13 Things Not to Say to an Insomniac

So here’s the deal I have insomnia, not a bad as some, but like I really have it. Not I haven’t been sleeping well this week, not I’m stressed out about something or I had a few bad nights of sleep. But like my average time asleep is just under 6 hours, FOR FIVE YEARS! That’s just the years I have data on. Yes I have the data to back that up! I’m going to keep the personal stuff short and sweet here not because I don’t want to share but because it’s not all that important. But it’s important that we get some background information on it too because most people that sympathize with you don’t know what it’s all about. I want to focus on what you don’t want to say to a real insomniac and why.

Facts about insomnia

  • It can be acute or long term but it has to go on for three nights a week for three months or more to be considered chronic.
  • It can come from not being able to fall asleep, waking frequently or too early. The quality of sleep you do get factors into it too.
  • You have to have the opportunity to sleep so being tiered from kids or something doesn’t qualify.
  • Most people do experience clinical bouts of transient insomnia for a month or more at some point in their lives.
  • The diagnosis is pretty subjective and mostly focuses on the quality of your days rather than your time asleep each night.
  • In 2000 a diagnostic scale was developed in 2000 called the Athens insomnia scale to try to standardize diagnosis and treatment. PS I get a 7 or 8.
  • It’s often caused by a second medical condition either physical or mental but also warrants a diagnosis of its own when other causes have been ruled out.
  • It can actually be fatal but don’t worry it’s linked to genetic mutation present in one Italian family. It’s caused fatal familial insomnia.

My insomnia

Personally I think people are either sleepers or they are not. Like if you have nothing to do and you’re bored if you’re a ‘sleeper’ then you nap if you’re not then you find something else to do. I am not and have never, ever been a sleeper. Ask my mom she jokes that I didn’t sleep through the night until I was 8, only it’s not a joke at all. I’ve tried a lot of things, yoga, imposed darkness for hours before bedtime, melatonin, the odd over the counter sleep aid, alcohol, exercise, visualizations, sleep hygiene techniques, chamomile tea, white noise, I don’t nap and I limit caffeine to before 2 and 2 cups. I still however have the hardest time winding down and getting to bed and then more trouble falling asleep. Once I’m out, I’m out completely though and I could sleep in late in the morning though. Recently I had a sister sleepover and my little sister told me that it’s crazy how dead I look when I’m sleeping! However being an adult means three alarms go off at 6:20 no matter what. Yes, even on weekends, experts say that’s best.

I don’t thing that genetically or environmentally I ever really got the good sleeper thing down. Now my sleep is weirdly dependent on someone else’s bedtime habits. When I was a kid my Dad was sick and often had to go to the hospital always in the middle of the night. If I heard him go to bed before I fell asleep I would sit up at the door all night listening for signs that he was in trouble. So bedtime was really stressful I knew that if I didn’t fall asleep by a certain time I would have to stay up all night. Now, I feel like I need to be the last one in bed and only after everyone else in the house is asleep for other reasons. I limit my caffeine and never drink it after 2 no matter what. These days I head upstairs to a very dark office at 10, drink 3 cups of camomile tea, avoid all sources of stimulation and light, take melatonin and watch boring videos using an app that progressively darkens my screen well below manufacturer setting to get to be by 1 am. I could really go to bed as early as 8 pm most nights if I could sleep so I have lots of time available to me to sleep. If I have a week of really short nights, like 4 hours, it doesn’t really make my nights any easier. Maybe I’ll go to be 45 minutes earlier for one night but that’s about it. While it does affect my days and my mood to a certain extent it’s pretty well managed at this point. I do function much better when I get an extra hour pushing me to 7 hours and I have no idea what 8 hours even feels like at this point.

Here’s me falling asleep in a weird spot directly under a lamp!

Everybody is different

I have a hard time getting to sleep others may wake up several times during the night or bolt up wide awake at 3 am. The time you are in bed has little to do with how much sleep you get so you can’t always go by that. Everyone with insomnia has a really specific journey so it can be a really individual thing. Ditto for the solutions to it. Here’s the thing though people with legit and very long term insomnia do manage it as best they can. What works for one may not work well for another. For example many may read a book they’ve read before to wind down and check out mentally while other may write a blog say, to keep their mind busy and therefore unable to engage in anxious thoughts before bed. For some restorative yoga poses will help them drift off but for others that much movement is just too stimulating. Others will turn off the lights and tv infomercials before heading upstairs but for some the light from setting their alarms at the last moment it too much. Trust me though they have tried every sort of common tip there is on the internet at least thrice!

What not to say

So this is why we’re here right, so much for brevity getting here but… here goes.

  • Have you tried white noise/tea/milk? – Yes, yes we have, NEXT!!!
  • Oh I have that too, I only got 5 hours twice last week. – Umm come talk to me when you get 5 hours for three months then and only then will you have chronic insomnia.
  • Talk to me when you have kids, then you’ll know what it’s like to be tiered! – One, that’s your choice, not mine and eventually you will someday get to sleep like a regular person, that must be a nice thought for you.
  • Don’t you know you shouldn’t look at a screen for an hour before bed? – Yes, I’ve heard that but I have no idea what time bedtime will be so… Also it’s 2020 what else is there to do?
  • You should exercise more. – I lugged shingles for 8 hours today and then ran 12k how much more exercise should I get?
  • You look tiered, is that why you’re grumpy? – In a word, YES!
  • I read that just closing your eyes and resting is just as good so it doesn’t matter if you sleep. – That is incorrect especially if you’re mentally calculating the number of minuets until your alarm goes off.
  • I have no problem falling asleep, I’m out before my head hits the pillow. – Thanks for sharing, would you like to be throat punched now or should I wait until you’re asleep later?
  • You just have to decide to go to sleep and then you will. – Yes, that’s clearly the solution to my lifelong problem.
  • There must be some underlying problem in your life, fix that and you’ll fix your sleep. – Your friend literally has thought about this for months if not years at this point. If they knew what it was or could fix it they would have by now.
  • Should you really be drinking coffee then? – If I’m drinking coffee then I need it, nuff said!
  • No wonder you get so much done then! – Yes everyone know that 2-4 am is the optimism time to accomplish your life goals.
  • Maybe it’s your mattress or your sheets? – Some nights I have tried to sleep on the floor!

Even if someone tells me that they struggle with insomnia I always ask about the nature of their problem because I know nothing about the issues they might be dealing with. Chances are they are way different than mine. If I have something to offer like a light on a timer to make waking up when they are dog tiered a bit easier than I will. But wouldn’t you know it even though I’ve struggled with insomnia for decades at this point I almost never have something to offer. If you have insomnia what’s your number one tip, I’m dying to know! If you live with an insomniac how does it affect your life?

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