My name is Ruth Carter and I’m an insomniac.
I have dealt with insomnia off-and-on for my entire adult life. There have been times when it was so bad that when I finally fell asleep, everyone around me would do whatever they could not to wake me up. Sometimes this meant letting me sleep in the most uncomfortable-looking position where they knew I’d be hurting when I woke up.
One thing I’ve learned about insomnia is not to freak out about it. It’s pretty hard to die from sleep deprivation, you’re just going to be tired the next day. When you freak out about your insomnia, you make yourself anxious which makes the insomnia worse and it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. Just accept that it’s temporary and that you’ll fall asleep eventually.
My weird insomniatic habit is I’ll be tired in the early evening but by the time it’s time to go to bed, I’m wide awake again. I don’t get it. I just go with it. When I can’t sleep I try to stay mellow and watch TV, read a book, or see what my fellow insomniacs are saying on Twitter. If I’m wide awake, I’ll use the extra time to be productive and do things like sweep my floor and answer emails. If I’m at the don’t-bother-trying-to-sleep phase, I might as well put my time to good use, but I try not to do anything that’s going to wake me up or be such an undertaking that it will be a pain if sleepy time hits me in the middle of the project.
I’m not a fan of sleeping pills (including melatonin) so I rarely take them. I heard it takes the body two days to realize it’s tired so the night of sleep that really matters is two days before a big event, not the night before it. I took something to help me sleep two nights before the LSAT and two nights before the bar exam. More places should really sell sleeping pills in single doses because the bottle of sleeping pills will expire between each incident I need them.
The real downside of insomnia isn’t lack of sleep, it’s the side effects of sleep deprivation. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation causes cognitive impairments and slows your reaction times. It can be as bad as being drunk. And I don’t know about other people, but I get really crabby when I’m tired. But I usually know when I’m getting what my friend calls “cranky pants” and remove myself from social situations. If nothing else, I make myself take a power nap or at least lay down for twenty minutes. Mythbusters tested this theory with an experiment inspired by Deadliest Catch and showed that power naps improve functioning when you’re sleep deprived.
Am I ever going to stop being an insomniac? Who knows. If it becomes a permanent part of my life, then so will napping.