Insomnia is a common sleep disorder with 30% of adults estimated to have suffered insomnia at some point in their life. Although insomnia sufferers try different treatments, from sleeping pills to following tips on how to sleep better, most struggle with getting their sleep back to normal. Those who’ve been there know how difficult sleep deprivation is and how alone you can feel when struggling with the consequences of sleep deprivation. To better describe the toll of insomnia, here are 9 things only insomniacs understand.
Your mind is your worst enemy: Studies show that ruminative thinking is one of the main causes of insomnia. But despite knowing this very well, insomniacs find it hard to control their thoughts. When you suffer from a sleep disorder such as insomnia, your mind becomes hyperactive as soon as you hit the sack, keeping you awake all night long, but somehow stops working during the day making thinking and functioning difficult.
Sleeping pills don’t work: How great it would be if popping a pill could give you the rest that you long for. In reality, sleeping pills are prescribed in only the most severe cases of insomnia and they’re a short-term type of treatment. In most cases, doctors advise patients to try relaxation techniques, exercising, herbal remedies, and establishing a sleep hygiene before turning to the potentially dangerous sleeping pills.
You envy heavy sleepers: You can’t help but feel envious when you hear some bragging how they don’t have any problem with dozing off whenever they feel like it. Even if you’re not an envious type of person, these kinds of statements tend to hit a nerve, especially when you can’t remember the last time you had a good night’s sleep.
Sleep hygiene doesn’t work either: It’s a bit baffling to most insomniacs that doctors and well-meaning people emphasize the importance of sleep hygiene in treating insomnia. The truth is that none of those home remedies and life adjustments work. In fact, a review published in Sleep Medicine Reviews found that most studies show mixed results as far as the efficiency of such remedies in treating insomnia goes.
You’re different than other people: After talking to your friends about your struggles with finding ways on how to sleep better, you find that you’re alone in your situation. Well, if you feel different from heavy sleepers, it’s because you are. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine discovered in 2014 that the brains of insomniacs were simply wired differently, having greater neuron excitability which is the main reason why their brain can’t seem to shut down.
You have only two moods: When chronically sleep deprived, it’s hard to be the life of the party. Most insomniacs are either irritable or depressed following a night of tossing and turning. But who can blame you? After all, sleep is important for normal brain functioning and regeneration of neurons. If your sleep deprivation is killing your neurons and affecting your brain chemistry, chances are you’ll end up feeling miserable throughout the day.
Thinking about everything wrong in your life at night: You’re finally able to fall asleep only to wake up at strange hours during the night. And as soon as you wake up, your mind goes over all that is wrong with your life. And even if you stop these intrusive thoughts from ruining your sleep, your mind somehow manages to turn your worries to the sleep you’re not getting and the consequences you’ll endure tomorrow. You probably get the irony of the last one.
You’ve taken desperate measures: You’re not a self-destructive person by nature, but desperate times seek desperate measures. A glass or two of wine before bedtime has helped you get some sleep in the past. Drinking to the point of becoming drunk did happen to you. What’s strange is that this type of behavior isn’t that uncommon according to some studies.
Convincing yourself that sleep is for the week: Since you’ve been sleep deprived for some time now, you may have thought at some point that this is who you are. Maybe you don’t need 8 hours of sleep like the rest of the world. But you probably know deep inside that this type of thinking is a coping mechanism. As Cynthia LaJambe, a chronobiologist at the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute says, insomniacs don’t realize that they’re actually performing at a lower level due to sleep deprivation.
People living with insomnia know the toll this sleep disorder takes on their functioning and well-being. The problem becomes even more depressing when you know that neither medication nor tips on how to sleep better help. Your friends and family may tell you to simply change your sleep hygiene or reduce your stress levels, but insomnia is much more complicated of a problem.