Believe Me - I Have Insomnia
Last updated: June 2022
We all just want to be heard and understood in life. Don’t we? It has taken many, many years and a complete nervous breakdown, for people to take my insomnia seriously. Feeling believed may sometimes be a struggle for people with insomnia.
Feeling believed and taken seriously
Everyone is likely to experience periods of difficult sleep sometime in their life. Aren’t they? I can’t imagine there are too many people going a whole lifetime and never having a sleepless night.
Those of us who suffer understand.
Insomnia suggestions I've heard
I have slept badly my entire life but it wasn’t always debilitating. I have also been offered well-intended advice about sleep my entire life. For the most part, it was good advice. But if there is 1 thing an insomniac has done it is research ways to cure insomnia. Here’s a list of all the suggestions I have heard:
- Take melatonin
- If you’re tired enough, you'll sleep
- Cut out caffeine
- Cut out alcohol
- Cut out sugar and preservatives
- Go to bed at the same time every night
- Get up at the same time every day
- Listen to (name your favourite) this app
- Stop watching television before bed
- Get off your phone
- Take magnesium
- Take this magic supplement my naturopath recommended
- Exercise more
- Exercise less
- Soak in a long hot bath
- Don’t eat too close to bedtime
- Eat more food
- Eat less food
I’m sure there are more. Everyone has an opinion.
A lot of these suggestions fall under the category of good sleep hygiene which is the very first step in trying to manage insomnia. And for a lot of people introducing good sleep hygiene principles is enough to get their sleep back on track.
I am so happy for them. It doesn’t work for me.
Believe my sleep struggles
When I say I’m not sleeping – that a good night would be 3-4 hours – I need people to believe me. Because a bad night is zero hours. And a bad week is pockets of 20 minutes here and there.
I paid a very heavy price for people – particularly doctors – not believing me when I articulated my lack of sleep. I don’t think they thought I was lying, but most people probably believed I was exaggerating.
I wasn’t exaggerating. I could go for several days with zero sleep and become completely manic.
My mental health
When I had a spectacular mental health breakdown, my sleep – or lack thereof – was finally taken seriously. And I am very fortunate to be someone who has responded well to pharmaceutical treatment of insomnia. Not everyone is so lucky. I take a little cocktail of 5 medications that support my sleep each night. I finally have a little glimpse of sanity back.
I regret very much that nobody believed me when I said I wasn’t sleeping. All the relaxation and deep breathing in the world did nothing for me.
Being told taking meds is wrong
Now that I sleep regularly I have people (not my doctors thankfully) telling me that taking medication to sleep is wrong. That I should just try melatonin... and the list goes on.
Drugs are the weapon of the last defense for chronic insomnia. It is difficult to articulate just how exhausting and insidious long-term sleep deprivation is. When suffering from something debilitating, it is an extra kick in the face to not be believed.
Seeking answers, not more advice
Imagine having an asthma attack and people just suggesting you try a mindfulness exercise and the air will come rushing back in. It would be not only unhelpful but dangerous.
I spent more than a decade seeking answers and support for insomnia. Not being believed was extra stress I could have done without.
If you struggle with chronic insomnia, I believe you. Take care of yourself.
What do you do at night when you can't sleep?