Things not to say to an insomniac:
Insomnia is no joke. It can be debilitating, horrific and downright intrusive in ones life. To be clear, it is not simply a random few nights of having trouble falling asleep or even staying asleep. It is a pattern of pure inability to sleep. Period. And yet those of us who suffer from this disorder find a way to function day after day.
Sadly, we also hear from multiple people all the things we should be doing to improve sleep. Trust me, we’ve tried it all at great length to no avail. So, here’s my little PSA about what NOT to say to an insomniac.
1. “Go to bed earlier.”
Really? You mean my body’s inability to slow down my brain long enough to fall asleep will be solved by crawling into bed EARLIER??? Wow, brilliant.
Except, what happens when I do crawl into bed earlier is this. My body relaxes and my brain says “No. Nope. Nu uh. We have things to do lady! We have lists to make, emails to answer, phone calls to return, articles to write. Oh BTW, did you make sure the kids have lunches or lunch money for tomorrow? Speaking of food, aren’t you HUNGRY??? I am. We need a five course meal like now. Also, you forgot to pick up the dry cleaning today because you were too tired to remember…so don’t forget in the morning. Hey! I know what we should do! Let’s binge watch as much ‘Bones’ as possible tonight!!! Yeah!!!! Get UP and DOOOOOO EEEEEEEETTTTT!!!!!”
Clearly going to bed earlier totally works.
2. “You know, regular exercise will get you body back into a normal sleep rhythm.”
Ok. Stop. Just stop. Yes, for normal people who have normal stress and therefore are off their normal sleep routine, this works well. Insomniacs aren’t normal. Seriously, we aren’t. Let me explain what exercise does to us. Endorphins are released and then our brains say “WOOT!!!! You fed the beast! Now you must pay the price!”
And then we suffer through the worst insomnia of our lives.
3. “I hear Ambien works great for people like you. You should try it.”
Thank you. Really. This is one of the kindest things I have ever heard. And one of the least informed.
Yes, Ambien, Lunestra and the like are made for insomniacs. They are powerful sleep aids that knock you out! The trouble is, it has been documented time and time again that these sleep aids can cause sleep walking, sleep eating, sleep fighting and even sleep driving. I am home alone with my kids most nights due to my husbands schedule. The chance that I could harm them or leave them while on this medication scares me to no end. Which feeds the insomnia…sigh.
4. “Meditation is a wonderful tool to center yourself!”
Indeed so! It also is a way for me to make those mental lists of all the things I need to do, haven’t done and will never do in my head. It’s not relaxing for me. In fact, it ADDS stress for me because I remember the things I never did…from five years ago.
5. “Just get drunk.”
Wow. Really. This is a systemic disorder than can last for weeks, months and sometimes years. Thanks for being concerned about my liver.
6. “Well, at least you can be productive in the wee hours!”
No, no I can’t. Saying this shows me just how ignorant you are about insomnia. Just because I am up does not mean I am in any sort of actual functional mode. If this were true my house would be spotless, laundry never would back up, dishes done all the time and my day would be spent lounging in my pool. That would be amazing!
7. “I know what you mean. I only got 7 hours of sleep last night!”
You have no idea what I mean. I function on 4 hours of sleep a night. And that is on a good night. Generally I fall asleep around 3 or 4 and need to be up with the kids by 7. So, please, tell me more about this 7 hours of sleep! I would love to achieve it!
8. “You look tired!”
Next time you engage with someone who truly suffers from insomnia, hand them a quadruple espresso while offering to watch their kids for an hour or two. They will instantly mark you as their BFF.