A person asleep in bed

Insomnia: How It Started and How It's Going

My brain is virtually bursting with the most useless of thoughts. Amazingly, I have room up there to store some obscure memories, too. I remember the first time I tasted wasabi. I can recall the conversation between the OR nurses who assisted with setting my broken arm when I was 7 years old. I even remember a first-grade classmate telling me to never ever drink chocolate milk and eat a banana, "It will make you sick,” she said.

You would think I would be able to recall some of the more significant things like, say for instance, the moment I realized I had insomnia. But I can't. I can, however, recall my growing frustration and confusion.

How it started

The first thing that alerted me I might have a sleeping issue was an overwhelming feeling of being tired, but unable to drift off to sleep. Out of 7 nights, I may have fallen asleep within an hour of lying down about 4 nights.

It didn't take me long to dread going to bed for fear my eyes would pop wide open as soon as my head hit the pillow. I believe it is safe to say that I started having some panicky moments immediately prior to turning in for the night. I wanted more than anything to just lie down, settle beneath the covers, and fade away into unconsciousness without drama or dread.

Not long after I first began to struggle with falling asleep, the ability to remain asleep left me. I quickly lost count of the number of times I would wake during the night and reposition my body in hopes of dozing off once more. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't.

More often than not, I would find myself growing increasingly angry at my brain's blatant disregard for my body's needs. Unfortunately, the more I woke during the night and the more worked up I got, the less likely I was to score any more winks. This went on for months, and months turned into years.

First efforts to regain control

Not one to relinquish control of much at all, I was desperate to relearn how to sleep. It shouldn't have been difficult. After all, sleep is supposed to come naturally, right?

I set my disdain for medications aside after a few months of trying to will sleep back into my life, and I tried melatonin. With some varying results depending on the night, I was able to get some rest. Melatonin, strangely enough, doesn't consistently provide me with restful sleep, and I was off to find another solution.

Research and discussions with friends led me to try a white noise machine. This, I must say, was a bigger help than I anticipated. Providing the perfect distraction from my thoughts (and my fear of not falling asleep), the white noise played an important role in giving me some long-overdue rest. It hasn't been the be-all-end-all in solutions, but it has definitely made a difference and a positive one at that.

How it's going

Several years have passed now since I began admitting I have insomnia. I build what amounts to an adult pillow fort in my bed in order to get comfortable at night. I crank up the white noise to drown out all others in both my head and home. My neck is cradled in a contour pillow that is as ugly as sin, and I drift off most nights to the soothing sounds of sleep meditations emanating from my phone on the bedside table.

I said all that to say this – I am sleeping. Not without waking and not without struggling to drift off, but I am sleeping. I can't really ask for more considering where I started, now can I?

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