This post was originally published on February 17, 2016.
It always annoys me when people say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” Really? That’s unfortunate because you don’t know what happens when you die and there’s a chance you’ll no longer have the awareness to know how awesome sleep is when you’re dead and gone. As for me, well, I don’t nap that much during the week but I do love a good snooze on the weekends post-shower. And I definitely need a full eight hours each night to feel normal. Sleep, to me, is one of life’s greatest pleasures. But like any pleasure, can it be overdone? According to a recent piece for Motherboard, the answer is kinda, sorta, maybe but not really.
The short answer is no, technically sleep addiction isn’t really a thing, though people certainly can and do binge on it. The author of the story consulted Dr. Neil Kline from the American Sleep Association who said that because sleep is a biological need, a person can’t be addicted to it. “To say that someone is addicted to sleep is like saying that one is addicted to breathing” was a quote. Hold up, Dr. Kline, breathing is kind of involuntary so I call BS on your comparison. What are you, a medical professional? Oh wait…
Alright, so sleep’s a necessity and not an addictive tendency.
I’m with the author though; I don’t put any addiction to anything past anyone. As she points out, people are addicted to food and sex and they’re both biological necessities, too! Even if an addiction is non-chemical in nature (though there are certain chemicals amped down in humans while they’re asleep and amped up while they’re awake), it still could be negatively impacting the quality of someone’s life. If the need to sleep is making other areas of someone’s life unmanageable, it’s clearly a problem.
Need to Sleep Versus The Need to Check Out
Alas, I think for the most part, the constant desire to hit that REM cycle is more the symptom than the cause. I’d imagine part of why it’s so difficult to diagnose something as “sleep addiction” is that excessive Zzzzz’s catching could be indicative of a number of things. A person could be suffering from depression; a physical reliance on sleeping pills or other drugs that cause drowsiness; extreme grief; extreme anxiety or even thyroid problems, just to name a few.
Additionally, generalized fatigue could have so many causes. Or just straight-up exhaustion. Who hasn’t gone through periods when they feel tired all the time? I definitely have times when I’m not necessarily depressed or even physically tired but I find myself showered and ready for the day yet wishing I could curl back under the covers.
Also, what about good old fashioned narcolepsy? The author of the Motherboard story doesn’t really explore that possibility. Is being a narco the unofficial term for being a sleep addict? They keep sleeping, even though they want to be awake? Can’t stop, won’t stop, sleeping? Not necessarily. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “Contrary to common beliefs, people with narcolepsy do not spend a substantially greater proportion of their time asleep during a 24-hour period than do normal sleepers.” So it’s not about how much they sleep but about the lack of quality of it and the sudden bouts of it at unexpected times like school or a party. (To be fair to them, I’ve been to some pretty boring-ass parties I should have slept through.)
Find Another Vice, or Life
The real question people should ask is: do you really love sleep that much or do you really hate your waking life that much? Sleep has a job. It recharges your bod and keeps your brain functioning. And the right amount is supposed to be good for your skin (so I’m told, though that is yet to be proven the case in my life). But truth be told, sleep doesn’t need that much of your attention. If you’d rather snooze than do anything else, maybe the “anything else” in your life needs a serious shake up.
I still stand by my post-bathing towel nap as a guilty weekend pleasure. Maybe even Saturday and Sunday if I’m really getting crazy.
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