What It’s Like Living with Chronic Insomnia

living with chronic insomnia
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Living with chronic insomnia can be torturous. It is an emotionally numbing yet simultaneously neurotic existence. It can be physically painful, but at the very least, it’s an anxiety inducing hell. Those with chronic insomnia know how awful and debilitating it can be. The dread of another night rolling around and facing the fact that you ‘have to sleep’ but still won’t. 

The anxiety and panic of laying awake, yet again. Shallow breathing, tight chest, a racing heart, and feeling clammy are all just part of your normal nightly routine. Your fight or flight mode is activated, and it adds to the trouble of falling asleep. The stress hormones flow so effortlessly through your veins.

You are so tired. So very, very tired… yet your brain still doesn’t turn off. Humans have evolved to eat, sleep, and find shelter but here you are questioning why one of these natural mechanisms is lost on you. Is there an off switch for my brain? Why can’t there be an off switch!?

It Hurts to be Alive Today

living with chronic insomnia

You face another morning of drudgery, hauling your meat bag (aka your body) out of bed after far too little sleep – if any at all. That’s what it feels like, anyway. A meat bag. Your body is numb or maybe you have random physical pains, but you feel oddly detached. Your mind seems separate from this because it is so over active but somehow this doesn’t translate into physical energy. Why is it that a tired mind causes a tired body, but a tired body doesn’t necessarily cause a tired mind?

Your body wants to sleep but your mind won’t allow it.

Sometimes you feel like you’re going insane. Visual and auditory hallucinations become the norm. Maybe you’ve even thought about ending it all to escape living with chronic insomnia. I know those thoughts crossed my mind. And got further than I ever care to admit.

Good Luck Working

Then there’s the pleasure of driving to work when you know you are just as capable as someone a few drinks in. Unfortunately the world doesn’t stop for insomniacs and you need to keep going with life. Your eyes hurt trying to keep them open. You pray to whatever deity out there that a pedestrian doesn’t get too confident and think you’ll be able to see them in time because you know your reaction time is shot.

You get to work and normal tasks seem more difficult. 

Your concentration is non-existent. 

Forming coherent thoughts or sentences when someone asks you a question feels like a miraculous feat. 

Having someone babble about how their weekend makes you want to physically bite your tongue so you don’t lash out at such inane conversations because emotional control seems to be lost on a sleep deprived mind.

You wish you could quit your job just to recuperate for a bit, but there’s bills to pay, and people to support, and social expectations to be upheld. 

Can you tell your employer how deeply this is affecting your life? Would they even care?

It is okay for an employee to ask for help for a drug or alcohol condition, and physical diseases get tons of sympathy and well wishes, but saying you can’t sleep elicits responses like “just get more exercise!” or “take melatonin!”. Better yet, they talk about how productive and get so much done if they lived with chronic insomnia.

You know they don’t mean any harm, but you can’t take anymore of these stupid responses. You can barely stand to not slap someone across the face for being so ignorant towards your plight. Living with chronic insomnia has caused your fuse to shorten significantly.

Living With Chronic Insomnia Is Lonely.

life with insomnia

You get home and have your significant other walk on eggshells because they know you didn’t sleep last night. They can at best sympathize but never really understand. Worse yet, they are exhausted by the meaningless platitudes they throw your way that they think should have solved your problem, so they stop trying to help you. 

They tell you to get over yourself. They ignore you. They change the subject when you just need an empathetic ear. They wouldn’t be doing or saying such hurtful and insensitive things if they knew what you were going through every. single. night. while they slept. 

While you had to listen to them breathe deeply.

While they looked peaceful and you lay there, stewing in your own thoughts and anxieties.

While they wake up, refreshed and perplexed as to how you couldn’t sleep.

Living with insomnia is lonely.

You Lose A Lot More Than Sleep

Insomnia screws with your mind and your memory. You will misplace things and have no clue where you put it. Better yet, you forget important things like birthdays, obligations, or leaving the stove burner on. 

That is, if you cooked at all. Insomnia messes up your appetite so you lose that too. Conversely, you lose self control and indulge in every fatty and sweet thing you can think.

There are some days of deep anxiety and depression. There are other days of complete resignation that I guess this is your life now. The last bit of whatever motivation and optimism you had is lost.

You are living with chronic insomnia.

It flows perfectly with all of the other superficial things to identify with in life: job, education, city of origin, insomniac. Great.

This toxic by-product of stress has exacerbated itself in an infinite loop. In desperation you look up “how to go to sleep” or “how to fall asleep fast” and get another article saying if you just change your physical environment, you’d be okay. 

You want to punch the screen. You’ve done everything that you can by limiting screen time, drinking less caffeine, and tried hacking your way through exercising but you still can’t sleep.

Somehow, you get through another day. You are still here.

You still wouldn’t wish it on their worst enemy though.


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