Sleeping Into Oblivion


Ever feel like sleeping all day? Sometimes it’s just a matter of being tired and needing more sleep. Other times we may really be sick and our bodies may actually need rest to rejuvenate. These are all possibilities. Another one is that you’re depressed.

When you don’t feel quite like yourself, (who else could you feel like?), you might well want to avoid contact with other people and prefer to stay by yourself. I see this behavior in my cat Judas when she’s upset about something. A cat, you say, well, yes. Cats are very sensitive creatures and my Judas is particularly so. When her brother Hercules crossed over in April, Judas’ behavior changed dramatically. Whereas before, she wandered around the house, sat on different chairs in different rooms or in the sun by the front door, she would hide in the closet or just sleep in her little bed. Mostly she started to just sleep. This has been the beginning of what I’d call her grieving stage for her brother Hercules. She’s depressed over his loss. I can really tell. For her, sleeping is a way of getting away from the world as she knows it and simply checking out. Sometimes she stands in the middle of the living room floor and just screams at the top of her lungs. I find this her way of asking, “So where is my buddy Hercules?” How many of us would like to do the same thing when stuff happens in our lives or when someone dear to us departs? It all seems so unfair. One reaction is to try to unhook from our daily activities.      

Honestly, there are lots of events besides the loss of a loved one that can cause situational depression. This is a term that captures the symptoms of depression a person exhibits due to circumstances occurring within their world or environment; a caveat to this is that the behavior is not normal for them otherwise. Thus, the situation causes them to feel depressed rather than actually being depressed.  I’m not a psychologist so I don’t diagnose, nor treat depression, but I can certainly tell when my friends that are normally pretty happy get upset about something in their lives; they may even need to take medication for awhile, but this doesn’t label them as depressed people.

Then there are people who have given up on life and are in assisted living. These people really are depressed AND they sleep all day. When I visit my hospice clients as a volunteer, they all take lots of naps. In addition, when they’re not sleeping, they have a tendency to be physically present, but appear to be mentally checked out. Thus even when they are awake, it’s not the kind of awake that you or I are used to. Sometimes I chat with them, but little gets through to their comprehension. And, in return, they will tell me something like it’s important but the words formed from their mouths are garbled versions of what their brain has conceptualized. It’s all quite sad.

So, when I look at all this sleeping going on, is it just a momentary depression or a real depression? For Judas, she got up a little while ago and came to visit me! So there’s hope for her. She seems to be coming out of her depression. I tell her that I miss Hercules too and we can help each other. Having friends provides companionship and a sense of community. Pets need people and people need other people. That’s why I visit depressed people in the hospice. It’s so that they aren’t alone for that period of time. Perhaps it will help them to not be so depressed.

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