Insomnia should be an -ism – insomnism, maybe. Like other ‘isms’ it is as natural and uncontrollable a part of its owner as their handspan or taste in wallpaper. Etymonline.com says –ism is a “suffix forming nouns of action, state, condition, doctrine”. Try telling an insomniac at 2am that they are not in the grip of a state or condition and you may as well try telling someone under the grip of alcoholism that they only think it’s time for a little snifter, or someone dominated by racism that Martin Luther King Jr might have been on to something after all.
Like all –isms, it’s fairly incomprehensible to those who don’t have it. My husband, for example, prides himself on being a fantastically skilled sleeper - all he has to do is lay down and that’s it; sleep, snuffle, snore. He simply doesn’t understand that it’s not that simple for me. I play games in my head to try to bore myself into the land of Nod – mostly the alphabet game – and when I was a kid I used to try to sing myself to sleep. The only thing that seems to work now is writing stuff down if there are particular thoughts running through my head. I have a rigid (bordering on OCD) bedtime routine and an incredibly comfortable bed but these things seem insignificant as weapons against night time wakefulness.
So what’s the answer? I don’t know. I know what it’s not. It’s not alcohol – I may appear to be sleeping well when drunk but I wake up feeling entirely unrefreshed, and if I’ve had just under the amount needed to pass out then I lay awake for hours with random thoughts chasing each other through my head. It’s not milky drinks – they make me wake up needing to pee. It’s not sleeping pills – they’re great in abnormal circumstances but for a normal night in my own bed they just mask the ongoing problem for a night, rather than solve it.
Maybe I just have to accept insomnia as part of the package of foibles that make me who I am. Perhaps it really is as intrinsic and immutable a part of my nature as my gargantuan thighs or my love of cheesy rom-coms. What if the solution is not to try to find ways to get rid of insomnia but ways to deal with the results? Caffeine, concealer and a power shower?
They can wait until the morning – right now I’m going to try a new A to Z…A is for anchoring…B is for blocker…C is for cleaning my bearings…oh, crap, that’s something else to add to the to-do list…