Narcissistic Abuse Tactics: Sleep Deprivation

I had a random memory last night of something that The Narcissist used to do towards the end of our marriage that drove me absolutely crazy. As with most things involving The Narcissist this simple memory sent me down a spiral of other memories and resulted in me doing a bit of research this morning.

At the end of the marriage I was pretty deep in depression which resulted in me being exhausted at all times. I would work a very full work day and often come to do some sort of crazy workout with The Narcissist. By the time we would be cleaned up and eating dinner it would be 10:00 or 11:00 at night. Most nights, right after I finished eating I would be so exhausted that I would often fall asleep sitting up on the couch. He wasn’t working at that point in time so he would stay up often all night long playing his Playstation and then he would get to sleep in as late as he wanted while I would get up to the alarm clock and get myself to work.

The thing that I happened to think of last night is that almost every single night he would wake me up from a sound sleep about two hours after I fell asleep “to lovingly remind me” to go brush my teeth. This wasn’t a once or twice type of thing… it happened nearly every night. I am not the happiest of people when I am unexpectedly woken up so I certainly responded in a grumpy and groggy manner. Sometimes he would pester me and even if I fell back asleep two or three times he would continue to wake me up. Eventually I would give up and just go brush my teeth, but the thing that killed me is that I am the type of sleeper who once I am up and moving and turning on lights, etc. it is nearly impossible for me to fall back asleep. So I would brush my teeth and then be unable to fall back asleep until about an hour before my alarm clock would go off. This obviously resulted in me having a terrible sleep pattern and being absolutely exhausted at all times.

This issue was a topic that we would talk about often. He would manipulate the situation to talk about how much he cared about me and how he just wanted my teeth to be clean and for me to feel good. Then he would accuse me of being lazy and not caring about my own health and imply that if I was a better person I would be okay with getting up to take care of myself. Then he would turn the situation to be a representation of how I didn’t appreciate him for how much he loves me, and I didn’t care about him because if I did I would take better care of myself. I would explain to him that once I fell asleep and was woken up it was really hard for me to fall back asleep and that was why I was so grumpy, and even told him it would be more helpful if he could help me remember to brush my teeth as soon as we were done eating and before I actually fell asleep. (He never did though.)

He would also gaslight me and manipulate the story of how grumpy I was, he would play off of the fact that I was sleepy and ‘didn’t really remember how bad it was.’ He would then immediately play the victim and use this as yet another example of how I was actually the one being abusive towards him. I would spend most of the day after trying to ‘make up’ for ‘how horribly’ I had supposedly treated him the night before, just to have it all play out all over again. He would even go as far as to play a mind f*ck game of spinning it all around to where he would say I was so terrible that he was going to stop trying to take care of me and stop giving me love and I would end up having to beg him to please wake me up to brush my teeth just to show him that I really did care and really did appreciate him. Talk about crazy!!!

At the time that this was happening and before I really understood Narcissistic Abuse and emotional / psychological abuse I looked at this particular thing like it was something totally minor… like how you hear other women complain about how their husbands leave dirty socks on the floor and don’t put them in the hamper. I mean who would even really take me seriously if I had tried to explain that my husband was abusing me by wanting me to brush my teeth??? That is the insanity and the power of these types of abuse, they can turn the littlest and seemingly minor things into a powerful way to control and manipulate and abuse you.

And really, sleep deprivation has huge impacts on your emotional and physical health. It leaves you in a state of confusion and exhaustion and it even hinders your ability to make decisions, and react rationally versus emotionally. I did a whole bunch of googling this morning and was not able to find a lot of information about sleep deprivation as a form of abuse. I did find a great piece on “Picking up the Pieces Blog” as well as a lot of articles on the negative impacts of sleep deprivation and how sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture and interrogation. This last one certainly made me stop and wonder in The Narcissist was again using his military training against me.

I am curious to know if anyone else has experienced sleep deprivation at the hands of their abuser, is this something that was unique to The Narcissist or is this a more common form of abuse that we should be paying attention to?

Why Sleep Deprivation is Torture – Psychology Today

Why Emotional Abuse and Forced Sleep Deprivation Are Effective Tools to Gain Compliance: Part 1 – Picking up the Pieces Blog

30 thoughts on “Narcissistic Abuse Tactics: Sleep Deprivation

  1. Yes, I can relate. Not to your degree, but in similar ways. With my husband it was mostly sex. He would wake me up and try to get me in the mood. Of course, I would not be able to go back to sleep. I had heard very similar explanations to the ones you were given, how much he loved me and cared for me and was trying to show his appreciation for me… by having sex. I was eventually able to make him stop because I would start taking showers and repeating my whole go-to-bed routine in an effort to calm myself down (also because the sex would only satisfy him and not both of us, leaving me so excited that it was impossible for me to go back to sleep.) I would then start doing chores, scrubbing the tub, things like that. Eventually, he got tired of the noise (towards the last times, I didn’t bother in keeping it quiet because he would go straight to sleep after climax and he would snore like crazy, not allowing me to fall asleep again.)

    I breath through my nose and I could get loud while sleeping. It’s not something I can fix. I would need surgery. He would wake me up, even throw pillows at me because he couldn’t sleep, he said. So then I was the one not being able to go to sleep. The man cracked his knuckles in his sleep! (He’s constantly doing that when awake, too.) Who the hell does that in their sleep? And he had some sort of restless-legs syndrome that he would not want to seek treatment for. He would shake the bed like crazy and I would not be able to sleep. I made him take the frame away and put the mattress straight on the floor. That improved the situation. Not much since I could still feel the shaking, but it allowed for a much still situation.

    But the one that he used with me that was a lot closer to your situation was working out. I would come from work and he would insist that I would go work out. I was exhausted, had just driving 70+ miles one way from my job, sleep deprived because of the sex, the shaking, the knuckle cracking or whatever, the hours I would spend awake thinking about what the heck was wrong with my marriage (didn’t know about NPD back then and I was, unknowingly, in the midst of the worst stage of gaslight) and he would insist that I hit the gym because “I know how happy it makes you when you work out; I care for you; you need to go; you’ll feel better…” blah, blah, blah, blah. I cannot workout that late in the day, neither I can work out very early in the morning. I get in a very bad mood and working out that late revs me up and then I can’t sleep. If I would say anything, he would say I didn’t appreciate him and how much he cared for me. The same speech you got.

    I hope this helps. There’s a video out there about narcs using sleep deprivation to control. I will look it up and share the link with you.

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    1. They are so crazy!!! My goodness its exhausting just reading it all. My Narc could sleep through a hurricane so he of course got a good night’s sleep regardless of what else was going on. Nothing was more frustrating than laying there wide awake listening to him snore peacefully. haha

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      1. I hear you. Mine did the same. He could sleep through a tornado siren blaring all over town. I once couldn’t wake him up and I went to the basement by myself. Another time he got mad at me for waking him up due to the tornado siren going off.

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    2. The gym is definitely a pattern as well. I have no words for how many times I was “forced” or coerced or manipulated to go to the gym and work out. Or how many times I was told that I was gaining weight and needed to hit the gym. And how I don’t take care of myself. And he would point out anytime there was any kind of small increase in my weight absolutely anywhere on my body. Made me feel like such utter shit. And the having to work out with him was the stupidest, dumbest, most bullshit controlling crap in the world.

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      1. Jane Doe, oh yes mind was absolutely crazy about this topic. I had to track all of my food intake daily, adhere to his crazy eating regimine, and endure crazy workouts during the 5 hours of “down time” I had during a day. It was exhausting to say the least. ❤

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      2. He was never that direct with me concerning my weight. However, he would say “So we can get you back in shape.” Never mind I busted my back shoveling snow and I was not allowed to workout At All. It took almost 8 years for me to be able to go back to the gym and not feel any pain 8 years being 2017.)

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      3. Yes, it is!!!!! Mine did the same thing!!! Even going so far as to tell me that he married me despite what I looked like and I should be grateful. Or saying he was never physically attracted to me, that his love was deeper than that (mind you this was a mere month after I’d given birth to our son) and the only reason he could have sex with his ex wife was because she looked like a porn star (triangulation at its finest). So I took my power back by refusing to go to the gym with HIM anymore and going on my own – not once, mind you, but twice a day just to prove that my will was stronger than his and that his words about how weak I was as a person were utter nonsense. This actually catapulted me into leaving him. I lost 92 lbs, gained a ton of muscle, and now have the body I always dreamed about. The endorphins and confidence I received from the gym helped me detach from my addiction to his negative abuse. They helped me see past his constant gas lighting. Now I can’t imagine a life without weight lifting and HIIT. My body, my temple, and no one desecrates it with their words or their fists. Mine was in the army 20 years and would purposely keep me awake in the middle of the night using his PTSD as an excuse so I would always feel terrible for having to say, “Can you please turn down The Hobbit? It’s blaring.” He would always turn it on at like 2 in the morning full volume. Or turn on bright lights in the bedroom at 3 AM. Or play his computer video game, WOW, but refuse to wear headphones until 4 AM. It was maddening. He of course didn’t work as well and had the luxury of sleeping in and staying home playing video games all day.

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    3. My Narc would push / kick me and the dog off of the bed in his sleep. Like forceful shoves until we fell off. If I accidentally touched him, he’d curse at me so loud… in his sleep. Somehow, he was more miserable in his sleep than he was while awake (which I didn’t think could be possible).

      But the one time that I was in a deep sleep with my arms above my head.. he decided to poke my armpit really hard. Obviously it scared the crap out of me and I snapped awake and gave him a dirty, half asleep, confused look… and he kicked me out of his apartment for ‘daring to look at him like that.’

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      1. Our subconscious is released while we sleep since the conscious is not awake to keep feelings and thoughts on check. That’s why he was probably like that in his sleep.

        I talk in my sleep. I was always scared I would say something that my husband could end up using against me. It was yet another reason why I had lots of sleep problems and even insomnia during most of the devaluation phase.

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  2. Standing ovation to you for addressing this form of abuse.

    My ex-husband used to make me feel so shitty for sleeping early. My entire life, I have had a routine of being in bed by 9:30-10:00 at the latest and being awake at 6:00 am. It’s how my body functions and how I feel happiest. Well after we got married, I got guilt trips of the century for this. “You know I’m home alone all day! How could you go to sleep so early. You never spend time with me. You’re like a kid. You’re going to train your body to stay up and I will help you” So he helped me by keeping me awake till 12:00-1:00 am and then my body would be up at 6:00am sharp like an internal alarm clock and then I’d have to go to work while he could stay in and sleep all day if he pleased.

    He would also wake me up at 2:00 am because he “couldn’t sleep” and he was “anxious” and he was having “heart palpitations.” So there I would be, up from 2:00 am to 4-5 am and then have to go to work at 7:00 am while, once again, he could sleep alllllll day if he pleased. He didn’t seem to get anxiety or heart palpitations then.

    The sex was a big one. If I didn’t want to have sex, he would grope and touch and feel and kiss me while I would be trying at sleep until finally I’d give in just to end the damn torment and then the sex would last another hour and the cleanup would be 15 minutes and then another hour to fall asleep resulting in about 4 hours of sleep total.

    During the physical abuse phases, he would keep me up all night shouting and screaming and hitting. And then I’d have to go to work at 7:00am while, once again, he could sleep in all day if he pleased because he didn’t have work. And then once I got back, the cycle repeated all over again. I was so sleep deprived I didn’t know what was what. He also gas-lit me to say “You just raised your voice at me” if I was trying to defend myself during an argument and I would say no I didn’t I was just making a point and then that would become “Are you going to argue with me? You’re fucking going to raise your voice at me? You’re going to disrespect me like that?” and start hitting me. I had no energy to fight to keep two thoughts together in my head. I was so exhausted.

    Sleep deprivation is so real and it’s such a manipulative tactic. I truly have no words for the fog my brain was in because I was never getting enough sleep and my sleeping pattern was disrupted from hell and back. I could barely form sentences sometimes, couldn’t focus at work, couldn’t keep it together during the fights to respond with full sentences back. I was so, so, so tired.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jane Doe, thank you so much for sharing. During the physically abusive phases in my marriage The Narcissist would also keep me up all night “discussing the problem” I would fall asleep sitting up and he would wake me 4, 5, 6 times and then claim I didnt love him or care enough to give him my full attention. He would finally go to sleep at 5:00am while I had to get ready and go act like a coherent adult for the day. It was beyond crazy and I still am not quite sure how I managed to maintain it all for so long.

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  3. The narc would wake me up at 5 or 6am after a late night. They are strengthened by our lack of sleep because they gain ‘fuel’ from it, but it definitely affects them. The narc I knew had a heart valve transplant, and I know two other narcs (one famous) who had them too.

    https://narcsite.com/2016/12/04/drunk-with-fatigue-2/

    There are loads of videos on sleep deprivation narcissist on YouTube. But I understand how our epiphanies just keep coming, for the longest time. My latest one is that perhaps if there is a God and a Devil then narcissists are creatures on earth doing the devil’s work. Some people are convinced of it. The narc projected many times of his evil on to people, he even wrote a song about how he made the decision to choose the devil over God – it was very subtley done. I just didn’t hear or see it at the time.

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  4. Mine wasn’t quite as bad but I worked and he didn’t so I was having to get up at 6.30 every day to work to pay or bills while he stayed at home, he also knew that I found it near impossible to get back to sleep once woken up. He didn’t get me up to make me brush my teeth or anything but he would set alarms to watch football games in the middle of the night on the TV in the bedroom, he would have the volume on pretty loud and would turn on me if i suggested him turning the volume down or the brightness down. He could have easily watched his football games elsewhere or with the volume and brightness turned down. If I brought it up and how it wrecked my nights sleep he would turn it around on me and say I wanted to have everything up to me and that i didn’t want him to do things he enjoyed. He would also wake me up at about 6 / 7 am at weekends when i had told him i needed to catch up on sleep. He would claim he was waking me up so I could make the most of my weekend and that by wanting to sleep until at least 8 or 9 I was being lazy. He would also do the same if I was ill, which after all the sleep deprivation I was getting colds and flu quite regularly. He would tell me that resting when sick was lazy and then also try to convince me that sex was the only sure remedy to colds and flu and by refusing him that I obviously didn’t want to become well.

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  5. Sometimes I would stay at my own place on nights I knew I had to wake up early, because my Narc would come back to his place completely drunk every night and loudly order food at 1 AM and talk to the dog really loud (cause he hadn’t seen the dog ALLLL day because he’d been at the bar for 10 hours), not caring that I couldn’t sleep in the next day like he could.

    But, if I stayed at my place to avoid being woken up by him, he’d call me a million times or show up and ring my doorbell until I woke up. I never understood why he couldn’t just let me sleep.

    Then, the next day when he slept well past noon but I woke up at 7am, he’d complain I was grumpy and that he didn’t want to see me if I was going to act like that.

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  6. Although I have no experience of being in a narcissistic relationship, seriously, this post and the comments has me both angry at what you’ve all experienced but so very glad that you’ve gotten out of it! And the fact that you’re courageously sharing it, and educating us about an subject which isn’t discussed enough, hats off to you. Shows your strength. Thank you for this enlightening and eye opening post.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I can totally relate to this. I’m a really light sleeper, and he would often stroke my back or touch my bum as I was trying to get to sleep, lightly enough to tickle – but he would deny that he’d done it to wake me up, or he’d say that I moved and he just wanted to tell me how much he loved me. As you say – who would believe me if I said ‘he was abusing me by stroking my back’?! Makes me sound like the crazy one. I was so sleep deprived I ended up being diagnosed with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia – the cumulation of being stuck in permanent fight or flight mode. I was such a mess – and still am – it’s been 5 months now since I broke up with him, and I’m still not back to normal.

    As with you, mine would turn it all around and make it my fault – he would say that I was unnecessarily grumpy due to sleep deprivation so it caused me to abuse, neglect and dehumanise him. Something else he used to do was want to be in the same room as me all the time. When I get up in the morning, I’m not particularly chatty. I have stuff to do, I am trying to wake up, feed the dog, walk the dog, get ready, etc – he couldn’t stand that I had a routine in the morning which didn’t involve him, it drove him bonkers. And any time I wanted to spend time alone, he’d be checking up on me constantly – again, he was ‘just being nice’ and making sure his girlfriend was ok. It was suffocating.

    Really loving your blog, it’s made me remember and realise a lot of things regarding the way mine acted towards me!

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  8. Yes. Our relationship was long-distanced one. He used to call me at 4 am or 3 am, to talk ’cause he could not sleep. Of course, he would ruined my night. I was constantly exhausted during our relationship, which lasted 5 months. My immunity system failed at one point. And I also experienced his coldness, when we spent few nights together, he did not like me to hug him, he pushed me on my bed. He never kissed me to my mouth.

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  9. I was in a relationship with someone and I was sleep deprived. He was of the opinion that problems should be discussed even until the early morning hours , because going to sleep with an unsolved issue was not recommended . There were a lot of discussions that took place from 8 ‘0 clock in the evening till 5 or 6 o clock in the morning. Sometimes I only had 30 minutes of sleep when I was sitting behind my work desk. This lead to absence from work. I begged him to stop the discussions. During the discussions he interrogated me about past realtionships for example. It was pure torture. I decided to stay at my parents house , thinking that sleep deprivation was something of the past. No, he called me at the strangest times. If I didn’t pick up the phone , he accused me of not taking good care of him etc.

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  10. Mine was familiar with proverbs27: 14 too. He told that one to me, and I know a good bit of scripture. To bless a neighbor LOUDLY in the morning, it will be taken as a curse. They’re satanic

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  11. Wow! This is the first I have heard of sleep deprivation as abuse, and I can totally see how it applies to me, when I hadn’t previously considered it as such. It was frustrating, but now I know exactly what it was, abuse.
    My husband would also decide to discuss our problems into the early hours of the morning, knowing that we had to leave for work at dawn. If I were asleep he would wake me, if he was not home he would constantly message, and if I tried to ignore those messages, or were genuinely asleep, he would call and wake me up so that I would see them and respond. If we were on good terms, it was the demanding love life, having to fulfil his needs every night. And if I was asleep he would wake me. Although we both worked, as soon as we got home I would go straight into the kitchen or take care of the children. He would sleep. He wouldn’t help me in getting the children ready in the mornings either, and so I would be up before him.At one point I was so tired I would fall asleep very early while breastfeeding my baby and then not taking care of his ahem, needs. He thought I was possessed or had black magic done to me. It couldn’t possibly be that I was overworked and exhausted!
    When I started talking about divorce he took me to a psychiatrist. I have never been more sane. The spell has broken. Oh and like one of the other ladies commenting above, I have also been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

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  12. This sounds similar to my situation . We would not eat until 10:30 or 11:00 pm and I thought it’s because he drinks and needed that buzz before he ate.. He was always mad at me for something and if I defended myself he would then turn it on me like it was my fault.. and sometimes he would go into a narcissist rage and do crazy things… keeping me up and then I would try to leave and then he would take a loaded gun and put it to his head.. I freaked out cause I thought he was going to blow his head off…

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  13. I was in a three year relationship with this man and I did not know what narcissist was until an abuse advocate said that he was a narcissist.. he manipulated me and called me all kinds of names.. I pushed my family and friends away while the abuse continued.. he broke my windshield and the very next day made an appt to get it fixed but he never apologized but instead justified what he done by saying he made my car better with a new windshield.. I’m lucky to be alive because he has threatened to kill himself and me both.. He discarded me 5 weeks a ago and I cut off all contact with him… I have blocked him on all scocial sights.. I’m walking away from this thankful I’m alive!

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