Featured Stories

I don't know why I can't stay awake through — well, pretty much anything

It’s getting so I fall asleep all the time. Everywhere.

I am getting a bad reputation for being unable to stay awake through movies, TV shows, ballgames, concerts, plays, dental appointments and even conversations between the other person who lives at our house and myself involving things I ought to be doing to make our lives better.Kelly

Let me be clear here: These are not all things I consider boring.

I love movies and concerts and ballgames.

It’s getting embarrassing. People spend more time watching me to see if they’re going to catch me nodding off than they do whatever it is we’re supposed to be watching.

A couple of weeks ago, I was doing the old head-bob in the middle of a mandatory company seminar on workplace harassment. I’m pretty sure the presenter of that session would have considered it harassment if he’d spotted me.

I’m so ashamed.

Now, I have considered seeking professional help for my problem, but I come from a long line of bull-headed, ignoramuses who would rather complain and (if necesssary) suffer than actually seek medical help.

What? Go to a doctor for informed and educated treatment? I don’t think so.

No, I think a more prudent course of action would be to visit my old friend, Senor Internet and his trusted aide, Mr. Wikipedia.

And that is where I learned I may be suffering from “excessive daytime sleepiness” (EDS for short).

“Some persons with EDS, including those with hypersomnias like narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia, are compelled to nap repeatedly during the day, fighting off increasingly strong urges to sleep during inappropriate times such as while driving, while at work, during a meal or in conversations. As the compulsion to sleep intensifies, the ability to complete tasks sharply diminishes, often mimicking the appearance of intoxication.”

Yikes, a lot of that sounds like me. I never nap during the day — and I almost never seem drunk except for the times when I’ve had a lot to drink, which is pretty seldom anymore because I’m not really a very good drinker.

I did fall asleep behind the wheel once, back in the 1960s, during my Repeated Car Wrecks period. I ran my mom’s Plymouth Valiant into a ditch and woke up with bushes and ferns flying by my window. Ever since then, however, I always pull over if I feel sleepy and either let somebody else drive or take a snooze.

Mr. Wikipedia tells me that EDS “can be a symptom of a number of factors and disorders,” which “specialists in sleep medicine are trained to diagnose.”

Various causes of these symptoms, I’ve learned, can include not enough sleep, “misalignment of the body’s circadian pacemaker with the environment,” clinical depression, tumors or head trauma, drug abuse or even genetic predisposition (meaning it could be the fault of my mom or dad after all).

“A proper diagnosis, and treatment, of the underlying cause can help mitigate such complications,” continues my trusted friends at Wikipedia. “It can be difficult to accept that EDS is beyond a person’s control; the unaffected may see sleepiness as an insult, a rejection, or as evidence for lack of interest.”

At times like this it seems a little unfortunate that the other person who lives at our house never actually reads this particular feature in the newspaper because that last paragraph addresses behaviors often demonstrated right after I’m discovered sleeping through what may (hypothetically) be described as “that stupid movie that you wanted to watch, even though I didn’t.”

I beg your pardon, but this is a disorder. I’m a sick man, and I don’t deserve to be treated this way.

Former managing editor of the Times newspapers as well as the Lake Oswego Review, Kelly is now chief of the central design desk for Community Newspapers and the Portland Tribune, and he contributes a regular column.