Last updated: April 2023
My perspective on living with a sleep disorder has changed significantly over the years.
When I was younger, my inability to fall asleep easily or to stay asleep throughout the night was a frustration to both my parents and myself. I was a relatively healthy kid, so we started having conversations about stress and feelings and what could be preventing me from sleeping.
Using insomnia to my advantage
As I transitioned to high school, I was officially diagnosed with insomnia. Instead of being aggravated at this, I began to look at it as something that could actually be beneficial. I was an ambitious student with advanced classes and a full schedule of activities. I left the house early in the morning, came home late in the evening, and had a mountain of work to do before the next day.
My ability to stay up into the wee hours of the morning really strengthened my time to write papers and study for tests – something that many of my friends struggled with.
Capitalizing on insomnia in college
I needed to work in order to pay for housing and my meal plan, and I found a job at a popular coffee chain that opened at 6:00 AM. This meant waking up at 4:30 AM and arriving at the store by 5:15 AM. I also carried a difficult course load full of assignments and exams and tried to balance that with having a fulfilling social life as well. This meant that many days I would go to bed well after midnight, knowing that my alarm would be going off way too soon.
I thought it was funny, to be honest, that I could survive on such little sleep. But, I’d had years of practice, and I figured I might as well put this “skill” to good use.
A young professional with insomnia
After graduation, I started a full-time job. Spending 8 hours at a desk was significantly different from anything I’d done before, and it was also much more challenging to be so tired without having any opportunity for a change in scenery or activity.
Crohn's disease and insomnia
And then, I got sick. I began showing symptoms of Crohn’s disease about a year later, and everything changed.
Although my pathway to diagnosis was long and arduous, my inability to sleep well became increasingly frustrating. My body was working overtime, it was depleted and my insomnia prevented me from really letting it heal. I felt angry at how long it took to fall asleep or how often I was up during the night because I knew that if I had any chance at functioning the next day, I needed some actual rest.
Today, I am lucky enough to say my Crohn’s disease is in remission. I am a wife and a mother and a business owner and an independent contractor. I work hard and I have fun.
Accepting my insomnia over time
I still live with insomnia, but I no longer really have any feelings about it.
To be honest, it’s just part of my story. Over time, I’ve come to realize that I have actually accepted it. Sleeping will never come easy to me, and rest will never be simple for me. It’s a bummer, but it’s the truth.
Insomnia is always running in the background
Insomnia runs in the background of my life 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. However, I don’t honestly think about it very often anymore.
Sure, a bad night leaves me exhausted and annoyed, and there are definitely times I can't figure out why I’m wide awake when everyone else is asleep, but in general, it’s just how my life (and my body) work.
What do you do at night when you can't sleep?