Suffering from insomnia
Erin Thomassen | Wednesday, November 18, 2015
I lie awake in bed at 3:03 in the morning. It is Thursday night, but I did not just get back from Feve. I did not stay up studying or pretending to study. I went to bed at the reasonable hour of 11 p.m. Why, then, am I not yet asleep?
Insomnia. In other words, I am not sure why I cannot fall asleep. If I did, I might be able to fix it.
Not being able to sleep is quite an unpleasant phenomenon, especially when one is exhausted. Especially when that one is you. I lie awake with my eyes shut, waiting for drowsiness to proceed logically to sleep. Yet it refuses to proceed. The REM cycle does not begin.
Worries begin instead. I worry about what time I must rise the next day (too early to still be awake). I calculate how many hours of sleep I will get if I fall asleep now (which is almost impossible, since I’m calculating), in fifteen minutes (optimistic) or in a half hour.
“Please God,” I pray, “Help me fall asleep… if it be your will.” I learned to add the qualifier in sixth grade Bible class from the book of James. “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
I pray that I ask for sleep with the right motives. Can sleep be sinful? If I obsess over sleep to an excess, yes. If I am so slothful that I become a sloth — even a cute sloth — I am lazy. Yet I do not believe I am being obsessive or lazy. I want to be rested so I can stay awake during class and lunch. It’s not fun to fall asleep while I should be learning. Or chewing meatballs.
As I try to empty my mind and fall asleep, I remember a poem from Péguy that imagines God saying, more or less: “Cursed is him who does not sleep, who does not trust me to govern his affairs for the night.” God, I say, I trust you. Please just help me fall asleep.
Yet I remain awake.
I grab my handy dandy book light and read for a bit. The Savanna biome, how fascinating. Actually, not really, so it’s time for me to nod off, right? Nope. I’m still awake.
I try to convince myself I already fell asleep, and I just woke up. How strange! I’ll go back to sleep now. Nope. I’m still awake.
I listen to ocean waves on a white noise app for other paranoid noise Nazis like me. Nope. I’m still awake.
While trying to fall asleep, my ears are incredibly perceptive. Yesterday you asked me to do the dishes, but sorry, I didn’t hear you. Tonight, while trying to fall asleep you coughed three doors down from me. You may as well be hammering on a cowbell.
Fall asleep. I ought to be a normal person and fall asleep. Well, can people normally fall asleep?
According to the extensive research I carried out on Google search, 30 percent of American adults show symptoms of insomnia. I rejoice; I am not alone. There are so many exciting kinds of insomnia, such as adjustment, anxiety and inadequate sleep hygiene insomnia. If you’re lucky me, you get to sample them all.
Fun fact: middle-aged women are at the highest risk of developing insomnia. That explains so much. I always had a hunch I was middle-aged.
There are also side-effects of insomnia, such as moodiness, poor memory and fatigue (surprise).
Enough of the bad news. It is time for the good news. There is a plethora of treatments for insomnia, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (change your sleep habits), nonprescription drugs (antihistamine will save me?), approved prescription drugs (careful: can develop reliance) and unapproved prescription drugs (*danger*danger*).
I cannot try many of these at 3:46 in the morning. But I can seek out help in the future. And I can hope that I have tired myself out enough to fall asleep.
Zzz. Zzz. That’s pretend. My insomnia is not. I wish it were. Then I would meet the morning bright-eyed instead of red-eyed.
Goodnight. Well, actually, good morning.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.