How Do You Insomniac?

I often see/hear people casually reference being an insomniac and I often wonder. Are they exaggerating? Is this like when people call themselves crazy but they’re actually not? Because I honestly do not understand how people live life to any functioning degree without sleep.

Seriously. I don’t understand it.

I’ve had periods in my life where I’ve gotten too little sleep. I definitely handled it better in my younger/college years. But for the most part, from age 30 onward, my ability to function decreases exponentially for every hour of sleep I go without over the course of a week. I need at least 7 hours per night to function at a “normal” level. If I get only 6, my decrease in function is still survivable but there’s noticeable deterioration to those who know me well. If I only get 5, the deterioration is such that people who only casually know me, still notice a functional difference. If I get 4 or less? Strangers see me as someone struggling to live life.

And if this goes on for more than one night? It’s apparent to everyone I come into contact with that there’s something wrong with me. My language deteriorates, my word selection is 50% wrong, and my emotions are unmanageable. I say things like, “I need to go to the mall to buy a power cord,” when I really mean, “I need to go to Target for milk.” And then I’ll cry over the mistake.

How does a person who is honestly an insomniac live their life? How do they get work done? How do Moms of new babies go back to work at 6 weeks? I did it but it WAS NOT PRETTY. I remember very clearly how not pretty it was. This is why I nursed my kids in bed with me during the night when a lot of professionals tell you not to do that…BECAUSE MY NEED FOR SLEEP WAS GREATER THAN MY FEAR OF BAD OUTCOMES FROM CO-SLEEPING AND NURSING AT THE SAME TIME.

It was become a Boobcifier (my name for myself as a person who simply stuck my boob in my baby’s mouth every time the woke up) – or become so incapable of functioning like a normal adult that I might lose my job or become committed to a medical institution.

THAT IS NOT AN EXAGGERATION.

I am BAD with no sleep and so when I meet people who only get 4 hours per night or who call themselves insomniacs I want to probe them to see…WHAT MAKES THEM DIFFERENT FROM ME? How do they DRIVE even without sleep? That’s something I noticed on my 6 months driving back and forth to TN to help my Mom, if I’m too tired? My driving reflexes falter and I pull over and sleep at the nearest rest stop.

I’m just amazed that people exist who can still live their lives without adequate sleep. It’s dangerous for me in many different ways. I look at those people like they have superpowers.

4 thoughts on “How Do You Insomniac?”

  1. Speaking as someone who you’d consider an insomniac (last night was a normal night for me…fell asleep a little before 10, woke up a little after 12, went back to sleep around 3:30, & woke up for the day at 5:30)……”how” & “why” we’re so different in this arena is the same type of mystery to me as how other people can smell brussel sprouts cooking without gagging & throwing up non-stop until the smell passes? 🙂 Or how things that feed my soul (people, crowds, adventuring into “the unknown”, etc…) can be horrifying & paralyzing to others? “Different strokes for different folks” is the best I’ve got for ya’! 🙂

    XO

  2. Sleep deprivation doesn’t start effecting me until day 5 or 6.

    I typically only get 4ish hours a night. That’s my sweet spot. I have a friend that has to get 13 a night.

    I understand how you feel, though, because once I start on that decline, it’s really hard to get my footing again.

  3. Ok, sleep or lack there of, has been the single biggest mental health issue I’ve dealt with in my 41 years. When I was a teenager, my anxiety was so bad that I rarely slept more than an hour or so. I’d usually fall asleep around 6:30 or 7 am before needing to be at school at 8. I “made up for it” by sleeping all day on the weekends. I’d still fall asleep at the same time but then sleep until 3 or 4 in the afternoon. My grandmother would yell at me about it, saying I just needed to go to bed earlier. I would lay there all night long no matter what time I went to bed, or how tired I’d been the day(s) before. When I got grown and had a baby, of course she was a crappy sleeper — because if fate, the universe, or whatever really wanted to mess with me, it’d send me a crappy sleeper. I did the “boobcifier” thing you describe and wound up sleeping with her at night for most of her childhood. Once I started that though, I actually would go to sleep more or less when she did and I eventually started getting good nights of sleep. And like you say, since *I* was getting good sleep, I did not care what it took to get me there. Fast forward to now, I’ve got a 7 month old at home who still isn’t sleeping through the night. With this one, I am trying to get her to sleep in her own bed so it means waking up more. It is hard to go back to the days of less sleep, but it is no where near as bad as it was in my high school and college days or as it was with our first daughter. I have had to miss work twice when she’s had a really bad night, but for the most part I am functioning ok. Not at top level, but ok. I know I’ll get to sleep a solid night eventually.
    Outside of child rearing years, it really is a chicken and the egg thing. If my anxiety is bad, I can’t sleep, and if I’m not sleeping my anxiety is bad. I just have to slowly tip the scales back the other way. Sleep a little better, ease my anxiety; ease my anxiety, sleep a little better. It takes time.

  4. I’m really a mess from inadequate sleep too. Last month when I was jet lagged, I was really struggling with word selection during my talk at the conference! It is hard to speak publicly on not enough sleep! I remember just fading off while I was talking to people when my kids were babies. I’d start a sentence and then just stop talking! Now I find lack of sleep makes my vision worse too

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