The “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” Theory

How many of us have heard people say, or have been guilty ourselves of saying that we have too much to do right now, too much life to live and that “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”?  I would almost guarantee that probably just about every person with ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia has said that because of the Type A personalities most of us exhibit.

After all, it was this attitude that helped lead us to the unhealthy lifestyle that we find ourselves in now – pushing our bodies beyond the limits it was capable of producing and not taking enough time to rest – enough time to sleep.  Then when the illnesses set in, the sleep disorders set in and we know all too well that by not sleeping the theory “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” will come sooner than later because of these issues.

But this message is being promoted across America that success is only achieved by working around the clock, going on very little sleep, because you will have “time to sleep later”.  You need to work now.  You need to push yourself hard for the short-term in order to have long-term gain.  But for how many of us has this backfired?  It did for me.  Trying to achieve success and getting to the top fast so that I could have long-term gain only resulted in a life sentence of chronic health problems that I am reminded of every second of every day.

I believe in hard work and I believe in working for your goals.  But I am so fed up with this crap being fed to people that working themselves into the ground is going to be beneficial in the long run when I have first-hand seen how much damage it can do permanently to a person’s body. 

Is lack of sleep and lack of rest worth risking the rest of your life for?  Because that is the path many are headed down – the same that I have to live and the millions of us with chronic illness.

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  1. Unfortunately you are right, Sandy. The “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” Theory will only lead to just that much sooner than necessary. That can be true for anyone, but especially people with chronic illnesses and diseases. Sleep is very important for the body to heal and important for prevention of illness also. I have had problems sleeping for years, long before being diagnosed with diabetes and I don’t have a Type A personality either. I really try now to get more sleep, but here it is 3:18 am and I am wide awake. I just woke up and then couldn’t go back to sleep. People need to realize that working themselves to death to gain success or financial gain and comfort will never be able to truly enjoy it if they don’t live long enough from lack of sleep. Their bodies will eventually shut down and illness and disease will set in.

  2. I totally agree. I have often wondered if I set my body up to get me because I drove myself so hard. Three jobs, colllege, single-parent, exercise, and so much more. Rest was a foreign word for me. I didn’t need rest. But I really wonder now if that placed my body in a position of weakness when ME/CFS came calling so that my body just couldn’t over come.

  3. Monica Deitell says:

    I, too, have asked myself some of these same questions, which really are a way of saying: to what degree did my lifestyle contribute to my becoming ill? Or, even more difficult for me “to buy”, is the assumption that, it in fact, did.

    I think the jury is still out on the complex set of factors that may be involved in CFS/ME, 2 of the maladies I suffer with. I really hesitate to “blame” myself, because there were many other people that had similar life tracks (in my case, went to college, medical school, did a residency, put off having a child until I completed my training and began a professional career. I was not someone who was on “every committee”, or was driven to be a supereior academician. I wanted to be a competent doctor like many of my peers, and most of them did not become sick in any way.

    I did lead a full, satisfying, life, but don’t for a moment think that I simply “brought this illness upon myself based upon my lifestyle” and do not think that if I had lived differently I would not have become sick.

    I am someone who knows THE moment when I became ill…there was nothing gradual or vague about the onset. I got a severe flu-like illness in 1983, from which I never fully recovered. My symptoms waxed and waned, evolved over time and it spite of what I consider state of the art treatment, my condition became such that I had to stop practicing in 2000. I have adjusted a lot, I have a positive outlook, although I have experienced a tremendous amount of losses in my professonal and personal identity and independence and ability to function.

    But, I actually find it offensive, at least as it relates to me, that it was my lifestyle that precipitated my illness. I still believe there will be an as yet uncertain infectious agent and possibly necessary co-present co-factors that converged, to produce this illness, but I do not think, the “if only I had, eg, worked out more at the gym, or slept more, or been a vegetarian or what have you, that I would not have gotten sick.

    I was a hard-working person, but not a driven or compulsive person compared to many people around me (my patients, friends or colleagues!)

    And that’s all she wrote!

    • Hi Monica – I fully believe there is more to it than just how much many of us did during our lives, or how hard we pushed. But I know for my own situation, personally, if I would have STOPPED when the doctors said to STOP I would probably not have ended up as bad as I did. Would I still be sick? Probably, but I don’t believe it would be to the degree that it is. I pushed myself to extremes during my pregnancy and after the birth of my son to try and accomplish something in a very short period of time so I could be home with him and that was the nail in my coffin.

  4. it is quintessential to our lives. Every human being has the major basic functions in common. One of these vital necessities is the need to sleep. Though we all have different sleep patterns, sleep different amounts, and the quality of our slumber varies greatly, sleep is literally necessary to stay alive.

  5. Plastic Surgery says:

    Sleep recharges us our energy levels and ability to function are tied into how much sleep we get. Sleep allows our bodies to rest themselves and prepare for the next day. Without enough sleep we are running on less energy the next day which can wear us down.

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