While we were married, my husband wanted to live 100% by the rule “don’t let the sun go down on your anger”. If I begged him for sleep, he would accuse me of loving sleep more than him. He found it as an attack on him if I asked to stop arguing so I could sleep.
Night time was absolutely the worst time of day. I was terrified to go to bed. In the end I would do almost everything I could to avoid entering the bedroom. It always started with some expectation of sex or some sexual favor. If he was not “satisfied” and sometimes even if he was, the torment would continue throughout the night. On average, 2 nights a week he would keep me awake until the wee hours of the morning.
On nights I would fall asleep before him, he would wake me up. He would slam his hand down on the bed, jarring me awake. Some times he would accuse me of doing things to myself (think touching myself). Other times he would accuse me of cheating on him, because he’d just dreamt that I had. I learned to not move. I learned to barely breathe. I could lie like that for hours waiting to be sure he was truly asleep.
He came home late from hanging out at the bar with his friends and was disgusted that I was reading a book. He had clearly drunk more than usual and lashed out immediately. Upon entering the bedroom he blurted out a very profane comment towards me, which in turn set off a whole chain of unpleasant events. He lay down to go to sleep, but was soon unsatisfied with the situation and got back up. He picked up the humidifier and threw it across the room, smashing it against the wall. He then stormed out, slamming the door. I didn’t move. I barely even took a breath. I continued to lie frozen in fear.
A while later he came back into the room and ripped the covers off of me, proceeding to throw them onto the floor to soak up the water from the humidifier he had smashed. He left again. Terrified I remained frozen. Another block of time elapsed before he once again returned. He laid my wedding rings on the bed next to me. His special way of letting me know I had forgotten to put them on before bed. Then he was gone again.
I have no idea how long I remained frozen, afraid to move even a muscle. Eventually I found my courage and quietly slipped out of bed to make sure he was asleep. I hung up the drenched duvet, got towels to mop up the rest of the water, found a blanket, and finally settled in to try and get some sleep.
In the morning it was as if nothing had ever happened.
I was not even aware I was being abused by being kept awake at night. It took me months of counseling before I ever understood that sleep deprivation was a form of abuse. An often easily dismissed form of abuse, I now clearly see it as a very effective form of torture. In fact in most states consider purposeful, repeated, and unnecessary sleep deprivation to be a form of physical abuse. The United Nations defines sleep deprivation as torture. “The forced deprivation of someone’s necessary amount of sleep has been used in the interrogation of terrorist suspects to make them more amenable to providing information or confessions.”1
The effects of consistent loss of sleep are severe and can make it harder for someone to free themselves from the cycle of abuse. WebMD reports that the lack of sleep has 10 surprising effects2:
- It causes accidents.
- It impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving.
- It can lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes,
- It kills your sex drive.
- It can contribute to the symptoms of depression.
- It ages your skin.
- It makes you forgetful.
- It can make you gain weight.
- It may increase risk of death.
- It impairs judgment.
Yet as a society we find it much easier to protest the use of sleep deprivation as an interrogation tactic by the US military, than to acknowledge the abuse happening in our own neighborhoods. It’s time we opened our eyes to the reality that the same tactics we so readily abhor, when brought to light by the main stream media, are in fact being carried out in bedrooms across the world.