I have always been restless. Even as an infant I always had to be moving. As I got older the restlessness grew worse. I have never been content to remain in one place for long. It is just the way I am and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most nights I wake up with my heart pounding, drenched in a cold sweat, for no reason at all. Often I can’t sleep; I watch my friends and roommate head off to bed and end up sitting in the common room of my dorm doing whatever I can to entertain myself in between desperate attempts to sleep. Having insomnia is like living in gelatin. Everything is distorted, out of place, and confusing. It is hard to function, but people don’t understand.
The process starts at around ten pm. I make myself sleepy time tea. I take melatonin, I read a textbook- something dull for a class I have tomorrow- and I listen to some quiet music. When I feel my eyelids begin to feel heavy I switch off the light and lie down, relieved that I just might sleep tonight. But, this is not the case. I lie there for an unspecified amount of time, but somehow sleep evades me. When my roommate comes in and goes to bed I realize that hours must have gone by. When I look at the clock it shows me that it’s two in the morning. My roommate is asleep so I can’t do anything productive in my room. It doesn’t matter how tired I am lying in bed, I simply can’t get comfortable. My limbs feel out of place, my body feels stiff and my mind races. Night after night I lie in bed, staring into darkness completely exhausted but as much as I want to, as hard as I will myself to fall asleep, I can’t.
Most people write insomnia off as an exaggerated issue, an excuse used to explain a lack of effort, or tardiness, but that is not the case. Insomnia is a persistent and serious sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep or both. Even when a person has the opportunity for an adequate nights sleep, they fail to accomplish the goal. Insomnia consumes a person’s energy level, mood and overall quality of life.
When you have insomnia, your day starts before yesterday ends. In class you are unresponsive and slow to participate or take notes. In social situations you are slow to understand what is being said and who is talking to you. It is an endless cycle of exhaustion. You sleep through your student council meeting, and dinner, but at night sleep is impossible. Only after days of wakefulness do you finally sleep through the night and when you sleep, you sleep like you are dead. On nights you sleep you feel amazing when you wake up, you are focused, alert and overall you feel rejuvenated. On the nights you sleep you can do anything, you are limitless…but then the cycle starts again and for many days you don’t get more than an hour or two of rest.
I have had insomnia for as long as I can remember, many people do, yet it is a problem that is consistently ignored or written off as simple or over exaggerated. The fact is that insomnia is a prevalent issue which deserves recognition. I am not saying that it is the most important issue or that insomnia should dominate today’s scientific world, what I am saying is that when you meet an insomniac, give them a little leeway, don’t judge the stupid things they may say or their weird actions. We are tired and sometimes just need a little bit of understanding in our exhausted state.