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Ruminations on the Subject of Sleep
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A friend of mine on his return from Vietnam told me the story of one night of terror. Pinned down by rocket attacks and mortar fire, he and his platoon dug in and waited it out. He said that they were all sound asleep in the predawn chill and were awakened by the sound of silence.

I asked him how on earth he could sleep in the midst of that hellfire. He said (and I'll never forget it), "Sleep is not voluntary. When your body demands it, you'll sleep."

And I have found, in the 30 years since that conversation, that it is true. In the desert heat, in extreme stress, driving 90 miles an hour, even in the middle of a joyous occasion, if you've been awake for 48 hours and your body demands sleep, you'll sleep.

With MS, the situation is even more extreme. As I approach the limits of my endurance, I can feel my body and brain both starting to shut down. I realized last night that if I stayed at the hospital much longer, no matter how worried and frightened I was, I soon wouldn't be able to move or think at all. Literally. As in, I could barely stand up from the chair, walk out of the room, out of the building. I had to sit a while in the car before I recovered enough to drive home.

MS will do that to you. It's different from the normal kind of tired, where you run out of energy, but you can keep going at a slower, lower level. With MS, it's as if a switch were turned off, and that's it. So, no matter the social expectations or the emotional situation, if you suffer from MS, when you have to stop and rest, there's no alternative. You're out like a light.

When I got home, I ate a bite, fed the dog, let the dog out, let the dog in, then lay down in my clothes on the bed because I was spent. Three hours later I came back to consciousness. I had been unconscious, not asleep. I hadn't moved, not even a wrinkle on the bedspread. I've scared more than one person when I've been unconscious like that, because you can't wake me up. No tickling, no pain, no loud noises will work. I'll come back in a few hours.

Then I got up for an hour or so and did the evening (early morning?) ablutions and went to bed for real sleep, you know, the kind where you dream, roll over occasionally and wake up knowing you were asleep. That's the kind that really refreshes you.

I'm going back to the hospital now. I'll check in again this evening, if the universe is willing and the creek don't rise.

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