I used to think it was a super power to be able to sleep late and wake up early without dealing with the effects of grogginess. So much can get done with so much time. I would average around four to five hours per night as each day I would sleep late trying to finish a book I was reading for the next day’s class and then wake up early to do French homework before I headed to class around 8:30am. The rest of the day would consist of class, work, meals, socializing and studying accompanied by spurts of high energy and moments of deep deep fatigue.
Although I was able to get work done sufficiently and felt that so much time was added in my day, I wouldn’t say I loved never getting enough sleep each night. It was great at first, being able to sleep late and wake up early, but as the days went on I just felt like…how do I explain it…I just felt like an overall worse person. More irritable, existential, unaware of my surroundings, unaware of myself, and so on. I would get triggered at my roommates for little things that they do, misunderstand what they say and get offended, space out when people were talking, fall asleep in class, fell asleep at work, close my eyes whenever I was walking to my next destination. Words on the pages of whatever I was reading would never be absorbed so although I spent hours reading, I didn’t actually understand what was going on.
At this point I admitted that my sleeping schedule was horrific, but it was too late. I dug myself too deep into a habit for me to easy climb out of. This only made the bad effects worse on my brain and body. I ended up trying to sleep earlier and waking up at later times, even if it meant skimping out on French homework. But, I need to tell you that I’ve been struggling with irregular sleeping times for a long time. Even when I do sleep early, I would often wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to go back to sleep until one or two hours my alarm rang.
Waking up in the middle night was worse than sleeping late and waking up early. As I would lie there for hours at night trying to go to sleep, idle, my mind would be running with fears, guilt and shame that usually don’t exist in the day. I often question if these feelings are inherent in me or if they’re something that only inflate out of proportion when I think about if for hours on end. Nonetheless, it sucks because most of the time it feels like I can’t do anything about it. Getting up would defeat the whole purpose of me trying to go to sleep, so I have to lie there. I could be on my phone, but at some point I get bored or tired of even that. Nights feel the most lonely when the whole world is quiet.In junior year of college, at my worst, I would stay up and would stare at the window in order to see a soul walking outside so that the world didn’t feel so dead.
Then there were the times I actually got up and did things. I would get bored and try to make combinations of weird foods and rate them on a scale of 1 to 10 (by the way, brie and strawberries with cornflakes is an outstanding 10), or I would journal or try to read something.
But there’s a point where enough is enough. When winter break rolled around and I was alone in the apartment, I actually had a regular sleeping schedule of 7 to 8 hours each night and it felt so…amazing, renewing, relieving. Quality of life went up 10000 points and I was speechless that this is what normal people feel. This break is when I also realized that most of my insomnia was not just a habit or a phase. It was an actual problem driven by numerous concerning factors. What those factors were? I don’t know if it’s one single thing, but I know that it stemmed from anxiety over school and future, shame over small things that I’ve done during the day, guilt over things from the past, and so on.
I think that one thing that kept me from getting better is also that I never told anyone the depth of this problem. I didn’t think it was a problem worth telling people in the first place. But when I almost suffered an anxiety attack one week of sleeplessness and stress while juggling classes and 30 hours of work, only then how I saw how other people were necessary in tackling this problem. My friends stayed with me to comfort me until I was calm and falling asleep, and my church leader told me that if I’m ever awake, to call her at night whenever I was awake, and to keep calling her even though she doesn’t pick up initially. On top of this, I needed to better prioritize sleep and see it as a necessity for healthy living. I remember in high school getting so mad at the design of the human body, always needing sleep for unnecessary amounts of time—I also hallucinated one week in high school when I got 9 hours of sleep in the duration of 5 days.
Now, with the help of others and caring about how my sleep, or lack thereof, affects me and others around me, I can now say that I only get less than six hours of sleep on occasion now.
It feels better, healthier. Even though I had to risk some assignments at first, I’ve learned to just sacrifice all the superfluous worries and learn how to develop a better schedule for learning. But in those times when I just randomly wake up and start thinking about everything horrible in my life, at least I can know that I’m not alone and that even though my friends were asleep, they weren’t dead. They would’ve been willing to help me just like my leader and friends helped me that one night where I had an attack. But ultimately, after years of denying it, I finally admitted to having a problem and I think that that was the most important thing that I could’ve done.