The Normalization of Insomnia in My Life

Last updated: September 2022

I've struggled with sleep for as long as I can remember and with the normalization of insomnia. For hours, I'd toss and turn in bed after the rest of my family had fallen asleep. Eventually, I'd fall asleep and because I'd fall asleep so late, I'd have trouble getting up early in the morning with everyone else. Every night, I used to wake my mom up because I couldn't fall asleep. I didn't understand why I was the only 1 who couldn't sleep on time no matter how hard I tried. It scared me. I didn't want to be alone during those hours. My mom indulged me for a little while, but the lack of sleep was causing her to become tired and irritable.

Seeing this, I felt responsible and decided not to tell anyone at home anymore about my continued sleep struggles. Eventually, the normalization of insomnia in my life took some time to adjust, for me and my family.

My normalization of insomnia

My daily routines

This daily routine of lying awake at night for hours, getting less sleep, having trouble waking up early in the morning, and being tired all day became my norm.

When I was in elementary school, class started at 9 AM and I lived 10 minutes away from school so it was more manageable. Sometimes, I'd take a nap after school to catch up on sleep. But, I tried not to do that because I thought it would make falling asleep at night harder. However, regardless of whether I took a nap or not, I still struggled the same to fall asleep. This is also true today.

Struggles with my mental illness

In my teens, I struggled with mental illnesses which made going to school difficult. Eventually, I opted to finish high school online. That is when insomnia began shaping my daily routine.

Since I wasn't able to fall asleep until late in the night anyways, I stopped trying to sleep during those hours. The feelings of restlessness and frustration that came with spending hours awake at night weren't something I wanted to experience anymore.

Hours awake worsened my anxiety

Being alone with my thoughts every night for hours on end worsened my depressed and anxious thoughts. This added sleep-related anxieties to the mix. So I started using those hours to be productive or just relax.

My nighttime activities

During those hours I would either study, watch TV, or read a book. Since I was using that time to do something rather than lament my inability to fall asleep, I felt more peaceful and got more done. I'd get up whenever I'd wake up. Sometimes that would be in the late morning and sometimes it would be in the early afternoon.

This became my regular routine. At first, my family was worried and voiced their concerns to me about the importance of sleep and a normal circadian rhythm. However, they eventually gave up. I think they realized that I just couldn't sleep and this was better than constantly being tired and underslept.

Concerns from my family, and doctor

While I know there is truth to what they were saying, nothing was helping me fall asleep. I felt I had no choice but to go along with it and make the best of it. Any time I brought it up to a doctor they said it was due to my mental illnesses. They would tell me to work on improving those, without taking into account how insomnia affects my mood.

I later developed chronic illnesses and became mostly homebound due to my disability. This meant that just like in high school, my daily routine would not be shaped by school or a job. My school is still mostly online and I am unable to work.

My new nighttime routine

My family is used to it now. They expect that I will be up long after they've fallen asleep. Often, they even ask me to check that the doors and windows are locked since I'm the last 1 to go to bed. Seeing me on the couch with my laptop or watching TV in the living room when they come downstairs to grab a glass of water during the night is something they are used to.

They're also used to me waking up around noon and don't try to wake me before then. Even my pets are aware of this routine!

Reducing negative feelings

I do still struggle a bit to fall asleep when I do go to bed, largely due to chronic pain. But it is much less than before. Going to bed when I finally feel tired or sleepy has reduced a lot of the negative feelings I had about going to bed. I fall asleep late into the night and wake up late in the morning or during the early afternoon.

My new normal

And so my day is shaped around my insomnia. It has become such a regular and normal part of my life and my family's home life that I often forget that this isn't common or normal for the rest of society. Even most of my doctor's appointments and my classes are in the afternoon. My day starts in the afternoon and ends sometime between 2 AM and 6 AM.

My "norm" is just different

I only notice that this is not the norm when I want to attend events or classes that are held in the morning and realize it is actually normal for most people to be out and about early in the day. I also notice it when I'm making plans with family or friends and they suggest morning activities like getting breakfast together.

It is at times like this that I am reminded that my norm is very different from the norms of most people. It also reminds me of how much I'm missing out on during the hours I'm asleep in the morning.

My sleep struggles still suck

When I am reminded that my life is shaped by insomnia and a lot of people don't struggle with this, it makes me feel like there's something wrong with me. The same thoughts I had as a child come back. While I am used to struggling with sleep and have worked my daily routine around it, it still sucks and some days it is more frustrating than others.

Have you experienced the normalization of insomnia in your life too? Please share a comment.

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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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