Dear Insomniacs: You Have My Empathy

It’s 1:34am in Boulder. I’m normally asleep by 10pm. However, since I returned from Australia, I’m up until – well – now.

For most of last week, I still felt shitty from the salmonella poisoning I got two weeks ago. I rationalized that it was ok to take an ambien every night since I was still sick. But, I’m not a fan of ambien or how it makes me feel, so I stopped on Friday. Since then, I’ve crawled into bed around 10pm with my beloved, tossed and turned for about an hour, and then gotten up and either read or typed on my computer.

I have several close friends who are insomniacs. Over the years I’ve heard their stories about being up in the middle of the night, completely awake. I see them yawn at 11am and know that regardless of what they are doing, they’d probably rather be in bed sleeping. I’ve always had sympathy for them, but I’ve never really understood it.

I have trouble sleeping maybe one night a year. On that special night, I get up and read on the couch until I fall asleep.

I’ve four nights into this no-sleep craziness on the heals of ten days of what is called gastroenteritis in polite society. It is exactly zero fun.

With that, my whining is over. I’m giving my insomniac friends virtual hugs wherever they are in the world. I’m going to crawl into bed and try again to go to sleep. Maybe I’ll feel like writing something actually useful to the universe tomorrow.

Also published on Medium.

  • HugoMelo

    2mg melatonin, the flux Mac app, and the sleep cycle iPhone app have helped me a lot (10y insomniac)

  • Sam

    True insomnia must suck.

    But if it makes your awake-in-the-middle-of-the-night friends feel any better, some speculate that waking up in the middle of the night is actually a natural rhythm. I remember reading this a couple years ago, and it changed the way I (don’t) worry about waking up in the middle of the night.

  • Magicslimish

    Even as a teen I didn’t sleep much – none of that sleep til noon for me – but an international career and really screwed up my sleep patterns. Crossing the Atlantic was often weekly and I used various workarounds to deal with that – like going to bed at 5pm in North America, sleeping as soon as the plane was airborne etc. Long haul maybe monthly was far more difficult and for a long time I felt like you do now but all the time. It was normal. I don’t travel now but am still far happier with two sleep periods in 24 hours. I am with Sam – use it productively. Tried Melatonin Hugo – nightmares!

    In 30 years I only overslept and was late for a meeting once tho (in Singapore).

    listening to an audio book seems to help a lot.

  • Dana Jinaru

    I’ve learned to live with it. At first, it was distressing, but as time passed and I decided not to medicate (not 30 yet so would rather delay that for later in life), I’ve come up with tricks to make it work. Reading a couple of Reddit posts might help. If not, I’ve always found Ira Glass’ voice to be particularly soothing. I’d put This American Life in my headphones, on really low volume. I’d also try to sleep on my belly, that helps as well.
    Ultimately, I’d accept the fact that I won’t be 100% the next day and cut myself some slack.

  • I was an insomniac for most of the first 36 years of my life. Then I moved to Hong Kong, with its 12-hour time difference, and magically I slept when I was supposed to. When I returned to North Carolina 12 years later, did I wreck myself? No, somehow I remained normal in my sleep patterns. Have we found a cure for insomnia? I don’t know, but the most important thing is that I followed the word “normal” with “in my sleep patterns.” It’s always good to be precise with the language.

  • joewaltman

    I am not sure about your stand on medical marijuana, but the Indica version of this product has done wonders for me. The key aspect for me is that you can finely tune the amount of ‘medicine’ you ingest.

  • Hank Johnson

    Hope that you feel better soon Brad.

  • Shane Lennox

    Melatonin Brad – game changer for timezone problems

  • After 20 years fighting insomnia, I discovered numerous articles explaining that before electricity, it was normal for humans to wake up in the middle of the night.