When “How Did You Sleep?” Becomes a Loaded Question
Such a simple question that we all ask our loved ones regularly. "How did you sleep?" Each morning when my partner wakes up, we will always ask each other this question.
It is, of course, always with good intentions. But sometimes if I am in the middle of a bad run with my narcolepsy symptoms, being asked this question makes me want to scream.
"Good sleep" can still be terrible for us
Those of us living with narcolepsy know all too well how hard it is to have a "good sleep." Our nights are often filled with hallucinations, sleep paralysis, multiple awakenings, restlessness, and nightmares, just to name a few. It is a hard concept for others to grasp that what we consider a "good sleep" can still actually be quite terrible.
Finding compassion for others
I would describe myself as a very caring and empathetic person. However, I know I can't be alone in the struggle of finding compassion for others sometimes. If I am tired and grumpy, it can be difficult for me to tune in to my empathy. I hate to admit this, but waking up from another terrible night of restless sleep and hearing about how tired everyone else is can really grind my gears on a bad day.
It is important to remind myself that everyone's experience is relative and unique. The tiredness that I experience is never going to be the same as another person's tiredness.
Even if 2 people with narcolepsy were side by side I am sure that they would have some differing experiences. So when someone says they had a bad sleep, or they are exhausted, that is from their level of experience. And that can still be debilitating and frustrating for them. We do not need to compare our experiences in order to understand that someone is struggling.
So, how do I respond?
First of all, I remind myself that when people ask me this question they are doing so from a place of love. They genuinely hope that I have managed to have a good sleep, and just want to show me that they care. I used to lie and just say, "Yeah good", or "Fine". But what is the point in that? If I tell my loved ones the truth then they can be there for me on the bad days, and celebrate with me if and when I do get a good sleep!
Now I have a new set of replies.
Leaving room for more
If I have experienced a normal night of restless sleep, then I say, "Not bad." This then leaves room for when I have an absolutely shocking sleep and I can tell them, "I slept terribly." Then, if by some miracle I have managed to have a better sleep then I can excitedly share that, "I slept so good!"
I would love to know how you feel about this question, and how you reply if someone asks you.
Do you have a service animal?