What It’s Really Like To Have Insomnia


People who suffer from insomnia or the general lack of sleep, be it caused by nightmares, guilt, worries or even love (I’ve been told that too happens) know that the night is the hardest time to be alive. It’s just you; you and the darkness in which your deepest fears and most hidden secrets drift without any particular direction.

Come to think about it, I envy people who can sleep easily. I can only imagine their demons are well-groomed and safely closed in a trunk laying beyond the subconscious mind. But then again, who needs sleep? As long as my organs don’t shut down, it is safe to assume that insomnia is a gift. There’s more time to do the things you love. More time to read. More time to play. More time to dream. Unfortunately, the human brain being as complex as it is, allows our monsters to feed on the darkness and the lack of sleep only makes them bigger and more terrifying.

For me, the hardest part is the bad case of late night guilt. You know, that thing you do when, at 3 AM, you replay in your head every single bad decision you have ever made. You hardly remember these things during the day, but the guilt and emptiness they inspire have a way of wearing a place for themselves in some dark corner of the mind. Alas, we all know nothing irons out insomnia like a full cup of regret, self-loathing, and a pinch of depression.

Let’s take this as an example. I got reminded that I love to write but seldom get to it because I’m oh so busy with laying around wondering what I can do differently in my pursuit of happiness (how cliché, I know).

So here I am, at 2 in the morning trying to do the thing I love. There all sorts of thoughts running through my head. How many people are, just like me, starring at the darkness surrounding them, fearing that it’s gonna swallow them at any time? How many people are sleeping peacefully, recharging for a brand new day of meaningless interaction and dull existence?

There’s no other feeling in the world like the 2 A.M. loneliness when, the more you try to empty your brain and go to sleep, the harder it gets. I’ve read somewhere that perhaps we can only sleep with people we love so that’s the reason why some of us suffer from insomnia. That hit really close to home. I wouldn’t think twice about this if it were the middle of the day and I would have things to occupy myself with. What if it’s true? What if, deep down, I don’t like the person I am. Do I like the person I am? Am I good enough to myself and others? Am I worthy of my own love?

Reality gets distorted after 30-something hours of no sleep. It’s like time simply collapses. You look into your thoughts and heart, searching for what has been forgotten or simply gone missing. What did you once care about? What did you love and what did you hate? How did you get here? You feel emptied of all essence, like you are somewhere remote. Try as you may, your pain is heard by no one.

And that’s the worst part about being by yourself in the middle of the night with a warm glass of milk, a book unable to capture your attention, or an empty screen of some sorts. The loneliness. If you’re alone, all you want to do is wake somebody up and force them to feel everything you’re feeling because you don’t know how much longer you can do it by yourself. If you live with other people, you know that’s just silly. You’d never dare disturb the sweet sleep of someone you care about. They won’t make the demons go away. They won’t make you feel less alone. It’s a battle you have to fight on your own.

Insomnia is a disease of the mind as much as it is a disease of the body. After a while, it takes over completely. You never sleep but you’re never entirely awake either.

I’ve spent countless nights in absolute darkness, staring at empty ceilings. I’ve done it with lovers by my side. The night had a perfect way of rehashing everything I adored and everything I hated about them.
I’ve spent magical nights with friends visibly too tired to keep their eyelids open and I have selfishly asked them to stay awake a little longer.

One can lose their mind because of insomnia. Clarity is something that disappears completely. Things look differently when you suffer from insomnia. Love is no longer selfless, roses have more thorns than you remember, happiness is but a distant memory. Everything gets dark and gloomy and you close your eyes and start counting sheep and shattered dreams and lost loves and what ifs.

The only good thing about insomnia is when morning finally comes and there’s light again. And light usually brings hope.

You’ll just have another cup of coffee.

Who needs sleep, anyway?

featured image – V. Vasquez