Insomnia is the kind of thing that you don’t even think about if you’re not suffering from it. But when you are it consumes your whole entire world. While sound sleep has never been my strong suit, I suffered from chronic insomnia from September 2009 through January 2014.
Does any of this sound familiar?
I’ve always been a bad sleeper. I needed white noise and blackout blinds before I even turned 10. I used to fake sick so I wouldn’t have to have sleepovers, both as a child and later with boyfriends. I’m high needs when it comes to getting a good night sleep. I need space and quiet and darkness and familiarity. That’s how I’ve always been and I’m sure it’s something I’ll be managing until the day I die. This is annoying and often inconvenient, but this is not insomnia.
Insomnia for me started in September 2009. One day, without any lifestyle changes or major trauma or event, I just stopped sleeping. For about three weeks straight I slept maybe 1-3 hours a night. It was terrible. And then it went away. I went back to being a high-maintenance and restless sleeper, but a sleeper. My insomnia came and went over the years, at first for a few weeks every time the seasons changed, until eventually I went without sleep more often than not. I would go months without ever getting more than 4 hours of sleep a night. Middle of the night, hysterical panic attacks became normal for me. My stress level sky rocketed as my passion and participation in the world plummeted.
Insomnia and sleeplessness are two different things, neither of which are fun, and both of which I will address over the coming weeks. Sleeplessness can come from being too hot or too cold, an unfamiliar bed, a racing mind, excitement, lifestyle factors, etc. The day after sleeplessness I’m tired, grumpy and impatient. I’m more likely to order take out and less likely to exercise. Life is less bright but it’s still there, I’m still participating, living in it. Insomnia is something else. Lying awake at night it’s as though your entire body, eyes and even mind are so ready for sleep but something is just not firing, something is preventing you from getting there. It’s almost relaxing until I realise it’s 4AM, and I only have two and a half hours to get any sleep at all. The day after insomnia, nothing matters. Not my relationships or friendships, my career or my health. I cancel plans, forgo runs, eat junk and do the bare minimum at work. Nothing matters. Throughout my struggle I was constantly wondering if I would eventually lose my job and my friends. I wondered if I would ever be able to have a relationship. I certainly didn’t think I’d ever be able to have kids. For over four years insomnia ruled my life.
If you’ve been there, you know this is no way to live. In June 2012 I knew I couldn’t go on. I needed to do something, so I started to make adjustments in my life and began to try everything I could to combat my insomnia. Now, after 2 years of trying everything, I’m finally there. I sleep. Often through the night. I’m a real person now. I still struggle from time to time, but any normal person does. Life is good for me now, exponentially better, and it’s all because I sleep.
Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to share everything that I have tried, what has worked and what hasn’t. What has helped with my sleeplessness and with my insomnia. And hopefully someone out there will read it and be able to get the rest they need.