The Tickling Sheets and the Boy Who Didn’t Sleep

One of my first memories of sleep was that I hated sheets. Especially thatdarn top sheet. It… tickled. No, that’s not right, but it was the closest I could come up with in my young age to describe the sensation. All night I’d kick and wiggle. It had to be the sheets that where tickling my legs. The darn flannel sheets where so hot that I wanted to cry, and the lighter the sheet got the more it… tickled. But tickling is generally a pleasant experience. Not from my sheets. Those hurt. And the lighter the fabric, the softer the touch on my skin, the more uncomfortable it became, even to the point of being painful. I described this as a child to my mother as tickling, and I remember being so frustrated that she didn’t understand that it wasn’t a good thing. I didn’t have the language to communicate what was wrong, but I persisted to refuse a top sheet even into my late teens. I don’t think I really used one until I was in my early twenties and I had a wife who wanted one. But I didn’t begin to understand WHY until I was a missionary.

One of my companions had a doctor’s appointment. Dutifully, I waited in the waiting room while he got his medical treatment. We missionaries where supposed to avoid television, so I sat sneaking occasional glances at whatever daytime show was playing in the lobby. I remember once finding myself entranced by a commercial: “do your legs itch? Every time you try to relax, does it feel like you’re legs are ready to run a marathon? Does this make it hard to sleep?” “Yes!” I remember almost audibly saying to the television in the crowded lobby, “Yes, that describes it perfectly!” “then you may have restless leg syndrome…” “Oh…. that explains so much of it!” I finally had a name to apply to what was going on with my legs! Restless Leg Syndrome, or RLS is… bad. I am convinced that the punishment in the lowest circle of hell is RSL. I wish I was exaggerating. I didn’t sleep well, even as a young child because of the nightmare.

Yesterday I was introduced to a term called allodynia… that with the RLS really does explain what I described as tickling sheets from my youngest years, but even now I don’t know how to describe it to someone who doesn’t experience similar misery, so generally I don’t.

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