Sleeplessness Versus Insomnia

Last updated: July 2022

Yesterday, my first grandchild was safely delivered into this world. It is a purely joyous, exciting, and loving time. I am so grateful.

I look at their new little family and think to myself, there are a lot of sleepless nights ahead for you. I remember them only too well.

Difference between sleeplessness and insomnia

But, in my opinion, sleepless nights and insomnia are not the same things. Sleepless nights can be thrust upon us for all sorts of reasons – parenthood, barking dogs, snoring partners, medication side effects, illness. And so on and so on. For me, insomnia has no explanation. And, there are unique differences between sleeplessness and insomnia.

Body doesn't know how to sleep

While I have had my share of sleepless nights due to crying babies or irritating neighbors, the vast majority of my wakeful nights seem to be because my body just does not understand how to sleep properly. When the “good-sleeper” personality traits were being handed out I was clearly not paying attention. Regardless of the circumstance, I’ve never been a good sleeper.

I can line all my ducks up in a row – making lifestyle changes, avoiding anything stimulating, creating routines, managing my mental health – and still when my head hits the pillow I’ll stare at the ceiling and just wonder why. Why is such a basic human function such an elusive commodity?

Psychological therapy

Lining all those ducks up is essential – I have no chance at good sleep if I have bad sleep hygiene. But it is not enough. I have done a lot of psychological therapy to address issues with anxiety and hyperarousal – a common reason for insomnia. And, I have made great progress. I no longer go weeks on end with barely a minute’s sleep. But psychological therapy is also not enough. I personally need pharmaceutical support.

Prescription medication

Drugs are the last available tool in a lengthy list of insomnia treatments, but they are there for a reason. When all else has reasonably failed, I believe it is okay to do what you need to do. With the aid of medications, I have finally found a routine that allows me to sleep most nights and the difference to the quality of my life has been inexpressibly positive.

Due to external factors, such as awaiting news of the arrival of a blessed grandchild, I still go through periods of sleeplessness. But I have faith in knowing that these nights will not be endless. A few bad nights here and there are okay. It is the incessant, unremitting nature of insomnia that wore me out and brought me to my knees.

External factors

Having experienced both sleeplessness and insomnia, I have noticed that with sleeplessness I can fall asleep but be woken by external factors, Then if things go well, fall asleep again. But with insomnia, I just quite simply cannot fall asleep at all, despite the serenity of my surroundings. And if by some pinch of luck I fall asleep, I soon wake and then cannot go back to sleep. It is like a form of torture.

I am confident my son and his new family have many a sleepless night ahead as they discover the big adventure that is parenthood. But I hope that when the room is quiet and the circumstances are right, everyone gets some sleep. At least for a little while.

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