My Struggle With Insomnia

Nov 15, 2019

Every morning, I open my low, tired eyes and fantasize about crawling back in bed later that night. I usually get about three to four hours of sleep, and the only thing that pulls me out of bed is the reminder that I have a job to get to. 

I’ve had trouble sleeping ever since I was teen. I stayed up until 2 a.m. throughout high school finishing homework and showed up late to class almost every day my senior year. But at the time, I didn’t see it as a problem. I enjoyed being a night owl, so going to bed late every day was completely by choice. 

Since then, my sleeping habits have only gotten worse. I can wind down and turn everything off by 10 p.m., excited to finally get in bed after yawning the entire day. I have no interest in being up past midnight since my mind, body, and the entire universe is telling me it’s time to hit reset. 

But as soon as I lie down, something happens. 

Okay, now go to sleep. Just breathe and relax. Go to sleep and you’ll be well-rested tomorrow. That’s right, go to sleep. Oh shit, did I even send that email I drafted? Whatever, I’ll do it tomorrow. I wish I never ate that pasta for dinner. Hmmm, I just realized he hasn’t text me back. What could he be doing? Whatever, I don’t care. Don’t forget the car insurance payment is due in three days. Okay, seriously, it’s time to go to sleep. Just relax, deal with this all tomorrow. Relax… relax… oh my gosh, yes, I’m finally falling asleep! Ugh, wait, fuck. Now I’m up again. Now I’m only going to five hours of sleep… four hours… three hours. Okay, I can function on three. 

I know I’m not alone when it comes to being most anxious at night. I keep so busy during the day that everything I’ve either forgotten about or purposely tried to ignore comes back to haunt me as soon as I close my eyes. And it doesn’t help that I overthink. The moment I realize I’m still awake, my body goes into panic mode. 

I’ve decided to be more open about this because it’s started to affect my personal life over the last few months. The people closest to me know when I’m tired, and I’ve even cancelled plans with my friends to try and squeeze in a nap – a nap that never really happens. So I decided to see a doctor, who told me all of my symptoms are clear indicators of insomnia – a disorder where a person has a hard time falling or staying asleep. 

Now, some of you reading this might think, “Who cares? Most people have insomnia.” And that’s exactly why I want to have this conversation. Working on empty and normalizing unhealthy sleeping habits is bullshit. We’re so used to this “rise and grind” mentality that we completely skip over the “rest” part. And without rest, you’re only setting yourself up for heart problems, horrible diets, and unnecessary stress that can God forbid cause a stroke.

Yeah, I’ll hard pass on that one. 

As a first step to treating this insomnia, my doctor has me keeping a sleep diary. I’m hoping that this record will help me find a cure without having to take medications or a sleep test. Either way, I plan on documenting it all for the people who are a lot like me – people who pride themselves on pulling all-nighters and writing papers at 4 a.m. before class. I’ll tell you what I should’ve told myself years ago: Choosing to stay up all night doesn’t make you any smarter or hard working. You probably just have poor time management skills and ignore your body telling you it needs a break.  

So, here’s to much-needed change. I’m not ready to burn out in my 20s, and I don’t think you are either. It’s time to put our health first so we can produce work we’re fully focused on and truly proud of.

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