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Short Sleeping: What it is, What it is not

Photo unrelated, I just saw it and snorted my coffee. 

I guess it was around a year or so ago, I’m not sure. I was researching something else and I stumble across this article. It was all about how these highly successful people might have a condition. Or rather, they didn’t: the fact that they only slept 4-5 hours a night, tops, was just how they are.

It was a very cheery article all about how great their lives are. Take it away, Billy Mays:

Just click on 0:36: You shittin’ me?! 

For as long as I could remember, when I am not indulging stupidly in illicit substances and often, when I am: yeah. 5 hours is like my max.

That morning, I remember reading through all the stories of these people, just smirking. Should you attempt this yourself- you’ll see. Apparently, short sleep cycles just do not happen to the poor or anyone not some kind of pep-tastic over-achiever? I saw the moniker Sleepless Elite and

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Er, no. Elite’s about the last thing I am or may ever be, I think. The thing is though: EVERY SINGLE TIME I HAVE EVER TALKED TO ANY MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL ABOUT THIS- and I mean, EVERY time, save for when I emailed one of the authors of a study I’d read with interest: I will get one of a handful of responses and not a fucking one seems to indicate I am somehow “elite”.

Drug testing. The drug testing thing I am used to. I could go in with my leg dangling, bone protruding and a fence pole coming out the top of my head- I’d still get the side eyeball, I’d still get treated like a drug-seeker. I’m tiny. I’m pale. I tend to weigh anywhere from 99 pounds to 115. I don’t lie about my past history of abuse- which, as far as I knew, was what you’re supposed to do but experience tells me otherwise: because they shit on you and assume every-fucking-thing means you’re using. I am covered in tattoos and I tend towards high energy, almost frenetic behavior. When I am not on drugs. Seriously, I’ve mentioned this before: the way that I am tends to make people think I am on drugs. Ironically, when I was abusing, nobody ever thought so. I’m not being a smart ass, nor am I being arrogant. They also tend to think that my normal M.O.O. means I’m nervous or otherwise frantic.

No, that’s just me. I have always been self aware enough to say this with full confidence: I was self medicating like crazy, because frankly, I always thought something was very, very wrong with me. A friend once said that I’m like a manic depressive without the depressive. By the way, nobody says “manic depressive” anymore. It’s bi-polar. But whatever. Point being: do not ever, ever ask me what’s on my mind or ask for a penny for my thoughts. Oh, it’s a hell of a deal, because you’re in for the penny, you are in for the pound, my friend- my head doesn’t stop, nor does my mouth. And unless I am medicated or abusing- I am always like this. There is nothing “going on”. That’s just me. Plus, I sleep differently than most people, apart from, apparently a bunch of rich assholes. Did they get told something was wrong with them for pretty much ever? Accused of drug abuse? Fuck, I don’t know, but I somehow doubt it.

I am fucking autistic with a side of ADHD, I was before trauma, I was before I got into drugs. Back when I was a kid, there wasn’t a whole lot of awareness of autism, at least not in the way we have now. They honestly had no idea what the fuck to think and as a result: my experiences sucked ass. I’m actually very okay with this because hearing my father SAY that opened the door to me understanding and forgiving quite a bit. But, as for all your profiling Tells: unless you’re experienced with this, you are probably gonna want to shove those right up your ass. Because some of us are where you’re gonna fall on it and you’ll need the extra padding.

The other one I don’t get quite so bitter about: they want to explore trauma. I get that. Except, I was this way long before what happened to me. In the years after it, though, my sleep was seriously fucked up. I definitely understand why they go there- but, it’d be great if they’d at least take a peek at the literature I now bring with me. Or listen when I say how I first worked through this with yes, therapists, and then on my own. I can give you my PTSD laundry list- and comparing years? I am doing great. Granted, PTSD recovery’s a real dick in the ass. In my case, and, as it turns out, loads of other people I’ve read about: well, you know, you begin to sort things, begin to get into after the heavy lifting- you think, and your brain goes: Oh hey. We’re stable. We’re dealing. Great, now, here are those things you couldn’t remember before and some weird reactions to situations. You might think I’m full of shit but as I was explaining a lot of this to a friend, she suggested I read The Body Keeps the Score and some other work by Van Der Kolk. I was seriously fucking disheartened before I did. Turns out, it isn’t dissimilar to video games- I was just heading for the Big Boss. But yeah, spoiler alert- at many junctures within trauma recovery you will reach the top of the steps only to

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And it’s okay. It definitely doesn’t mean you are incurable. There is no real timeline, either. Just a matter of keep on, keepin’ on. I never in a million years would imagine I am like I am today- and, well, my baseline for “normal” might be a bit different than yours, but: if you’re struggling, know that you’ll get there. There is hope.

Thing is, my short sleeping had nothing to do with either of those things. I don’t think. I have to get back to the drug thing in just a minute.

What Is Short Sleeping?

First off, if you routinely sleep 3, 4, 5 hours or whatever but by the afternoon you’re like “BLEARGH” and dozing in your seat: that isn’t short sleeping. I don’t do that. When I was abusing- oh man, yeah. Opoid nods. It happens. Doesn’t happen to me, anymore, as I’d really rather slam my fingers in a door repeatedly than go back to that- but, okay, so you are not under the influence of anything whatsoever, you sleep 3-5 hours or so and you’re fine.

They don’t actually know much about this and what they know, changes a bit as they study it. One thing they think is it involves a gene mutation- DEC2’s a bit wonky. Mine happens to be, but while that’s a thing they think, as far as I know- and I may be wrong: they haven’t really proven that one thing is THE thing. In fact, there are a couple others they are looking at, also.

The other thing is we all have this cluster of things in common- I have long jokingly referred to my hope as pathological. Because frankly, you look at my life and it’s an irrational response. I am strangely optimistic, tenacious and generally speaking, fairly difficult to keep up with. Again, that isn’t a brag, it’s obnoxious. Get me set on a goal, I whip out my organizational tools- and yes, I have systems within systems I have developed to either keep me on task or keep me from becoming so absorbed in one task I forget to eat: and I get frustrated when others involved aren’t following suit. They aren’t lazy or bad or wrong in any way: I am.

I also do not, nor have I ever exhibited symptoms of someone sleeping this way. That’s another thing- if you attempt to induce this in yourself: you’re gonna have a bad time. The truth is, the odds really aren’t in favor of most people being actual short sleepers. Though no one’s pinpointed some sort of “exact” optimal amount, if you are over the age of 18: odds are you do need between 7 to 8 hours of sleep. How do you know? Well, according to The Sleep Foundation- ask yourself these things:

  • Are you productive, healthy and happy on seven hours of sleep? Or does it take you nine hours of quality ZZZs to get you into high gear?
  • Do you have health issues such as being overweight? Are you at risk for any disease?
  • Are you experiencing sleep problems?
  • Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day?
  • Do you feel sleepy when driving?

Apart from #1’s answer being “5 at best”, my answers to all of those are no. If yours are “Yes”- you are probably not a short sleeper, but rather, sleep deprived. It’s not good. 

Back to Drugs

I hate to say it, skippy, but the fact that I’m ASD/ADHD and a short sleeper is also probably not a coincidence. Again, it’s one of those things they haven’t established, yet- but, have been seeing.

If you snorted a fat rail of methamphetamine, would you be groggy, sleep heavily?

Probably not.

I do.

Okay, actually, I don’t do meth and haven’t since I attempted it at a party when I was 15- but, for whatever reason: stimulants, particularly at long term, therapeutic doses turn me into a normal person. Okay, normal-ish. At least, in respect to sleep.

I am not sure I like it. While it is true that when I am on my meds for ADHD, I have more control of my head- and that’s important: in respect to my sleep, I’m really not sure I dig it. Because whether it is ritalin, adderall or modafinil- I sleep like a drunken bum. I sleep much longer- granted, whenever I say that and people ask what time I wake up, my chirping answer of “Oh, six or seven am” makes most people roll their eyes. It’s not so much sleeping in that bothers me- but how I wake up. I’m all groggy and stupid. I hate it.

Normally, in an entirely unmedicated state, I wake up between 3:30 am and 4:00 am with a perkiness that really irks the shit out of people around me. Yes, I make coffee- a hotel pot. By the time its ready, though: I’m already jonesing for good conversation.

I didn’t realize this fully until this last go. Granted, I’d mentioned not really liking the way I woke up when I was on meds before. We just chalked it up to the amphetamine class- except, provigil isn’t an amphetamine. I stopped taking the modafinil a while back, concerned because I had seen no conclusive safety data in respect to fertility or pregnancy. I have read some interesting things about the histimine/estrogen matrix but, I won’t digress there.

Within about a week? I was back to my old sleep schedule, back to the perky wake ups. It’s not that these meds make me stay up later, either: no, I tend to go to sleep around 8 pm or 9 pm, regardless. (Though I will say, of all things: clomid freaking gave me this weird intermittent insomnia which I hated.)

So, are you a short sleeper or are you sleep deprived?

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What I do know is: if you feel crappy and have gnarly symptoms, truth is, you’re probably robbing yourself of what your body actually needs and you shouldn’t be doing that.

As to the “elitism” there: I’m just not feeling it.







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