The Emotional Impact of Insomnia

Last updated: December 2021

As someone who has struggled to both fall asleep and stay asleep for more than half my life, I am intimately familiar with the ways insomnia can make me feel.

Throughout my experiences, I’ve spanned the reaction of productivity to frustration to anger to loneliness to vulnerability to just plain sadness and back again.

I’ve thought a lot about these things on nights I struggle to sleep, and I wanted to write more about them, in case this cycle of feelings resonated with other insomniacs.

Insomnia in my teens and early 20s

In my teens and early 20s, my life was defined by my role as a student. I had part-time jobs and extracurricular activities, but school was my main focus. During this time, I looked at my insomnia as a sort of frenemy - an enemy I’d make friends with to use to my advantage.

Insomnia was my frenemy

This meant turning my insomnia into something that “worked” for me - staying up as late as possible to finish assignments or study for exams, waking up early to go to class or to work, and sometimes, even using a middle of the night stuck awake window to get things done. My classmates and roommates fell into one of two categories - they either totally understood completely how I utilized the 24 hours in a day (and perhaps, even struggled with some sleep disorders themselves), OR they couldn’t comprehend in the least the way my body was functioning.

Insomnia in my mid-20s

In my mid-20s, I found myself working an incredibly demanding job with a decent commute. While I began utilizing prescription medication for my insomnia, I constantly felt frustrated with the situation at hand.

Choosing the "least worst" option

If I took the medication too early at night, even if I was tired, I’d be up way before I wanted to be. The days would be extremely long and I’d be supremely agitated with the situation. If I went to bed later than I should while still taking the medication, I’d be at risk for missing my alarm or waking up too groggy to function.

Neither felt like a great option, and I often spent my days debating which option was the “least worst.” This made me angry! Why couldn’t I just fall asleep normally! OR stay asleep once I did the hard work of getting there?

Craving connection

As I got older, I learned more about the lonely and vulnerable feelings of being up much of the night. The world was quiet, too quiet, and I often felt left behind. This, coupled with chronic pain from Crohn’s disease often left me desperate for connection at night, and walking through my days in an overtired fog. I felt sad often for the cycle I was stuck in, and often wondered how my life would ever look or feel different.

Still juggling the emotional impact in my mid-30s

I’m now in my mid-30s, and I’ve been formally diagnosed with insomnia for 2 decades. I am a wife, a mother, and a career woman, and I still find myself juggling this cycle of feelings along with my insomnia symptoms. It’s exhausting, to say the least!

If you’ve struggled with any of these emotions in relation to your insomnia, I’d love to hear about them below.

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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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