Let me tell you the story of a particular period in my life, when I experienced episodes of prolonged sleep that lasted for more than a day. Yes, you read that right! I slept for more than 24 hours at a stretch. It was not a disturbed sleep with phantoms haunting me, but a very tranquil sleep from which I recovered energetic and raring to go.
I am a 67-year-old, retired school teacher. I recollect my first ‘sleep episode’ took place as I was inching closer to 50. I was in fairly good health [not on any medication] and like any working mom, tried hard to juggle my life at home and my work at school. I thought I was managing fine but my life was like a rubber band that was being stretched so far, it was just waiting to snap. I felt like I could cope with my hectic life, until one particular day, when I got my first ‘wake up’ call.
My first sleep episode
Our school had organised a big fete stretching over two days. What was supposed to be a small fun-fair, snowballed into a humungous event and we were racing against time to get our act together. I was working hard, quite beyond my capacity, but never gave it a second thought. The opening day of the fete was chaotic, teachers and students were scurrying everywhere getting things done and I even recall being hoisted on a ladder, hastening to put the last minute touches to a stall. By 6 pm things seemed to be in control, so I left to go home and take a shower. I cannot recollect what happened after the shower, but I was found in bed fast asleep. At the fete, when the other teachers quizzed my family about my whereabouts, they replied that I was having a nap and would come shortly. As evening turned into night, I slept on and did not make it to the fete. My family thought that I was overworked and needed the rest. The next morning they tried to rouse me and got alarmed when I slept for more than 24 hours. But on awakening I was so relaxed and refreshed that no one thought much about it. The days that followed were like any other—so I carried on with my life with no repeat incident.
Sleeping through my silver jubilee
And then... a year later it happened again. It was the silver jubilee of my wedding and after setting up everything for the party I began to get dressed. My daughter was urging me to hurry up as the guests would arrive soon. I don’t remember anything after that point, I was later told that I greeted the first few guests with unintelligible conversation and stated that I needed a short lie-down. So I went into my bedroom and fell asleep and all the music and cheer next door could not wake me up. And once again after a ‘nap’ of over 24 hours I woke up rejuvenated. I did not realise what had happened and so underestimated the gravity of the situation.
It was after this episode that my family decided to take stock of the situation. They observed that both the episodes had happened after I had showered and doused myself with perfume. So my son decided to throw out all my deodorants, my scented soap and my expensive perfumes that I had collected from my trips abroad. However nothing helped. When my speech would become very incoherent, I would recognise it as an indication of the onset of my ‘sleep episode’.
How I got cured
So we tromped off to see a neurologist at the nearby hospital. After several rounds of questioning and analysis, he asked me to do a brain scan. To my relief, the scan and other tests indicated that everything was normal. In fact, with the number of medical examinations I had undergone, the reams of reports were enough to wallpaper my house.
The neurologist studied the reports and decided to treat me with medication, which was meant to relax me and keep me awake. He explained that I was taking on too much; subconsciously I was worried about my family, at the same time I was planning my lessons, while executing events. My mind was working on a million things, 24x7. Going to sleep was my body’s way of shutting down and stopping my brain from getting overheated. It was a way to get the relaxation it required when I could not longer handle it. I was afraid that the medication would cause insomnia, but that didn’t happen. I took the medication for about a month, as advised and thankfully have had no relapses. Till this day, I lead a healthy and life with regular hours of sleep. 24-hour ‘naps’ are no longer a part of my life!
This was first published in the June 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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