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A Spoonie’s How-To Guide to Steroid-Fueled Insomnia


Editor's Note

Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

Steroids: the miracle drug that can take anything from a coughing spasm to joint pain and work some anti-inflammatory magic.

As a spoonie — someone with a chronic illness who subscribes to the spoon theory — I am more than familiar with steroids. Steroids and I go way back. We are old pals — bosom buddies. We have matching friendship bracelets and everything. I have witnessed firsthand how a handful of tiny white pills could take me from underweight and on a clear liquid diet to a (mostly) able-bodied member of the workforce — you’re welcome, economy.

However, I am also well-versed in the many pitfalls of long-term steroid use: Moon face. Overheating. Unwanted weight gain. Random bouts of inexplicable rage. These are the many bedfellows of the flighty mistress that is the much-lauded steroid.

One side effect in particular has reared its ugly head in my world lately: insomnia. And I’m not talking about the meditate-before-bed-and-pop-a-melatonin kind. But rather, the sort of insomnia that pries your eyes open at some ungodly hour, scoots in close and whispers “Good morning.”

Due to my recent encounters with insomnia, I consider myself an unofficial expert in the field, and have decided to slap together a little how-to guide for surviving a sleepless night. (Note: Claims of unofficial expert capacity are not substantial and should not be taken seriously. This is to say: Do not sue the author. She is poor.)

1:00 a.m.

Wake up. Do this while drenched in sweat with your sheets in a heap on the floor. Roll onto your stomach and bury your face in your damp pillow. Be sure to squeeze your eyes shut while doing so. This has never worked before, but crazier things have happened than falling asleep.

1:34 a.m.

Your bedroom is weirdly hot, so you should grab your pillow, wrap yourself in the floor-sheets and migrate to the couch. Trip over as many of your children’s toys as you can while you walk. Repeat the eyes-shut, belly-down, face-in-pillow maneuver on the couch. Assure yourself that this will work, and you will, under no circumstances, turn on the TV.

2:01 a.m.

Re-watch the pilot of “Gilmore Girls” for the fourth time. Wonder why Rory was so needlessly bratty. Make a mental note to apologize to your mom for being the literal worst during high school.

2:57 a.m.

Put on the kettle. Rifle through your treasure trove of teabags. Select the peachy green tea even though it has a teensy bit of caffeine. Know you have fallen asleep after downing multiple cups of coffee in the past. Caffeine has no power over you. You are basically Hercules, minus all of the strength and murder. Wonder how Disney managed to piecemeal a children’s movie from such a violent myth. Remember that almost all Disney films were piecemealed from violent myths.

2:59 a.m.

Decide that all you need to do to overcome medically induced insomnia is relax. R-e-l-a-x. Return to the couch, steaming mug of tea in hand, and crack open the book your one friend lent you weeks ago that you’ve been meaning to read. Dive 60 pages deep into a historical fiction piece detailing multiple European perspectives at the tail end of World War II. Decide that no amount of green tea will make World War II relaxing.

3:33 a.m.

Sweat profusely.

3:40 a.m.

Reheat the dinner you were not hungry enough to eat during “normal” human hours. Note how delicious zucchini tastes. Contemplate switching to a plant-based diet. Google “plant based diet ulcerative colitis.” Stumble down a rabbit hole of discussion board posts and end up reading a lengthy post about full colon and rectum removal. Cheery. Thank the internet for its input and put your phone down. Watch episode two of “Gilmore Girls” while you finish your leftovers.

4:29 a.m.

Accept that sleep has eluded you. Choose to make the most of this extra time by cleaning. Load the dishes into the dishwasher. Wipe down the kitchen sink and countertops and stove. Sweep crumbs and stray Cheerios into a pile. Breathe in the lavender scent of mopping pads. Bask in the glow of your sparking kitchen. Move on to the foyer and kids’ bathroom. Try not to wonder how long it has been since the toilet was last scrubbed. Marvel at the many places your two year old can hide toys. Realize, after many failed attempts to reach it, that the space between the towel rack and the wall truly is the best spot for a plastic yak.

5:15 a.m.

You did it. You beat insomnia. Your house smells like Lysol, so clearly you’ve won. Celebrate by pulling out your laptop and typing up a how-to guide for surviving insomnia.

6:41 a.m.

Fall asleep on the couch. Do this in a truly atrocious position that involves your neck and a 70-degree angle. But don’t worry: Your family will find you there in roughly 20 minutes so that you can begin your day.

Getty Images photo via cyano66