a dog with a toy rope in his mouth and exclamation point around him

Acknowledging Sleep Attack Alerts

Last updated: April 2021

A pile of fur, my service dog sulks on our couch. A pair of bright eyes peer dolefully behind shaded lashes. Her face rests on her paws, giving her cheeks the appearance that they’re melting into the sofa cushion. She alerted to a sleep attack, and I put her in time out.

How could I do such a thing?

In short...I am human.

I put my service dog in time out

In my defense, the equivalent of a time-out is just a short lay-down on the couch. Some dogs dream of having their own designated spot on their own couch. Since I have 2 couches, one is strictly for my service dog to go when we have guests, she needs a spot to rest, or she is in time out.

Back to why my service dog was sent to time out for literally doing her job.

A sudden sleep attack alert

She had just previously been tempting me with a toy. A 3-foot-long rope was her toy of choice. She whipped it against the ground and gazed at me expectantly. At the time, I was dancing in my chair to prepare to sit down and write. (I am learning Tik-Tok dances for fun AND exercise, plus they keep me feeling young.)

I assumed that the sudden sleep attack alert that I received from my service dog was a result of over-excitement. I sent her to her “place” for a short time out as a result.

Are her alerts serious?

Just yesterday, I had been questioning whether all of her alerts were serious. After all, I reward her with a tasty bacon treat every time she alerts. Wouldn’t you alert a few extra times for a few extra-tasty bacon treats?

After quiet contemplation, I realized that without fail, each alert precedes a sleep attack. My sleep attacks often vary in degree, that’s for sure. Some I can address by closing my eyes for a short period of time. These bite-sized sleep attacks are a result of my narcoleptic brain being unable to stay fully awake for any period of time.

A range of sleep attacks

Rapid eye movement (REM) stages of sleep often creep into my waking hours. I used to experience hallucinations due to dreaming with my eyes open. Fortunately, these symptoms have been reduced with medication and frequent cat naps.

Other sleep attacks can hit like a bus and have me fall asleep only to wake up cranky, dazed, and confused.

Listening to my body, and my service dog

I was hit with a sleep attack just a few minutes after my service dog alerted. In that moment, I realize that too often, I doubt my service dog because I doubt my own symptoms. Some part of myself feels so strongly about my inability to stay awake that I blatantly ignore the signs that a sleep attack is imminent.

I even go so far as to convince myself that my service dog is wrong on some occasions. It is difficult to reason with someone undergoing a sleep attack. I get so groggy that my reasoning is impaired.

Starting today, I will work on listening to my own body and my service dog. Both are doing their best.

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