Tired or Sleepy? Are They Really One in the Same?

There is a difference between being tired and being sleepy. My best friend and I have this discussion quite often. She maintains that for her at least, the two terms are synonymous. In her world, being tired equates to being sleepy.

For me, the two are on different planes altogether. It’s nearly impossible to explain where and how one departs from the other, but in my experience being tired almost never goes hand-in-hand with being able to actually sleep.

College tired

As far back as my college days, I recall being mentally spent and having little physical energy left at the end of a long day yet not able to wind down and fall asleep. After commuting to classes, working immediately following my last class, and then catching up on essays and studying, my body should have been ready to rest.

My body and brain were both drained, but the two couldn’t seem to agree on a good time for them both to just give it up and let sleep take over. I would lie for hours staring blankly at the ceiling hoping for a little reprieve--just a few winks.

Mothering on no sleep

When I became a mother in 2001, I was introduced to a whole new level of tiredness. The mental energy required to worry constantly about my newborn son’s welfare was incredible. Couple that with the desire to spend every moment possible soaking up all of his firsts, and I got a nice dose of insomnia added to the mix.

I wasn’t one of those mothers who takes the advice to sleep when the baby sleeps. Using every waking moment to clean, sort laundry, and cook, I wore myself out to the point of no return. Again--unbelievably tired but not a bit sleepy.

Ready but not willing

I wish I could adequately put into words the difference in being tired and being sleepy for my best friend. The best I can do is to tell her that my body has called it done and my mind is totally overtaxed, but my eyes haven’t received the same message. On my worst nights, my eyes don’t even want to stay closed.

There isn’t that welcome feeling of heaviness in the lids many of us get while riding shotgun on long road trips. There is no feeling of being lulled to sleep--only the constant feeling of one more thought that needs to be addressed and one more flop beneath the covers that needs to be taken.

Tired vs sleepy

For me, tired means not being able to exert another ounce of energy; sleepy means the body no longer cares to be alert. As I have told my friend, rarely the twain shall meet. My body, well, it’s just tired most days. It’s alert, alright; it’s just too sapped of energy to function come bedtime. When tired and sleepy should be getting on the same page, they just seem to bypass one another leaving me fighting to figure out how to facilitate their meeting.

I have spent many years being tired but not sleepy. On those odd days when sleepy does stop by, I am more than willing for the visit. It’s with open arms and a happy hug that I greet sleepy. In that glorious moment when my eyelids grow heavy and my body slows down, I jump at the opportunity and take the nap where it happens. I wasn’t always that person, but I am learning how to be now.

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