I nap once or twice (or three times) every day. While napping, I may look like Sleeping Beauty, but waking up – I’m never quite sure who I’ll be – a kind calm beauty OR an angry beast.
The trouble with napping:
For me, napping is not pleasant. My naps are high-speed rollercoaster rides of consciousness – my mind races through a dark twisted tunnel and adrenaline rushes through my chest, leaving me wanting to throw up. I can’t prove this, but I believe my brain must go through this crazed REM/dream sleep multiple times a day. I hear things, see things and feel things that don’t exist, although – in my nap, they DO exist.
How long do I nap for?
Good question. Waking up, I have no idea how long I’ve slept for. Sometimes, I get up annoyed that I wasn’t able to sleep at all. Then my boyfriend informs me I’ve been out cold for an hour with my mouth gaping open (a sure sign that I was in fact sleeping, without the beauty part).
Other times, I’m certain that I’ve slept the whole day away. An incredible sense of guilt hits me hard, and I scurry to get back to work, thinking “I will never make up my lost time.” Then, I realize only 15 minutes passed. Really?
Emerging from my lair:
After napping in my apartment bedroom, I crack open the door and look out at my boyfriend working at his desk in the living room. Maybe I just stare, or groan, or say something nonsensical, or give him a bad look. I’m not sure. My boyfriend says this is what happens, so I believe him, but I have only a vague recollection of this. How can I be standing and walking yet totally unsure of who I am and where I am? What city? And who is that guy in the living room? I can’t explain how delayed and disorienting this transition is, but eventually I piece it together.
Hear me ROAR:
I HATE to admit this, but sometimes I wake up an angry beast. I’m negative, hot-headed and mean-spirited. I focus in on the very first thing I can find “wrong” and attack it ferociously. Maybe it’s the temperature, maybe it’s the one dirty dish in the sink, maybe it’s my narcolepsy, maybe it’s something my boyfriend did or didn’t do. Who knows. Within 30 minutes, my feelings shift and my anger melts away entirely. I’m utterly ashamed of the beast’s thoughts and actions.
Many of my biggest fights with roommates, family members and friends came right after naps. I’m just realizing how much my post-nap beast has been hurting me.
Strategies for Taming the beast:
1. 20 minute limit: In last month’s #Nchat, I learned that other PWNs experience poor mood regulation around naps. Community members recommended limiting nap time to 20 minutes to decrease mood issues. I have tried this once and it seemed to work. I will keep trying.
2. 30 minutes of silence: If I’m feeling like a beast, I vow not to speak to my boyfriend at all for 30 minutes post-nap. This usually gives me enough time to reclaim my sanity.
3. Be honest: Before napping yesterday, I approached my boyfriend, hugged him and admitted that I needed to nap but I was scared of napping, for fear I may wake up an angry beast. I think this simple confessional went a long way.
Have you experienced something similar? Any coping strategies you’ve found useful?
Thank you for listening – this was a hard but important post to write – narcolepsy isn’t always a fairytale ending, but I hope to continue to get more in touch with myself and my disorder to become the best me I can be!