Hi sleep deprived friend. My name is Sacha.
I was a good sleeper for most of my life. I loved sleep so much that I would put myself to bed as a child, or so my parents say. The occasional sleepless night would happen, like most people, when I was particularly excited or particularly stressed. I would have too much energy to sleep, but my sleep patterns would return to normal the following night.
Then 2012 happened.
There were a series of stressful events – job loss, financial difficulties, moving from a city I loved to find work, and relationship strain – that piled on and felt like it would never get better.
At first, it would take me hours to fall asleep but I would still get a few good nights of sleep in a week. Then the insomnia progressed to only 1 or 2 nights of good sleep, and then there would be some nights where I wouldn’t sleep at all. Other nights, I would wake up after only a few hours and not be able to get back to sleep.
These situations finally resolved. Money came, I accepted having to leave my old city, and my relationship got better. While I knew logically that my life situation changed for the better, my old sleeping patterns didn’t return.
For over 3 years, most nights ranged from 0 to 6 hours of sleep. Sometimes those 6 hours would happen erratically when I would leave work early so I could collapse from exhaustion mid-day for a few hours, and sleep for a few more hours at night.I still couldn’t sleep and felt depressed and anxious. There were points where I felt suicidal, even.
Depression and anxiety caused chronic insomnia, and now chronic insomnia was causing depression and anxiety. You know as well as I do, trying to be optimistic that I would eventually sleep on little to no sleep felt like a losing battle.
The last 3 years have been a long and painful journey, but I am here to tell you that I now sleep well again. Most nights, I sleep 7 or more hours and wake up feeling alert and rested. I might have a night every week or 2 where I sleep 5 or 6 hours and feel groggy for most of the day, but it doesn’t throw me off like it used to.
You can do this too. Like anyone trying to solve ingrained thought and behavioural patterns, it will take some time and effort on your part. It may also take a few tries. Just remember, barring any medical issues, you CAN sleep and you WILL sleep.
There is life beyond chronic insomnia.