A tired looking woman with insomnia with bags under her eyes

What Exactly Is Insomnia?

Surely it is not only me who has been asked the question many, many times after discussing insomnia with someone. Often followed by, "Well, what is it actually?" My head usually does a slow turn of disbelief. Were they not present for the last half of the conversation?

There are those people who believe that insomnia is a fairy tale or an excuse we use when we do not want to sleep. Have you ever? They simply do not believe in it. What I would not do for a good night’s sleep, preferably on more than one occasion.

Then there are the people who just have no idea what we do with that time. Okay, so I can tell you so that you know what I am talking about.

My definition of insomnia

Do you know what insomnia actually means, or do you just associate a bad night’s sleep with, “Argh, my insomnia”? There are many ways to describe insomnia and I could use a pretty colorful vocabulary when it gets personal for me.

However the very simple version is this, not only do I struggle to fall asleep, I struggle to stay asleep. There are many reasons for insomnia for different people. One thing we have in common, it is not a choice and we would really like to have a good night’s sleep.

More importantly, we would like said sleep to be consistent. You wake up more tired than when you went to sleep and you wish the days passed so you could just crawl back into bed.

Mediations, sleep hygiene, and changing routine

I am pretty desperate to get some good sleep and I have tried and tested a very many theories. Meditations, and sleep routines, oh my gosh I have them down pat. Changing times of eating and workouts and just shy of shuffling my whole life back to front. I have made a good honest attempt at making this work.

Winding down, room environment, and sleeping tablets

I have set alarms to remind me to go to start winding down and one to remind me to go to sleep. Electronic devices have been removed and lights have been changed. Smartwatches and smart-ass cats been moved to different locations in the house. Doors and windows have been open and closed, essential oils to lightweight sleeping tablets have graced these lips.

Yet, here I am, many years later and insomnia and I are yet to part ways.

So what do I do when I don’t sleep?

What do you mean, you don’t sleep properly? What do you do if you are not sleeping?

Herewith enters famous question number two. Truth be told, I learned from a young age that sleep is not something you can force. You can give it a good try, that is for sure. But you cannot force it.

So as a teenager and young adult I would fill my time with reading, traveling far and wide on whirlwind adventures. Time and days of the week disappeared as I went to lands where dragons ruled and sleep was not as important.

Some nights I simply get up and bake muffins for breakfast and have tea while I sway in my kitchen to the sounds of Vaya con Dios and Jason Mraz. Other nights I lie in bed and toss and turn and doze off for 10 minutes only to be awake again and the cycle repeats till finally one of those ten minutes turns into two hours.

Insomnia is ever-present

No one night is the same. Sometimes the insomnia lasts for weeks on end and sometimes I am blessed and it passes in just a matter of days.

One thing is for sure, it is ever-present in my world. 3 a.m. - my favourite time to be awake and sit silently thinking of the ebb and flow of life.

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