Me Without Sleep: Insomnia

When I can’t sleep, everything changes. My mood, my priorities, my patience, my eating habits, my thinking, and even my appearance. It’s to the point where I think there are two me’s. There’s normal, rested me. And then there’s the increasingly common sleepless me. In some ways, my two me’s correspond with the two worlds that I live in. There’s the “I SLEPT!” daytime world where I get things done, have fun, and live my life. And then there’s the fuzzy, grey world that I inhabit when I’ve gotten maybe 4 hours of sleep, night after night after night.

My Insomnia Days

When my insomnia is at its worst, mornings find me feeling hungover, headachy, and sluggish. Multiple cups of coffee can snap me into shape long enough to get the kids to school and to put in a few hours of work before the cravings start. Jelly beans, cookies, candy bars… it seems that when my body can’t recharge through sleep it tries to fix the problem with sugar. Caving to the cravings only makes me feel worse – tired, now nauseous, and embarrassed by my childishness. I drink another cup of coffee. I drink ice cold water and I remember my friends in college taking “NoDoz” so they could study all night. “Is that stuff still available?” I wonder.  “Can’t possibly be a good idea…” Later, when my children are home from school I try to read to them, only to find myself slurring sentences, forgetting my place and completely garbling the story. They laugh, then complain, and finally figure out something better to do with their time. Heaven forbid we need to work on a homework project or locate lost toys — my patience is thin, my creativity is out-to-lunch, and my memory is shot. “Dad will be home soon,” I say, waiting for the respite as I try hopelessly to follow a simple recipe for dinner. I just can’t concentrate on anything.

Worse… Insomnia Nights

“You look tired,” my husband says, “try going to bed early tonight.” He doesn’t realized how anxious I am about  about bedtime. Yes, I’m exhausted and longing for sleep. But I’m also dreading the eternity of another wakeful, lonely night. I’ll likely fall asleep just fine, but then I’ll wake up, look at the clock, realize I’ve only slept two hours and start worrying. After laying in bed for a while, feeling each minute tick slowly past, I wonder if I should read, or visualize, or drink warm milk, or open a window. Now I’m awake and indecisive. Then I figure out how much sleep I’ll get if I fall asleep immediately. But I don’t fall asleep. So I subtract another hour and anticipate how crummy I will feel in the morning and all the things I won’t feel like doing – or being.

Being my best self. I need sleep for that…

Thanks for reading. Share your comments and your own sleep experiences below. I know that when I’m awake at night, I’m not alone and neither are you. A recent Consumer Reports survey found that 27% of adults in the U.S. have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep most nights and 68% struggle with sleep at least once per week. How well do you understand your sleep issues? The new Circady app is an assessment tool to help and — coming soon — will launch a novel platform for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-i) that uses video chat combined with mobile, wearable, and home-sensor technologies to allow customized, data-driven treatment from licensed medical professionals in the comfort of your own home. Stay tuned for more info on that and, in the meantime, I wish you (and me) a restful night.