The OCD Brain and Needing More Sleep

My Wife Judy took a picture of me napping after the gym today 😂

A life of sleep, but I’m not lazy (honestly)

Ever since I was a teen I have always needed more sleep than most. I thought it would be a phase during my teens that I would grow out of, but I never did. I would wake up in the mornings to get to school early to shoot (basketball) for an hour, and similarly I would more often than not play after school. Basketball training was around 7PM in the week and I always had to have a nap beforehand for about an hour. After basketball training I would run a 5k to try to develop my cardio when my body was already tired. My parents worried about how much I pushed myself, often telling me that I could never do things normally, I always had to go to the extreme.

I’ve never been a good distance runner though, and when I was young I suffered with serious asthma which landed me in hospital a few times. I would regularly have to use a ventilator to help my struggling lungs, so it’s fair to say I was never going to be Mo Farah. I also have strange ribs which affect my lung capacity.

I have always been interested in sport and fitness and when I play sport or do a workout I am often highly competitive. I will carry on going until I cannot go any further.

The point is I’m not lazy and have always been driven to push myself physically. However, no matter what I do, or how I live, I always seem to need more sleep than most to function.

I have also been using a sleep tracker recently which records a decent level of sleep, so I doubt it’s any kind of sleep disorder.

I even slept through an attempted robbery

I have always been a sound sleeper, like the soldier in Aliens who falls asleep on the spaceship on the way to the planet where they are to fight a bunch of murderous creatures. Once I even slept through an attempted armed robbery in Kenya. Three men with machetes tried to break in to the house during the night. Fortunately they were chased away by the security guard who looked after the charity grounds. He was hiding in a bush with his bow and arrow. I nicknamed him the Ninja Assassin (everyone loved that movie in Kenya at the time). He almost certainly saved my life, especially as it was the window behind my bed that the thieves were trying to open.

When I came to the kitchen for breakfast the other workers were noticeably shaken and scared. I asked them what happened and they explained. Apparently they all heard the commotion during the night, including when the security guard chased them away House of Flying Daggers Style. I didn’t hear a thing. It freaked me out a little actually. Why on earth didn’t I wake up!?

Another time, during the post election violence in Kenya (2007) I literally fell asleep to the sound of repetitive gunfire; I was the only person in the hotel. In fact the only time I can remember not sleeping for a full night (apart from my partying days) was after witnessing a particularly traumatic incident in work. This kept me awake for two nights, but after that I recalibrated my brain after coming to the realisation that if I don’t sleep I’m no use to anyone the next day.

I’ve tried everything

I don’t know what else to do to not feel as tired. These days I practically live like a monk. I don’t drink, I exercise (but not too much), I eat well and take all recommended supplements. I get a good 8 hours sleep a night and yet I still always need extra sleep.

I hate it sometimes because I worry others will think I am lazy. I also hate it because it interrupts life and can be quite disabling at times actually. It also brings an extra burden on my wife, especially where our two children are concerned. It was much easier when I was younger and could nap without responsibilities – now it is different.

I would say I need a nap at least 3 times on weekdays (usually after work), and then I need two 2hour naps on the weekend. If I was a man without responsibility I would probably nap every day for two hours after work and then 3-4 hours each weekend day. This after a full 8 hours or more the night before. That is what my body seems to need, but obviously this isn’t realistic with a full time job, family and other pursuits.

Could it be related to OCD?

I’ve often wondered whether this could be an OCD symptom, or rather a result of the OCD brain over-working. I’m convinced it plays a part. Even when OCD isn’t outwardly troubling me as much, I’m still tired though; I also put a great deal of effort into maintaining my recovery. For example, there can be numerous times throughout the day where “spikes” occur and I have to employ a strong amount of will to allow the thoughts and refocus my activities on something I value. Even if I didn’t have OCD, my brain is always constantly analysing, thinking, debating, imagining – this also doesn’t help sometimes, but equally this is my greatest strength.

I have read others anecdotally talk about being tired a lot because of OCD and needing naps also. But I have also heard from others who say that OCD actually stops them from sleeping due to the anxiety, rumination or because their compulsive rituals occur at night. I even recently came across a research paper here that found that for non depressed OCD patients, fatigue (including mental) was not a prominent experience. This research struck me as being very odd indeed. How on earth could OCD not make you mentally fatigued? (Depression or otherwise).

Acceptance

I do sometimes hate the fact I need all this extra sleep, I can’t lie, even though I like to pretend I’m some kind of Eckhart Tolle Buddha like figure sometimes (I’m really not). However, in recent years I have made a more conscious effort to accept that this is just the way I am. We all have weaknesses and as far as physical challenges go this isn’t exactly the worst. I have had various medical tests to see if the cause is non OCD related and nothing was found, so I think this is just part and parcel of the way my brain is wired.

If any others with OCD can relate to this and have managed to either overcome or reduce their tiredness I would love to know how!

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