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What I Mean When I Say 'I'm Tired' as Someone With Insomnia

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I’ve had insomnia for about eight years now, but I’ve never particularly been a good sleeper, ever. Around the age of 13 or 14, I noticed I was getting hardly any sleep at all. By the time I was 16, I was running on one hour of sleep a night. I’m still at this point now, although gradually, with medication, I’m sometimes getting three hours of sleep.

For anybody who doesn’t have insomnia, I’m going to explain what I mean when I say “I’m tired.”

There’s tired, and then there’s insomnia tired, which is more like constant exhaustion.

No matter how much sleep I do get, whether it be zero or five hours, I am genuinely exhausted in the morning. I feel as though I’ve had no sleep, my eyelids are droopy, my body is aching and sluggish and my brain is about five minutes behind my actions. This is the reason why I am full of bruises from when I’ve walked into walls and door frames.

I genuinely feel exhausted all the time, but I’ve learned to function like this, because what else can I do? I have no choice. So I’ve learned to run on an hour’s sleep a night — granted I probably don’t run very well, but I still manage to get myself to university in the morning.

“Why don’t you just have a bath before bed? That’ll help.”
“You should come on a night out with me. The alcohol will knock you out for sure.”
“Switch your mobile phone off before bed and you’ll get to sleep.”

These are just some of the things I’ve had people tell me to do to make sure I will get some sleep on an evening. But the thing is, I’ve been having sleeping issues since I was 13 years old. I’m now 21. I’ve tried a lot.

I’ve had warm showers and cold showers. I’ve drank milk and hot chocolate, I’ve eaten certain foods and avoided certain foods. I’ve gone to the gym on an evening, I’ve also just sat and watched a movie with a cup of tea (decaf). I’ve turned my phone off at 5 p.m., read a book until 8 p.m. and still not managed to get to sleep. I’ve listened to the sea on youtube through my earphones, I’ve downloaded app after app after app. I tried having a couple glasses of wine on an evening — I do not condone using alcohol to sleep by the way — but that didn’t work. I really have tried a lot. It just doesn’t seem to work for me. Sometimes, even when I do get to sleep, I can’t stay asleep!

I got really annoyed the last time somebody tried to explain to me what I should do, because just before he did so, he told me how he didn’t understand insomnia and how somebody just couldn’t sleep. It can sometimes be just a little frustrating.

I’ve had people tell me I need to get to bed early because I look tired, or because I’ve yawned. I’ve had people tell me I’m not trying hard enough, and that I can’t be that tired.

But honestly, I am. I am very, very tired. All the time.

It’s like I can’t shut my brain off for an evening, and sometimes, even if I can, I still don’t get to sleep.

I just hope this helps someone understand a tiny bit of what insomnia is like for some people.

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Thinkstock photo via KatarzynaBialasiewicz.

Originally published: April 24, 2017
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