work habit because not only would it allow me to avoid the morning rush, it would also allow me to leave the office early, avoid the afternoon rush, and have more time to spend at home.

Then MS reared its ugly head and I started all these treatments, which requires me to leave work much earlier than normal on treatment days. This sometimes results in me working less than forty hours for the week, which isn’t a big deal because I’m a salaried employee. But I am also old-fashioned and hard-headed. Salaried employees are supposed to put in more than forty hours, and I overcompensated by arriving at work even earlier, and working longer hours so I would never be in a position where I averaged less than the minimum requirement. This is insane because not only would that never happen, but if it occasionally did, nobody would hassle me.

So instead of sleeping more and getting up later, I am actually getting up earlier each morning, at 4:30, and sometimes even earlier than that.

The logical thing to do would be to go to bed earlier at night. We aren’t talking about stupid early either, such as 7:30 or 8:00. All I need to do is get to bed by 9:30, but instead, I normally hit the sack between 10:30 and 11:00, or later if my leg is spazzing out and I can’t fall asleep.

K thinks I’m nuts, and she’s probably right. Why is this so hard? I need to have some time to unwind, chill out, and enjoy the solitude of the evening, but I should be able to still do that and get to bed by 9:30, but it never works out that way. Unless I am so tired that I can’t keep my eyes open and I am physically unable to function, which happens on occasion, I typically get engrossed watching something on the television with K, or I’m caught up in the Red Sox game. The next thing I know, it’s after ten. Once again, these are excuses, not reasons.

Part of this being stubborn and a creature of habit. Part of it is this misplaced macho attitude that I am not going to change anything or give into this disease one iota, and by exerting my will, I am winning this battle.

Smart Steve understands what I am doing isn’t good for my health in general or MS in particular. Smart Steve knows the attitude I described is juvenile, and that there is no bona-fide reason I can’t sleep until 5:30 or 6. My job doesn’t require it, and I would still miss the worst of rush hour. On the rare occasions where I sleep even a half hour later due to an off-site meeting, I feel more rested and alert, so I know changing my ways would be good. It’s a simple thing to change too, yet I continue to resist. Why?

I’ve given you all the excuses, but what are the reasons? I pondered this question and wracked my sleep-deprived brain for a long time, but only come up with one.

I’m an idiot.

Author: Steve Markesich

I am loving husband, a doting father, a Red Sox fanatic, an aspiring novelist and MS advocate. Feel free to check out my web site.

28 thoughts on “The Need for Zs”

  1. I don’t think that you are an idiot. I think that your brain/body has been so conditioned to this that you need to retrain it. I use to do this too, stay up later than I should and stumbling through my day. Now, early to bed and I can get up early and do what I need to without being tired. I actually used melatonin to get me back on track and other than when I am in a depressive episode and want to do nothing more than sleep as much as I can, I am now able to fall asleep earlier than I use to. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s your work ethic. It’s how you were raise. It’s a constant. It’s a fuck you to MS. It will change when you can’t do it anymore.
    I’m behind you bud, do not go gently into that good night!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Well, Steve… you are stubborn and controlling. You don’t sound very fun to live with. I get it. You sound a lot like me! My ‘career’ was everything. After I got sick, I was a bitch with a capitol “B” and I was either at work or sleeping. Needless to say, my (ex) fiancé and I spiraled out of everything. When I finally lost my job, I lost my identity. I didn’t know how to communicate with people on topics other than work and I had no hobbies, no nothing I wanted to do other than work. So, self impose hobbies, and sleep in for crying out loud! I get the need to ‘show’ everyone MS is bullshit. But the truth is, it’s not BS it’s the real deal. And surprise! You were awarded this trophy… take your wife out on a date and be the guy she married. The people you work with are not going to remain a part of your life when you retire. I hope you get your ZZZzzzzzzsssss!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. The interesting thing is that on the mornings I can sleep in, I often wake up early anyway. My body clock is so,used to this. Guilty on the stubborn charge. Controlling only when it comes to me and what I do. And yes, I will eventually get there. Thanks again for reading

      Liked by 3 people

        1. No offense taken. I AM stubborn, complements of my Dad. I’m not controlling, but I do admit that I have been holding onto certain things more tightly since MS came along. I am sure it is an subconscious effort to compensate for the control I have lost within my body.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I so enjoyed reading this post and the comments you have already received. I find that it is so hard to change certain routines that I have enjoyed and it makes me mad that I need to change………some things I have had to do, others, I just won’t. As far as sleep goes, my neurological issue makes sleep difficult and down right impossible at times.
    Now………..go buy your wife some flowers or something to say you are sorry for being difficult! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Your not an idiot although that last line did give me a chuckle. I use to workout everyday before work getting up at 5:30am when I didn’t have to be to work until 8:30. I use to go to bed by 9:30-10. I think i Just had a more active lifestyle but i paid for it over the weekends. Now I don’t work anymore and I’m still asleep early and average 8-10 hours a night.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The average healthy adult needs between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to function at their best. (I sleep around 6)…Don’t ask how I feel.
    My sleep deprivation is entirely self -inflicted. I know this needs to change.
    A cranky wife here. Stubborn….An idiot.

    This is a post about me, right? And no, I don’t have an answer either.

    Amazing post, Steve.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. You know how much sleep you need and how you want to sleep. They are the controlling ones, not you. Since my heart surgery 2 years ago, i have slept in my recliner. I can’t breathe well when I’m flat and with my restless legs and chronic pain I’m up every couple of hours and tired all day. But I do what I am comfortable with and don’t keep my wife awake all night.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I think you are definitely strong willed and just stubborn to the core, which does not mean anything bad about you at all! Actually I find you pretty inspiring! I am a lot like you in many ways. Even though I am not working 40 hours a week right now, I am always at work before anyone else and working by the time others arrive. I work hard while I am at work and push myself as far as I can. One reason i get to work early is to avoid the crazy city traffic and also to prove that I am a good employee. I never sleep 7-9 hours any day of the week, including weekends. I typically sleep 4-6 hours daily. I have a hard time falling asleep because of my twitching legs. I enjoyed reading this post as once again Steve, you give me so much hope for the future!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Your punchline had me laughing out loud at work. 😂 Thank you for that.

    I shifted my sleep schedule when I started blogging. I know, that sounds weird, but it’s true. I’ve never been much for sleeping in, but I do have a morning routine. So, when I started writing more it was either (a) get up earlier and write during the morning hours (when I am, personally, at my best), (b) give up some of my morning routine, or (c) write later when I don’t like to.

    So, I chose (a).

    Much to my wife’s chagrin, to be honest. She loves to sleep in, and stay up watching shows. I would stay up and watch shows with her before the blog, even though I don’t much care for TV. So I shifted back. Most nights I’m in bed by 9, asleep by 10, and up by 5 (or earlier).

    Sounds like I’m getting the bare minimum amount of sleep for a healthy adult, most nights. I’ll take it.

    Despite all that, though, I am still an idiot in many other ways. We stand together. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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