I’m Tired Of Being Tired: Exploring Options To Resolve Insomnia

insomnia catIf anyone ever asks me “How do you sleep at night?” after finding out what a scummy human I am, I could easily say “I don’t” without skipping a beat.

I don’t really know if it’s true insomnia or just anxiety. All I know is that I suck at sleeping and I’ve sucked at it my entire life. When I was a kid, I read every single Junie B. Jones book at my friend’s house because I couldn’t sleep a wink at our sleepovers. It’s not that I couldn’t sleep because I was out of my own bed–I couldn’t sleep in there either. In preschool, when the other babies would snuggle up on cots to nap, I would snack and watch Korean soap operas with the grown ups because my parents couldn’t risk making  sleep at night any more of a challenge than it already was.

Since childhood, I’ve gone through waves of being able to sleep naturally and though they are magical times, they don’t last forever. I just got out of one of my sleepy waves recently and for the past few weeks being entirely sleepless has been wreaking havoc on nearly every aspect of my life. Maybe it’s like this for everyone, but I wouldn’t know because I’m currently a monster…or maybe I’m always a monster and I’m just blaming a lack of sleep.

Chronically overtired, I’m stupid and confused and unable to relate to any other humans. Simple tasks are impossible. I can’t hear what anyone’s saying over the awful din of exhausted self loathing. It’s a cliche, but it’s a vicious cycle. I can’t sleep because I make my skin crawl, then I act like a creeper because I’m too tired to be a person and then I have to think about what an awful slug I am all night long. Rinse. Repeat.

I probably should be loathing myself. My temperamental insomniac self is ugly, so fucking ugly and temperamental. And just plain mental, completely out of control of my emotions and losing track of time. What’s been happening and where have I been? I’ve been active, but not present in my life. Days ex post facto, I’ll remember saying things I didn’t mean or saying things I did mean but would have never said in my right mind. I’ll replay those moments and shudder.
Perhaps the worst repercussion of hardly sleeping is my complete inability to confront and deal with somewhat serious matters, instead distracting myself with trivialities and minutiae.  Rather than figuring out solutions to serious problems and taking care of business, I’ll just work myself into a lather over a boy I haven’t thought about in 5 years. If I make that a problem or my skin or my perfectly healthy BMI, then I don’t have to worry about money or my family or my health or anything real.
When I’m not acting out and actively seeking destruction, I just want to apologize on behalf of my existence all the time: I’m sorry I’m like this. Then I feel guilty for the narcissism that’s letting me off the hook–as if recognizing how fucked up I am relieves me of the consequences of acting fucked up. In reality, beating myself up allows me to ignore the fallout of my shortcomings. One issue will be playing in my head until I either can’t bear the pain of it or have gotten bored punishing myself for it. No one else can punish me; I already punished myself. Then I can keep acting fucked up, so I never have to sleep well again.
It’s not that I never ever sleep, I just do so infrequently and poorly. If I do get to sleep at a reasonable time, I’ll be perky and awake by 3 a.m. and if I don’t fall asleep at all, it’ll be 5 a.m. before I can wind down enough to drift off. Unfortunately and embarrassingly, there are some occasions where sleep isn’t too much trouble. I have slumber-parties with friends more often than I’m proud of because it’s so much easier for me to fall asleep next to someone. Last weekend, I had a sleepover in a platonic friend’s bed and didn’t wake up until 2 p.m. Ordinarily, sleeping that late would make me feel like a dirtbag, but I was just happy I got some sleep in. I’d really like to be able to sleep alone like a grown woman.
At this point, I’ve tried a million different possible sleep remedies–from guided meditation to breathing exercises on down…some methods have worked better than others, but none really stick. Accepting sleeplessness and getting fucked up enough to pass out are no longer options: I can’t live like this anymore. I’m going to bring out the big guns–this time I’m going to try. 
I’m contemplating the following options:
Pills, pills, pills: I’m talking about prescription pills, because the melatonin/tylenol PM and red wine method is only okay for so long. This is possibly the most effective choice–that is, if I use them safely in conjunction with therapy, but that’s unlikely. Using sleep or anxiety medication is risky for me because I may just abuse them and replace naval gazing with drug induced stupor. Plus, I wouldn’t want to be taking pills forever.
Therapy without medication: Maybe I could deal with some of this anxiety the healthy way. I’m all about the talking cure and genuinely believe almost anyone would benefit from therapy. However, I know that I’m probably just going to try to get pills if I do see a doctor. Have I ever mentioned that I’m a monster?
Homeopathic hippie woo woo: Probably my best option, honestly. In high school, I used to see this Hare Krishna woman who would give me Ayurvedic massages to help me calm down enough to get some shut-eye. Those massages worked like magic. It’s not realistic for me to think I could find/afford another magical Hare Krishna to chant with me and rub me with special oils, but maybe acupuncture combined with herbs (other than herbor tinctures or god knows what could help me out.
This is just my personal experience with anxiety, insomnia and self hatred, but I’m curious about yours. Can you sleep at night and how do you act when you haven’t slept in days? If you have any methods for dealing with anxiety based insomnia, I urge you to share them with me. 
Image via Shutterstock
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    • Julia Sonenshein

      All of this. I relate so strongly to this, especially in terms of how fucked up it makes your waking life and the exhaustion of trying everything and having nothing work. Slumber parties forever.

      • Joanna Rafael

        Thank you, Jules.

    • Samantha_Escobar

      Such a well-written piece, dude.

      • Joanna Rafael

        Thank you–that means a lot to me from you in particular.

    • Leticia

      Yes, I also cannot sleep, and also I am a monster. My husband gets in bed next to me, falls asleep in ten minutes and sleeps like the dead for 7 hours. I watch him do this. It’s infuriating. For my next trick, I am cutting caffeine and sugar out of my diet. Have you tried that?

      • Joanna Rafael

        Whenever someone is asleep near me, I’m have endeared to their limp and helpless form and half outrageously jealous of their ability to sleep.

        I keep trying to cut out caffeine or even just cut back, but the headaches are unbearable. I don’t know how sustainable a life without sugar would be for me, but I do have visions of myself happy without it. Please tell me how restricting caffeine and sugar goes for you.

      • Leticia

        So far it’s working great. I had headaches for a few days, but Advil did the trick with those. I’m feeling a bit tired during the day still, but I’ve been having better sleep than I’ve had in years. (I’m still having a tiny coffee in the mornings, but that’s it.) Cray.

      • Joanna Rafael

        Leticia! I’m so stoked for you. I bet that tiny coffee tastes great too.

      • Peter Sheerin

        I’ve gotten off caffeine without headaches by doing it gradually. First, gradually cut back the number of cups of full-test until you’re at one a day. Do this over the course of a week.

        Substitute decaf coffee for any of the full strength you give up. (These still have some, though. If you can’t stand the taste of decaf, go get it brewed on the Clover at Starbucks. It’s an amazingly tasty brew, and the expense will help you cut back the rest of the way. Do this over the course of a week.

        When you’ve gotten down to one cup of full test in the morning, switch to black tea for the morning, then only green tea after noon. Do this over the course of a week.

        Now, switch to green tea in the morning, and herbal in the afternoon. Do this over the course of a week.

        Finally, switch to just herbal tea.

    • Cee

      I started getting deep, DEEP anxiety for the past couple of months. It would keep me awake until 3 or 4ish, though I am naturally an anxious person. However, when I started taking medication I started staying up much later. I stayed up from 5 and at times awake until 7; yet, I was much calmer and my coping is a bit more relaxed than before. I stopped taking the meds and now I’m still pretty relaxed but still very much awake!
      I feel medication has its place in helping. I would not want to take it for a long time, but I have seen it do wonders for some people. I was hesitant then I felt kinda stupid for being so anxious all these months when there was something out there that could have helped.

      Anyways, if its needed, don’t knock it. And if you find something out there that helps, please share and good luck!

      • Joanna Rafael

        I’m really glad you figured out something that works for you. I’ll definitely keep talking about insomnia and hopefully find my own solution.

    • Virginia

      I also have Anxiety (and chronic hyperventilation which makes the anxiety even worse). For me the only thing that helps battle my insomnia is a) my medication (beta-blockers) witch I don’t like to take and b) a joint before bedtime. That last option makes me fall asleep withing 20 minutes instead of the usual hours of lying awake.

      I don’t know what the laws are where you live, and I don’t won’t to put anyone on drugs but for insomnia maybe option b is something that could help!

      • Joanna Rafael

        A joint before bed time helps me too :)

    • Seana

      I absolutely relate to this, although thankfully my sleeplessness has not gotten so out of hand. I avoid sleepovers like the plague, because sleeping next to someone almost always makes me think about not bothering them with tossing/turning/breathing instead of allowing myself to relax and sleep.

      For me, I can usually see my insomnia coming…nervous tension during the day that is not relieved by physical activity is usually my biggest sign. I too as I child used to say up reading books all night, watching TV from 3-6am until I finally felt tired enough to go back to sleep. It sucks, and mine is not nearly as bad as yours.

      Something that has worked pretty well for me is a homeopathic medicine called Hyland’s Calms. 1-2 pills works well for the nervous tension, and 3 before bed usually takes the edge off and calms me enough to sleep. It doesn’t always work, but it usually does the trick for me

      • Joanna Rafael

        Thank your comment! I’m going to look up Hyland’s Calms right now.

    • Peyton Banks

      I’ve had an anxiety disorder my entire life and I was surprised when my therapist informed me that insomnia is a symptom of depression and anxiety. I definitely would advise you to start with talk therapy and then move to homeopathic and medical aids. For me at least I had to be put on anti-anxiety drugs to sleep through the night. The good news is I can now use the quality of sleep I’m getting as a measure of anxious and depressive episodes and seek help.

      • Joanna Rafael

        Dude! Your comment has inspired me–it sounds like you have great perspective.

    • vivek gupta

      Hey, your posts are very nice. I read so many posts by you and found them so interesting. You put the right

      content with beautiful photographs that is very nice.Keep sharing!

      • Joanna Rafael

        Thank you so so much.

    • vivek gupta

      This is such a great post. With me what was once very comfortable at times can be not so much anymore. Are we getting soft?

      • Joanna Rafael

        Definitely getting soft.

    • Agata

      Hi there…it’s 8 am and didn’t get any sleep yet…it’s been like this every 2 days for past couple of weeks…and generally off and on since I was a kid. And even if I sleep…I can’t remember the time when I slept 8 hours straight, I usually wake up at least 3 times (and usually I have nightmares). Oh wait, I do remember-it was on Stilnox. That’s the only thing that worked for me ever, and I’ve tried herbal pills &teas, melatonin, hydroxizinum, walking, talking, reading, breathing…everything that was ever written. But what can you do when you get 10 pills per 6 months because doctors are too wise to give more-and if I get more I can’t help myself and not take them daily:/ These pills work miracles but only if you take them so what’s the point taking them 2 weeks and then go through these waking nightmares again?? And they are quite dangerous, I used to take them like half a year or a year straight so doctors are more careful these days. It’s so addictive, there was a girl here that could die if she didn’t take another pill, it took 3 weeks of detox to save her.

      Massages sometimes help a lot but I can’t seem to ask nicely enough for them I guess? A person who falls asleep in 5 minutes and who I watch all night and who so much annoys me for this so I want to punch him…why should he care? It’s difficult to understand I suppose. I used to not be able to fall asleep without him – now I can’t sleep with him cause his breathing annoys me o.O I’m a monster too.
      Sorry for rant, I feel like a zombie and can’t think straight. Anyway, I feel your pain.

    • Goonlife

      Thank you very informative artice