two woman standing in an elevator, one woman, who has insomnia, looking tired with her head covered by clouds and the other woman with a baby stroller looking judgemental

I Can’t Have Sleep Issues, I Don’t Even Have Children!

I once yawned in front of a young mom while we shared an elevator. She snorted and asked, “What are you yawning about, I haven’t slept in years!?” I smiled sympathetically and we parted ways.

I had no reason to complain about being tired, busy, or stressed out, especially compared to the mothers my age. A childfree young woman is free to do whatever she wants when she wants it. She is free to stay out late with friends and recover the next day with a long nap, go on exotic vacations, or spend time working on projects that bring her joy.

I had no excuse

None of those things were happening. Instead, I was exhausted and in chronic pain. It felt like I was living in a fog. I didn’t have an excuse for what looked like excess “baby weight” around my middle. Sleeping in as late as possible left little time to make a bag lunch, let alone fit in a workout.

I learned in my early twenties not to complain out loud about being tired because I had no excuse. My worst insomnia symptoms happened during my childbearing years, but there were no children to blame. My broken and sporadic sleep patterns were due to racing thoughts, not a crying baby. I didn't have a teenager past curfew to blame for the hours I spent lying in bed with anxiety. When you have no one to take care of but yourself, sleep-deprivation and fighting to stay awake can be confusing and frustrating.

The slow creep of insomnia

Learning to keep my sleep problems to myself did not serve me well when I finally had a chance to speak with my doctor. I wasn’t able to properly articulate how and what I was feeling, because I didn’t understand the cause of it myself.

Sleep-deprived new parents know how to ask for help because they know what the problem is. They remember what life used to be like before the baby arrived.

My insomnia symptoms crept up on me over a number of years. What used to be one bad night was my new normal. When I finally saw my family doctor, I left her office with a prescription instead of a referral for an overnight sleep test.

It’s time to speak up

Insomnia does not choose its victims. If you’re a human with a brain, you can experience racing thoughts and crippling bedtime anxiety. You can feel tired and overworked and stressed without feeling like you need to rationalize those feelings to anyone, and you deserve to feel heard and understood without feeling the need to apologize. Your struggle is valid, period.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 68 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 report experiencing symptoms of insomnia, compared with 59 percent of adults ages 30 to 64, and 44 percent of people over the age of 65.1

Insomnia strikes people of all ages, regardless of lifestyle. Why do we think childfree adults aren’t also at risk of being burnt out and in dire need of rest? We’re all fighting our own silent battles. Feeling like we’re not alone is the first step in finally getting some much-needed relief.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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