Insomnia is So Much More Than Being Unable to Sleep
I wish more people understood the complexities of living with insomnia and sleep anxiety. It is so much more than what people see on the surface like staying up late, sleeping in, daytime tiredness, and the struggle to be on time for things.
According to Cleveland Clinic, “Roughly, 1 in 3 adults worldwide have insomnia symptoms, and about 10% of adults meet the criteria for insomnia disorder,” and “About half the people with chronic insomnia also have at least one other mental health condition, like anxiety or depression”(Cleveland Clinic, Insomnia: What it is, causes, symptoms & treatment 2023). That is a LOT of people struggling to sleep at night. People are quick to judge and blame it on technology use before bed but for some of us, we’ve been struggling with sleep long before ever owning a cell phone. At least, that’s been the case for me.
Insomnia for me is crippling. It’s intense dread each time the sun begins to set. It’s an anxiety response each night when bedtime rolls around. It’s a constant battle in my mind of knowing I should go to sleep at a certain time but anxiety runs through my body as I watch the minutes and sometimes hours passing by as I lay in bed. It’s a struggle to wake up in the morning because you finally fell asleep in the wee hours of the morning with the help of a sedative which leaves you groggy and still exhausted.
Insomnia is daytime anxiety, emotional sensitivity, and irritability because of the fatigue that radiates through every cell in your body. It’s the desire to lay down and take a nap but knowing that if you do, it will just make it even harder to sleep that night. It’s snapping at those you love because the exhaustion is just too overwhelming to your nervous system. It’s anxiety and dread for events or appointments planned in the morning, not because it’s something you don’t want to do but because you know that having to get up early will wreak havoc on your body and mind.
You see when I have something in the morning and I lay down in bed the night before, my mind races. It calculates how much sleep I’ll get, how that will affect my body, mind, and mood when I’ll be able to take a nap if I can, and how I’ll be able to put on a mask for the thing I’m supposed to do. While I would love to wake up early, see the sunrise, and be productive every day, that’s not my reality or the reality for many suffering from insomnia.
I would love to be able to wake up early on Sunday mornings to go to church but instead, I’m having to weigh the costs between going or staying home to sleep. It’s a constant fight internally between going to church but dozing off through the entire sermon, getting incredibly irritated, and needing to come home and nap anyway or just staying home to sleep in but missing out on seeing important people in my life and hearing bits and pieces of the sermon. It’s a constant battle each week trying to decide. Something that many people with insomnia have to deal with daily. Getting up early for me isn’t an issue of laziness. It’s an issue of anxiety and depression.
Not only is insomnia associated with anxiety but it can also be a result of depression too. For instance, while I have been in this long fight with Treatment-Resistant Depression, my nights are often filled with hopelessness, overwhelming sadness, and dread for the next day of waking up and facing it all again. This dread turns into anxiety which keeps me up in fear of having to face another day of the same fight.
Insomnia can also cause serious damage to one’s body too. For instance, according to Hopkins Medicine, Insomnia and poor sleep quality can lead to complications like “increased risk for heart disease, increased risk for stroke, increased risk for diabetes, excessive weight gain or obesity, depression, and increased of injury to self or others, such as a car accident caused by driving while drowsy” (John Hopkins Medicine, Insomnia). It is so much more than what one sees on the surface.
Insomnia affects so many people worldwide and is multifaceted. It’s complicated. It is crippling. And it’s incredibly infuriating for the one suffering. I just wish more people could understand or have empathy for people like me who struggle with it.