For a long time I used to go to bed early
December 28, 2005 12:20 PM   Subscribe

Why, when you wake someone up, do they almost invariably deny that they've been sleeping?

For my own part, I find myself doing so almost immediately, out of reflex, even before becoming fully conscious. But I've no idea why. Anyone know?
posted by leotrotsky to Health & Fitness (23 answers total)
 
Hmm...I do this too. I feel like I'll be in trouble if I was asleep.

I'm not sure if it stems from falling asleep in high school or falling asleep during intimate moments with lovers, but either seem to fit. I'm really curious what other people have to say.
posted by zerokey at 12:29 PM on December 28, 2005


It may speak to the issue of "Sleep Guilt" which is sort of addressed in this article. I'm the same way.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:30 PM on December 28, 2005


If you are sleeping when you're not supposed to, even just something dumb like dozing in front of the TV, then you want to deny your error.

If you are sleeping when you are supposed to, and the person is disturbing you by waking you up, you want to allay their guilt.
posted by scarabic at 12:36 PM on December 28, 2005


Best answer=scarabic
posted by SeizeTheDay at 12:40 PM on December 28, 2005


If someone wakes me up physically, I don't deny that I was sleeping. It is, after all, a difficult lie to sell.

But should the phone ring while I'm asleep, I almost always do my best to sound as though I've been up and active for some time. If someone asks, I always claim that I've been awake for hours.

Some of this has to do with the sleep guilt that Kevin mentions above, but I think it has deeper roots in my desire to make the caller more comfortable. I don't want them to be inconvenienced by thinking that they've inconvenienced me. Which they have.

Weird.
posted by aladfar at 12:42 PM on December 28, 2005


Sigh . . . what scarabic said. Serves me right for not properly previewing.
posted by aladfar at 12:43 PM on December 28, 2005


I've flagged scarabic, but I'm not sure that's it.

The denial of sleep seems to come from some deep reptilian part of the brain, before I've even the capacity to be concerned about allaying guilt ...before I'm even fully aware of where or who I am.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:46 PM on December 28, 2005


I can't sleep in front of people I don't know well -- there's a vulnerability you're expressing when you allow yourself to fall asleep. So maybe it's literally not wanting to be "caught napping" -- caught off-guard and unprotected.
posted by occhiblu at 12:57 PM on December 28, 2005


I do the same thing. Anyone who regularly has late-night phone conversations with me knows that I cannot tell whether or not I've been woken up. "Were you sleeping?" "No, I'm in bed, but I was still awake." Even if I've been sleeping for an hour or two. As far as I can tell, it's because the last state that I can remember is lying in bed awake. So when I'm suddenly shocked awake by a ringing phone, as far as I'm concerned, I was awake all along.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:06 PM on December 28, 2005


It's cultural, definitely. Check out everything you wanted to know about sleep but were afraid to ask
posted by yonation at 1:11 PM on December 28, 2005


I do this all the time -- even living alone, if I fall asleep on the couch watching a movie, I try to convince myself that I just had my eyes closed and was paying attention and fully know what's going on. I feel like the part of my brain that's happy sleeping takes control over the part of my brain that controls reason.
posted by Robot Johnny at 1:13 PM on December 28, 2005


I think we're discussing two different groups here: those who actually think they were awake (me, leotrotsky, Robot Johnny), and those who know they were sleeping but, for whatever reason, won't admit it (everyone else).
posted by uncleozzy at 1:21 PM on December 28, 2005


I think part of it is the following. (IANASleep researcher.)
For at least some of your sleep cycle, the main difference between sleeping and waking is that your sensory impulses go only into short-term and not long-term memory. So for instance, if you're awakened by a loud noise, the Record button is hit and captures also whatever was in your short-term cache. That way you can know what it was that awakened you.
Basically, second by second you might be thinking "I'm awake" but all of those thoughts are erased except for the most recent few.
posted by Aknaton at 1:28 PM on December 28, 2005


I frequently do rest with my eyes shut while I think about things, but still keep my ears open. In such cases I will truthfuly deny that I am asleep, no matter what it looks like.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:29 PM on December 28, 2005


This is not quite an answer, but relevant in an odd way.. I have a feeling most males that experienced the typical "college" experience will relearn the animalistic instinct to only sleep when safe (alone, with trustworthy people, etc) because otherwise you either wake up without pants or with a magic marker mustache. We've come so far, yet progressed so little. :)
posted by kcm at 1:31 PM on December 28, 2005


I've never denied being asleep after the fact. I'm a heavy sleeper and if I'm ever woken up when I feel it to be unecessary it takes me a long time to bridge the gap back to complete conciousness.

During these times I have engaged in some rather ridiculously convoluted exchanges that I faded in and out of, in a quasi-dreamlike state that was very defensive. I have a history of sleepwalking and I still do talk in my sleep quite frequently and I presume these are all related at a hard-wired level.
posted by prostyle at 1:44 PM on December 28, 2005


Some people are not very good at describing their own sleeping habits. The very nature of sleep makes it difficult to self report, as of course, you don't really ever know you were asleep, until you wake up. (aside from lucid dreaming etc.) Often times patients at a sleep lab will report not sleeping at all, or (although more rare) sleeping lots, when the exact opposite occurred.


However, generally speaking if someone is woken up and insists they weren't sleeping, they have been aroused from stage 1 sleep. This stage of sleep, sometimes referred to as beginning sleep, or light sleep is often reported with patient accounts of thinking/just relaxing. This is esp. prevalent when they drift in and out of stage 1 sleep several times, remembering small amounts of wake and assuming it was continuous, and devoid of sleep.
posted by skinnydipp at 1:45 PM on December 28, 2005


as skinnydipp says, you don't actualy know you've been sleeping.
posted by delmoi at 2:10 PM on December 28, 2005


But should the phone ring while I'm asleep, I almost always do my best to sound as though I've been up and active for some time. If someone asks, I always claim that I've been awake for hours.

I do this as well, though I do not deny my sleeping to someone in person.
posted by rhapsodie at 3:17 PM on December 28, 2005


In O'Brien's Master and Commander, Stephen Maturin is talking with James Dillon and mentions Dillon's wealth. Dillon denies he is rich, saying his land barely brings in a thousand a year. Maturin replies: "My heart bleeds for you. I have never yet known a man admit that he was either rich or asleep: perhaps the poor man and the wakeful man have some great moral advantage."
posted by mono blanco at 6:02 PM on December 28, 2005


I know for a fact that I do not make a concious decision to deny sleeping because I do it while still asleep. I can have extended conversations including lying about my current status and intentions for the future ie: "I'm awake and getting ready to leave"

I've done it all my life and it can be damned inconvenient. I promise things on the phone and in person to people and I have no memory of the discussion. It is difficult for a person to make sure I am awake by simply talking to me.
posted by Megafly at 6:09 PM on December 28, 2005


I feel like the part of my brain that's happy sleeping takes control over the part of my brain that controls reason.

Exactly, Robot Johnny. It's like when you're in class, and you're hella tired, and a voice in your head tells you, of course you can pay attention with your head down and your eyes closed! You won't fall asleep! Just try it! Then you fall asleep and wonder why you fell for it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:29 PM on December 28, 2005 [1 favorite]


As far as I can tell, it's because the last state that I can remember is lying in bed awake

This is it exactly. For me this happens more when I fall asleep in a book, and someone catches me out.
posted by whatzit at 11:39 PM on December 30, 2005


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