Insomnia afflicts everyone at some point in their lives. It’s treated with everything from mind-altering drugs to warm milk, but still it remains a terrible problem that keeps many scientific minds up at night. I too suffer with insomnia and have since I was little. My mom loves to tell the story of a week she had to work really late every night and didn’t get home until past two. And, every night, she’d come home and my dad would be asleep in their room, my sister in ours, my dog would be down for the count, but there was two-year-old me sitting on the couch, wide awake, watching cartoons. That has not changed one bit in the past thirteen years, except now I pay for it each morning when I’m carted off to school four hours later.
Worldwide, millions of people are affected by insomnia. It isn’t something that you get from sharing a soda or not washing your hands. It can be rooted in subconscious issues, born from guilt or stress, the result of poor scheduling and, sometimes, is merely a case of genetics. Both my mother, uncle, and grandfather had insomnia and they lovingly made sure to pass it down to me. I hate having insomnia. Now that I have school in the morning, I have to choose between forcing myself to go to sleep, reading in the hopes that it will help me doze, taking sleeping pills that will have me passed out on the driveway before my alarm can go off, or drinking so much caffeine that my heart would probably implode if I had energy from any other source.
There are many different scientific treatments for insomnia, like sleeping pills, factoring it into your daily schedule, melatonin (an over-the-counter hormone), and exercise. Others are more like old wives’ tales than hard core fact: drinking warm milk, sipping hot tea, eating small dinners, eating large dinners, turning off your electronics thirty minutes before bed, sampling certain herbs, listening to music, or praying for divine intervention. What helps me the most are distractions: I like to read before bed and then, if I can’t sleep, I insert myself into the story and make changes, spinoffs, anything I want really.
It’s important to make sure you have the right space. Some people like to burrow into tiny little spaces to sleep and others like to spread out, so make sure that whichever you are, you have enough room to do your thing. I can’t tell you how annoying it is to be half asleep and then wake up because you have no room to spread out in your tiny bed. Another thing is to regulate your sleeping temperature. It is impossible to sleep when you’re hot, sweating, and twisted up in the sheets, so if you think it’s going to be a warm night, only take a light blanket. Benjamin Franklin was a fellow insomniac and he came up with many helpful hints on how to deal with the problem; an outlandish one was to have two beds. He’d start out in one and when that one grew too warm, would roll over to the second one and let the first cool. It may sound off, but scientists have shown that since our body temperatures drop before a good night’s sleep, staying cool when we’re left wide awake can actually help us fall asleep.
But, if your body is not ready to sleep, it does no good to simply lie there and count the ceiling tiles. You can at least read a book, which is proven to help people sleep anyway. While it is incredibly stupid to force yourself to stay awake unnecessarily, if you are already awake, don’t waste that precious time and become more frustrated. Giving yourself a refreshing rest from resting and doing a short activity can actually increase your likelihood to fall asleep.
Insomnia is a huge problem, but it is possible to deal with it without pills. A regular sleep schedule, a warm drink prior, exercise, taking short breaks in between attempts, and staying cool can all help you lead a happy, healthy normal life. We shouldn’t be falling asleep in math because we were lying awake the night before, but rather because it’s boring and we hate it. Together we can beat this thing and if we all try our hardest, we can make sure that no one will have to suffer like this again… And we can help people deal with their insomnia, too.