September 3, 2011 7:37 AM   Subscribe

Sleepaholic. My propensity to go to bed/sleep my life away is starting to feel like a deleterious addiction. How can I beat this?

Retreating to bed is this uncontrollable urge I have that is starting to (or has always) seriously mess with my life. Akin to an addiction, it feels really good and rewarding and pleasurable while I'm doing it, but the aftermath is awful. I feel terrible about myself when I finally crawl out of bed at 3 pm (and then only because I have to go to work). My relationships suffer because of this - friends and family are frustrated and annoyed that I don't live up to commitments because I've been sleeping. It interferes with my academic life - I miss classes and fall behind because I can't pull myself out of bed.

And it's not a problem of not being able to get out of bed in the morning (or afternoon). I can get out of the bed, in fact have to every day in order to bring my dog out for a pee/walk, but then the first chance I get I crawl back into bed. Any time I am home with any amount of downtime my immediate instinct is to get in bed. I wish that I wanted to sit down and write a letter, or sew a patch, or play with my dog, or anything! But I have this uncontrollable urge to just go lie in bed and read and sleep. I seem to be able to fall asleep/stay asleep to an uncanny degree. For instance, last week, I decided to snooze my alarm clock, but set it to go off every 3 minutes so that I would get up. I spent 2 hours pressing snooze every three minutes, and falling asleep in between the snoozes. And I love the snooze sleep...I have really interesting dreams, so once the alarm happens I'm antsy to get back to the dream.

I've tried oh so many things to fix this. I've put my alarm clock across the room, but as I said, getting out of bed is not the problem, it's staying out of bed. I've made my bed and got dressed first thing in the morning, but that doesn't stop me from staying out of it. I got a dog who requires exercise, so I will begrudgingly bring him for an hour long walk all the while just wanting to go back to bed.

This seems to have gone on much of my life. Apparently as a baby I started sleeping through the night fairly early, and also would often sleep in until 10 am. As a teenager I remember skipping high school, not to go hang out at the mall, but to lounge on my couch reading and napping all day. I would actually wake up, get dressed, and go to the busstop until I saw my mom leave for work, then would go back home to nap.

I've had my blood levels checked and am not deficient in anything. I don't snore and don't think I have sleep apnea.

Bed is my default whenever I feel slightly uncomfortable in any way. Cold, tired, anxious, stressed, hungry and don't know what to eat, lonely, etc. I get out of the shower and go straight to bed.

Also, it's not like my bed is really comfortable or anything. A couple of weeks ago I was sleeping on a piece of memory foam on the floor, and still wanted to be there all the time. Now I have a nice mattress and it's the same thing.

I HATE THIS about myself. I feel like I'm not living life. I want to be engaged and productive. I want to want to do things besides lie like a lump. I want to be able to cope with stress in more productive ways than just escaping. But it seems like nothing works. I've done CBT. I'm on SSRIs (15mg lexapro and 100mg wellbutrin). I'm in therapy. I use all the resources I can get my hands on but just can't seem to kick this habit/urge.

School is starting again, I have a thesis to write, and I'm scared that I'm going to spend the semester wasting away in bed and not accomplish the goals I've set out for myself. I also feel so bad for my dog, who I'm sure would appreciate a more active owner.

I want to be able to just 'suck it up buttercup' and stay out of bed, but it seems that all reason/rationality escapes me when I have the urge to crawl under the covers. I stopped allowing my phone or laptop in my room so that I don't browse the web in bed. I keep my blinds open. What else can I do for myself?

I'm late twenties and female and frustrated. I will cling to any morsel of advice you can offer about how to tackle this problem. Thanks mefites.
posted by whalebreath to Human Relations (16 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
All addictions are deleterious.

Pedantry aside, do you read, eat, study, etc. in bed? Stop doing those things. Use the bedroom only for sleep/sex.

Also, discuss this with your therapist. He or she can provide insights that we likely cannot, because you've established some sort of a relationship with him/her.
posted by dfriedman at 7:50 AM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you're trying to sleep anxiety away. If this is overpowering, I know someone who went on anti-anxiety medicine for a month to get over the hump - that involves seeing a doctor or therapist.

Just getting outside for 5 or 10 minutes does wonders for my tired motivation. Hell, nap outside if you want.
posted by jander03 at 7:58 AM on September 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was like this when I had untreated subclinical hypothyroidism. (My bloodwork came back normal-ish, but the treatment helped immensely.) If you have any of the other symptoms -- weight gain, high pulse/low blood pressure, trouble dealing with cold, dry hair -- you might want to go back to your endocrinologist.
posted by sleepingcbw at 8:12 AM on September 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Seconding thyroid problems, and I also want to suggest allergies. You can have allergies without having any of the classic symptoms that mimic a cold. I am allergic to everything, and one of my main allergy symptoms is sleepiness. I never get the sneezing, runny nose, etc., symptoms.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:22 AM on September 3, 2011

endocrinologist is a very good idea. some things are more subtle than what will show up on basic blood tests, and an endo will have knowledge of possible unusual/subclinical issues.

have you had a sleep study? someone i knew seemed to have to sleep constantly, and was eventually diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnia after a sleep study. it took a while, but with the right dose of the right drug, and strict lifestyle rules, she was eventually able to get back to a much more normal life.
posted by JBD at 8:29 AM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am you. I am a bit older, but I am you. Sleep is the main weapon I use against anxiety. I'd rather sleep than be anxious. You know how some people get so anxious they can't sleep? Not me. I get anxious, I get sleepy. Then when I wake up, I get anxious because I just slept the day away. So then ... yawn ... it gets sleepy in here real fast.

Something that has helped (not cured! but helped) is making sure I have "appointments" for things that I can't get away from. You're doing some of that already -- the pooch needs to potty and that's an appointment you can't get away from in my book. What other appointments can you make? Classes are appointments. Can you make a required appointment to study -- say a study buddy/writing center schedule? Or make it so you have to go to the library to get work done (say, don't buy the books but use the ones on hand at the school library)?

For me going *off* my daily anxiety meds (SSRIs like you) also has helped me be less sleep inclined. Oh sure, the anxiety is rearing its angry head more now, but I feel more connected to it now (if that makes sense) so less inclined to go to bed. When I was on daily meds it was like they made me able to sleep through the anxiety and now that I'm off I can't go to sleep as easily in the middle of the day. I'm not your doctor, though, so don't even think about this as an option unless you talk it over with your doctor, as you have a completely different body than I do so I don't know how it would affect you.

All that said, sleep is still a way I avoid anxiety. So I try to do what I can to keep my anxiety low(er) to begin with: caffeine kills me, so I try to watch that; I'm finding more and more that booze does it too so I don't drink as much as I did in the past. I started taking vitamin D about a year ago -- tests showed I was deficient, which I could see being true since I spend all that time in bed sleeping! I write down what's making me anxious because when I get it on paper I can look at it more critically than I can when it's in my own head and then I can think it through more clearly. I make daily to-do lists -- small tasks for bigger projects that I can *realistically* get done in the course of a day and then cross them off when I get them done (this has become even more necessary as I'm in grad school now). And if after all that I still need a nap, I nap. It *is* physically draining for me to keep my anxiety lowered, so yeah, if after I've used all my other methods I do still need a nap I take one. But then when I wake up I start all over: make an appointment, take out the dog, write down my scary thoughts, work on the to-do list.

I hope this helps -- sometimes just knowing someone else is having the same problem helps relieve the weight of it.
posted by macadamiaranch at 9:21 AM on September 3, 2011 [5 favorites]

I have a friend who is narcoleptic. You sound just like her. She doesn't fall asleep standing up in dramatic movie fashion but if there is nothing going on or she's sitting still or near a bed or couch? Out like a light. She was diagnosed as "depressed" like 10 times before the narcolepsy diagnosis.

Her condition is entirely controlled by medication btw and has been for 15 years.
posted by fshgrl at 9:43 AM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm the exact same way, except that I have a little more trouble sleeping during the daytime-- but I definitely lose all rational thought when I want to stay in bed in the morning. Have you seen the Louis C.K. routine where he talks about giving up whole careers because he doesn't want to get up at 6:00 AM? That's me. Literally. What has helped for me is having a roommate behind a very thin wall so I know that my alarm clock is annoying the shit out of them, and thus don't want to snooze continually all morning while I simultaneously lose my job. Also, I've quit smoking (usually) and drinking coffee on a regular basis, and I'm not as worn out in the morning so sleep feels like less of a need. It seems most of my solutions only work for a short while before I tire of them-- like committing to cooking awesome breakfasts so I'm pumped to get out of bed-- but on that theme, switching up my routine a lot and trying new things in the morning (exercise, taking care of small chores) usually motivates me to be a little more responsible from day to day. Going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time helps. Actually, most of the things that help are things that supposedly help depression, which I also have, so in my experience the theories others are floating about escaping anxiety &c. ring very, very true. There's a reason on days I want to sleep in that I try on 5 different outfits before I feel it's safe to leave the house.

Have you tried getting a wake up call from someone who cares about you enough to keep you on the phone while you get up and out of bed? Someone you don't want to lie to, I guess? Living with another person obviously helps but I wouldn't recommend it on this basis alone.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:52 AM on September 3, 2011

I still think this could be a medical problem (either depression or something else). Just as a data point I had a similar problem in college and law school. I derided myself for being lazy and my grades in college suffered. It turned out I had a stage 2 pulmonary disease which was found through a physical. So I would first go to the doctor and explain your problem and approach it like a medical problem and not a personal failing.
The other thing is to make sure you are eating right and exercising. Barring a medical problem your fatigue should go down if you are physically fit.
posted by bananafish at 10:04 AM on September 3, 2011

When I was depressed, the only thing I ever wanted to do was be in bed. The best way I found to beat the sleep was to stay out of the house. This was a struggle too, because I knew if I went home I could go to sleep, and I wanted to go to sleep. But fighting the urge to get in bed while at home was a battle I never won, whereas fighting the urge to go home while I was out at a cafe or library was a battle I sometimes won (even though I often lost it too). I think part of why it was a battle I could win sometimes was the combination of being able to recognize some pleasant things about being out of the house once I was there (somewhat enjoying the background music and quiet chatter of a cafe, people watching when I got bored with my work, having access to tasty muffins and such) and not feeling keen to undertake the task of going home (walking outside in the heat or the cold, carrying a heavy bag). It's not a solution to the problem, but it's one building block maybe.
posted by ootandaboot at 10:05 AM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

That's a classic symptom of depression. You mention that you're on SSRIs and in therapy. This is definitely something to take up with your therapist. Your medication levels might need adjusting. It often takes a while to get each person's meds tailored just right for their needs.

Don't give up - you can beat this!
posted by ErikaB at 11:55 AM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am struggling with sleeping too much as well. Part of it is because when I'm in my room, I have privacy. No one bothers me, including the phone because I refuse to let a phone interrupt my sleep now. (Seriously, anything anyone wants can wait until I get up. There are really very few emergencies... it's not worth letting people wake me just in case it's an emergency.) So I made a place in the house where I can have privacy, and shut off the phone if I don't feel like talking to anyone.

When you feel sleepy and have an urge to take a nap, try getting out of the house. Do something active. If I go shopping (even just window shopping) I suddenly don't feel so sleepy anymore. Take a walk if you can.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:13 PM on September 3, 2011

Practical tip while you try to figure out if this is a medical condition: When you get up to walk the dog, strip all the bedding and pillows off your bed and shove them in the closet. Don't make your bed until it's almost the proper time to go back to sleep, and don't lie down on the naked mattress.
posted by Scram at 2:21 PM on September 3, 2011

Roughly how many hours of sleep per day are you averaging? You don't ever say so far as I can tell; saying you sometimes sleep until 3:00pm doesn't help since you could have gone to sleep at midnight or you could have gone to sleep at 6:00am.
posted by Justinian at 3:09 PM on September 3, 2011

When I was depressed, I could sleep for 12 to 13 hours at a stretch. I didn't want to go out, I didn't want to see my friends, I just wanted to lay in bed and watch tv. Blowing off friends was a HUGE sign for me that things were not right. Sleeping is avoiding reality. You don't have to deal with the hard stuff, you can just live in a dream world. Once I got to the right antidepressant and the right dosage, suddenly I got antsy when I was inside all the time. I had tons of energy to burn off. I'd ask your doctor/ therapist if you could change dosage or swap drugs. Just because you feel less crappy doesn't mean you're on the right SSRIs. I think you need to set up a reward system for not laying in bed all day. Give yourself a gold star for walking the dog for more than just the usual potty time. Baby steps. Take a ten minute walk instead of a five minute one, then ramp it up to 20 minutes, then half an hour. Take your dog to a dog run, talk to other dog owners about nice places to walk your dog. Or even just play with your dog in your house/ backyard for 15 minutes and see how much you both appreciate it. Animals help a lot with depression, they're positive feedback machines. Once you get the feedback loop of positive feelings linked to physical activity, you'll start feeling a lot better.
posted by blueskiesinside at 8:38 PM on September 3, 2011

In addition to talking to your therapist, talk to whoever is prescribing your meds. From my experience:

1) Celexa is notorious in certain circles for causing exhaustion, hypersomnia, the works. Lexapro is one of the isolated stereoisomers of Celexa - it's reasonable to assume that they might have similar side effects.

2) Wellbutrin isn't supposed to be one of those drugs that makes you tired, but it turned me into a zombie. I lasted maybe three days on that stuff. My psychiatrist, wonderful man that he is, shrugged and told me that psych meds affect everyone differently.

3) Most people get more energy on Wellbutrin. (My girlfriend certainly did.) If that isn't happening to you, it's a red flag that the med might not be acting on your depression.

4) Withdrawal from these meds can be really nasty. Don't try to go off them on your own - it's really hard to differentiate between bad side effects and "suddenly people just hate me".

In the mean time, if you don't want to sleep, try to stay out of the house. Go to a coffee shop or the library to read your books during the day. Unless you have a good reason to avoid it (heart condition?) consider picking up a caffeine habit until you get your life more in order. I know that they tell potentially anxious people not to drink coffee, but seriously, that stuff was as important to my mental health as my antidepressants at one point.
posted by catalytics at 3:20 PM on September 4, 2011

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