I was a good sleeper for most of my life. The occasional sleepless night would happen when I was particularly excited or particularly stressed. I would have too much energy to sleep, but my sleep patterns would return to normal the following night. Then 2012 happened.
There were a series of stressful events – job loss, the resulting financial difficulties, moving from a city I loved to find work, and relationship strain. It piled on and felt like it would never get better.
At first, it would take me hours to fall asleep. But I would still get a few good nights of sleep in a week. Then it progressed to only 1 or 2 nights of good sleep in a week. Then there came the nights where I wouldn’t sleep at all. Other nights, I would wake up after only a few hours and not be able to get back to sleep.
Month after month, which became year after year, I had nights that ranged from 0 to 6 hours of sleep. Sometimes those 6 hours would happen erratically when I would leave work early so I could collapse from exhaustion midday for a few hours, and sleep a couple more at night.
The stressful external situations finally resolved. The money came, my relationship got better, and I’d accepted having to leave my old city. While I knew logically that my life situation changed for the better, my old sleeping patterns didn’t return.
Four years went by where I could count on both hands where I had a solid night of 7 hours or more. I didn’t feel rested once in that time. I couldn’t sleep and felt depressed and anxious. There were points where I felt suicidal, even. Depression and anxiety caused chronic insomnia, and now chronic insomnia was causing depression and anxiety. Trying to be optimistic that I would eventually sleep on little to no sleep felt like a losing battle.
Yet even in my darkest moments, it felt like their was a pinhole of light that shone through if I squinted hard enough. I desperately wanted to sleep, and I knew if I got the ball rolling it would be a positive spiral. I tried anything and everything I could get my hands on.
It started first with over the counter sleeping pills – those worked for the first few nights, but left me feeling hung over and the efficacy quickly faded. So I turned to Dr. Google as one does when they have a medical issue, and the answer was apparently sleep hygiene. I did that – nothing. Desperate, I turned to scientific articles, paid for courses, and paid several therapists.
Trying all the traditional methods and still not sleeping, I turned to alternative methods like reiki, crystals, and ayruveda, I read anything I could get my hands on that pertained to getting a good night’s sleep. For years, my search to cure insomnia was relentless but felt like every solution was lost on me. The testimonials of folks talking about how they sleep like a hibernating bear now made me feel broken. Why couldn’t I do what they did?
Finally there was a break in my search. I came across an article written by a young man who was experiencing the same thing. He managed to overcome it by treating insomnia like a phobia. I wish I could remember the website, as I would gladly link to his life-changing story.
He mentioned how he would de-condition himself from equating his bed to stress. That little nugget of knowledge finally opened that barely discernable bit of hope into something still small but enough to focus on. It was the first time in almost half a decade that I felt I was at least a bit of control of how well I slept. This got the ball rolling to optimistic trepidation, to tenuous sleep, and finally, sleep is now a non-issue.
Those four years were a long and painful journey. But I am here to tell you that I now sleep well again. Most nights, I sleep 7 or more hours and wake up feeling alert and rested. I might have a night every month or two where I sleep 5 or 6 hours and feel groggy for most of the day, but it doesn’t throw me off like it used to.
Insomnia was one of those life changing events that when I was in the throes of it, it felt earth shattering. But now that I’m on the other side, I’m a stronger, more resilient, and more empathic person – I couldn’t go through something like that and not have empathy for other who are also struggling.
It all culminated into writing and publishing my very first book, 300+ pages of the detailed steps on I took to overcome insomnia. I essentially wrote the book that I felt like I would have needed. I am confident anyone with sleep problems who reads it will see a noticeable improvement in their sleep.