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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


One of my readers commented on the amount of time her husband spent sleeping. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that alcoholics sleep more in the daytime than they do at night. It’s just a fact of alcoholism. It has to do with the alcohol saturation in the front lobe.

The reader’s alcoholic husband does not understand why he is sleeping so poorly at night. He was so concerned that he mentioned it to his doctor and the doctor sent over a sleep monitor to try to discover the cause of his sleepless nights.

Of course, the wife was shocked and confused as to “why” the doctor could not figure this out without the assistance of a monitor. She knew the reason he did not sleep at night was because he sleeps all day and is an end-stage alcoholic. It didn’t seem so complicated to figure out. If the doc really wanted to know what was going on – why didn’t he just ask her???

To prove her point, she kept track of her husband’s sleeping hours and came up with a total of 12 snoozing hours every day. It would vary at times – sometimes nine, sometimes 13. But it all seemed to average out to about 12 hours.

Now she started doing the math. If an adult human requires between seven and eight hours of sleep a night and her husband is sleeping 12 hours a day, he would be sleeping 24 hours each day!!

Her response to this discovery was:

“I think when you reach 24 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, they call that DEAD.”

So now the doctor is going to spend insurance money on trying to figure out the WHY of the sleeplessness?? She could have saved him a lot of time and money, if he had just asked. But, as is most often the case, the doctors don’t ask the person who is the most knowledgeable and clear headed in the household. Caretakers’ opinions are often discounted especially when the alcoholic appears to be relatively cognizant.

I know I often give doctors a bad time on my blog. But, really, come on, would you ask a person who is dying of cancer and on a morphine drip – how they are sleeping? Of course not. The doctor will ask the caretaker for an update. Maybe it’s an extreme comparison – but in my opinion – an end-stage alcoholic is always on a morphine drip called liquor.  The last time any alcoholic can give an accurate description of his/her condition would be the last day of sobriety. After that, things get muddled.

Anyway… this gets better… I was so amused with the e-mail that my reader sent to me, that I was in my office heartily laughing at my computer screen when Riley walked in. He sat down and just watched me for a few minutes. I was typing a response and snickering. Finally, he asked – “Did Georgia sent you another joke?”

I felt compelled to tell him, but I assessed his state of mind first. He seemed pretty clear at the moment – it was early morning and he was usually at his most sane during that time. So I told him about the alcoholic husband who sleeps the entire day and doesn’t know why he can’t sleep at night.

I should have known better than to share. This was a mistake.

We had a little discussion and it seemed harmless enough. But, when he went to take his first nap of the day he asked me to write down the time so I could keep track of how much time he spends sleeping.

WHAT??? Why would I want to do that??? He angrily stated that if I was going to accuse him of sleeping 16 hours a day – he wanted to prove that I was wrong. He continued by saying he was 70 years old and it was OK for him to nap during the day.

I guess he wasn’t as clear as I thought he was. I quickly replied that I NEVER said he slept 16 hours a day. I told him I wasn’t talking about him – I was talking about my reader’s husband. Then I went on to explain that alcoholics sleep more during the day and alcohol often prevents alcoholics from sleeping at night. It was a fact that I did not manufacture.

Again he protested with something about being 70 years old and taking naps when he was sober… blah… blah… blah…

I asked if he considered himself to be an alcoholic. His answer was YES.

So why did he think that he would not have the some symptoms and conditions that were common to an alcoholic, such as, the inability to sleep at night? His answer was MAYBE THERE IS SOMETHING ELSE GOING ON LIKE DEPRESSION.

I agreed, but depression combined with alcohol only makes the sleep factor worse. Alcohol is a depressant when consumed by someone who is already depressed it can be extremely dangerous. In my opinion, most alcoholics have underlying depression. But, that doesn’t eliminate the fact that alcoholics have sleep issues. I reiterated – he is not immune to these issues.

At that he turned around and went to his room for a nap.


Syd said...

I don't argue with alcoholics and have learned that even discussions with them that border on being critical will backfire to make me out to be the one who is in the wrong. Sensitivity is a trait of alcoholics. Trying to reason with the unreasonable doesn't work.

Alice said...

Quite funny - he's not at all defensive about being an alcoholic - but don't start questioning how he sleeps now!!

Susan said...

My husband does the sleeping thing also, and cannot fathom why he doesn't sleep well at night. I could tell him why, but that would lead to a terrible argument that in the end will be blamed on me. Syd is right, you cannot reason with the unreasonable.
I find it easier to have as little conversation as possible, and no discussions at all!
Have a good day!

Anonymous said...

I'm not trying to be smart or anything. Just, I'm a 38 year old alcoholic who probably won't make it 40 given the co-morbidities (like HIV). My best buddy in the whole world (also an alcoholic) is already dead as of 2010; at 37 (of alcoholism). I guess all I have to say is I've seen way more sunrises than sunsets because of this exhausting "slepp by day, drink by night" thing, but never actually even realized it was related to alcohol. I thought it was just a "lifestyle" thing.

Linda said...

Anonymous -- I guess the question would be -- if you weren't drinking yourself to death would your lifestyle change over to being awake in the daytime? It's only "just a lifestyle" if alcohol is not a factor in why you do it. Or, I suppose, you could call alcoholism a lifestyle. If so, then everything you do is alcohol-related.

Sycamore said...

My retired husband loves to explain to everyone why he sleeps until noon every day. He details how he lays in bed, unable to sleep, and how many hours go by while he can't turn his brain off. I think he's looking for sympathy, but doesn't get it that many people have insomnia at times in their lives, but still have to get up the next day and function. He also misses the logic that if you sleep until noon and take naps on and off throughout the day that yes, you will have a hard time falling asleep at night. And that's without the booze.

jo said...

thats funny. we always think inadvertently they will actually have a normal conversation. mine gets up at 3 or 4 am..and sleeps off his beer in the afternoons. he gets mad at me for not getting up when he does.

Anonymous said...

For those of us that work 60 hours a week, having ANYBODY lay around and take naps during the day and being all sad, and complaining about not getting a quality night sleep experience just makes me want to kick them in the behind. REALLY? Get a freakin' job so that you will collapse after work from exhaustion. Best sleep EVAH!

Anonymous said...

I like how people refer to the alcoholic as "Mine." My alcoholic gets up at 3 or 4 am and sleeps off his beer in the afternoon. What an EXPENSIVE pet. Most nocturnal creatures drink water. So, he is choosier than a possum--but the possum grin he has is because he's got the UPPER HAND. Who is really snoring here??? Better to have a human look alike than to be alone, I guess. There is this girl at work living with this alcoholic who only wanted to work 20 hours a week. He only wants to work night shift so SHE CAN DRIVE HIM after working her TWO jobs. He turned down more hours. So here is a GROWN MAN, alcoholic, with this hot babe who is being his meal ticket and ride. About a year later, I could not recognize her. Fat and stressed out...aged 10 years. He looks the same. WAKE UP PEOPLE. Let these alcoholics go to the homeless shelter where they belong.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you right now why he cannot sleep at night, it is called hepatic encephalopathy. Don't forget that this man has a disease, a terrible one and it is miserable to be around, but you are to nasty about him. He has end stage cirrhosis and you will regret what you have said when he dies trust me.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the above post. My best friend did not belong in a homeless shelter. He was sick, emotionally and physically, for the past several years leading up to his death this past Sunday. He died in the hospital in his grandmother's arms at 29. He would be 30 on Halloween. He never wanted to cause trouble for anyone. He isolated himself. He was depressed and anxious. He had no coping methods. He could not work due to his physical state. He could not have even driven to work due to the possibility of seizures. He felt trapped, and drinking was the only thing that made him feel better temporarily. He self medicated with dire consequences. Now he is gone and there is a huge hole in the lives of those who loved him. I know it is hard and draining to care for alcoholics. I was with him for 7 years and I couldn't stand to watch him kill himself anymore. Unfortunately it continued even after I left.

I know these words probably stem from pain and frustration, but calling a loved one an expensive pet who belongs in a homeless shelter is as vile a statement as any drunken slur an alcoholic could produce.

Anonymous said...

Yes I agree. I am a 34 year old alcoholic. I have the support of my parents and two close friends, who understand. It is a sickness and yes, we are dying. You cannot make comments like that, judging who we are when you have no idea how difficult it is. I have been a good person all my life, studying a Masters Degree, own my own home and give to charity. These things help me believe.

We are dying. It's not something we can control. I have been to AA and seen SO many strong people that have pulled through. There is no such thing as an alcoholic who drinks in moderation. All the people in the group are suffering each day, they say the compulsion never leaves them. It's not a choice or a weakness to be this way! Take off your your judgement pants, those who left these insensitive comments, unless you really know what it is like. The people in AA I have met are strong and yes, it is a choice. But something I have done yet, they suffer every day and will do so for the rest of their lives. Think about that!

Anonymous said...

Ha! Mine also sleeps his alcohol off in the afternoon or falls asleep early at night and wakes up at 3 am. He feels superior about his early rising. It it's sad our schedules don't match. Just anothet way that alcohol separates us. Sad.

Kathy Hatch said...

Before making any judgement try living in the caregivers shoes. On good days I'll make all the excuses as to why and all. But on bad days when I'm always wrong in everything I do, I have no patience and am wondering why he's still breathing. It may not be right but it's real.

Alouette de Mer [Lette] said...

I am not an alcoholic and I lost my husband to alcohol and it broke up my family. He found another alcoholic to drink with and he favours her company. Believe me, there is no comedy to this insanity, and if you think there is something comedic in this profound human tragedy, then you are either insane or you should double the dose of whatever you are taking.

Anonymous said...

Oh, lay off her. Everyone needs somewhere to vent.